Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.

dietrich-bonhofferA Voice from the Past Warns Us to Take a Stand.

Never have I set ink to paper with a more sober heart.  Never have I approached a New Year with a deeper burden.  Our nation, the nation that you love and I love is slipping through our fingers at a rate of loss that would have been deemed impossible before now.

Our government is waging an incremental assault on the U.S. Constitution.  We all saw a direct assault on the first amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion when Obamacare began forcing the Catholic Church to violate their convictions.

Now we have a direct attack the second Amendment by attacking the right to bear arms.

Noah Webster said it most succinctly and most eloquently:  “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States.”

Leftist politicians, militant unions, news and entertainment media have united to create an America that will remove Christian civilization as we know it.  If drastic action is not taken immediately, the despotic control of that they have seized in the information industry will soon give them an immense, continuous and increasing power over everything we hear, see and say.

Now a man’s voice echoes from down the decades to reinforce our mandate.  His name is Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

On April 9, 1945, just a few weeks before an allied offensive brought Germany to its knees and ended World War II in Europe, a young, mild-mannered Lutheran theologian was hanged by the Nazis in Flossenburg Concentration Camp.

His crime … conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a theological genius of the 20th century, is now emerging as a war hero, martyr and spy.

“What is so amazing about the story of Bonhoeffer is that he puts a completely different spin for us as Americans on World War II,” says Eric Metaxas, author of “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” (Thomas Nelson, 2010), the first biography in 40 years of this influential Christian. The book is being released on the anniversary of Bonhoeffer’s execution.

“Christians all over the world have read his books,” Metaxas says, “but very few people know the full story of his involvement in a plot to kill the head of the German state.”

Bonhoeffer is revealed in the book as one of the few German Christians who refused to appease Hitler and his perverted interpretation of Christianity. Bonhoeffer’s staunch resistance to the Third Reich and his push for civil disobedience cost him his life.

His enriched faith, however, was born in America in 1930, when spent a year at Union Theological Seminary. But the most profound American influence was at New York’s Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. There he heard the powerful preaching of civil rights pioneer Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., and the deeply emotional music of what he called “negro spirituals.”

Bonhoeffer became a passionate parishioner and Sunday school teacher at the Harlem church.

“The experience he had in Harlem deepened his faith in such a way that when he came back to Germany, he felt called by God,” Metaxas says. “It wasn’t just theology in his head. He felt called by God to obey God. For him that meant very clearly to stand up for the Jews.”

Perhaps one other experience in America cemented his “stand for the Jews.”  On Bonhoeffer’s first and only Easter in the United States, he tried to attend services at one of New York’s famous churches. But he couldn’t get in; they were so packed, you needed tickets to attend. Wanting to be in a house of worship on Easter Sunday, Bonhoeffer went instead to a synagogue, where he heard the charismatic Rabbi Stephen Wise. Bonhoeffer wrote to his grandmother …

“He delivered an enormously effective sermon on corruption in New York and challenged the Jews, who make up a third of the city, to build from this city the City of God, to which the Messiah would then truly be able to come.”

In 1914, Wise co-founded the NAACP, and he was instrumental in the creation of the World Jewish Congress.  A synagogue in New York City bears his name.

Wise’s grandson, also named Stephen, now in his 80s, has been spearheading an effort to get Bonhoeffer’s name listed with Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, in Israel, as one of the “Righteous Gentiles” of the Holocaust.

What Bonhoeffer came away with from his New York experience was a willingness to stand by the true faith. He wrote to Rabbi Wise, telling him what the Nazis were doing to the Jews, and how the “religious” people were complacent.

“There were many German churchgoers, whether they were Christians or not I don’t know, but they went to church and somehow they made peace with the Nazis,” Metaxas says. “They thought there was nothing wrong. Bonhoeffer had such a devoted faith he knew without any question that the Nazis were anti-Christian and they were evil, and if he didn’t stand against them he would have to answer to God.”

Bonhoeffer believed he was called by God to help those who wanted to assassinate Hitler.

“Bonhoeffer was not a pacifist,” Metaxas says. “And that will be news to a lot of people who think of Bonhoeffer as their hero, as some kind of pacifist.”

He was willing to be involved in a plot to kill Hitler. “He wasn’t helpful as a gunman; he was helpful with contacts all around Europe,” Metaxas says. “He had the ability because he had ecumenical church contacts to work as a double agent, and that is what he was, he was a double agent.”

