Bonhoeffer (Outstanding Christian Thinkers) by Stephen Plant

By Stephen Plant

The most effective recognized Christians of the 20th century, Dietrich Bonhoeffer is prominent as a theologian for his remarkable independence of brain, creativity and brilliance through liberals and conservatives alike. His demise by the hands of the Nazis.

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Some were purely Lutheran in church tradition, others Reformed; some, like Bonhoeffer's regional Church in Prussia, united Lutheran and Reformed traditions. In some regions, particularly in southern Germany, Catholics were in the majority, in others, particularly in the north, Protestants were in a majority. Adolf Hitler lacked patience with German Protestantism and understood it even less. But Hitler, by birth an Austrian Catholic, understood from Fascists in Italy, to whom he initially looked up, the importance of 'neutering' Catholic opposition.

A General Strike restored order but an impression remained of the new democratic political system's incapacity to rule effectively. Political chaos gave way to economic chaos. As the revenue from tax was insufficient to pay the police, the army and the reparations bill, the government resorted to printing money and inflation galloped. In October 1923 Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to his parents telling them that each meal now cost 1 billion marks. By November 1923 the exchange rate was 4000 billion marks for one US dollar and the cash economy was replaced by an economy based on barter in which two eggs bought a theatre ticket and a pair of boots cost a pound of butter.

The Fiihrer's nod was as good as a wink for the German Christians and Miiller, who had few personal qualities otherwise to recommend him, soon became their candidate. To oppose him the Emergency League persuaded Friedrich von Bodelschwingh, director of a community for the disabled in Bethel, and a man of irreproachable personal integrity. Representatives of regional churches and church bodies in a complex Electoral College cast votes and somewhat to everyone's surprise Bodelschwingh was overwhelmingly elected.

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