As a part of our “The Cloud” series I recently taught our faith family a bit about the life and teaching of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The talk mentioned a bit of the religious and political climate that led to Germany embracing Adolf Hitler as their Führer.
As I read about Bonhoeffer’s life and the forces he confronted, I began to wonder how he would respond to the events, issues, and leaders in my lifetime. My guess is that Bonhoeffer is claimed by all sorts of folks with varying views. I’ve heard one person apply his life, resistance, and moment in history to the Obama administration and another apply it to the Trump administration.
The challenge with Bonhoeffer is that he is so accessible to so many. You can read about his life, his passions, his beliefs, his story – and everyone seems to find something they can embrace.
He is theologically conservative and firm on who Jesus is, the importance of Scripture, the essentialness of the church and the priority of following Jesus right here and right now into eternity.
But he also was a champion of some causes that often seem to be more focused on by those who prioritize social justice and acting on behalf of the oppressed. Issues like racism, pacifism, non-nationalistic tendencies, and a more global perspective.
Therefore, the temptation is to make him in our own image. It’s easy to read his story and try to apply it to our own political issues of the day. We apply our own perceived Hitler to Bonhoeffer and feel like we are following in his footsteps. We should read his story and seek to apply it where we can in our issues of the day. However, I don’t trust us to do it truthfully or well. We must have the humility to see ourselves in the German church of that day. Some opposed Hitler and the Nazi’s (Confessing Church) and others hitched their wagon to Hitler (the “German Christians”). Perhaps, we need to relate ourselves to them more than to Bonhoeffer. A number of the churches and the leadership were closely aligned with the politics of the day and followed their leader above following their Lord.
Some were more desirous to grow their national and personal kingdom more than having a vision for God’s kingdom.
So, instead of quickly applying Bonhoeffer’s story to our own political biases and enemies, I think it’s vital to ground ourselves in Scripture and the life and teachings of Jesus. To learn to truly follow after Jesus even when the path gets uncomfortable or challenges our own views.
I reckon we need fewer Democrats and Republicans with party platforms and more people who declare with their life and their words that Jesus is King.