RSSArchive for the ‘germany’ Category
Posted February 4th, 2012 by Jen in features, germany, history, persecuted church, politics/world news, religion
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Bonhoeffer’s been dogging me for decades and sometimes I do wish he’d back off, because he’s always reminding me that anything of value has a high price. I’m a tight-wad, I don’t like to pay high prices.
Perhaps you’ve not been introduced to Dietrich Bonhoeffer? Today is his birthday, and 106 years ago he entered the world, along with his twin sister, Sabine, in Breslau, Germany, bringing great joy to Paula and Karl Bonhoeffer, and eventually there would be eight children who had the most lovely and nurturing family a child could hope for. Above the west entrance of Westminster Abbey in London are 10 modern martyrs – Bonhoeffer’s statue is among them. In the briefest of words, Bonhoeffer was a theologian, a pastor, a writer, a Christian, a prophet, an anti-Nazi spy. He was executed on April 9, 1945 in a German concentration camp for his involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler, just days before liberation of that camp.
But I’d like to talk about why we should be concerned about Bonhoeffer in the 21st century.
Exactly why is he relevant to such a degree that people are still writing biographies about him and giving talks and holding congresses? Germany in the 1930s and 40s is challenging to comprehend — the Nazi and Jewish issues, of course, the role of the church, and I wonder how to extrapolate from those times without finding a Nazi behind every overreaching government act.
The state of Bonhoeffer’s world was that the German Christian church looked the other way as Jews were being carted off for “resettlement in the East.” In Bonhoeffer’s last great work, Ethics, though unfinished he considered it his magnum opus, he rebukes the church for her grave offenses against humanity and allowing herself to be subjugated by the Nazi regime:
Could this not have been written ten minutes ago, as Metaxes said in an interview?
What are today’s burning issues? I ask, as I seek to find Bonhoeffer’s relevance.
Abortion is one. I’m not comfortable addressing this contentious subject. Every person I know has been affected by this, either she has personally had an abortion or knows someone who has. And so who wants to go around telling a woman she is a negligent person, a selfish creature, a murderer? Not me.
I vaguely, then rather insistently, wondered if Bonhoeffer ever had an opinion on the topic of abortion or the right to life. I discovered in his book, Ethics, what I was looking for.
Bonhoeffer considered many facets of abortion, including the pastoral care that necessarily should be involved:
He further speaks to extreme cases:
I’m amazed at the specific issues Bonhoeffer addresses with regard to abortion, and it all leaves me little room to wonder what Bonhoeffer would say today in the 21st century. As Eric Metaxas said, Bonhoeffer is staggeringly relevant. He further makes it clear that the right to life is not based on the qualities of the individual.
I read all this from Ethics just yesterday and my head fell into my hands and I wept. I almost didn’t want to know; silly, it’s not like Bonhoeffer’s opinion would change my mind, I had concluded when I was very young that abortion was an injustice. But have you ever experienced knowledge that suddenly unloads responsibility? It was this, and I wept, and I couldn’t even allow myself to grasp the entirety as I would have literally fallen to the ground from the weight of it.
I don’t want to become a radical, oh, at least not any more radical than I already am. It’s dangerous to be radical. It’s so much safer to be non-radical, at least on this side of Heaven. Bonhoeffer was a radical of sorts by all accounts, and he paid for it with his life, with a a piano wire around his neck as he dangled naked in the courtyard of the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp in Germany.
And yet he is my hero, and has been for two decades. Someone gave me The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer when I was in my early twenties, and that was my introduction to this compelling man. I read bits and pieces and the words just sat smoldering in the recesses of my mind for twenty years. I do gravitate to the edge of costliness, but to actually take the leap, like Bonhoeffer, is not fully in my nature.
So from the beginning of my life as a committed Christian, I’ve had in the background of my thinking, always, the cost of discipleship, which is of course clear in the teachings of Jesus, but made so visible to me by Bonhoeffer.
