Eye-Opening Perspectives for Heroic Hearts

Eye-Opening Perspectives for Heroic Hearts

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

American Minister Visits German Historical Museum in Berlin

Museum Shows Societal Acceptance of Nazi Propaganda

by Winsip Custer CPW News Service

Standing outside the German Historical Museum in Berlin the American preacher spoke his mind while reflecting on the exhibit inside that showed the degree to which the German people were not only complacent, but encouraging of Hitler's madness.

"It was a movie that I loved as a kid.  I liked Jackie Gleason, anyway, and always knew that he wasn't really going to send Alice to the moon with an uppercut, but it wasn't as Ralph Kramden that I like him most, but as Papa in the movie, Papa's Delicate Condition.  As Papa he had a problem.  He was always trying to make people happy by showing he cared.  He bought a failing circus just to help out the circus actors, a rag-tag assortment of midgets and gypsy types and an array of circus animals.  His wife nearly sent Papa to the moon when she discovers he went into debt to buy the failing operation.  Some say Dietrick Bonhoeffer bought a pig in a poke when he returned to Germany when he was home free in the United States," said Reverend Bonner. 

"Strangely enough, after having read Dietrick Bonhoeffer's works for decades, I see him not as a cautious and miserly horder of a limited and costly commodity.... grace.  No. That's how his works often seems to be used.  Instead he was a major proponent of spending freely and passing on what has been so graciously given.....the love of God in Jesus Christi. Now I know that he was implicated in a plot to remove Adolf Hitler by force....namely in the Valykrie incident at Hitler's Wolf Lair.  It was an explosive event that sent so many to the gallows and firing squads, but Bonhoeffer was not Jesus, just one of his thankful, but unworthy disciples.  Like Peter with a sword that's yet to be fully beaten into a plowshare."

Reverend Baker Bonner stroked his graying beard and adjusted his brown beret.  He had come to Berlin just to see the opening of the new exhibit.

"There comes a time when the circus actors and animals need to be fed and the show must go on and if and when it is being held hostage by a tyrant? So what do you do?" he asked.  Dietrick Bonhoeffer was, of course, the German Lutheran pastor who was first sentenced to a Nazi concentration camp and then to the gallows for acting as a resistance courier," said Bonner.

"There is not a single modern minister or preacher with whom I identify more than I do Bonhonffer.  Not Peter Marshall.  Not Billy Graham.  Certainly not Oral Roberts, Jim Baker, Robert Schuller, Joel O'Steen nor Rick Warren," said Bonner.

"Bonhoeffer didn't become the Chaplain of the US Senate, like Peter Marshall and have a movie named after him, A Man Called Peter, nor have his wife marry the head of Guide Posts Magazine after his death who then wrote wildly success devotional books.  Bonhoeffer, like the young people of the German resistance group, White Rose, didn't live long enough to marry. He didn't have Henry Luce, a close friend of those who had supplied the Texas and Mexican oil to fuel Hitler's war machine,  telling the nation to "pump Bonhoeffer" because "he's our next Christian golden boy".  He didn't speak in tongues like Oral Roberts or build a big hospital based on science and prayer, that flopped for lack of patients.  He never had to buy Windex...by the truck loads....to clean the windows of a chrystal cathedral.  He never preached in a cathedral.  Lutherans generally identify cathedrals with the seat of power for bishops of the Roman Catholic Church and they generally avoided the name "cathedral" in identifying their churches. With the rise of Nazism the church in Germany had a bishop.  Hitler, who didn't hesitate to speak ex cathedra or "from the chair" or from whereever he wanted. So Bonhoeffer joined the Confessing Church which offered a different leader.  God.  He avoided presenting the Gospel as a more clever means of reaching prosperity and he never received an $11 million advance for a book. If he were to have had a church he would have been more inclined to have named it "Swayback" rather than "Saddleback".  He was a white Northern European who gave his life for Jews, Gypsies, the mentally ill and fellow Christians..who were labeled as mentally ill if they did not march goose-step with the ruling order."

I told Reverend Bonner that I like Bonhoeffer, too.  I like him more than I like  H. Richard Niehbur who was working in Detroit to keep big corporations from grinding under the laborers of America in the years before the Nazis came to power.   The Nazis would have surely killed Niebhur as a communist organizer had they been in Detroit...which they were, but not as powerfully as Hitler was in Berlin.  I was saddened to see that so many who use Niehbur's prayer thinking it was about overcoming alcohol addiction in a 12-Step program when it was really about facing political tyranny.  In that sense it was neutered in it redirected usage and commandeered by ultra-conservatives who would have hated Niehbuhr's work among the working class of Detroit.  Damn Demoncrats!   Niehbur's prayer sounds much like Bonhoeffer's poem written from the prison in which he would be hanged on March 4, 1946 just days before the prison was liberated.

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,

And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?

Or is something within me still like a beaten army,

Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, Thou knowest, 0 God, I am Thine!

Reverend Bonner sumarized his thoughts before reentering the museum.  "I was in Houston, Texas meeting atop the Galleria within a stone's throw of Enron and all the major oil companies, many of which knew full well we were empowering Hitler's war machine with oil in the 1930's.  I was asked to lead a seminar on Bonhoeffer for the University Club, a group of very prominent University of Texas Exes.  Jack Blanton, the president of the UT Board of Regents whose endowment, UTIMCO, was managed by GWB's partner in the Texas Rangers, Tom Hicks.  Ben Love, president of Texas Commerce Bank was there  and others.  We were a stones throw from the Houstonian where Yale grad and boney bonesman, GHWB, maintained a residence while in the White House. Needless to say, Bonhoeffer's message is not well received in the penthouse atop the Galleria.  Pyramid sitters don't generally identify with Moses or Bonhoeffer or Niehbur.  It's simply too threatening. So I ask you, friend, 'what would a Bonhoeffer look like today?' 

Bonner waited for my answer.  I couldn't answer.  I didn't know.

"He'd be in prison," said Bonner.

For the NPR story on the German Historical Museum see...

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