Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of the 20th century's greatest Christian theologians. He also was involved in several attempts to assassinate Adolph Hitler. Host Krista Tippett speaks with Martin Doblmeier, director of the new documentary Bonhoeffer, which examines how this pacifistic figure struggled with some of the greatest moral issues of his day, and became an emblem of personal faith and conscience.
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(00:00:00) From Minnesota Public Radio. I'm Greta Cunningham Minnesota Governor Tim pawlenty today announced the state has lost its top credit rating for one of three Wall Street Bond houses. Moody's investors service has downgraded the state from AAA to double A 1 it means it will be more costly for the state to borrow money. Minnesota's AAA status was maintained last week by the other two Bond houses Richfield base Best Buy has found investors to take over its money-losing musicland business Minnesota public radio's Bill Catlin (00:00:28) reports musicland operates about 1100 music and video stores in three chains, Sam Goody's media play and Suncoast a Best Buy spokeswoman says the operation is on track to lose 85 million dollars this year son Capital partners of Florida is acquiring Music Land and taking over all the companies liabilities. No cash will change hands in the deal Best Buy announced in March. 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I'm Greta (00:01:47) Cunningham. It is 6 minutes now past twelve o'clock speaking of faith is supported by the Pew charitable trusts sponsoring the Pew Forum on religion and public life to explore how religion shapes ideas. Institutions Pew Forum dot-org additional support is provided by The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. (00:02:08) I'm Krista Tippett and this is speaking a faith today The Life and Legacy of the 20th Century. Theologian, Dietrich, (00:02:15) Bonhoeffer. (00:02:19) Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in 1906 into an intellectual and aristocratic German family. He became a pastor a teacher a theologian and eventually a Nazi resistor in his lifetime. He authored several books which have been treasured by lay readers and Scholars ever since among them the cost of discipleship and an unfinished volume ethics. He was executed in a Nazi prison in Berlin three weeks before the fall of the Third Reich for his participation in a failed conspiracy to assassinate Hitler, but his letters and papers from prison were collected and published posthumously and are a classic work of narrative or first-person theology theology as discerned and articulated in the thick of Human Experience this summer Journey films releases a new documentary about Bonhoeffer today. I'll speak with producer Martin double Meyer about the legacy of this unusual Theologian and about how his own thought and Faith have been influenced by Bonhoeffer Bonhoeffer was 27 and already renowned as a theologian when the Nazis came to power in 1933. He watched the rise of fascism in Germany, including the increasing persecution of Germany's Jews the participation in this of the vast majority of German Christians compelled him to reconsider the very Notions of faith and of church, he became one of the founders of what is known as the confessing Church the center of protestant resistance to Fascism and he remains a living influence one of the great models of courage and Theological creativity in Christian history The Church has three (00:04:10) possible ways. It can act against the state first (00:04:14) it can ask the state if its actions are (00:04:17) legitimate. (00:04:19) Second it can Aid the victims of the (00:04:22) state action. The church has the unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering (00:04:28) Society. Even if they do not (00:04:30) belong to the Christian Society. The third possibility is not just bandaged the victims on the wheel but to gem a spoke in the wheel itself (00:04:41) the German actor Klaus Maria brandauer is the voice of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the new film about his life created by my guest today Martin double Meyer. The film was a sellout on the fringes of the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and it has been playing to packed churches and meeting halls around the country. Well in advance of its official release in theaters this month. It is a theological documentary which traces the evolution of bonhoeffer's Faith as much as his life doable Meyer interviewed students of Bonhoeffer and family members including the late Eberhard Becca who was bonhoeffer's dearest friend and biographer. For when I sat down with Martin double Meyer. I wanted to know why he cared to do a film on this German Theologian and how creating this film had affected (00:05:28) him. Well, I was introduced to Bonhoeffer back in high school my high school religion teacher walked in one day and held up a copy of letters and papers from prison and said we're going to study Theology and this was where we begin and I took the book home and I fell in love with the book and I took it to the baseball field. I read it in the Dugout. I couldn't put it down. I read it again and again and within a couple of weeks I was offering myself to go to social justice programs to get involved in soup kitchens that the school was doing and I think in part it's part of the reason why I decided that I wanted to study religion when I went to the university. So (00:06:02) so, you know, you were in high school there are lots of really complex theological themes in that book, but it sounds like the message that you really got was action. (00:06:14) It was both action, but also I think what I fell in love with was I as I was reading the book, We knew in as the backdrop that he would eventually die and pay the price with his life what was happening and yet at the same time no matter how much theology you had as your own background. You could read into the text of those letters a man who was at peace with himself who was still thinking about the church in The Wider perspective and thinking and caring about others is often. His letters would personal to his family and to Maria von wedemeyer his fiancee and this was a man who is thinking less about himself and more about others and that's what I really admired in him at that time. I was only in high school, but that's what really struck me at that (00:06:55) time. And