The plot was discovered, and Bonhoeffer was arrested in 1943.

Two years later, as the Battle of Berlin raged, it was clear that the Third Reich would be defeated. But Hitler wanted his enemies dead, including Bonhoeffer.

On April 9, 1945, Bonhoeffer was hanged. Three weeks later, Hitler committed suicide.

On May 1, German forces in Italy surrendered. The next day, German forces in Berlin surrendered. On May 7, 1945, the unconditional surrender of all German forces was signed. The war in Europe was over.

What was left in its wake was the murder of 6 million Jews and a legacy that has tarnished the Christian faith in Europe.

But the legacy that Bonhoeffer leaves future generations is of the untold dangers of idolizing politicians as messianic figures. Not just in the 1930s and ’40s, but today as well.

“It’s a deep temptation within us,” says Metaxas. “We need to guard against it and we need to know that it can lead to our ruin. Germany was led over the cliff, and there were many good people who were totally deluded.”

Bonhoeffer, says Metaxas, was a prophet. He was a voice crying in the wilderness. He was God’s voice at a time when almost no one was speaking out against the evil of the Nazis.

A Voice From the Past is Warning Us to Take Action

dietrich-bonhoffer

My First Blog for 2013:   A Voice from the Past Warns Us to Take a Stand.

Never have I set ink to paper with a more sober heart.  Never have I approached a New Year with a deeper burden.  Our nation, the nation that you love and I love is slipping through our fingers at a rate of loss that would have been deemed impossible before now.

Our government is waging an incremental assault on the U.S. Constitution.  We all saw a direct assault on the first amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion when Obamacare began forcing the Catholic Church to violate their convictions.

Now we have a direct attack the second Amendment by attacking the right to bear arms.

Noah Webster said it most succinctly and most eloquently:  “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States.”

Leftist politicians, militant unions, news and entertainment media have united to create an America that will remove Christian civilization as we know it.  If drastic action is not taken immediately, the despotic control of that they have seized in the information industry will soon give them an immense, continuous and increasing power over everything we hear, see and say.

Now a man’s voice echoes from down the decades to reinforce our mandate.  His name is Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

On April 9, 1945, just a few weeks before an allied offensive brought Germany to its knees and ended World War II in Europe, a young, mild-mannered Lutheran theologian was hanged by the Nazis in Flossenburg Concentration Camp.

His crime … conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a theological genius of the 20th century, is now emerging as a war hero, martyr and spy.

“What is so amazing about the story of Bonhoeffer is that he puts a completely different spin for us as Americans on World War II,” says Eric Metaxas, author of “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” (Thomas Nelson, 2010), the first biography in 40 years of this influential Christian. The book is being released on the anniversary of Bonhoeffer’s execution.

“Christians all over the world have read his books,” Metaxas says, “but very few people know the full story of his involvement in a plot to kill the head of the German state.”

Bonhoeffer is revealed in the book as one of the few German Christians who refused to appease Hitler and his perverted interpretation of Christianity. Bonhoeffer’s staunch resistance to the Third Reich and his push for civil disobedience cost him his life.

His enriched faith, however, was born in America in 1930, when spent a year at Union Theological Seminary. But the most profound American influence was at New York’s Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. There he heard the powerful preaching of civil rights pioneer Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., and the deeply emotional music of what he called “negro spirituals.”

Bonhoeffer became a passionate parishioner and Sunday school teacher at the Harlem church.

“The experience he had in Harlem deepened his faith in such a way that when he came back to Germany, he felt called by God,” Metaxas says. “It wasn’t just theology in his head. He felt called by God to obey God. For him that meant very clearly to stand up for the Jews.”

Perhaps one other experience in America cemented his “stand for the Jews.”  On Bonhoeffer’s first and only Easter in the United States, he tried to attend services at one of New York’s famous churches. But he couldn’t get in; they were so packed, you needed tickets to attend. Wanting to be in a house of worship on Easter Sunday, Bonhoeffer went instead to a synagogue, where he heard the charismatic Rabbi Stephen Wise. Bonhoeffer wrote to his grandmother …

“He delivered an enormously effective sermon on corruption in New York and challenged the Jews, who make up a third of the city, to build from this city the City of God, to which the Messiah would then truly be able to come.”

In 1914, Wise co-founded the NAACP, and he was instrumental in the creation of the World Jewish Congress.  A synagogue in New York City bears his name.

