"Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world." - Todd Littleton
"I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see." - Anon
"Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all." - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
"Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be." - Kurt Vonnegut
"Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals." - Jim Forest
"People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone." - Anon
"... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all." - R.E. Slater
"An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst." - R.E. Slater
"Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics." - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
"Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated." - Emil Brunner
"Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh" means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Showing posts with label Patriotism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Patriotism. Show all posts

Friday, October 21, 2011

Review: The Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer DBWE

October 20, 2011

This review is by our blog friend and regular commenter, Diane Reynolds, and is a sneak preview of a book coming out November 1: Theological Education Underground, 1937-1940 (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 15), ed. by Victoria J. Barnett. Dietrich Bonhoeffer has become a singular saint among many today, and I hope it leads to many reading his brilliant studies Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 5) and Discipleship (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 4).

I have been reading Bonhoeffer since about 1974, when I first read what was then called The Cost of Discipleship, but I also have found his Life Together to be a treasure trove of wisdom — derived in the most difficult of circumstances, life in hiding from Hitler.

Now to Diane’s fine introduction to various publications during those difficult times of Bonhoeffer’s life:

The years 1937 to 1940 marked a critical period in the life of pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. During this time, he conducted his illegal seminary under increasingly dangerous circumstances in Nazi Germany, wrote two of his most famous books—Discipleship and Life Together—and decided to reject a secure haven in the United States to return to Germany on the eve of World War II. His departure after only a month in the U.S. catapulted him towards active resistance—and hence execution—as part of the July 20, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on a weekend getaway with
confirmands of Zion's Church congregation (1932)

These years are chronicled in Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theological Education Underground:1937-1940, volume 15 of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works English edition series (DBWE), to be released by Fortress Press on November 1. This book, the fourth-to-last of the 16 volumes (plus index) to be translated from German, chronicles Bonhoeffer’s struggles to respond to the horrors of Nazism and offers a riveting “fly on the wall” view of one individual’s wrestling with issues of conscience and discernment.

What do you think drives the current fascination with Bonhoeffer? What does Bonhoeffer mean to you?

In his notes on “sin,” in this volume, Bonhoeffer ponders issues that will preoccupy him for the rest of his life: “Because the essence of sin is to obtain praise for itself and to judge over good and evil, sin can never recognize its own sinfulness. … sin is a judgment of God, who calls sin that which people call good, namely, one’s own righteousness.”
Do you agree with this definition?

Can one’s own will to righteousness—our desire to preserve our own purity—be sinful?

Does God ever call us out to serve him by abandoning our purity?

Although Bonhoeffer became a pacifist during his year at Union Theological Seminary in 1930-31, from 1937-40 he was working out—and living out– the theology that would lead to the difficult decision to participate in an assassination attempt against Hitler.

True to form, Bonhoeffer was unflinching in not rationalizing his participation in this plot as somehow holy. For this Sermon on the Mount Christian, even killing someone as evil as Hitler potentially violated Christ’s witness. Bonhoeffer recognized that he was caught in a bind, but felt he could not be a Christian without acting in what he called a “this-worldly” way—and he hoped, but was never certain, that God would forgive him for his deed.

Is this the definition of courage? Or did he wrongly abandon his pacifism?

The letters and journal entries that lead us through Bonhoeffer’s 1939 decision to return to Germany—a choice so incomprehensible that one of his friends hopped a train from the Midwest to argue with him in person— and are a particularly poignant part of this volume. How many of us would return to Nazi Germany, given a chance to escape—and not only to escape, but with the opportunity to do meaningful work in exile?

How many of us, at a time when it was clear war was coming and unclear that Britain could withstand a German assault, would decline a chance to bring a beloved twin sister and her Jewish husband and daughters out of harm’s way? Bonhoeffer’s life challenges our easy rationalizations and our tendency to cast our decisions as pure.

Like the other meticulously edited DBWE volumes, this one does not disappoint, offering up a full feast of scholarship, including letters and papers unearthed since the German edition was published. As usual, the editors’ essays, in this case by Victoria J. Barnett and Dirk Schulz, are top notch. Further, the letters, sermons, notes and diary accounts build an intimate portrait of Bonhoeffer and chronicle, “up close and personal,” a fascinating period of history and a fascinating man.

