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Civic Courage Then and Now

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Civic Courage Then and Now

Post  Admin on Sat 05 Feb 2011, 12:13 am

Civic Courage Then and Now
Bonhoeffer and Barmen

January 05, 2010 Chuck Colson

July 27, 1945. London is still slowly recovering from six years of war
with Germany. Hundreds of thousands of British soldiers are dead.
British cities are in ruins. As newsreels expose fresh horrors from the
Nazi death camps, the British people wonder, "Is there no end to German

Thus, it was not surprising that many Brits recoiled when they heard
about a memorial service at London's Holy Trinity Church-not for
England's war dead, but for a German. The service would be broadcast on
the BBC. Many wondered: Could there be such a thing as a good German,
worthy of such an honor?

The answer was emphatically yes. The service was for Pastor Dietrich
Bonhoeffer, executed by the Nazis three weeks before the war's end.
Bonhoeffer is often remembered for his resistance to Hitler, in fact
taking part in the plot to kill him. But Bonhoeffer is also celebrated
for his role in a significant event in the life of the Church-the
drafting of the Barmen Declaration.

After Hitler rose to power, the Nazis tried to co-opt the German church,
mixing Christian truth with Nazi doctrine. Some church leaders allowed
themselves to be drawn into this deal with the devil. Others, like Karl
Barth and Bonhoeffer, refused.

As my former colleague Eric Metaxas writes in his inspiring new book,
Bonhoeffer, in May of 1934, "the leaders of the Pastors' Emergency
League held a synod in Barmen. It was there, on the Wupper River, that
they wrote the famous Barmen Declaration, from which emerged what came
to be known as the Confessing Church."

The Declaration boldly declared independence from both the state and a
co-opted church. It made clear that the signers and their churches were
not seceding from the German church; instead, it was the co-opted German
church that had broken away.

To Bonhoeffer, writes Metaxas, the Barmen Declaration "reclarified what
it-the legitimate and actual German Church-actually believed and stood
for." It rejected the "false doctrine" that the Church could change
according to "prevailing ideological and political positions."

This rejection is an essential part of what it means to be the Church.
Caesar, in all his guises, will urge us to compromise and tailor our
message to meet his agenda. Our situation isn't as dire as Bonheoffer's,
but government today is attempting to force the church to bow to the
prevailing political winds-like, for example, so-called same-sex
"marriage" and sanctity of life issues like abortion and end-of-life

Like Bonhoeffer and his colleagues, we must constantly remember where
our ultimate allegiance lies. We must also be willing to practice the
great virtue of civic courage. I talk more about this-in very practical
terms-on today's Two Minute Warning

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