“What do we make of Dietrich Bonhoeffer” is an essay I just posted on my Thinking Pacifism blog. I report on new work on the Bonhoeffer story by my colleague Mark Thiessen Nation that argues for a consistently pacifist reading of Bonhoeffer’s life. That is, Mark suggests that Bonhoeffer never did repudiate his pacifism—contrary to the standard account of the story.
[I am posting rough drafts of the chapters from a book I am writing about World War II and its moral legacy. My hope in posting these chapters is that I might receive helpful counsel. So, please, read the chapters and let me know what you think. All comments, questions, and challenges are welcome and will be most useful as I revise the chapters this winter and spring. The first nine chapters are now up—February 25, 2011.]
THE LONG SHADOW: WORLD WAR II’S MORAL LEGACY
6. The Cold War
11. The Moral Legacy of World War II—And What We Might Do With It
I reflect on Jesus’ last supper and its meaning for discipleship in my February 13, 2011 sermon—the twelfth in my series on Luke’s Gospel.
The story of Jesus is not simply a case of bad things happening to a good person. It’s bad things happening to a good person because he’s a good person. Jesus’ life raises the issue of how it is that the “good news” leads directly to bad news. The other big question in relation to Jesus is whether the bad news he faces is something that he deals with so his followers won’t have to (kind of the substitutionary atonement motif), or if his facing bad news is a kind of model for Jesus’ disciples.
The account of the Jesus’ last supper with his friends makes a clear and strong point of emphasizing the modeling aspect. Luke, alone of the gospels, inserts the debate among the disciples about who would be “greatest” into the last supper conversation. Jesus’ exclaims: “Not so among you! The greatest must be servants.” Here he makes it clear he expects his followers to follow the same good news leading to bad news path that he follows—with the promise of God’s ultimate vindication.
Also, by placing the last supper in the context of the Passover celebration, Luke reiterates that the good news –> bad news –> vindication dynamic that was central in the exodus story links it with the story of Jesus.
In 1998, I wrote a paper that brought together many of my thoughts about pacifism. When I was in college back in the 1970s, right at the end of America’s war in Vietnam, I had come to strong convictions that war was always wrong and that I could never participate in warfare or even support it. In the years since, this conviction had only only deepened.
The occasion for writing this paper was a conference at Bluffton University on Anabaptism and Postmodernity. The paper, “A Pacifist Way of Knowing: Postmodern Sensibilities and Peace Theology,” was published in Mennonite Life in 2001. I am finally getting around to making it available here on Peace Theology.