thoughts inspired by Bonhoeffer

I’m taking an online course called Radical Hope in Hard Times. The course includes a number of modern writers and activists: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dorothee Soelle, Dorothy Day, William Stringfellow, Clarence Jordan, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Cone, Ada María Isasi-Díaz, and George Tinker. One of the course requirements is to post at least one comment a week on the private course blog. I joined during the second week and had to dive directly into Bonhoeffer. This is what I wrote, and I wanted to share my thoughts here as well.

When I signed up for this course I told Jane that I thought Bonhoeffer would the most difficult for me. What I did not say was that it was not that I would find him difficult to understand, but that, as in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, we all know the outcome from the very start. The fact that his execution was so close to the end of the war and the liberation of the camps makes it all the more tragic.

In addition, I have a personal connection to the Holocaust. My first wife, who died suddenly in 1989, was Jewish, and her parents were survivors of the camps. The story I am told is that after the war her mother went from camp to camp until she found her husband, from whom she had been separated.

Reading Bonhoeffer, though, I was caught up by this passage in Letters and Papers from Prison, and kept re-reading it:

Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God— the responsible man who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God. Where are these responsible people?

Bonhoeffer was one of those. I can’t say that I’m anywhere near there.

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