Wise’s grandson, also named Stephen, now in his 80s, has been spearheading an effort to get Bonhoeffer’s name listed with Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, in Israel, as one of the “Righteous Gentiles” of the Holocaust.

What Bonhoeffer came away with from his New York experience was a willingness to stand by the true faith. He wrote to Rabbi Wise, telling him what the Nazis were doing to the Jews, and how the “religious” people were complacent.

“There were many German churchgoers, whether they were Christians or not I don’t know, but they went to church and somehow they made peace with the Nazis,” Metaxas says. “They thought there was nothing wrong. Bonhoeffer had such a devoted faith he knew without any question that the Nazis were anti-Christian and they were evil, and if he didn’t stand against them he would have to answer to God.”

Bonhoeffer believed he was called by God to help those who wanted to assassinate Hitler.

“Bonhoeffer was not a pacifist,” Metaxas says. “And that will be news to a lot of people who think of Bonhoeffer as their hero, as some kind of pacifist.”

He was willing to be involved in a plot to kill Hitler. “He wasn’t helpful as a gunman; he was helpful with contacts all around Europe,” Metaxas says. “He had the ability because he had ecumenical church contacts to work as a double agent, and that is what he was, he was a double agent.”

The plot was discovered, and Bonhoeffer was arrested in 1943.

Two years later, as the Battle of Berlin raged, it was clear that the Third Reich would be defeated. But Hitler wanted his enemies dead, including Bonhoeffer.

On April 9, 1945, Bonhoeffer was hanged. Three weeks later, Hitler committed suicide.

On May 1, German forces in Italy surrendered. The next day, German forces in Berlin surrendered. On May 7, 1945, the unconditional surrender of all German forces was signed. The war in Europe was over.

What was left in its wake was the murder of 6 million Jews and a legacy that has tarnished the Christian faith in Europe.

But the legacy that Bonhoeffer leaves future generations is of the untold dangers of idolizing politicians as messianic figures. Not just in the 1930s and ’40s, but today as well.

“It’s a deep temptation within us,” says Metaxas. “We need to guard against it and we need to know that it can lead to our ruin. Germany was led over the cliff, and there were many good people who were totally deluded.”

Bonhoeffer, says Metaxas, was a prophet. He was a voice crying in the wilderness. He was God’s voice at a time when almost no one was speaking out against the evil of the Nazis.

Thank God for C.S.Lewis

Giving thanks for C.S. Lewis

November 22, 2012 By Joel J. Miller     

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis

Besides Thanksgiving, November 22 this year marks the 49th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ death.

I read a newspaper obituary about Lewis that my grandmother kept. She preserved the entire paper. The event was buried in the back–barely two column inches if memory serves. The rest of paper, or at least the majority of it, was dedicated to reporting the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Both men died the same day. Coincidentally, both men answered to Jack.

Though popular, this British author could not compete with an American president, and his passing was choked out by pages and pages of copy about the death of Kennedy.

Waning days

After remembering this fact earlier in the week, I spent some time reading about Lewis’ final years. The biographies of A.N. Wilson, George Sayer, and Alan Jacobs provided windows into his waning days.

A bachelor until late in life, Lewis eventually wed, but the marriage was brief. His wife, the American Joy Davidman, died of cancer in 1960 after just four years of marriage. Following her death, the grieving Cambridge professor found himself a single dad to Joy’s two boys.

Some eleven months later Lewis began experiencing difficulty peeing. Doctors concluded that his prostate was significantly enlarged and that his kidneys were infected, spreading bacteria through his bloodstream and causing heart problems. His condition didn’t go unnoticed by friends. One recalled that he looked “very ill”; another said that he appeared “unwell.”

Besides giving him blood transfusions, doctors put Lewis on a low-calorie diet and ordered him to quit smoking. He disobeyed. “If I did [comply], I know that I should be unbearably bad tempered,” he told George Sayer. “Better to die cheerfully with the aid of a little tobacco, than to live disagreeably and remorseful without it.”

Good spirits

Sayer says that Lewis “never lost his sense of humor.” Indeed, he was famously good natured.

My father, an English teacher, once told me a story that might illustrate just how good natured Lewis was. Another teacher he heard at a conference recounted how she once assigned her college prep students a book review. They could pick any book, and one of the boys in the class chose something by Lewis.

