Saturday, December 25, 2010

Still Can't Sleep: Bonhoeffer

I'm reading Eric Metaxas' Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy right now--a book that simultaneously irritates and charms me.  It irritates me because it is so worshipful of Bonhoeffer.  When I was on jury duty, another member of the jury pool asked me about it; I found myself comparing it to medieval hagiography.  I respect Bonhoeffer immensely--but can anyone be that wonderful?  I also suspect that Metaxas and I share an awful lot in common theologically--and there are times that I find myself wondering how much Metaxas is reading into Bonhoeffer what he (and I) would like him to be.

Still, it is a book chock-full of important and thoughtful information, and the occasional, "Whoa!  That's the sort of thing that should make a non-believer wonder."  Metaxas describes Bonhoeffer's reaction to Kristallnacht, the Nazi destruction of synagogues, Jewish businesses, and in some cases, Jews:
In the Bible that day or next, Bonhoeffer was reading Psalm 74.  This was the text he happened to be meditating upon.  What he read startled him, and with his pencil he put a vertical line in the margin to mark it, with an exclamation point next to the line.  He also underlined the second half of verse 8: "Sie verbrennen all Haeuser Gottes im Lande."  ("They have burned all of God's houses in the land.")  Next to the verse he wrote, "9.11.38."  Bonhoeffer saw this as an example of God speaking to him, and to the Christians in Germany.  God was telling him something through his Word that day, and as he meditated and prayed, Bonhoeffer realized that the synagogues that had been burned in Germany were God's own.  This was when Bonhoeffer most clearly saw the connection: to lift one's hand against the Jews was to lift one's hand against God himself.  The Nazis were attacking God by attacking his people. (p. 316)

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