Saturday, 7 May 2011

dietrich bon-who?

The death of Osama has dominated news reports this week.  Some celebrated.  Others mourned.  There were status statements placed on Facebook which had been copied and pasted by others which denounced the idea of ‘hate cannot drive out hate’.  Reactions to his death are as widely varied, depending upon your social, racial, political and religious views. 

In 1945 a young man (39 years old) by the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (pictured) was executed in Nazi Germany.  His crime was his involvement in an assassination plot against Hitler.  

Bonhoffer had an interesting set of credentials:
  • By the age of 21 he had a doctorate of theology
  • He worked as a church Pastor for several years
  • He lectured at the Union Theological Seminary, Harlem
  • He lectured at the University of Berlin in systematic theology
  • He was ordained
  • He publicly opposed the decision of the Church in Germany when it approved the racist policy prohibiting non-Aryans from taking parish posts (he refused a post himself in protest)
  • He spoke against key Church positions being held by Nazi-supported German Christians
  • He was the director of an underground seminary to train pastors in illegal teachings
  • He was forbidden to speak in public and removed (mid-sentence) from a radio broadcast
and yet he plotted Hitler's assassination.
Bonhoeffer is quoted as saying:  
Would you grant absolution to the murderer of a tyrant?  (Bonhoeffer)
His activities got him arrested, imprisoned and finally executed by hanging.

I'm fascinated by the story of Bonhoeffer, mostly because he went against the tsunami of public, religious and political opinion to do something quite outside the accepted norms.  He stepped outside of his religious culture to do what he believed was of greater importance and value.  He was intelligent and knew the risks he was taking.  His voice now, in my opinion, carries so much more weight because he paid the ultimate price for his beliefs and values.  I don't believe I would have the guts to do what he did.

He was a brave man, Bonhoeffer.  Very brave.  


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