then did you read him much over the years after that original or did you think about him over the years? (00:07:01) I went to Providence College and I majored in religion in Providence College and we took Bonhoeffer in college and read cost of discipleship and read ethics. And of course took it from a more academic point of view, but I continued to read I fell in love with the book life together. I thought that was just a wonderful book about D. Yeah, wonderful assemblage of under of thoughts that really came out of a very practical experience of bringing a group of people together and trying to build a seminary a sort of a sacred lifestyle together (00:07:37) an excerpt from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 's life together on the ministry of listening the first service that one owes to others in community consists in listening to them just as love for God begins with listening to his word. So the beginning of love for the Brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God's love for us that he not only gives his word but also lends us his ear many people are looking for an ear that will listen they do not find it among Christians because these Christians are talking where they should be listening, but he who can no longer listen to his brother. Will soon be no longer listening to God either he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life and in the end there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension (00:08:34) arrayed in Pious words. (00:08:45) Again, Martin double (00:08:46) Meyer. I think I was probably as I look back at it now attracted to his his Vigor his enthusiasm in some ways his naivete about the world. I mean, there's a certain vulnerability about the way that Bonhoeffer comes at the world and I think that that in its own way is really remarkable and there's all kinds of speculation of who he would have become had he been able to live a full life and been able to write and gone through all the transitions that other theologians could have gone to maybe become more Jaded by the realities of the world, but he and his effectively stops writing at 38th. And this is a very young man who continues to be enthusiastic and optimistic about the potential for church in the world and to see the presence of God in the world. And I think that's still I think that still is what two generations later still with resonating with people we have for once learn to see the great events of world history from Below. From the perspective of the outcast the suspects. those who suffer Christians are called to compassion and action. (00:09:52) I want to come back to also some of these these tensions that are at the heart of his legacy and what he was the things he was holding together and also really, you know, draw you out in terms of how you sort of lived through that with him as you created the film and there's this other Paradox that he's writing his his Opus on ethics, which I guess he didn't finish right but he was such an important project. He's writing this book on ethics Christian ethics at the same time that he is implicated in a plot to assassinate (00:10:19) Hitler and he's not only implicated in the plot. He's having to lie to stay alive. He's having to act and do things that he doesn't want to be doing he's he's signing letters that are trying to you know, be part of his official documentation Heil Hitler and and and this is this has to be disturbing for him. And then at the same time he would go back home to his room at night and continued in different chapters of Ethics about how we're supposed to live in the world. Right? And I think that's what makes ethics so compelling That he has to he has to live this duplicitous lifestyle just to survive and yet at the same time. He's he's really trying to come to grips with a what is it doing to him? And what kind of a legacy is going to be for the rest of the world. The wheel of (00:11:13) God is not a system of rules (00:11:16) established from the (00:11:17) outset. It is something new and different in each different situation in (00:11:23) life. and for this reason a man must forever re-examine what the will of God maybe the will of God male. I deeply concealed beneath a great number of (00:11:38) possibilities. I'm Krista Tippett and this is speaking of faith today the legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Martin double Meyer is the writer and producer of a new film on the life of Bonhoeffer Bonhoeffer wrote his great unfinished volume on ethics while gradually forming his resolve to be part of a plot to kill Hitler. He believed that Christian ethics could not be dictated by the church, but had to be worked out in human relationship for two years of the Nazi period he ran an underground Seminary to train leaders of the anti-nazi confessing Church eventually based in the German Town of Fink. The Seminary was closed by the Gestapo in 1937. I asked Martin doable Meyer. How his immersion in the Theology of Bonhoeffer has made him think differently about ethics especially Christian ethics. (00:12:47) I really do believe that fundamentally. This was a man who in the midst of incredible suffering and pain and anger that was going on around him. Never stop looking for the will of God. And this is what I really most admired about him. I mean this was he didn't turn at a point and say I have to take care of myself I have to do what I have to do to sort of get through this and get by this and accepting the fact that the will of God may not lead you to self-preservation it may call you to do things that you wouldn't normally want to do and that the call to follow Jesus Christ is often the downward path. Yeah, and I think he saw that clearly as this might be the way this is going to go but I think he never stopped that constantly opening himself to the will of God. That's what I really admired (00:13:31) about and that is really Came out isn't it that you you have to be Discerning ethical principles and Norms but in the end you have to do the best you can and throw yourself on the will of God and that in this case. I suppose he felt the will of God calling him to betray what he might have defined as his (00:13:48) ethical or to rethink his own Paradigm. You mean I think that's the great mystery of God. God is always calling us to rethink our own Paradigm just at the moment. We think we've got the formula kind of figured out it's the god. That's the mysterious