Jesse Schexnayder's Reviews > Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas
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Mar 09, 11

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The Third Reich was not a product of Christianity gone awry in racism, rather it was the perversion by the National Socialists and Hitler of everything that was good about German society, to include its foundational Lutheran Faith.

As Metaxas clearly illustrates, it was not politically expedient for Hitler and his cronies to public denounce Christianity, and so ever the pragmatic lot, the National Socialists used the German peoples' naivete and lack of spiritual depth in religious practice to mask their true intent in a desperate bid for power.

Once they did gain that power, the obvious contradictions between their atheistic obsession with the concept of social Darwnism (eugenics), and their desire to subsume all individual rights and liberties for the collective's (i.e. the Fuhrer's) glory were made abundantly clear.

But Bonhoeffer and those many Germans who stood with him, saw the writing on the wall as soon as Hitler won his unlikely democratic victory in 1932, and their establishment of the Confessing Church and its consistent opposition to Nazi policies such as the Aryan Paragraph and the Jewish pogroms needs to be considered by any student of history.

In the end, Bonhoeffer discovered that the ideal of purely religious opposition to a despotic state that "deprives Christian preaching and Christian faith...of their rights" was not enough. Direct action in the form of political opposition and even, as he eventually went so far, resistance movements and conspiracies to assassinate Hitler, were in keeping with the core truth of his faith.

As his closest friend Bethge explained, "We now realized that mere confession, no matter how courageous, inescapably meant complicity with the murderers...we were approaching the borderline between confession and resistance; and if we did not cross this border, our confession was going to be no better than cooperation with the criminals...we were resisting by way of confession, but we were not confessing by way of resistance."

I see Bonhoeffer in the same light as he saw himself, saddled with burden placed upon him by God to give warning to the people of Germany. That he ultimately failed in preventing National Socialism from usurping the democratic institutions of his nation does not necessarily indicate any flaws with the individual man, the Confessing Church, or even the German people of that time. Rather, it points to an inherent flaw in all of humanity, that being the tendency to do our level best to avoid the harsh implications of the truth, even when doing so will ultimately cause us, and most definitely our posterity, great and irrevocable harm.

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