Comments (9)
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Bonhoeffer in Germany, circa 1930s
BornFebruary 4, 1906 (1906-02-04)
Breslau, Germany
DiedApril 9, 1945 (1945-04-10) (age 39)
Flossenbürg concentration camp
EducationDoctorate in theology
ChurchEvangelical Church of the old-Prussian Union
Confessing Church
WritingsAuthor of several books and articles (see below)
Congregations servedZion's Church congregation, Berlin
German-speaking congregations of St. Paul's and Sydenham, London
Offices heldAssociate lecturer at Frederick William University of Berlin (1931–36)
Student pastor at Technical College, Berlin (1931–33)
Lecturer of Confessing Church candidates of pastorate in Finkenwalde (1935–37)
Titleordained pastor

Exerpted from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dietrich_Bonhoeffer


For a year and a half, Bonhoeffer was imprisoned at Tegel military prison awaiting trial. There he continued his work in religious outreach among his fellow prisoners and guards. Sympathetic guards helped smuggle his letters out of prison to Eberhard Bethge and others, and these uncensored letters were posthumously published in Letters and Papers from Prison. A guard named Corporal Knobloch even offered to help him escape from the prison and "disappear" with him, and plans were made for that end. But Bonhoeffer declined it fearing Nazi retribution on his family, especially his brother Klaus and brother-in-law who were also imprisoned.

After the failure of the July 20 Plot on Hitler's life in 1944 and the discovery in September 1944 of secret Abwehr documents relating to the conspiracy, Bonhoeffer's connection with the conspirators was discovered. He was transferred from the military prison in Berlin Tegel, where he had been held for 18 months, to the detention cellar of the house prison of the Reich Security Head Office, the Gestapo's high-security prison. In February 1945, he was secretly moved to Buchenwald concentration camp, and finally to Flossenbürg concentration camp.

On April 4, 1945, the diaries of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Abwehr, were discovered, and in a rage upon reading them, Hitler ordered that the Abwehr conspirators be destroyed. Bonhoeffer was led away just as he concluded his final Sunday service and asked an English prisoner Payne Best to remember him to Bishop George Bell of Chichester if he should ever reach his home: "This is the end — for me the beginning of life."


Bonhoeffer was condemned to death on April 8, 1945, by SS judge Otto Thorbeck at a drumhead court-martial without witnesses, records of proceedings or a defence in Flossenbürg concentration camp. He was executed there by hanging at dawn on April 9, 1945, just two weeks before soldiers from the United States 90th and 97th Infantry Divisions liberated the camp, three weeks before the Soviet capture of Berlin and a month before the capitulation of Nazi Germany.

Like other executions associated with the July 20 Plot, the execution was particularly brutal. Bonhoeffer was stripped of his clothing and led naked into the execution yard, where he was hanged with thin wire for death by strangulation. Hanged with Bonhoeffer were fellow conspirators Admiral Wilhelm Canaris; Canaris' deputy General Hans Oster; military jurist General Karl Sack; General Friedrich von Rabenau; businessman Theodor Strünck; and German resistance fighter Ludwig Gehre. Bonhoeffer's brother, Klaus Bonhoeffer, and his brothers-in-law Hans von Dohnanyi and Rüdiger Schleicher were executed elsewhere later in the month.

The camp doctor who witnessed the execution wrote: “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer ... kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

RE Slater - In Noble Pursuit of Peace

Pursuing peace is a noble cause. And pursuing peace actively as a nation should always be its first and last effort. I have grown up in a culture committed to the principles of life, liberty and justice and understand the hypocrisies of my country's birth to the native American Indians who have suffered the loss of each of these pure-bred ideals. To the black Americans whose legacy of agony were still-borne historically until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. (All of which could've sadly been averted some 200 years ago in America's pre-Revolutionary days when certain segments of Christians actively strove for the black man, woman and child's release from slavery's horror and wretchedness, but failed in their efforts). Oppressive eras when we as Christians should have been speaking up for the culturally abandoned like today's modern day angst over our vilified gay societies seeking to be recognized as human beings.