God that comes to us and say this may not be the way you had quite figured it out maybe because of this particular situation you are called to do something different now and I think that Bonhoeffer was open to that at all times. I think he was a prayerful man who search the scriptures for direction in his life and I think when he felt as though this is what he had to do he is when the term that eberhardt used eberhardt basically used was that Dietrich took over the guilt. Of killing being part of the plots to kill Adolf Hitler. I don't think this (00:14:33) as an ethical move in a way, (00:14:35) I think as a move for the other right? I think fundamentally what Bonhoeffer did was accept the fact that it was the German people of the 1930s who allowed this to happen, maybe in some ways that Bonhoeffer hadn't been diligent enough in his resistance at that time, but that this man and the principles of Nazi socialism had had taken a national socialism had taken on so much pain in the world. It had inflicted such suffering that something had to be done to stop this. There are times when I really admire Bonhoeffer for the way that he approached the sometimes I feel like other people do well it maybe I would look at him differently if he had sort of stuck to these pacifist kind of principle. Yeah, but I wasn't living in that kind of situation. I wasn't the person who was seeing around me all the suffering that was happening all the pain and the killing that was happening. I think he did it because he really felt as though it was the only resource that he had to try and make a retribution for All that had happened. (00:15:28) There are these striking words. I wrote them down while I was watching. The film piece is the Great Adventure. It can never be safe. It is the opposite of security (00:15:40) the lines that come back to me again. And again with those lines that he delivered in Fano Denmark in 1934 when he was told speak sort of generally about the role of the church in Germany, and he elected not to and he stood up and he made a clear call a challenge to stand up for peace to the churches the collective body of churches that had come to Fano and what he said is there is no way to peace along the way of safety piece is the Great Adventure. It has to be dared and there is an enormous risk at standing for peace. But however, you think of politics and the choice that we've made is often times as a nation as individuals to take the road to security and I think the language of Bonhoeffer is to say that there is no way to He's along the way to security. (00:16:31) You know and then I have to contrast the way he was living and sacrificing himself for peace with the stereotype of working for peace here is you know mounting a demonstration. We're very safe in doing that now thank goodness. No one in this country is called that this kind of self-sacrifice but I wonder if he would challenge us to work for peace in Risky ways that are riskier. In (00:16:54) fact how difficult it must have been for Bonhoeffer to stand up publicly and to speak against national socialism. This was clearly speaking against the the full tide of the German people at that time that took enormous courage to stand up and do that and to try and base it on a gospel response. I think is what's made him in an extraordinary character. (00:17:16) Well, he always sought to embody it right. I mean he created this community at finken valda. I mean he went to prison for for what he was saying there was always an action to his ideas. It's not so obvious what that action would be in our context. (00:17:30) I think that that's what faith is all about. I think it has to do with opening yourself up to what you believe is the will of God. And how God is calling you to act. The ACT is the Second Step the first step is that real true openness to how God is calling you to go forward and to (00:17:45) act Martin double Meyer is the director of a new film on the life and thought of the German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I'm Krista Tippett and this is speaking of faith. Bonhoeffer was deeply influenced by the great Swiss Theologian of his time Carl Bart who observed that each warring nation in World War One Europe had claimed God for itself turning the one God into a tribal God and this was a catastrophe for Christianity and so bonhoeffer's spent the years before and after the Nazi Ascension in Germany and outside Germany searching for authentic models of religious life. He befriended and learned from a great French pacifist a British ecumenical leader and even went to India to study non-violence with Mahatma Gandhi in a year. He spent at the union Theological Seminary in New York City in the early 1930s. He was little impressed with the great theologians in Residence, but he was captivated by the passion African American Christians had for Social Action and for worship. And he loved the preaching and the singing at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. (00:19:28) I have had the chance to hear the gospel was preached in black churches. Here one can truly speak and he about Sin and grace and the love of God even forms. We are not used to In contrast to the often didactic style of white preaching. The black Christ is preached with rapturous passion and vision. (00:20:01) We've all seen footage of Hitler screaming, you know, this this growling voice that he had but the footage in the film is where he is actually praying like he's screaming a prayer and he's actually preaching on biblical texts like Romans 13, which justifies the church and and you hear him saying things like what is it (00:20:24) Lord? We no longer a people who are lost or now are people of Faith are people of strength O Lord don't abandon us now. (00:20:32) A Spaceman passed by you know sit tight for Sunday. I said stop latian. I'm preaching the resurrection of the German people and there is tremendous passion in that and you can see, you know, often these films of Hitler giving these addresses. It just seems inexplicable. You don't get it. You don't get what these people heard or saw on him but here because he's using this explicit religious language. You see the explicit religious response and it seems to me that what Bonhoeffer found in the black church was not just a church that could talk about social change, but that could also draw on that that deep passion religious passion. (00:21:18) I think Adolf Hitler was a master