In 1945 Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged for participating in a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler. Bonhoeffer went to the gallows as his final act of Faith for Justice in a world engulfed by evil.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Faith led him to believe in the Jew, Jesus of Nazareth – day laborer - crucified by the Romans and later symbolized as the Christ of the second coming.
This belief did not restrict his Faith in salvation but expanded it to salvation and justice for all. He wrote poetry from the German jail:
God goes to every man when sore bestead, Feeds body and spirit with his bread; For Christians, pagans alike he hangs dead, And both alike forgiving. (Prayers, p. 26)
Belief in the Christ also did not relieve Lutheran Pastor Bonhoeffer, member of an aristocratic German family, of connection with the community or from responsibility. He wrote:
…a human being necessarily lives in encounter with other human beings and this encounter entails being charged, in ever so many ways, with responsibility for the other human being. (Ethics, p. 220)
Where did Bonhoeffer find hope? Founder of Liberation Theology Gustavo Gutierrez in his book - The Power of the Poor in History
(p. 231) quotes the Lutheran Pastor:
It is an experience of in comparable value to have learned to see the great events of history of the world from beneath: from the viewpoint of the useless, the suspect, the abused, the powerless, the oppressed, the despised – in a word, from the viewpoint of those who suffer.”
Before the war and after receiving his doctorate in Theology, Bonhoeffer spent time at Union Theological Seminary in New York. The liberal theology of Barth, Tillich and Bultman were in vogue, but the modern bourgeois understanding of Faith did not impress Doctor Bonhoeffer.
At the suggestion of a colleague Bonhoeffer attended the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. The preaching, and the music nourished his Faith. Can you hear the choir?
When Israel was in Egypt land – oppressed so hard they could not stand – Let my people go. Go down Moses – way down to Egypt land – tell old Pharaoh Let my people go.
Pastor Bonhoeffer recognized his responsibility to return to Germany and join the resistance against Hitler.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics, 2005, Augsburg Fortress
Bonhoeffer, Prayers from Prison, 1978, Fortress PressGustavo Gutierrez, The Power of the Poor in History, 1983, Orbis Books