Bonhoeffer’s Wisdom and Warning

I saw this yesterday on The Public Discourse blog.  It reminded me of our own country today.  Bonhoeffer’s statement about “power devoid of accountability” immediately reminded me of a leader applauded for saying”I have a pen and a phone.”  I am concerned about the willingness of many of my fellow citizens to cede division of power process and accept ever increasing government control.  I don’t like it.  I do not want to stand idly by.  “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  From the post:

Today is the seventieth anniversary of the execution of the German Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Along with Bonhoeffer, six other members of the German resistance, including Hans Oster, Karl Sack, and Wilhelm Canaris, were killed by the Nazis at the Flossenbürg concentration camp on April 9th, 1945. Although seventy years have passed, Bonhoeffer’s life and death continue to have deep significance for us today.
 In Hitler’s rise to power, Bonhoeffer detected a dangerous connection between the will of the masses and an idolatrous concentration of power devoid of accountability and responsibility to any higher authority.
This conception of the Leader as an “office” was qualitatively different from previous ideas of divinely instituted political authority. The Leader was the expression of the individual will par excellence, and in his person vicariously represented the fulfillment of the masses. In this way, the mass individualism manifested itself in a kind of collectivism, with the Leader acting as lord over the masses.  
Among other things, argued Bonhoeffer, such an ideology ignored “the eternal law of individuality before God,” which is violated when a leader “takes on superhuman responsibility, which in the end will crush him.” The basic God-given task of government is to protect and promote the freedom and vitality of other institutions of social life, not to colonize and tyrannize them. Bonhoeffer thus opposed any totalizing ideology that attempted to subjugate all of human life and existence to political authority: “Where the state becomes the fulfillment of all spheres of human life and culture, it forfeits its true dignity, its specific authority as government.”
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