at using religious imagery and religious symbolism as part of the rise of his popularity in Germany. He got the power of that and not only did he get the power but he did it in such a way that he was able to bring in the religious components of the country. They not only allowed this to happen allowed him to become the Divine symbol of the nation, but they endorsed it they gave him their imprimatur to do this. They wanted to be photographed with him. They would come in Mass to his political Gatherings. And so they were quite comfortable with allowing him to take over their their role of church in the world the cunt the nation became confused as to what the role of church and what the role of the state was the two had become so interlocked through Adolf Hitler the church is preached from the pulpit theology that was politicized. The pastor's had become members of the party. It was all all became fused. So amalgams into one one way of thinking but this was intentional on the part of the national socialists. They understood exactly the power of religious of religious imagery and religious symbolism. And I think Bonhoeffer to his credit becomes one of the first people to say no Bonhoeffer saw the gospel at risk and he understood what was really happening here and he was only in his 20s when he did that and he spoke out against that he was his book out very clearly against it despite the fact that the documentation all indicates that he was rebuffed for having done (00:22:47) that and what comes to me again. Is this notion of Carl Bart's about how religion had become tribal something like that. I don't think would happen in our world today. It's not about nation states, but when I think about how increasingly we're sort of dividing up the world in our analysis between the Arab world, which is code for the Muslim world, right and the West which well every person in the west is not Christian is dominated by Christian. You know, that's the primary Faith or the majority faith. And the faith that is most influence our popular culture. I don't know. I wonder how getting into this story and these ideas made you informed the way you've been looking at how our world is changing and the role religion is playing in (00:23:36) that. Well, I think I thought Less in terms of the Divide between Islam and Christianity in the world and I thought more in terms of the fact that whether it's in the 1930s or in in our own time how no Nation wants to go to war without the conviction that God is on their side and it becomes almost critical a critical component to Bringing together. The people of a Nation to say that this is the will of God that we have the imprimatur for God to go ahead and do what we have to do and that it becomes the role of the church's then to say wait. Let's think about this before we go off and do this or at least if you're going to do this don't assume that this is God's will and I think this has been something that's come to me more and more over these last couple of months as we've gone from church to church to church to show the film. I think people have become stunned and aware. First of what was happening in Nazi Germany and then in some ways stunned I the similar rhetoric that they've been hearing over the last couple of years about God blessing our endeavors God being on our (00:24:46) side. That's a pretty strong (00:24:47) analogy but it's no different than it has happened all throughout the course of history because each Nation wants to believe that God is on their side and what they're doing is right. It doesn't mean that it can't be that their actions aren't right. But it seems as though we have very little conversation about God in the secular World in this in this country until God is needed to come along and support what it is that were involved in doing (00:25:14) and again if the Criterion is the one that Bonhoeffer used that God must be at the center, right? I mean we use God in support of sort of in the wings. And that is a different move. That is not the move. He modeled. It's a very exacting distinction to (00:25:32) yeah, I think I think for him God was at the center I think too often in a secular world. We find ourselves at the center when we find ourselves in trouble we call for God to help sort of recenter us, but for many people it's temporary and I think the real cry that Bonhoeffer offers us is to sort of not make that a crisis theology. But to make it part of your daily life to sort of be always open and in a prayerful way to the call of God to how God can be working in your life and not simply wait until the crisis happens that forces you to go and look for that Center again. (00:26:08) Filmmaker Martin double Meyer after a short break you'll hear more of our conversation on The Life and Legacy of Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. You can also visit our website at speaking of faith dot-org for complete audio of this program and further background and links. I'm Krista Tippett stay with us, you're listening to speaking of Faith produced by Minnesota Public Radio and distributed by PRI. (00:26:42) Speaking of Faith coming to you today on midday just a reminder that all of our midday programs including this program and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. All of our programs are available on our website, Minnesota Public Radio dot-org just go to the website and hit the click the program's tab with a midday and listen to the program that you want to hear. Again. It's Minnesota Public Radio dot-org incidentally the film that Martin double Meyer has produced on Bonhoeffer will be released in selected cities this Friday audio cassettes and transcripts are available by calling. 1-800-777-7835. It'll wipe site at speaking of faith dot-org. (00:27:51) Welcome back to speaking of faith. Today. We're exploring the Life and Legacy of Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer from the prison where he eventually died Bonhoeffer wrote that Christianity. If it were to survive would become ever more religion. 