German theologian and activist Dietrich Bonhoeffer comes up in conversation quite often in these “dangerous times.” He was executed by the Third Reich, just weeks before the allied victory, for participating in a plot to assassinate Hitler. His theology is quite a departure from the traditional formalism of his day, calling for a very embodied form of Christianity. Dr. Reggie Williams argues in his new book, “Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance,” that it was Bonhoeffer’s two years spent in New York, learning about Jesus from Black Christians at Abyssinian Baptist Church that helped him understand that racism, no matter who it’s applied to, is an abomination, and that it was important for Christians to “throw themselves into the spokes of the wheel,” to stop it in the US and in Germany, where it was used to “other” the Jews.
This interview was done across the street from Union Seminary in New York, where Bonhoeffer both studied and taught in 1931-33.
Here are some links that will help you if you’d like to bone up on this very important theologian:
- Click here to order Dr. Williams’ book on Amazon.
- Click here to see books by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- A very interesting book by Susannah Heschel, “The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany.”
- Click here to learn about a pretty good documentary about Bonhoeffer’s life
In the interview, Dr. Williams mentions some powerful words by Nazi era German religious leader, Martin Niemoller. This is what he’s referring to.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.