Bonhoeffer was continually accused of being a single-issue fanatic in his time. And why? He vehemently opposed Nazi interference in the church and so was stripped of his pastoral license and forbidden to speak in public or print or publish. He then helped Jews escape to Switzerland which led to his first arrest. Don’t we look back from our vantage point and not see this as fanatical at all? We are not allowed the privilege of seeing our present from a future viewpoint, and that’s why I spend all this time with Bonhoeffer, searching and probing for relevance and truth to help myself, and maybe spare myself from death of conscience.
But I’ve come to realize there are rarely single-issue fanatics. There is a vast underpinning of philosophies and moralities that find expression in a single-issue, and start digging and you will find the true breadth of it all. Bonhoeffer’s extensive writings demonstrate this theory, and the complexity of what appears to be a single-issue begs to be examined.
Five years ago, on the anniversary of Bonhoeffer’s execution, I wrote an essay exploring Bonhoeffer’s call to the church, a call to action for times when the state is involved in illegitimate actions. I said I’d write more later. And here it is, it took me a while. I quote again from Bonhoeffer’s writings in Ethics, scathing words to the church in his day relating to the Jews, but equally applicable and significant for the unborn in our day:
Bonhoeffer, oh, could he have known that he would suffer to the last and to the fullest, with Christ and with the Jews and the undesirables? I do think he knew, and he intentionally chose the way of the cross.
May I leave you with some resources for you to further examine the relevance of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer to your world? Following are some links (which have been of immense help to me) to books, essays, videos, blogs, all of which either directly speak of Bonhoeffer, or involve current issues to which his principles could be applied.
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
Posted May 16th, 2010 by Jen in features, germany, music
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Today was full of beautiful things, the highlight being attending the Central Oregon Symphony’s presentation of Brahms’ German Requiem, joined by the Cascade Chorale and Central Oregon Mastersingers.
My dear friends Jane and Julia were my company, along with the heavenly music, from cellos and violins to the lone harp that Julia was so happy to be just five rows away from. My mom was supposed to go with Jane and me, but wasn’t feeling well, so I called Julia at the last minute, and she was able to meet us there in a moment’s notice!
She was really meant to be there, I told her. She has a thing for the harp, and had the best seat in the house for harp viewing! Due to our late arrival, we were instructed to go down to the front left, directly in front of the lovely lady plucking the long strings. And I learned that Julia hadn’t been to the symphony since she was a child, so this was a treasured time. I totally owed her for taking my kids for me when Luke had his surgery last month, so the requiem was my requital.
The Requiem begins: “Selig sind, die da Leid tragen, denn sie sollen getrostet werden,” or “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” I do wish that I’d had the program to follow along with (being late the ushers had left their places), as I don’t understand German, but I’m sitting here tonight going over the text and translation, hoping to someday hear this again with more understanding. But music does transcend translation, and it all still spoke to me.
I had worked in my garden for several hours just before heading out for the concert, and returned home to a refreshing spring rain. I had been fretting about not watering my little seedlings prior to leaving. Oh, for patience.
Michael Gesme is the music director and conducter of the Central Oregon Symphony, and if you ever have the opportunity to see him, it’s an entertaining treat. He is an active conductor, so energetic and lively, and I did see him jump fully several inches at least once!
Thank you, Johannes Brahms, for a lovely afternoon.
Posted January 18th, 2009 by Jen in features, france/french, germany, persecuted church, politics/world news
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In Nazi occupied France during the dark days of WWII, there was a group of valiant and daring individuals known as the French Resistance. They dared to defy the vice-grip of Nazi Germany (as well as the French collaborators) using stealth, reconnaissance, infiltration, and whatever means necessary to save their beloved country and fellow man from destruction. Most of these brave souls were subject to betrayal, unspeakable torture, or death. One of these members of the French Resistance appeared to be an ordinary housewife, but Berthe Fraser was anything but ordinary.
