Knowing christian values and teachings is worthless unless practiced. We are called to be doers of the Word and active disciples, not merely hearers.
Dear Downers Church Family:
“Praise God for Hitler!”
Could you imagine people making such a proclamation? “How absurd!” you might think. And, I would agree. But, after World War I, there growing feelings of God’s providence for this charismatic party leader. Germany would return from the war deep in debt. Soldiers and widows from the war needed pensions. Reparations to England and France were extreme. No countries would lend money to Germany. And, after the Great Depression, countries that Germany owed money to demanded repayment.
A year after WWI, prices in Germany were 12 times as high as before the war. Certain items such as eggs and tea, rose to forty times the pre-war price. At one point, during the Weimar inflation, mailing a letter cost one million marks (compared to the pre-war cost of about 60 marks, which could feed a family of four for one week). At this time, some Germans would shop with wheelbarrows loaded with cash. The German mark’s value was near nil. The Germans were desperate for help. The Germans were desperate for a savior. Some thought the “savior” to be Adolf Hitler. One German pastor actually stated that, “Christ has come to us through Adolph Hitler.” Another pastor is quoted as saying, “Hitler is the way of the Spirit and the will of God for the German people to enter the Church of Christ.”
However, there was one up and coming theologian/pastor who did not think Hitler was Germany’s savior. That man was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Born just after the turn of the century, Bonhoeffer was still young during WWI. His parents were aristocrats. His father was a neurologist and professor of psychiatry. Bonhoeffer’s parents were not pleased when the young Dietrich, a talented pianist, decided to go into the ministry.
Bonhoeffer started off as a pacifist. He believed that allegiance to Christ was allegiance to the Word of God. But, as he studied the Scriptures, he became convinced that allegiance to Christ meant radical obedience to Christ. This was contrary to the “comfortable Christianity” of his day. Life was about sacrifice and action against injustice. The determined Dietrich started speaking out publicly against Hitler’s leadership. But, he would only oppose the Nazis through moral and religious persuasion.
According to some historians, though, his brother-in-law convinced Dietrich that taking action against the dictator was the Christian thing to do. It was time to quit preaching against Hitler and try overthrowing him. Bonhoeffer wrestled for months with moving to “pacifist” to co-conspirator to overthrow/assassinate Hitler. Dietrich came to the conclusion that he needed to practice what he preached. He must be a “doer of the Word.” He eventually joined the German secret service, became a double agent, helped Jews escape Nazi oppression and plotted against the life of Hitler. But in 1943, Bonhoeffer’s resisting actions were discovered and he was imprisoned until April 9, 1945, when he was hung with six other resisters. This was one month before Germany surrendered the war.
Whether one agrees or not with the actions that Bonhoeffer took to save Jews, deceive Nazis and plot against Hitler, it should be noted that Bonhoeffer believed “knowing” Christian values and teachings were worthless unless practiced. Active discipleship was at the heart of his ministry. He believed that we were called to be doers of the Word, not merely hearers.
Suggested Reading: "Bonhoeffer" by Eric Metaxas.