Conversely, I live in a community of Bosnians, Hispanics, Vietnamese, Jews, Somalians and Haitians who have suffered the equal horrors of loss of life, liberty and justice at the hands of overseas governments committed to their own nationalistic purges. And to some degree America has taken up their struggles of oppression and attempted to restore those lost civil rights through cultural and commercial engagements, efforts at world justice, and even in acts of war. In hopes of protecting and delivering the persecuted, the neglected, the overlooked and disdained from any further acts of horror, tyranny, and callousness. Too often belatedly, too often ineffectively, and in the face of withdrawing popular will, once bravely begun, but to later stagger at the impossibility of Justice's many costs, demands, guilts, and ironies.

I am not a pacifist but nor do I push actively for war. My position like many, are to seek to defend the rights of the weak, pursue peace where it is possible, utilize strength when necessary, and overall to discern between pride and my own fallenness, sin and hate. To expect this of the nation I live in and love is infinitely harder and so I pray, I get involved in ministries and community services, vote my will and heart, legislate, debate, and do all that I can in business and in life to make my nation as democratic as it can be, as just as it can be, as worthy of its ideals as it can be.

And most importantly I try to teach and live that selfsame life by daily example, as meagerly and humbly as I can in my willful pride and sin with God's help and grace, patience and mercy. I can be obtuse, shortsighted, selfish, stubborn and less-than-giving to the daily demands of Justice and Grace. My human flesh can become irrational, emotional, moody, and graceless. My conscience marred by too many slights and cynicisms, too many perceived demands on time and energy, exhaustion, health, or ignorance. The reality is, is that we fight within us the same fight we would seek within mankind. A fight against the sinfulness, evil and harm we would do to ourselves as we would do to each another. It takes a Savior to remove our sinfulness, to redeem us from ourselves, to bring justice to our fallen worlds. Jesus is our hope and through him can we bring hope to the world as His promise-bearers.

And so, to that end, I must also recognize the rights of those men and women who feel strongly about my nation's lack of efforts in the area of pacifism. Who wish to remind America - and all nations committed to Justice - to redouble their efforts to live in peace with one another locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. And especially to their own populations over whom they govern. To not misuse or abuse the rights of rulership, taxation, armed forces, and goodwill. We are a global citizenship and share the same pains of both good and evil.

It is a sad fact of life that there are many nations and fiefdoms, rulers and warlords, which are not committed to the democratic ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of justice. Who are not committed to living peaceably with their neighbors. They would harm their citizenry; abuse humble families, husbands, wives and children; destroy lands and properties taking what is not theirs; aggressively visiting sin, wickedness, and evil upon their own peoples. Yes, America has its own problems of nation-building and statesmanship, but to be honest all nations do as well. There are no nations on earth that please the Lord. We have all fallen short of God's glory, grace and justice.

And though my feelings do not run towards pacifism but more probably towards a form of civil engagement that would encourage a country's citizenry towards legal and pragmatic activism in government, enterprise, school and church, I must not neglect that portion of our society who are as equally frustrated with society's sense of nationalism and justice. Who seek to re-engage us on a political level of pacifism. I applaud their efforts, their courage, their thoughts and words. A will that doesn't weaken in a war's progression but strengthens to show to us our nation's purest democratic ideals. Peace is an admirable ambition. A practical necessity. A impossible task. An ever constant reminder that Love and Justice are never satisfied. Thank you Sarah for your thoughts, your insights, your commitment to life, liberty and justice.

R.E. Slater
October 18, 2011


In which I'm an uneasy pacifist

I call myself an "uneasy pacifist" and here's why:

Like many evangelicals, like most North Americans, I grew up in healthy respect and reverence for our veterans and our military. My own grandfather fought and was wounded in World War 2. I devoured novels set in war times and the spine is battered on my much-beloved copy of Rilla of Ingleside

I am a Canadian that does not like fighting in hockey. (Heretic!) I love hockey but, when the gloves dropped and everyone rose to their seat to pound the glass and holler their approval for the dance, I felt sick. Once that step toward abhorring violence was taken, it was hard not to find it everywhere. The glorification of violence as a means to solve conflict is everywhere in our culture and I was that lame person that couldn't stand mixed-martial-arts battles and railed against video games and movies that depicted war or crime as an adventure, even arguing we are "a generation of virtual sociopaths."

My pacifism began to grow legs when I lived in the United States for 8 years. When the war in Iraq began, the political climate in our area was strongly in flavour of military-based, unilateral action. The war was promoted as a "just war

The war in Iraq did not meet just war criteria for me - in retrospect, many would agree. As the political propaganda grew and war was equated with patriotism and, even more oddly, with spiritual practice or faithful following of Jesus, I struggled. I worked in a military-based bank, I loved and respected the Canadian and American military, I was proud of my own family's military history, developed an small understanding of their lives - and a deep respect for their honour and choices. But I grieved for what I suspected was ahead for the enlisted, the officers, the national guard, the country, the people of Iraq, the world as a whole. I grappled with the sentiment since 9-11 of robust, nationalistic, flag-waving patriotism and how many evangelicals believed Americanism (or American interests for those of us that are not American) and Christianity were somehow one and the same.

If you weren't for us, you were against us.

I began to read more about pacifism as the pamphlets filled my mailbox and news editorials became more and more passionate in favour of war. It deeply appealed to me.

At first, I grappled with war from a purely pragmatic standpoint. It was expensive. The military-industrial-complex that Eisenhower spoke of so warningly was in fearsome operation and I couldn't fathom how this was going to cost in human life, in political capital, in sheer dollars for the world. And then I was surprised - which is shocking itself - to discover a long history and tradition of Christian, faith-based pacifism. Apparently, there were whole groups of Christians throughout all of history that took a stand for peace and for active peacemaking precisely because of their faith. Despite the sometimes-bloodthirsty pages of Christian history, there has always been a remnant of believers that were convinced that Christ has modelled a path of non-violence for us to follow, not resisting even unto death.

And they were not lame or weak-willed. Think Martin Luther King Jr., St. Francis, Dorothy Day, the martyrs of our faith. I began to understand that peacemaking is not a hippie-thing, a sit-on-the-sidelines-of-history cop-out, letting someone else or someone else's kid do my dirty work. There wasn't any patchouli to my decision making process and despite my love of long dresses and flowers in my hair, I wasn't singing yet. The more I read, the more I prayed, the more that this seemed the path for me. Peace-making began to seem brave and active, it began to feel courageous to stand counter to our culture of war and violence and destruction.

I'm an pacifist for many reasons now - some pragmatic, some moral, almost all faith-based.
I believe life is sacred. The soldier is sacred, made in the image of God, and I cannot think what it does to a person to commit acts of war, to lift up arms against another, to kill another human being. My heart is ever with our soldiers and their beautiful families, even though I could not take that path myself in good conscience. Even the enemy is sacred, made in the image of God, loved. (I am one of those crazy people that think that God is love, that since my Father loves my enemy, that I, too, am called to an active love for them.) The "collateral damage" - that awful, cold term for those that are caught in the crossfire, the women, the children - is sacred, each life precious in the eyes of God. My pro-life ethic has become a lot more consistent as the years have gone by. War is never redemptive.
And I believe that love is stronger. Love will win in the end. Love will triumph, love is wider, deeper, more wild and generous and redemptive than we can fathom and I will choose the tough love.
My allegiance is first and always to God, to the ways of Jesus. And so, even though I am thankful for my country, even though I do appreciate it and work for the good of the city and the country in many ways, when the two are at odds - as in the choices of war or violence - my faith and the hope for peace wins every time.
But my pacifism is uneasy because I don't know how it looks all the time, how best to live an ethic of life, peace and love in a culture of violence and war. I know that pacifism is not total and absolute abhorrence of all violence - instead, to me, it's a policy of non-aggression and active peace-making.
And the everyday peacemaking can be hard. It was easy for me to look at the Iraq war and call it wrong. It's not so easy to pursue peace in my every day life, to choose a life of non-aggression, to release anger, rage, trespasses, to forgive, to actively advocate for peace and wholeness in the world around me, making space for God's ways. I don't know how it always looks to choose love in a way that exemplifies my commitment to the cultivation of the fruit of the spirit in my own life, such as peace, joy, goodness, love, faithfulness, gentleness and so on.
I am uneasy because sometimes I cry out for justice instead of mercy, failing to see that in Christ those two things are not separated. I can't always find the way of peace or love.
But I choose peace. I have set my feet on the path to find out how to live active peace-making, to identify boldly as a pacifist.
As Shane Claiborne wrote, "As a Christian, I am convinced in the power of non-violence by the greatest nonviolent act in human history: Jesus dying on the cross, even for his enemies."

