From Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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W4TVQ
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From Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Postby W4TVQ » May 16th, 2009, 3:09 pm

I ran across this while reading excerpts from the works of Bonhoeffer, who, as you know, lost his life for standing in opposition to Hitler. The questions he reaises here are questions I have tangled with at times myself, and never come up with a "final answer." (Not that a "final answer" is necessary; sometimes, the question is more important than the answer.)

Anyway:

What is bothering me incessantly is the question what Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today. The time when people could be told everything by means of words, whether theological or pious, is over, and so is the time of inwardness and conscience -- and that means the time of religion in general. We are moving toward a completely religionless time; people as they are now simply cannot be religious any more. Even those who honestly describe themselves as "religious" do not in the least act up to it, and so they presumably mean something quite different by "religious." Our whole 1900-year-old Christian preaching and theology rest on the "religious a priori" of humanity. "Christianity" has always been a form -- perhaps the true form -- of "religion." But if one day it becomes clear that this a priori does not exist at all, but was a historically conditioned and transient form of human self-expression, and if therefore people become radically religionless -- and thing that is already more or less the case (else how is it, for example, that this war, in contrast to all previous ones, is not calling forth any "religious" reaction?) -- what does that mean for "Christianity?"

Many others are today writing along similar lines, including the "Jesus Seminar," Bishop John Shelby Spong, Marcus Borg and others. Spong's book title, Why Christianity Must Chagnge Or Die, seems to sum it up.

Lately I have been made a member of the vestry of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, and I must say, I am very fond of this church and the people in it, but I do not think being a church member, or vestryman, has anything to do at all with my relationship to God; it is more like a commitment to Kiwanis or Rotary, albeit I may be in a position now to encourage others in the fellowship to expand their spiritual horizons and think outside the box with regard to God and things spiritual. Cetainly, in a time when society is on the brink of incredible change, when upheavals and societal tides are in full-moon stage, so to speak, we cannot cope on the basis of a religion that sufficed in the nineteenth century -- or even the twentieth. We cannot muddle througn on a religion that sees God as "over there" and us "over here" and waits for Him to step in and straighten things out. Bonhoeffer seems to have seen that in the midst of the chaos of WW2 Germany, and we must see it in the chaos of post-9/11 America.

The Upanishads always end with "OM -- shantih, shantih, shantih." That peace is surely there in the clashing and banging of life. Sometimes it can be touched and felt; else life would be pointless.

Jai ram
Art

Georg
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Re: From Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Postby Georg » May 19th, 2009, 9:51 pm

I am also fascinated by this "turn" in Bonhoeffer's life.

But actually I think it is not a turn - as his friend Eberhard Bethge shows in his biography,
throughout Bonhoeffer's life, there is a movement from orthodoxy and strict morale
through consequent action towards contemplation and tolerance.

Paradoxically, the time in prison ultimately frees him, because it is leading him to the act of surrendering, handing his fate over to god
(this is so well expressed by him in the poem "Stations on the way to freedom").

And - being asked as a spiritual guide by other prisoners - he makes the experience that spirituality can be found
everywhere and a lot outside the context of organized religion and expressed belief.
And that christ can be found at the very heart of this world - nameless presence.

Therefore these lines - together with the poems - remain for me as the most precious summary of his life.

There are parallels in the catholic world (mainly the Jesuits) e.g. catholic theologian Karl Rahner talking about "anonymous christians".
Teilhard de Chardin's "cosmic christ". Hugo Enomyia-Lassalle's "christian zen".

All of them keeping the appropriate place for silence in their theology. The silence which turns out to be the best part ...
"Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses" (Boethius)

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Re: From Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Postby Speculum » May 21st, 2009, 9:03 pm

What is bothering me incessantly is the question what Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today.


As I read it, that is one of those questions which no one can answer for another. In a way, it is like a koan: Our answer measures our “spiritual temperature”.

As for me, when I come across a question like that, the first thing that comes to my mind is another question: “Who’s asking?”

To be sure, religions (like Christianity) evolve over time as the cultures which they inhabit evolve. But as long as there remain people who need to have formulas (prescriptions and proscriptions) by which to define their values and to address their fears so that they can feel comfortable with themselves, their neighbors, their lives, and with God, there will exist structured and institutionalized religions to serve them.