'less here are some notes from his letters and papers from prison which were collected and published after his death. Letter to Eberhard Becca, April 30th 1944 (00:28:19) the time when people could be told everything by means of words whether theological or Pious is over (00:28:25) and so is the time of inwardness and conscience and that means the time of religion in general. We are moving towards (00:28:33) a completely religion list. I'm people as they are now simply cannot be religious (00:28:38) anymore. Even those who honestly describe themselves as religious do not in the least act up to it. And so they presumably means something quite different by religious. If our final judgment must be that the Western form of Christianity to was only a preliminary stage to a complete absence of religion. What kind of situation emerges for us for the church. How can Christ become the lord of the religion 'less as well are their religion less Christians. Here again is Martin double Meyer director of a feature-length documentary on Dietrich Bonhoeffer his life and faith. (00:29:19) I think the distinction for Bonhoeffer is he's not calling for faithless Christianity. He's calling for religion is Christianity a lot of its reactionary. He begins to write this material in fragment forms in letters and papers. It's one of the great unfinished thoughts of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and it's been interpreted and reinterpreted by a lot of different people. I think fundamentally what he was getting at has come true which is to say that back in the 1930s and 40s you were able to use religious language and there was a common understanding among people as to what things like salvation and Grace Sacrament meant you could just say those without having to go in and Define everything and yet I think what he was getting to there's going to be a come a time when you can't even make those kind of presumptions that the will we become so secularized we're going to have to find new language in which to speak about God and faith and salvation and I think that's absolutely become the case. He's writing his Reaction to two principal things number one his time in prison. He spent apparently with a lot of people who had no religious context whatsoever. This was a little bit different in the world for him. I mean, he spent most of his time speaking with people and dialogue with people who hadn't religion as a common denominator. So the language was all kind of the same for them when he gets to prison. He finds people that he can't the starting place is totally different and I think this is part of what shaping. Okay, and I think the second thing is to he had become so deeply disappointed by the action of the church. The institutional church is because the line there he says even people who call themselves religious don't even act religious anymore. Where is the new starting point for all of this? But I think the starting point for him is Faith. It's not about religion. It's not about the formalization in the acting out of what you believe in ritual and right and institutions. It's about the fundamental question as to whether or not you believe that God is calling you to act in a certain way in the world. I don't think he ever lost faith. That I think his his perception of religion was constantly being challenged. What should we do here? How should we think of ourselves? Why do the churches continue to break up in fragment and fight each other? I think he became very deeply disappointed by all of this. But I think the question of God in the world living in him and the people that he saw in the suffering and suffering the face of the suffering Christ in the world that never left him. Hmm. (00:31:34) Here's a passage that speaks to some of this reconciliation and Redemption regeneration and the Holy Spirit love of our enemies cross and Resurrection Life In Christ and Christian discipleship. All these things are so difficult. And so remote that we hardly Venture suit speak of them in the traditional acts and words. We suspect that. There may be something quite new and revolutionary though. We cannot as yet grasped or express it that is our own fault our church, which has been fighting in these years only for its self-preservation as though that were an end in itself is incapable of taking the word of reconciliation and Redemption to Mankind and the world. It's Pretty strong stuff. (00:32:14) I think that as a core of it is the realization that to live for crisis to live for others that the church even as a group as a collective body will live can live for themselves that they make their preoccupation sustaining themselves sustaining their order sustaining their position in the world. I mean, he comes from a world where the pastor is in a privileged position. That's another thing that's changed to he talked about religion is Christianity. I would have to say that going back several Generations the pastor or the priest in the town was the sacred one and lived in a very special position in that little Community or in town. I'm not sure if it's identical today, especially in this country. I think the pastor is always struggling for you know, how to put relevance to things in there in people's lives, but doesn't really hold the same kind of position that he would have I think our world has become so secularized and it's a different world two generations later since bonhoeffer's (00:33:05) I want to talk about something that is deeply troubling in the story of Bonhoeffer and it came at me full force again in watching your film. Which is these good Noble Germans like Bonhoeffer and his friends and family who are risking their lives to assassinate Hitler and there is one failed attempt after the other. I mean, you know objectively speaking you could look at this story and say God was on Hitler's side and you tell the story there's the bomb that was on the airplane that just failed to detonate right and then and I have to describe this because people listening on radio won't be able to see this. I thought one of the most powerful moments in the film is where you show the family portrait was at the 80th birthday of bonhoeffer's father and there are several family members in that portrait including Dietrich Bonhoeffer who are implicated in the plot to assassinate Hitler and as that portrait is being taken are waiting for word of whether the latest plot has succeeded and use zero the camera and on their faces and you see you see what they're living the seriousness of these men. I don't know. Very puzzling. Have you thought about because you know, it could almost make you lose Faith. They didn't win the good guys did not win and they you know, they were faithful and they were praying (00:34:26) but I think the call isn't really the call to win. I think the call is to be faithful and that's the