The teacher was excited when the student filed his report. She was a big Lewis fan and had read everything he’d written to that point. But the problem was that Lewis certainly hadn’t written this book. She was convinced the kid made up the report. So–much to the boy’s horror–she sent the report to Lewis.

Six weeks later, the teacher received a response. Lewis was famously serious about answering his correspondence. Inside the letter was a sealed note to the student. She gave the boy the note.

With more than a little fear, he opened it to find words to these effect: “I want to thank you for the review of a book I may someday write.” Lewis went on to say that if the imaginative boy should ever write a book of his own, to please send him a copy.

Lewis never did get to write that book.

Two years after his original diagnosis, he suffered a heart attack and slipped into a coma. The situation was dire and friends feared the worst. Some came and prayed. A priest gave the sacrament of extreme unction. Amazingly, after the sacrament, Lewis awoke, revived, and asked for a cup of tea.

True to form, he found a joke in it.

“I was unexpectedly revived from long coma,” he wrote his sister. “Ought one honor Lazarus rather than Stephen as the protomartyr? To be brought back and have all one’s dying to do again was rather hard.”

The wall of books

Though his health improved some, Lewis resigned his position at Cambridge, and settled into life at his home, The Kilns.

Jacobs records another story that captures his good spirits from the time. Following his resignation, Lewis sent his secretary, Walter Hooper, to collect his things from his rooms at Cambridge–including an extraordinary number of books for which he had little room. Back at the house, writes Jacobs,

some comedy ensued when Lewis talked Hooper into building a wall of books around the sleeping body of Alec Ross, Lewis’s live-in nurse, who had chosen the wrong time and place to take a nap.

Books always formed a key part of Lewis’ life, just as Lewis’ books have now long formed a key part in the lives of many others.

Lewis’ books have been part of my mental atmospherics for two decades now. I read the Space Trilogy in high school and my first year in college, followed by Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters. I read Till We Have Faces then as well and have come back to it several times since. Somewhere in that period I also read Sayer’s biography, Jack, for the first time.

A friend’s dad was a minister and had a dust-jacketless hardcover of God in the Dockthat he’d given his son. In those dark days before Amazon and AbeBooks, this was a treasure of inestimable value. I traded my friend a nearly-complete collection of Charles Williams’ novels to secure the important collection of essays.

Williams was a close friend of Lewis and wrote a series of eerie stories that were characterized as supernatural thrillers. One, The Place of the Lion, which imagined Plato’s forms breaking into the material world, influenced Lewis’ creation of his most memorable character, Aslan.

Some years later I wanted to reread Williams’ novels. I lucked out and found the set at a used bookstore. But I had the pearl of great price, Lewis’ God in the Dock, and was able to make much use of it.

In time I found and purchased many Lewis volumes: The Four LovesChristian ReflectionsStudies in WordsMiraclesThe Weight of GloryPresent Concerns, and others.

The Narnia stories actually came late for me. I only read them about five years ago now. It’s the same story with Reflections on the Psalms, four years ago or so. About two years ago I read The Discarded Image for the first time.

I haven’t checked, but I would guess that I quote Lewis more than any other author on this blog. I keep coming back to his books, particularly his essays.

The pleasure of re-reading

Lewis was always a serious re-reader. “I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once,” he once wrote a friend. Rereading “is one of my greatest pleasures,” he said.

Holed up at The Kilns, he reread the Iliad and other books. Sayer lists not only theIliad and the Odyssey but mentions that he read them in Greek, that he read theAeneid in Latin, as well as “Dante’s Divine Comedy; Wordsworth’s The Prelude; and works by George Herbert, Patmore, Scott, Austen, Fielding, Dickens, and Trollope.”

Surrounded by his books, Wilson says that Lewis “remained . . . propped up in the very room where Joy had spent so many heroic hours suffering.”

And then he joined her.

It was Friday, November 22. He was cheerful but had a hard time staying awake. He ate breakfast, got dressed, answered some letters. After lunch, his brother Warnie “suggested he would be more comfortable in bed, and he went there.” Warnie took him tea at four. An hour and a half later he heard a crash. Lewis had collapsed at the foot of his bed. Unconscious, as recorded Warnie, “[h]e ceased to breathe some three or four minutes later.”

C.S. Lewis wrote dozens of books some of profound theological, psychological, literary, and cultural insight. If you’re a fan like me, is there a better way to express our thanks for his life and work than rereading one or two of our favorites this holiday weekend.