As I see it, this is normal, natural, inevitable, and unavoidable.

“You will always have the poor.” When I read that line, I do not hear a Teacher judging us. On the contrary, to me it is a simple observation about the nature of reality. It is neither good nor bad, neither desirable nor undesirable. It simply is.

As regards “who Christ really is, for us today”, my response again is, “Who’s asking?”

In my years along the spiritual path, Christ has changed enormously. But that is because I have changed enormously. So, for me, who Christ is today is nothing like who Christ was when I started out. But that is not because Christ has changed or the society in which I live has changed. It is because I have changed.

But I admit, mine is the perspective of a contemplative monk. Others with different perspectives will see this differently.
"The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." Marcel Proust

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Re: From Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Postby Speculum » May 23rd, 2009, 1:11 am

For me, at the heart of this thread is this question, What is the purpose of religion, of religious practice?

Is it to make us better citizens? Is it to give us comfort in the midst of our troubled lives? Is it to offer promise of eternal life in the face of mortality? Or is it some other, and if so, what?

For me, the purpose has become to discover the truth of who and what I am. If, along the way, I receive comfort and promise, that's wonderful, but without a realization of who and what I am, it is not enough.

So, for me, the undertaking is no longer a matter of religion; it is a spiritual undertaking.

What is the difference? As I wrote here, for me religion has become a word describing an outer phenomenon, whereas the process I have undertaken is thoroughly inner. For me, the word spiritual addresses the inner.

So, as I read it, the question "What is bothering me incessantly is the question what Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today" raises the question, Are you asking about the outer or the inner? Is your focus on Christianity and Christ as an outer phenomenon or as an inner reality?

Please understand, both are legitimate, but they are very different.
"The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." Marcel Proust

Georg
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Re: From Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Postby Georg » May 28th, 2009, 7:27 pm

Regarding "Who's asking" -
Bonhoeffer wrote the following poem titled "Who am I" in June 1944:

http://www.religion-online.org/showarti ... ?title=385


What may have begun for Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the "outer" side - as a politically and socially engaged christian -
at this point in time, it is certainly about the "inner".

While it's all part of the game oneness plays:
What a pride and ambition (but also apparent fearlessness), consequently what a weariness (he admitted all this himself), and ultimately what a surrender!
"Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses" (Boethius)

Georg
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Re: From Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Postby Georg » May 28th, 2009, 8:16 pm

An english translation of another poem "By gracious powers" can be found here
(sorry, probably I can't just paste it here for copyright reasons):

http://www.ekd.de/medien/film/bonhoeffer/texte.html

The first verse - which is also the closing one - has been turned into a song which is quite popular around new year also in the catholic church in Germany.

People tend to just ignore all the others and also to ignore when, where and by whom it was written - in the darkest of times, in the Gestapo prison December 1944.

But knowing that, it goes so deep...
"Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses" (Boethius)

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Re: From Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Postby Speculum » May 29th, 2009, 4:36 pm

People tend to just ignore all the others and also to ignore when, where and by whom it was written - in the darkest of times, in the Gestapo prison December 1944. But knowing that, it goes so deep...


Yes, particularly when reading this powerful verse,

And when this cup You give is filled to brimming
with bitter suffering, hard to understand,
we take it thankfully and without trembling,
out of so good and so beloved a hand.


It is easy to "praise the Lord" when the sun seems to be shining. A lot less so in the apparent dark.

Very nice stuff.
"The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." Marcel Proust

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Re: From Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Postby W4TVQ » May 30th, 2009, 6:29 pm

It is easy to "praise the Lord" when the sun seems to be shining. A lot less so in the apparent dark.


I have heard it suggested (I think, by St. John of the Cross, among others) that when we are struggling, when "thngs are tough," when all around us seems dark and the light is at the end of a very, very long tunnel ... we should take it as a compliment, as God saying "I have enough confidence in you not to feel I have to dog your steps and sweep the path in front of you clean as you proceed."

Not that i never gripe or whine. I do. But hindsight is wonderful: it always reveals to me that things were exacrtly as they had to be at any given time. The "dark night of the soul" is really a gift from God. Another way i've heard it put is, "God gives His toughest exams to His best students."
"I can at best report only from my own wilderness. The important thing is that each man possess such a wilderness and that he consider what marvels are to be observed there." -- Loren Eiseley


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