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

West Michigan Remembers 9/11

On the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 a West Michigan display was set up by a local non-profit group in honor of all those who had died in the World Trade Tower tragedy including all airline victims. From children as young as 3, to a retired infantry man of 67 who was the last American soldier to have left Vietnam, each life story was told. Some had come to meetings, others to meet loved ones, still others died from falling debris raining out of the bursting skies. Each life story was found written as a short biography onto a plastic card attached to the mid-section of every flag pole. During the five day event countless thousands visited, even as many as 35,000 on one hot day, in a steady stream of patriots seeking to mark the 2011 anniversary in some small way in personal tribute to the survivors and their families.

~ By clicking on the picture the field of vision may be enlarged and zoomed in upon ~

A mosaic greets each visitor coming to honor
the dead telling the story of American patriotism.

Each flag represents one person who had died in the
9/11 Towers Tragedy. A short biography of that person
can be found on a plastic card attached to the flag.

60,000 visitors came over the weekend
to honor the dead and had discovered
one of the dead was their own.

A forest of national colours bend their
banners on a morning's warm breezes.

Presented by the Healing Field of West Michigan
as a 2011 memorial on the 10th year of 9/11.

Viewed from below can be found stake after stake
telling the life stories of young and old.

A troop of children walk through the forest of
flags on the last morning of display.

What Real Patriotism Must Be

But this is not the end of the story. For by wrapping our pains, our sorrows, our agonies in a nation's patriotism will do little to assuage what must be preceded by forgiveness and mercy. This is a God thing. A Holy Spirit thing. A Jesus thing. For it is in Jesus that a nation may find the will to forgive and be merciful to their enemies. To act justly and not in anger and wrath. At all times must a nation seek wisdom and mercy in the dispensation of justice upon those who would hate and do wrong to the innocents of this world. It is in Jesus that this spiritual conviction may be found through the ministrations of love and compassion first and foremost above all else.

So that by allowing the pain of forgiveness to settle in and to become part of our broken spirit we may find the spiritual grace of God to show lovingkindness to those who would be our enemies. To find a spiritual will to live peaceably with all men without neglecting to pursue justice upon those who refuse to be peaceable, who prefer to act unjustly through war and terrorism, who violate the human rights and inalienable liberties of men, women and children everywhere. Then shall hell be reigned down upon their heads who would continue to do such grievous sins.

However, blind patriotism but blurs these lines preferring anger and indignation over wisdom's exercise of love and justice. True patriots seek God first, his will upon this earth first, above all other wills, even their own. This is what defines a country's greatness - by a patriotism both humble and strong, willing to act in truth and justice, that shows grace, mercy, lovingkindness and wisdom. It honors God by honoring the dead and the living, and removes the anger that is felt when savagely harmed, murdered , invaded, transgressed. This is a true patriotism, one that all men of all nations may agree upon, who would submit first to God, who would humble their hearts before his will, before marching to war, to division, to pagan destruction. Then, and only then, may patriots act - and it may be in ways unthought - in ministrations of nation-building, communication, national understanding, and charitable works of helps.

So then, be at peace with the One who is Peace. Be healed by the One who is our Healer. Be Loved by the One who is Love. Let not your hearts be troubled for it is God who will judge both the quick and the dead. It is in his hands that we must place our trust, our souls, our yearning for justice. Remember the dead by remembering your God in true memorial.

- skinhead