Impatience overtook my children on Sunday morning before church so I decided to destract them with the church library as their mother socialized in the hallway. A few minutes later we left with a handful of books, the boys each had a different version of a kids storybook bible and I left with the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
My quiet reading time is limited to how long I am able to sneak away for lunch on workdays and I find myself stretching that time as I read page after page of one of the best books I’ve ever read.
In the first chapter alone, readers are immersed in early 1900’s German culture. You learn how growing up in a well to do German family can be remarkably similar to growing up in the west at the turn of the millennium.
After suffering the loss of close family members during the first world war, the Bonhoeffer family had come to the stark realization that war is not all glory and honor. Upon the defeat of the Germans by the allies another awakening would reveal to Dietrich Bonhoeffer that Germany was neither the victor nor the hero, Germany was the villain.
Political turmoil would grip the country for the next several years as the left and the right fought for control. A young Dietrich knew exactly where he stood after hearing the shot that killed one of the political leaders… and that’s as far as I’ve read thus far.
I haven’t always been the self described history buff I am now, one of my many regrets is that as a child in school I didn’t take history seriously. Learning about history as an adult from books I’ve read myself doesn’t come without its perks though, instead of seeing history from the perspective of a teacher I now see it through the lens of the author of whichever book I choose to read.
The author of Bonhoeffer’s biography is a wonderful storyteller! Time passes by unnoticed as I read page after page of a book that had I not known better I would’ve thought was fiction. The emotions, the turmoil, the political strife all things we can relate to today as we see how divided we are.
War: it’s supposed to be something that a civilized nation should be able to avoid, and yet here we are, just like the citizens of Germany under Hitler’s rule we have become apathetic towards anything that doesn’t directly affect ourselves. One could say that we turned ourselves into our own gods, and one would be correct.
If you could have asked citizens of Germany after the second world war what they thought of it, you’d be surprised to learn that many didn’t know the full extent of what was going on and that they were simply following the laws of their country. Ignorance, is the easy way to put it, they were being ignorant.
Before we judge their wilful ignorance though I suggest we take a look in the mirror, what are we wilfully deciding to ignore because we’d simply rather not think about it?
The foreword written by another one of my favorites, Timothy Keller mentions the shock and blatant horror that the liberators discovered after the war in the death camps. Citizens of Germany had no idea it was that bad, testimonies of some Germans tell us that after the war there was a depressing, eerie calm that hung over the nation like a fog that just wouldn’t go away. What have we done? Would become the thought for many as they struggled to comprehend exactly what happened.
In our country today we are choosing to ignore some horrific elements of our society and we’re doing it under the guise of we’re just following the law.
Our media covers and often inflames the injustices they want us to see, the racial divide we still have even though we should be way past that. The so called war on women and of course the super heated debate about who should next move into the white house. Again, like the propaganda put forth by communist countries we are told that bad people are hurting good people and nobody looks at the underlying problem, the heart problem.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer could’ve ignored what was happening and lived happily ever after. Instead he invited God into his heart and loved on people that were about to be killed at his own expense, and one day he would pay the ultimate price for his work of going against the grain, against his government and for his savior, Jesus.
Everyone knows right from wrong, everyone should stand up for what they know is right. Sadly not enough decide to stand up in opposition for what they know is wrong. Apathy: it’s not our friend.
They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.