May 19, 2021

A Divine Reality vs. A Social Ideal

 I am currently reading "Life Together" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In February of 1933, at the age of 27, Bonhoeffer was delivering a lecture via Berlin Radio. In this lecture, as he was attempting to call out the German public for their potential acceptance of Hitler, who was not a "leader" but a "misleader".  His radio broadcast was cut short. Once Hitler came to power, Bonhoeffer accepted a call to be the pastor of a couple of German-speaking churches in London and refused to have any part of the "German-Christian Compromise" with the Nazi Government.  He eventually accepted a call from the "Confessing Church" in German occupied territory, to lead an "illegal seminary." It was in this seminary, where he shared housing with 25 other vicars in emergency-built houses, that he wrote this book in 1938. 

If you can't tell from those ultra-brief comments that I pulled from the introduction to my copy of "Life Together," why I would be interested in reading books written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, then I don't think that you are paying attention to what is happening in many of our countries today. In Bonhoeffer we are presented with an opportunity to study and learn from an actual Christian who was facing unprecedented social changes... specifically ones that were finding a comfortable roost in his government, media, and schools. He also faced the reality of other churches that were following along into various degrees of compromise. Aligning themselves with these changes. We may as well find ourselves hurtling toward something like "government-approved" churches and religious organizations. 

You think I'm wrong? I hope so... but I didn't fall off the watermelon wagon yesterday... and I'm also not getting my information from YouTube videos, Q anon (whatever that is), or my friendly neighborhood conspiracy theorist. I am basing my predicted societal trajectory on history because it is apparent that I am not the only one that has fallen off a watermelon wagon. There have been watermelon-wagon tumblers for thousands of years... but I think I've muddled the illustration, so I will move on. 

My real purpose here is to share a Bonhoeffer quote. Sometimes when I share a quote, I don't mind just popping it in somewhere, and most of the time without context. But with this quote I found a thought that captures the essence of my issues with certain social pushes that are capturing our generation. Unlike many of my allies, I believe that the real reason why we ought to reject these social agendas, isn't necessarily because there are problems with the agendas (though I think there are), but because there is something real and tangible that has already been worked out for us. 

One who wants more than what Christ has established does not want Christian brotherhood. He is looking for some extraordinary social experience which he has not found elsewhere; he is bringing muddled and impure desires into Christian brotherhood. Just at this point Christian brotherhood is threatened most often at the very start by the greatest danger of all, the danger of being poisoned at its root, the danger of confusing Christian brotherhood with some wishful idea of religious fellowship, of confounding the natural desire of the devout heart for community with the spiritual reality of Christian brotherhood. In Christian brotherhood everything depends upon its being clear right from the beginning ... that Christian brotherhood is not an ideal, but a divine reality.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Life Together)

What Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls "Christian brotherhood" has gone by many different names: The Fellowship of the Saints, Christian Brothers and Sisters, Community of Faith... but these are all names for what can truly and simply be called -- Church.

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