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THE STORY OF A THEOLOGIAN TURNED CONSPIRATOR Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Unstoppable Resolve

I ’ve talked before about howmuch I like to read. Whenever I get some free time, I grab a book and try to learn a few things, whether it’s about business, life, faith, or history. But lately, I’ve been engrossed in a nonfiction story so compelling that I’ve found it hard to put down. “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” by Eric Metaxas is an interesting biography of a German theologian forced to reckon with his theology and faith in the time of Hitler’s rise to power, shifting from being a conscientious objector to being an active co-conspirator in multiple plots to assassinate the leader of the Nazis to bring an end to the war. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was raised in a privileged environment in early 20th-century Germany by his mother, a devout Christian, and his father, an

agent. In that capacity, he worked cooperatively with a network of senior German Officers who were actively working against the Nazis. During this time, he helped Jews escape the oppression of the regime, and he eventually became involved in three failed plots to assassinate Hitler. The last attempt was the von Stauffenberg conspiracy, code-named Valkyrie, which ultimately led to his execution. He was executed by hanging at the age of 39, upon the direct order of Adolf Hitler, with at least four of his co-conspirators, only two weeks before the Flossenburg concentration camp was liberated by the Allies. And one week after that, Hitler committed suicide and the war was over. For me, it’s next to impossible to imagine the depth of Bonhoeffer’s moral dilemma, the real world strength of his faith, and his struggle with conflicting loyalties as he progressed from being an outspoken Hitler critic to clandestine resistance and ultimately to conspiratorial treason. After all, he was a proud German who deeply loved his God and his country. While most of his countrymen were deceived by the satanic evil of the Third Reich, he chose to pay the ultimate price for living out his beliefs. At the end of the day, Bonhoeffer thought it the plain duty of the Christian — and his privilege and honor — to suffer with those who were suffering, and at that moment in history, no one was suffering more than the Jewish people. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a true disciple, and for him, the cost was martyrdom.

pastor in Spain and studying at New York’s UnionTheological Seminary, he solidified his steadfast faith. He wrote the seminal “The Cost of Discipleship” in 1937, which Christianity Today calls “a call to more faithful and radical obedience to Christ and a severe rebuke of comfortable Christianity,” a text that still looms large in contemporary Christian theology. But, during Bonhoeffer’s studies, Hitler had clawed his way to the German presidency, solidifying the violent Nazi party’s grip on the country’s politics. It made Bonhoeffer sick to see the country he loved bending to the will of such an evil man, and in 1934, he came together with other like-minded pastors and established the Confessing Church, in direct opposition to the Nazi Party’s hijacking

of the official German Church. Banned from teaching openly, he ran an illegal, underground seminary for the Confessing Church until it was closed down by the Gestapo. Frustrated by the constant surveillance of the Gestapo and desperate to help the people of Germany (and the rest of the world) escape from the moral bankruptcy and utter criminality of the murdering Nazis, in 1940 he joined the German Military Intelligence Service as an Intelligence Officer. In actuality, however, he was really a double

agnostic, who was the Chair of Psychiatry and Neurology at the University of Berlin. By all accounts, Dietrich was something of a prodigy, talented at playing piano and equipped with a remarkable intelligence. At age 14, he told his parents that he wanted to be a minister and theologian, much to the chagrin of his father, and embarked on the spiritual path on which he remained for the rest of his life. As he bounced around the world in his early 20s, serving a stint as an assistant

–Brad Johnson

President, Risk Services of AR Specialized Insurance Programs for Specialized Industries. • www.insurica.com • 1


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