This past week in 1945, the Nazis executed the German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer for his role in a plot to assassinate Hitler. Marilynne Robinson’s essay collection, The Death Of Adam, contains an essay on Bonhoeffer. An excerpt from it:
The day after the failure of the attempt to assassinate Hitler, in which he and his brother and two of his brothers-in-law were deeply involved, Bonhoeffer wrote a letter to [Eberhard] Bethge about “the profound this-worldliness of Christianity.” He said, “By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world — watching with Christ in Gethsemane. … How can success make us arrogant, or failure lead us astray when we share in God’s suffering through a life of this kind?” These would seem to be words of consolation, from himself as pastor to himself as prisoner. But they are also an argument from the authority of one narrative moment. The painful world must be embraced altogether, because Christ went to Gethsemane.
(Bonhoeffer in 1932, via Wikimedia Commons)