Monday, March 31, 2008

Bonhoeffer on responsibility

Here and there people flee from public altercation into the sanctuary of private virtuousness. But anyone who does this must shut his mouth and his eyes to the injustice around him. Only at the cost of self-deception can he keep himself pure from the contamination arising from responsible action. In spite of all that he does, what he leaves undone will rob him of his peace of mind. He will either go to pieces because of this disquiet, or become the most hypocritical of Pharisees.

Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God--the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God. Where are these responsible people?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an excerpt from After Ten Years (31 March 1943)

Bonhoeffer wrote this letter (more of an essay actually) to his family, Confessing Church colleagues and co-conspirators in the plots against Hitler. I believe he answered the challenge to be a "responsible man" in the time and place he found himself. As the title "After Ten Years" alludes, one of the important turning points for Bonhoeffer came in 1933 as this clip shows:

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