fundamental difference. I don't think for Bonhoeffer it was about winning. I think for him. It was about being faithful and I think The Angst that you see on his face if I can read into it has to do with the fact that they weren't even really sure if they did succeed how the world would remember this act we presume now from 50 years later. This was a wonderful magnanimous gesture to to kill the Tyrant but in their own country Dietrich Bonhoeffer has not been held in high regard from four years thought by many to be a traitor and that how would history remember them and I think they believed at that time that it would not remember them that well, especially with in there with in Germany. That this there was such a strong sense of we have to work together as a nation. This is our leader. This is the way you would think the assassination of a leader of the country was an absolutely immoral act for many people and Bonhoeffer could never be considered to be a holy man for having done that but I think they believed in their hearts. This was the only thing they had to do and if you look on a first of all they were I think bonhoeffer's a brilliant Theologian collectively that the evidence shows they weren't very good assassins. They just they just didn't have this figured out very well at all. Yeah, but at the same time this was what they felt as though they had to do this. There was no other response that they could make to this and you can see that struggling on their face Bonhoeffer had just before that photograph was taken root couple of months actually before the photograph was taken wrote this wonderful letter called after 10 years and it was his Christmas reflection on what life had been like for them under Adolf. Blur for 10 years and in particular, he wrote it to the co-conspirators who had become demoralized. The war was going on people were dying every day all around them and they were being pursued they knew they were being tracked and their phones were tapped and how long they could go on if they didn't succeed was in, you know in the front of their mind but really Bonhoeffer, you know, he admits all the things that they as conspirators to all of this have done. They've been witnesses to evil Deeds. They've become suspicious of others their lives have become totally duplicitous and he ends it by saying are we still of any use this is barely the kind of language that a holy man would ever write are we still have any use but I think fundamentally, what was at his heart was the belief that this was this was the lot that was chosen for them. This man wanted to be in Academia. He wanted to be teaching at a university not part of a plot to kill Hitler and he knew this would probably not go. Well that in the end. How could they? Overcome the tie that was they were trying to resist but at the same time this is all they had left they had to go and do this and pray their way through all of this (00:37:23) but still I want to ask you he was motivated. What by what he perceived to be the will of God and how do you think about the will of God through getting inside this story? (00:37:35) I think anybody who honestly and prayerfully looks for the will of God and expects that to be revealed and justified by things in this world is probably not truly open to what God is all about the expectation that Revelation would happen constantly and that you would be constantly affirmed that you're on the right track is to deny the mystery of God. This is not only about you take a step in faith and you're rewarded for that. You take another step. That's really a I think in some ways a child would take a step and then expect to be rewarded. I think someone like Bonhoeffer knew that he had to open himself to the will of God and despite the fact if he really really believe God was on his you know, God was calling I don't wanna stay on his side that such a politically politicize phrase but that God was really calling him to do this. I don't think that he needed to have the affirmation here. And now that he was on the right (00:38:27) track. (00:38:34) We have been silent Witnesses of evil Deeds. We have been drenched by many storms. We have learned the art of pretense experiences made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open. Are we still of any use Dietrich Bonhoeffer? (00:39:02) This is speaking of faith and I'm Krista Tippett today. We're exploring the life and religious thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer through conversation with filmmaker Martin. Double Meyer. There is an extreme warmth and Humanity in the way Bonhoeffer developed his Theology and the way he lived his life and this has a power to reach both religious and non-religious people in the course of creating his documentary on Bonhoeffer Martin double Meyer interviewed a number of modern Christians including former Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa who worked at Great personal risk to end apartheid (00:39:41) when God grabs you by the Scruff of the neck then although theoretically you have a freedom to say no in another sense actually. Crunchy know because it's like Jeremiah. God you have cheated me. You called me to be a prophet against a people that I love and all the day Proclaim is words of Doom and judgment and yet if I say I will shut up I (00:40:18) can't. Desmond Tutu former Archbishop of South Africa here is Martin double (00:40:26) Meyer. There's no question that Desmond Tutu really saw Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a model for him the churches in South Africa found themselves in a situation not all that different than what was happening in Nazi Germany and unfair and unjust persecution of certain people's that had to be spoken against but you had to speak about it not only politically but you had to speak about it morally and to raise it as a moral issue and tutus language is such extraordinary language. He speaks as a poet but he's but he has a sense about him of mission and conviction, (00:41:02) you know just occurred to me perhaps the critical difference with 22 and Bonhoeffer is that in the end to to in South Africa had the weight of the church behind him the weight of a community motivated by gone, right and Bonhoeffer never never had that in Germany. (00:41:20) I think that if you look at bonhoeffer's early writing sanctorum Community. Oh and the faith that he puts in the body of Christ existing is community in the church and then to