Berthe Fraser was among hundreds of people who rose to the treacherous task of defending France. Be they a housewife, a mother, a Catholic, a Jew, a communist, an artist, or a politician, these resistance fighters came from all layers of society, both male and female, young and old, and without their heroic acts, Hitler’s march through France may not have been halted.
The French Resistance took many forms, from groups of armed guerilla bands who escaped to the mountains, known as the Maquis, to organizers of escape networks for Jews and other targets of the Nazis, to publishers of underground newspapers, to those who carried out sabotage operations, to couriers who carried coded messages back and forth between Allied members.
Mrs. Fraser’s story begins with her birth in 1894 as Berthe Emilie Vicogne. She married an Englishman and thus became a British subject. When the rumblings of WWII hit France, Berthe Fraser was going about her domestic life in her hometown of Arras, France, all the while organizing an underground network that saved the lives of countless English agents and pilots. Her husband reported later to an English newspaper:
Twice betrayed but never broken, Berthe Fraser was an unshakable woman for whom I have the utmost awe and respect. I can relate to where she was in life; a woman in her 40s, tending to her home. I don’t know if she had any children, but as a woman, I feel the risks of undertaking the work of the Resistance were doubly perilous.
I wish there was more information available about this woman. I know she suffered extreme torture during her second capture, and this trauma surely accounts for the lack of details. Who wants to recall the horror? I can find no record of a public interview. I discovered in the back matter of the book SOE in France by M.R.D. Foot, that Berthe Fraser died in 1956, her health never restored.
In 1941, someone betrayed Berthe, and she was arrested by the Gestapo. She spent 15 months in a Belgian prison, and was released in December 1942. Did this imprisonment deter her? No. Berthe immediately jumped back into the work of fighting Hitler’s campaign of death and terror.
Berthe was betrayed again in 1944, unbelievably by one of the very English agents whose life she saved. She spent six months in solitary confinement at Loos where she was tortured every day. She was stripped and flogged in front of Nazi troops and condemned to death. Never did she betray her friends in the Resistance or the English army. How many lives she saved through her own afflictions will never be known.
When the Allies stormed the prison on September 1, 1944, Berthe Fraser was just hanging onto life, and she is reported to have said, “Thank you boys, you are just in time.”
Sisters in Resistance, a documentary film by Independent Lens.
Charlotte Gray, a Warner Bros. film.
For Freedom, a novel by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. An excellent young adult book for grades 6-12.
Outwitting the Gestapo, a memoir by Lucie Aubrac.
Sisters in the Resistance by Margaret Collins Weitz.
Code Name Christiane Clouet: A Woman in the French Resistance by Claire Chevrillon.
An American Heroine in the French Resistance: The Diary and Memoir of Virginia D’Albert-Lake by Virginia D’Albert-Lake.
Posted July 20th, 2008 by Jen in education, germany, persecuted church, politics/world news
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If you’re following the crisis in Germany regarding that country’s ban on homeschooling, you may be interested in tuning in tomorrow to the new BlogTalkRadio Homeschool Show, live at 1 p.m. Central Time, Monday, July 21 (follow that link). You can listen to the archive after the show if you’re unavailable at that time.
This new Home School Talk radio show is hosted by Dana of Principled Discovery, who has written extensively about the homeschooling situation in Germany. The guest tomorrow is Rina, an Irish woman who homeschooled her children in Germany for a period and faced constant harassment from German authorities. Rina kept a blog updated through Dec. ’07 if you’d like to follow some of her saga there, as well as stories of many other German homeschoolers who dealt with similar harassment, fines, criminal penalties, loss of custody of children, and jail – just for homeschooling. Also a great source of updated information on German homeschooling is Kinderlehrer’s blog, Educating Germany, dedicated solely to this issue.
Whether you’re a homeschooler or not, I’d encourage anyone who cares about basic human rights, parental rights, educational choice, and living in a free and democratic society, to tune in and educate yourself on this issue. If you’re not able to listen live, but have a question, comment, or encouragement for Rina, consider emailing Dana with your thoughts to pass on to her guest.
