Book review: Strange Glory, a Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
What I find encouraging in the story is that Bonhoeffer bore faithful witness to the gospel even though he was emotionally immature, a brilliant intellectual but in many ways with no sense. He had earned a doctorate by age 21, but he was financially dependent on his parents and often lived at home until the Nazis locked him up.
Significantly, he learned a great deal of the gospel from his time in black churches in the United States. Not that black churches are, or were, in very good shape. Indeed, most black preachers opposed the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, or at least had serious reservations. The imperative to suck up and be respectable was by no means absent, which is what caused Malcolm X to reject the Christianity of the black church in disgust. But Bonhoeffer found more reality and discipleship there than in the German churches or American white churches.
Although Bonhoeffer was a prominent theologian, he could seldom endure to go to church on Sunday - which certainly reminds me of myself. Even though I am far from being a prominent theologian, I am serious about the faith and more of a theologian than most that I know, and what I've learned in the Bible makes what generally happens in churches insufferable. It feels good that Bonhoeffer had the same experience.
In the seminary at Finkenwalde from 1935 until 1937, when the Gestapo closed it, Bonhoeffer and his small community learned about Life Together, the book he wrote from it. His preaching, in contrast to the histrionics of Hitler, aimed to be free of rhetorical manipulation. I would like to encounter a church some day that even makes that its aim, never mind attains it.
Bonhoeffer returned to Germany in 1939, when he could have spent the war in the United States. I wonder if I will stay in the United States, with my eyes open, if God has me do so, when I might be of service elsewhere, or even if I should.
Like Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany, faithful Christians must desire the defeat of our own country in its violent aggression around the world, even though that will bring us considerable personal discomfort. After all, American affluence rests on the domination and plunder of the rest of the world, indeed through the device of debt that will never be repaid, as it was with the Chaldeans in Habakkuk. The price of justice will be to live with a lot less luxury. Are we up for that?