connect that with what would start happening in the 1930s where the church would begin to split that there would be a small fragment known as the confessing church that would stand up against national socialism, but the bulk of the church has stood behind the national agenda of Adolf Hitler and this absolutely split Bonhoeffer. I mean, he writes this line that says when the when the church is split is Christ himself divided. Yes, and I think that's a real powerful and a metaphoric statement for understanding that this was not the vision that Bonhoeffer had for church going forward in the 30s his Hope was that the churches would begin finally the come together in a collective body to honor God and to change the world. But when when he split from the from the main line church because of what he saw was the support of national socialism and became part of the confessing church. It was only three or four A few years later that even the confessing church. He felt had become placated the National Socialist agenda. It didn't speak out against kristallnacht. And when the oath of Allegiance was demanded of all the pastor's many of the Pastors in the confessing Church even took the oath of allegiance to the fuhrer and Bonhoeffer didn't do that. And so he found himself even more and more and more isolated. This is a man. I think who had only the power of his own convictions and the belief that God was standing with him. He certainly did not have any institutional structures. In fact, he had all the institutions the state and the church is and everything working against him (00:42:57) and you know, and I think it's also important that you did include in your examination of his life moments when he felt that he had failed when he in fact had not lived up to his deepest convictions. He did not preach at the was at the funeral of the father of his Jewish brother-in-law and regretted that deeply (00:43:16) Bonhoeffer tried to always understand. The way the world was working and yet at the same time understanding how the call of God to work in it was leading him in his in his faith bonhoeffer's path is not a straight one. There were times. I think when he acted in ways that he himself was later disappointed in I think one of the great examples was when he was invited to speak at his sister's husband's father's funeral his his father-in-law was Jewish and the church leaders came to him and said, I really don't think you should do this was 1933 and the boycott it already happened in April and he elected not to do what he thought it would cause too much confusion within the family and maybe suspicion within the family was to what was going on and he later deeply regretted this he he uses language and I don't know what happened to myself when I actually did this and he wrote this to his brother-in-law. I think when he left too, I think in 1934 when things got very difficult. He left he went to England. He took the safe way out as things are getting more and more tense. Germany for the churches and he's having to make decisions. He's disappointed with the way the church is going at the time. He goes to England and becomes a pastor in the German church. Just outside of London. It's safer there. He's corresponding back and forth to Germany. He's reading the German papers. He's staying up on what's Happening. He's offering his ideas. But he's safe. He's sort of out of the mix of it in 1939 when he makes that famous second trip from Germany back to the United States. He gets on that boat and you can almost feel the hesitancy in the (00:44:48) trepidation. But the last boat before (00:44:51) America entered the minute he gets the last boat coming back from the United States to Germany, which is almost as if the script is being written for his life when you think about it. Hmm, I think it was our intention to show Bonhoeffer not as someone it was not to be a geography it was to understand. This was a human being right who went through stages of his life when he made decisions that he was proud of and decisions that he was not so proud of but he kept going and kept opening himself constantly to the will of (00:45:16) God. Okay, so I may be Taking Liberties here but something I've always Been fascinated by also that if I had any criticism of the film it's that this got short shrift, which was his love affair. He was a quite a serious studious person, right? It's no accident when he was young. Yes, but he was a really really serious guy and Hedy and he falls in love and decides to get married, you know, quite unexpectedly right before he goes to (00:45:41) prison. I think that he was a romantic at heart. I mean, he would write in the letters. He is in prison knowing what's going to happen to him and he writes about the flowers in the garden. He's writing about music that he remembers over the holidays and that he's thinking about again. He's looking forward to Easter. He's not sure where it's going to be but he's looking forward to that time. This was a romantic and the very first letter that he writes out of prison is to his parents and his he says I'm most concerned about Maria. She's lost her father and she's lost her brother in the war and now me her fiancé is now in prison. This must be terribly terribly difficult for her. Think Bonhoeffer having that combination of the lived experience of his theology in his church and his thinking and then also being in a in a new love relationship and sort of trying to bring this to some place different as the whole new dimension to letters and papers because he's writing out of this love. Yeah. I mean, he's not he's not he's alone in the cell, but he's not alone in his heart. I mean, he's feeling a connectedness to his family and to friends. He's still deeply in love with Maria and for most of the letters he still seeing her. She's coming to visit him. It's not till later that she's forbidden to go and visit him. (00:46:54) Okay. So here's something else other than that was so wonderful for me in the film The Last Words in the film are from this part of the letters and papers and from prison where he talks about what he's decided is that throwing yourself into the world completely into the world in doing that you throw yourself into the arms of God and there's a part in the film before that where Maria his fiancée's sister who still alive is Talking about this moment where she visited him in prison and it was very controlled. Right but at the very last moment