What do you see? How would you interpret this picture? Does it confirm or challenge?
The image perplexed me for so many reasons. It made me recall a conversation I had during my seminary years. During one lecture, we were discussing Dietrich Bonhoeffer – who was a Lutheran pastor and a pacifist faced with the dilemma of Hitler and the Nazi regime:
Bonhoeffer became part of a group of two thousand pastors who formed the Pastors Emergency League. They opposed the state approved Nazi church. When pressure from the government increased, this group changed into the illegal Confessing Church. The Confessing Church believed that Christians should follow God first, not the nation or Hitler. Bonhoeffer served as the head of the Confessing Church’s illegal school.
Bonhoeffer was a pacifist. A pacifist does not believe that violence is ever the solution to problems. But as Bonhoeffer heard stories of Jewish people being killed, his ideas changed. He decided that pacifism was a good theory, but to not act was to act. If he, and others, did not act, they were letting Hitler succeed. If he did nothing to fight the evil he saw, he was supporting the evil. He said this:
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us innocent. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Bonhoeffer eventually had the chance to leave Germany but eventually decided to return in an effort to re-build his country. After much wrestling, Bonhoeffer joined a group trying to kill Hitler. Their attempt failed and he was sent to prison where he wrote couple of his books. During class, we discussed Bonhoeffer’s ethical dilemma and were asked the following question:
“What would you do if you were in a similar situation?”