Over on the IRD’s blog, Juicy Ecumenism, Keith Pavlischek writes about his thoughts on pacifism while reading Eric Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Pavlischek writes,
Moreover, Metaxas tells us that Bonhoeffer and many in the German military high command were expecting that the coming invasion of Czechoslovakia would enable a military coup against Hitler. According to Metaxas, “Bonhoeffer knew a coup was imminent.” But that assumed Czech and European military resistance to the aggression. And then came Chamberlain, the “peaceful” annexation of the Sudetenland and…”peace in our time” and all that. (p. 312)
Which is something for our pacifist friends to think about.
Another passage worth pondering has Metaxas relating Bonhoeffer’s views in mid-October 1939 immediately following the Nazi invasion of Poland:
And what Bonhoeffer now knew would make him feel more alone than ever because many in the church and ecumenical world were expending great energies toward ending the war. But Bonhoeffer was not. He now believed that the principal goal was to remove Hitler from power. Only afterward could Germany negotiate for peace. Knowing what he knew, any peace with Hitler was no better than war. But he couldn’t say such things, even in ecumenical circles. (p. 350)
Again, something for our pacifist friends to think about.
The problem with Pavlischek’s comments is he relies on the words of Eric Metaxas, and not Bonhoeffer. Let us turn to the words of Bonhoeffer. In his discussion on the Sermon on the Mount in Discipleship, Bonhoeffer writes,
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Jesus’ followers are called to peace. When Jesus called them, they found their peace. Now they are not only to have peace, but they are to make peace. To do this they renounce violence and strife. Those things never help the cause of Christ. Christ’s kingdom is the real of peace, and those in Christ’s community greet each other with a greeting of peace. Jesus’ disciples maintain peace by choosing to suffer instead of causing other to suffer. They preserve community when others destroy it. They renounce self-assertion and are silent in the face of hatred and injustice. That is how they overcome evil with good. That is how they are makers of divine peace in a world of hatred and war. But their peace will never be greater than when they encounter evil people in peace and are willing to suffer from them. Peacemakers will bear the cross with their Lord, for peace was made at the cross. Because they are drawn into Christ’s work of peace and called to the work of the Son of God, they themselves will be called children of God. (Discipleship, 108)
The other thing that Pavlischeck seems to miss is Bonhoeffer’s response to his participation in the Abwehr plot to assassinate Hitler. As the editors of the English Edition to Discipleship write,
Bonhoeffer’s advocacy for the restoration of peace, forbearance, and Christian community in Nazi Germany that he weaves into the text of Discipleship was both daunting and unpopular. Yet he was not, as history and statements from his Ethics have shown, uncompromising about using violence to prevent the greater evil of war and genocide. But even in the matter of political conspiracy, he associated the well-intentioned acts of violence against the evil government of Adolf Hitler with sin, guilt, and the need for repentance. (Discipleship, 15)
Just something for Keith Pavlischeck to think about!