before she left she raced away from the guard and threw herself into his arms and that's the image that I saw in those words of his when I heard them at the end of your film. I think that the point for me that feels important is that even this he incorporated into theology, right? Every experience every Human Experience became a moment to learn something new about God and something new even about what it meant to be Christian in the world (00:47:57) the day after the plot fails, you know, it's all over the radio in the news and I can although there's no documentation of it. I can just sort of imagine all the the German soldiers in the prison with the radio on the fuhrer has survived. The fuhrer has survived. There was a question about the explosion happened but no one can kill the fuhrer kind of thing that was must have been blasted on the radio on that day, July 20th when the final assassination attempt Up and and so he would have probably known right then that this was about over and then the very next day. He writes this extraordinary letter to his friend Eberhart to say that it's only by living in this world that you learned to have faith and that but what he also ended with his he talks about recognizing seeing not your own suffering but the suffering of Christ in the world and this is a man who knows that his own ultimate suffering is just around the corner. He had to know that and yet at the same time. He's not thinking about himself. He's calling others. He knows this letter is going to be part of the historic documents for him. He's thinking not about himself. He's thinking about again and again looking for the suffering of Christ in this world and that's the source of his faith. (00:49:12) Also in giving his life in the end. He did follow the example of Christ in the most literal way (00:49:21) in the end. He was a pacifist when you think about it. He surrendered himself totally to the court-martial that happened the night before his hanging he was stripped and bearest in front of everyone around him stripped naked and walked off and hung. He his lot his and the end of his life was not much different than Christ. He had given himself to do what he felt as though he had to do and I think he was fundamentally at peace with what had happened to him the stories about the last journey on in the in the bus with the last few prisoners that were taken down to flossenbürg. And they said that fundamentally Bonhoeffer was a man of Peace. That's the greatest justification for his life of all, I think in the end had he succeeded I'm not sure if he would have felt person as much personal Victory as I who look at him now 50 years later see that a man who's on his way to die is at peace believe. That no matter how the twist of his life had gone that he had done what God had called him to do. (00:50:20) Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed at flossenbürg prison on April 9 1945 three weeks before Hitler committed suicide in his bunker as the Allies closed in to liberate Berlin during the years of bonhoeffer's struggle 6 million European Jews were killed in the Nazi death camps along with hundreds of thousands of others here is the passage from letters and papers from prison, which ends Martin double Myers documentary. It is read by bonhoeffer's best friend and posthumous editor Eberhard (00:50:50) Becky. This is perhaps the most important letter to me which you wrote on the 21st of July the day after the plotted failed 44. I discovered later. I'm still discovering right up to this moment. That is it only by living completely in this world. That one learns to have faith. By this worldliness. I mean living unreserved the in life's duties problems successes and failures 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 that I think is faith. (00:51:51) Eberhard Becky who died shortly after he shared this story with Martin double Meyer Martin double Meyer is the president and founder of Journey films. He produced wrote directed and narrated the new film Bonhoeffer his many past projects include documentaries on The Late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin and on The ecumenical monastic community at TSA France, please write to us with your thoughts on this program the legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer or the ideas presented here. Our email address is mail at speaking of Faith dot-org. You can also write to us when you visit our website at speaking of faith dot-org you'll find background on Bonhoeffer book and music lists and other resources and you can listen to this program again or to any of our previous programs. You can also call Minnesota Public Radio at one eight hundred two two eight. Seven. One two, three. This program was produced by Brian Newhouse and Kate mousse with Duty Stone. Nunnally Mitch. Hanley is technical director. Dan Mitchell is our web producer managing producer is marja sturckow Bill bosom Berg is the executive producer of speaking a faith and I'm Krista Tippett. (00:53:16) Audio cassettes and transcripts are available by calling 1-800 777 text or by visiting our website at speaking of Faith dot-org speaking of faith is supported by the Pew charitable trusts investing in ideas returning results Pew trusts.com additional support is provided by Thrive and financial for lutherans and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Speaking of faith is produced by Minnesota Public Radio and distributed by Public Radio International PRI Public Radio International. Well that does it for our midday program today Gary eichten here. Thanks so much for tuning in. By the way. We wanted to remind you again that documentary film on Dietrich Bonhoeffer is being released in selected cities around the country this Friday. So something to look forward to if you've not yet had a chance to see the see the movie also a reminder that all of our midday programs including this speaking of Faith documentary. Are available on our website Minnesota Public Radio dot-org. Click the midday program tab, click the program tab rather go to midday, and then listen to the program tomorrow National Press Club luncheon, which will focus on the issue of prescription drug costs tomorrow on midday (00:54:34) programming is supported by Minnesota public radio's educational sponsors our work together provides Public Radio Service to communities throughout the region one sponsor. We'd like to thank is Concordia College in Moorhead.