Eric Metaxas’s Bonhoeffer Delusions

By Charles Marsh | October 18, 2016

 “We are better than this,” declares Marian Wright Edelman, the president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. “Bonhoeffer, the great German Protestant theologian who died opposing Hitler’s holocaust, believed that the test of the morality of a society is how it treats its children. We flunk Bonhoeffer’s test every hour of every day in America as we let the violence of guns and the violence of poverty relentlessly stalk and sap countless child lives.”

Over the course of this tumultuous political season, the legacy of the German pastor and theologian, who was executed by the Gestapo in 1945 for his participation in a plot to kill Hitler, has frequently been invoked by commentators and operatives across the political spectrum as a means of punctuating the historical significance of the presidential election. “The current ferment of American politics has brought comparisons to Europe in the 1930s, with echoes of leaders who stoke anger against outsiders and promise a return to greatness through the application of a strongman’s will,” observed former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson in The Washington Post.

At times, Bonhoeffer’s story, and more broadly that of the anti-Nazi church movement called the Confessing Church, has been used to the frame the 2016 U.S. presidential election in a global and in some cases even metaphysical narrative. Conservative commentator David Brooks calls the Zeitgeist “a Dietrich Bonhoeffer against Hitler moment,” while adding the cautionary words, “I don’t want to compare [Trump] to Hitler. That’s a little over the top. But Dietrich Bonhoeffer-type heroism is required.”


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