Answering a deleted post

Maybe it’s truly bad form to reply to a deleted post. On November 8 Dan at Poser or Prophet? posted and then deleted an entry called “Why Do North Americans Love Bonhoeffer So Much?” The answer to the subject line was “Because he can be used to justify both violence and compromise.” Now, I don’t know why he deleted the post, but I consider this question a cheap shot toward anyone who seriously tries to engage Bonhoeffer’s life and writings. If he really wants to throw this question out there he should leave the post up and not delete it. Those of us with RSS readers are going to read it anyway.

Now, first, when Dan refers to North Americans is he thinking of Canadians too? Secondly, his one sentence cheap shot seems to want to implicate Bonhoeffer in both violence and compromise. I don’t think Bonhoeffer would have felt the need to answer for himself to Dan, Pat Robertson, or anyone else who misunderstands him completely. Bonhoeffer was executed for crimes against the state. In the best of all Dan’s possible worlds, he should have joined the Bruderhof and fled Germany. That was the real will of God that Dietrich missed. Whatever.



Filed under Personal

7 responses to “Answering a deleted post

  1. I’m glad you have answered the question: as soon as I saw Dan’s post I wanted to reply but never got round to it, I had no idea that he had deleted the post.

    That said, I am perhaps not quite so quick to respond negatively, Dan’s post was about the reception of Bonhoeffer’s thought rather than on Bonhoeffer per se. Bonhoeffer’s legacy has been used for disparate ends (many of which Bonhoeffer would most likely reject) but the ambiguity of Bonhoeffer’s relationship to violence (for example) or the later reduction in importance of a concrete ecclesiology does mean Bonhoeffer can be misused. I have a suspicion this may be what Dan was referring to.

  2. You’re right. It was about the reception of Bonhoeffer’s thought. I had a visceral reaction. I struggle with Bonhoeffer’s legacy. I think we all should be struggling with it. To struggle however, means reading Bonhoeffer and not being so quick to react. I still take summary judgments personally. I’m trying not to do that.

  3. Jen

    funny to read this, b-cause dan went to regent and lived in a community house with a friend of mine. my bet would be that it was more a comment on north american christians (canadians included).
    i remember you and me getting into discussions about bonhoeffer over christmas dinners. weren’t those fun? i was a militant pacifist then ;)

  4. Dan just inspired me to start reading Larry Rasmussen’s “Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Reality and Resistance” again, this time hopefully all the way through. Maybe I was so ticked because I fear he’s correct—-but it’s just not fair!! If North Americans would only really read Bonhoeffer! Just goes to show that we can all try to live as faithful to Jesus as possible and some nimble wits will still come along in fifty years and appropriate us wrongly! Good thing that never happened to Jesus. :|

  5. dan

    Tsk, tsk. I deleted the post because I didn’t want to bother dealing with exactly this sort of misreading (as for RSS feeds, I don’t really know what they are or how they work — I am, by and large, computer illiterate).

    My comment wasn’t intended as a cheap shot towards those who seriously engage Bonhoeffer, it was a reference to his hasty appropriation by those who are looking for an easy way to justify violence and the choice of those oh-so necessary evils.

    As for North Americans, yes, I was thinking of Canadians, too. As for the best of my possible worlds, Bonhoeffer would have continued to act subversively within Germany, but wouldn’t have committed to the assassination plot ,and therefore would have (likely) survived to be a part of post-war Germany (I can’t help but think of Moses who, because he struck the rock, was forbidden entry into the promised land — in a similar way, Bonhoeffer screwed up at the end and was executed just before the war ended).

    That said, you can rest assured that I’m sufficiently familiar with Bonhoeffer to have my own theories on where he is being misread and where he truly went wrong. With that in mind, I’m prepared to accept your apology for including me in the same company as Pat Robertson.

    Grace and peace,


  6. Thanks for replying Dan. I do apologize for the Pat Robertson comment. Visited your blog today and read your recent experiences in community. You are in my prayers. I wonder whether you’ve read Bonhoeffer’s book “Life Together.” I think you might find comfort in it now. He and Bethge worked on it after Finkenwalde was shut down. I’m thinking about your situation in the opening comments pg. 28 of DBW 5:

    “It is by God’s grace that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly around God’s word and sacrament in this world. Not all Christians partake of this grace. The imprisoned, the sick, the lonely who live in the diaspora, the proclaimers of the gospel in heathen lands stand alone. They know that visible community is grace. They pray with the psalmist: “I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.” (Ps. 42:5)”

  7. dan

    Fair enough. I appreciate the prayers (I have read Life Together — three times actually — but I appreciate the quote all the same).

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