Happy Birthday, St. Bonhoeffer

Happy Birthday, St. Bonhoeffer.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born on 4 February 1906, fully in the image and likeness of God. Like all of us, our life challenges us to maintain God’s likeness. 

Bonhoeffer became for the world a well-known theologian, pastor, and Nazi resister. He was educated in Europe and the US and had his “Fourth & Walnut“(See Thomas Merton) experience in New York City in Harlem. With the ascent of Adolf Hitler in Germany, Bonhoeffer’s return to his homeland began the journey of living the reign of God.

Bonhoeffer was experiencing the rise of “Christian Nationalism,” which at the time was given birth by the “marriage” of Aryanism and Empire with the church’s blessings. Bonhoeffer’s antidote was “Religionless Christianity.” If we think about this concept, it is much like what we understand the reign of God here and now is all about. That which Jesus instructs us to bring about. If we reflect on the first two hundred years after Jesus and before the empire and Christianity became one, we get a picture of “religionless Christianity,” the reign of God at work. The reign of God is all about living in a world that reflects the “likeness” of God. Throughout history, we have faced challenges in the name of religion (you pick one) that were directed at achieving results that produced systemic evil, all for the sake of power, violence, money, and control. 

For Bonhoeffer, “the concepts of person, community, and God are inseparably interrelated” (DBWE 1:34). We come to understand this when we encounter or meet the fully “Significant Other” many of us call God. In that encounter, we see the workings of the reign of God; it is our “Fourth & Walnut” experience.

Christian Nationalism was fueled not only by members of a religion but through the government and affiliated entities of the government of the Third Reich and promulgated through the day’s technology and social media of the day, such as newspapers, radio, news movie clips in movie theaters, flyers, etc.

We see in our world today the rise of “Christian Nationalism.” We see political figures promoting and encouraging legislation reflective of the essence of “Christian Nationalism.” 

In our social media and technology world, the spread of “Christian Nationalism” is quicker, more directed, targeted, and forceful than history shows us in the German government.

Joseph Goebbels was the “brains” behind Germany’s education and media push. A well-educated person. Author of a dozen plus books.

Who are the Goebbels today? can we identify them? But more importantly, who is the Dietrich Bonhoeffer of our era, our time in our fight against “Christian Nationalism”? I believe it will take a “village” of Bonhoeffer’s in our world today to bring about the reign of God. And that, my friends, is what being a saint is all about, bringing the reign of God made real.

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