Posted February 12th, 2008 by Jen in arts & crafts, germany, politics/world news
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The spectacular art heist of this past Sunday at the Bührle Museum in Zurich has rocked the art world, and police are working around the clock to solve the case and find any possible connections with other recent thefts, including the theft the previous week of two Pablo Picasso paintings stolen from a Swiss exhibition near Zurich. A note on the museum’s website says “The museum remains closed.”
The stolen art work has been valued at $180 million and comprised four Impressionist masterpieces: Poppies near Vetheuil by Claude Monet (1879), Count Lepic and his Daughters by Edgar Degas (1871), Blossoming Chestnut Branch by Vincent Van Gogh (1890) and Boy in a Red Waistcoat by Paul Cezanne (1888).
Since this month my blog features have been about great artists, and the first artist I covered was Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, this breaking news certainly caught my attention. The Bührle Museum did have a Renoir on display, Little Irene, but it wasn’t touched, probably because the three masked gunmen couldn’t carry anymore heavy paintings, and the robbers appeared to have just taken the first four they came to.
Motive? I mean, you can’t go out and sell the famous stolen art. “It’s extremely hard, if not impossible, to sell these works,” said Michaela Derra of Ketterer Kunst GmbH, a Munich, Germany-based purveyor of modern and contemporary art. Here is a speculation:
However, I have my own little theory. There is apparently a Saudi collector sending his thugs out to steal art for his private collection. None of the current stories I’ve found on the Bührle theft have mentioned this connection, so I could be promoting an absurd idea. Nonetheless, just two months ago, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, paintings by Picasso and Portinari were stolen, but recovered. One of the suspects in the case told detectives the paintings were to be delivered to a Saudi collector, who has not been publicly named by authorities.
The history of Mr. Emil G. Bührle is very interesting, and perhaps he himself was a collector who obtained stolen art, and conceivably everything has come full circle. Bührle, born in Germany, was an industry tycoon who provided weapons to the Third Reich during World War II. In the aftermath of the war, he amassed one of Europe’s most valuable collections of art. It’s a tragedy of the war that the Nazis looted much of the great art owned by Jews, and many of Bührle’s pieces were on a “looted art list.” Exactly how Bührle obtained his collection is unknown, but some of it is “flight art,” works smuggled out by Jews and sold at bargain-basement prices to avoid confiscation by Nazis.
Maybe this art heist was Jews taking back their rightful property, via a Saudi collector, who will ask for a ransom. At this point, any theory can be thrown into the ring.
Posted September 15th, 2007 by Jen in education, germany
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Since I just spent a great deal of time reading about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I’ll submit something interesting I came across in Eberhard Bethge’s Biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. From p. 17, where he briefly discusses the fact that Dietrich’s mother, Paula Bonhoeffer, homeschooled all eight children for their early schooling:
Oh, did the Bonhoeffer family have it right, way back in the first decade of the 1900s! Does German schooling “break the back” of its children? Could this be a reason for the number of homeschooling families in Germany, despite the dire consequences? Yes, it’s illegal, since about 1938 (and do you know what was happening in 1938?), and you face jail, fines, and loss of custody of your children if you homeschool. Or you simply go into exile and are forced to flee the country.
If Paula Bonhoeffer were raising her family in Germany today, would she have landed in jail? Would Dietrich and his siblings have become wards of the state? Those sound like ridiculous questions; however, that is the reality of what is happening in Germany today.
John Taylor Gatto’s The Public School Nightmare: why fix a system designed to destroy individual thought is an excellent essay in which he describes the evolution of modern compulsory education.
Gatto continues his essay with a very interesting remark from none other than Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
I’ll wrap up this post with a simple warning given by Gatto. My hope is that if people understand what sinister objectives lurk beneath compulsory schooling, they will stop being so willing to comply. German citizens need to rise up, en masse, and rebel against this kind of tyranny that leaves them no options, no power to choose.
Posted September 14th, 2007 by Jen in education, germany
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Kinderlehrer over at Educating Germany is hosting the International Freedom in Education Day. If you have a post to add to her carnival, please head over there; she’ll be running this through tomorrow. If you would like to learn more about the education crisis in Germany, spend some time browsing her site. I’ve written several times, including here and here, about Germany’s mandatory school laws which leave homeschooling families living in fear, often being fined, jailed, or having their children taken away by the state – simply for refusing to send their kids to the public school, choosing instead to educate their own children.
I’ll have something by tomorrow to add to Kinderlehrer’s effort. She certainly needs our prayers as she works for reform.
There is also an incredible wealth of information on education/homeschooling in Germany at Dana’s site, just do a search on her site for Germany.
Why do I care? I live in the United States and have the freedom to homeschool my kids if I want. Well, I could talk about the fact that there is indeed a trickle-down effect in the international community, I could talk about the U.N. trying to apply international law to the United States, I could talk about many legal or political issues. However, the reason I truly care is not even definable. It’s something about being human and loving and caring for other people, no matter where in the world they live. It’s about brothers and sisters in the Lord who are being persecuted for their faith. It’s about freedom.
Posted April 9th, 2007 by Jen in general, germany, persecuted church, politics/world news
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Monday, April 9 – today’s date – in 1945, was the morning of the hanging of Dietrich Bonhoeffer at the Flossenburg Concentration Camp. German pastor, writer, dissident, and martyr. A great force behind the German Resistance to Hitler’s Nazi regime. Sadly, ironically, but perhaps most profound, is the fact that just a few days later, Allied troops liberated the camp. Three weeks following, Adolf Hitler had committed suicide, and within a month, Germany had surrendered unconditionally. But I believe that Bonhoeffer speaks to us through his sacrifice more clearly today than he did in his life.
Just as a prophet is not accepted in his own town (Matthew 13:57), Bonhoeffer was speaking so far ahead of his time that I believe most of his contemporaries benefited little from his life. Many of his fellow pastors and churchpeople supported Hitler’s policies. The true beneficiaries of Dietrich Bonhoeffer are those of us living today.
As he explained his involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler, Bonhoeffer said: “If I see a madman driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders, then I can’t, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe and then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.” A further glimpse into the action-oriented Bonhoeffer was his collaboration in an effort to help a group of Jews escape to Switzerland that led to his arrest and imprisonment in April 1943, two years prior to his execution.
So, I’m trying to lay the framework of all of this history onto life today. Here’s a Bonhoeffer quote that helps his death bring some benefit to me today: “Nothing is fixed, and nothing holds us. The film, vanishing from memory as soon as it ends, symbolizes the profound amnesia of our time. Events of world-historical significance, along with the most terrible crimes, leave no trace behind in the forgetful soul.”
Can we please not suffer from profound amnesia? Can we please not be illiterate regarding church history? Bonhoeffer displayed the most admirable resistance to tyranny you can hope for; yet this was too late for his own age – we are the recipients, and our call is to respond to the conditions that make tyranny possible. We are offered the opportunity, if we would educated ourselves with this history, to direct action at the root of the problem, instead of being forced into a violent struggle with the full-blown fuhrer.
So, The Cost of Discipleship teaches me that believing in Jesus isn’t enough – there is a call to action, and Bonhoeffer sets a real-life example of sometimes radical action. Bonhoeffer warns against the “cheap grace” that advocates belief without obedience. “Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. It remains an abstract idea, a myth.”
Here are some issues I’ll be exploring in more detail in another post – this is an excerpt from the 2003 documentary film, Bonhoeffer:
Do you think the church has any reason today to act against the state? Ahh, now we’re getting to the heart of this, and we must examine this closer if Bonhoeffer’s martyrdom is to have been of any profit.