Monday, November 21, 2011

Appreciations for the Lives of Heroes

During this Thanksgiving week we want to give thanks for the many blessings our lives.  In this country we have many more things to be grateful for than any other place in the world.   
I want to take this occasion to appreciate the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and some other brave Germans who participated in the resistance movement against Hitler and the savage activities of the Third Reich.

I have often wondered why there was nobody who could see through all of the atrocities under Hitler and why nobody did anything against it.  I can’t remember to have studied any of this part of history during my schooling.

I discovered that there were quite a few organized activities going on (along with private individuals): some by ordinary citizens like the students of the White Rose group and others like some Christians under the guidance of pastor Bonhoeffer.  There was also the group within the military which was brought to our attention a few years ago in the movie Valyrie with Tom Cruise.

The White Rose was organized by a group of students, Hans and Sophie Scholl, and their professor, Kurt Huber, and others from the University in Munich which only lasted for a few months; all of them were executed in February of 1943.  The core group printed leaflets, and with the help of other students they were able to distribute them through many other universities all over Europe.

A few years ago, I watched the movie Valkyrie and learned about the brave action of Claus von Stauffenberg who attempted to kill Hitler.  He was part of a conspiracy organized by righteous officers and people in political offices. On July 20th,1944, Mr. Von Stauffenberg had placed an attaché with a bomb in it which was to kill Hitler.  Unfortunately, the assassination attempt failed which resulted in the killing of almost 5,000 people who were connected to this cope d’état.

“We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds… 
Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough to find our way back?”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

During the same year the Valkyrie was filmed, a German producer filmed Agent of Grace
which was aired on public television here in the states.  Bonhoeffer was part of a group of German clergy who were opposed to the indifference of the church as well as the persecution of the Jews. He joined the political resistance to Hitler which led to his imprisonment in 1943 and his eventual execution on April 9, 1945, just a few weeks before Hitler committed suicide and WWII ended.

“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Why is the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)  so remarkable?  Mr. Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran theologian who was educated at various universities throughout Europe as well as at the Union Theological Seminary in New York.  It was there that he gained a deep love for the African-American spirituals.  His most influential writing is a book The Cost of Discipleship in which he expresses his firm belief in the need for a reinterpretation of Christianity for our modern world.  He made an important contribution to ecumenism which attempts to create a unified church and the efforts of world peace.  Even while in prison, with the help of some friends, he wrote letters which were posthumously edited and published as Papers from Prison.

“Action springs not from thought, but from readiness for responsibility.”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Through study and deep prayer I am gaining a deep appreciation for my German heritage.  For more than 60 years that pride was not there within the German population.  History was looked upon with shame and guilt and nobody knew what to do with it.  The Church in Germany is like a sleeping giant with all its beautiful buildings which are showcases of incredible architecture, amazing paintings and sculptures, but no spirit.  That’s why the church needs to become aware and remember pastors like Dietrich Bonhoeffer because he had found that spirit in the church in Harlem, and at the UnionTheological Seminary in New York in 1930.  His insistent dedication in the service to Christ and his continuous loyalty to the members of his church took him back to Germany where he taught relentlessly in small congregations, first hidden from the Nazis, but later discovered and closed down.  Bonhoeffer, together Martin Niemoeller founded the Confessing Church which opposed Hitler and the Third Reich with their anti-Christian and anti-Jewish stands. Bonhoeffer singly recognized deeply the problem of his time.

During this Thanksgiving week I am grateful for men like him and others who truly walk their talk.  As one autobiographer, Eric Metaxas said recently: “We need examples of leadership like him today.”  If we truly want to make an impact and change this country, we need more than promising words.  I can trust any person who is willing to give their life just like Jesus did.

Don’t these people appear to be rebels?

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.’
~ Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

No comments: