Today in Lent Madness, the 20th-century martyr and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer goes against the 19th-century saint and queen Emma of Hawaii in the last match of the Faithful Four. Whoever wins this vote will face the Apostle to the Apostles, Mary Magdalene, in the final round on Wednesday for this year’s Golden Halo.
This is what I wrote for the Lent Madness website on behalf of Bonhoeffer for the semi-final round (and you can vote for him by clicking on the link at the end):
Easter Monday will mark the sixty-seventh anniversary of the execution of Dietrich Bonhoeffer at the Flossenbürg concentration camp in Nazi Germany and of his last words: “This is the end – for me the beginning of life.” Those words, it seems to me, testify to the Easter faith that will be proclaimed this weekend throughout the world. In proximity to human suffering on a scale that is unimaginable to most of us, Bonhoeffer was able to declare that the ultimate word, a word of life, belongs to God.
The St. Stephen’s Martyrs – a group of men at my church – gather weekly for an hour or so of theology and a pint or so of beer. About a year ago we talked about the Holocaust. While having that discussion, there were related artifacts, Nazi and otherwise, in the middle of the table. It’s one thing to see those objects in old black and white news reels and quite another to see them in living color as we wrestled with suffering, revenge, justice, doubt, and – yes – faith, too. I can’t imagine how much harder it must have been for Bonhoeffer and others as they together wrestled not with relics but with realities. These were imperfect people, including Bonhoeffer, making imperfect decisions that they would have to live with for the rest of their lives.
Would we have returned home to Germany rather than stay in the United States? Would we have supported an underground seminary for the Confessing Church? Would we have chosen to jam the wheel of injustice by helping the conspiracy to assassinate the Nazi Führer Adolf Hitler?
Bonhoeffer made a decision, as a result of his faith in Christ, to stand with his own people and with the innocent in the midst of their experience of Good Friday. That, I think, was his most important and courageous decision.
Here’s a final endorsement from a higher authority in the Anglican Communion. Soon after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, announced that he would be resigning his position at the end of this year, he was interviewed about his various roles and secularism and faith by a parish priest in the Church of England. Archbishop Williams was asked, as the final question, with whom he would like to have dinner if he could sit down with anyone who has lived over the last hundred years. He answered,