Community of Foreigners: Bonhoeffer’s Theses for a Time of Resurgent Nationalism

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) knew the grief of love for an embattled nation. He lost family members in the war and then watched punitive measures from the Versailles treaty contribute to a decade of economic hardship for the German people. Bonhoeffer sought to bring these homeland struggles to the attention of an ex-patriate community that he pastored in Spain at the end of the 1920s. His lectures from that period show how deeply love for his people ran, even to the point of disregarding the lives of others in the pursuit of national interests.

Nevertheless, Bonhoeffer’s love of the Christ-community ran deeper still, a commitment that caused him to turn sharply against many of his earlier views. In 1933, when the National Socialists had taken power and suspicion of foreigners had reached a critical juncture, Bonhoeffer nailed his theses to the church door. At issue was the ‘Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service’, which included a paragraph that entailed demotion for civil servants of Jewish descent. Bonhoeffer opposed the enforcement of this law against the church’s ministers, writing and contributing to several statements of which the most succinct was his ‘Theses on the Aryan Paragraph in the Church’. Today, as nationalism surges across Europe and North America, straining commitments to refugee persons, Bonhoeffer’s claims deserve another hearing.…
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Politics in Friendship: A Theological Account

This is a review of Guido De Graaff, Politics in Friendship: A Theological Account (Bloomsbury: T & T Clark, 2014), the early form of a submission to the journal Studies in Christian Ethics.

Politics in Friendship offers a probing, resourceful account of a pertinent set of themes for Christian ethics. The title of the study is unfolded in at least three senses: first, friendship runs parallel to political communities, a distinct but analogous form of life; second, it provides a context for the requisite candour and commonality to support political processes; third, friendship might be called a beginning to political dynamics and so be indispensable to them. De Graaff draws these strands together with the term ‘parapolitical,’ which he adopts from Hans Ulrich (pp. 21-2). As he specifies the term theologically, particularly through the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Bishop George Bell’s shared acts of political judgement during the Second World War, De Graaff observes the additional sense in which friendship might exist beyond political processes. This is to say that even as these two friends deliberated over how to prepare their nations for peace, they were enacting a form of reconciled, mutual relationship that their respective governments had yet to seek (pp. 61-2).…
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The Gendering of Orders

A review of Julia Ogilvy, Women in Waiting: Prejudice at the Heart of the Church (Bloomsbury, 2014).

The ‘waiting’ in question is for the further recognition of women’s orders, denied by the Church of England’s vote on the episcopacy in late 2012. That outcome shocked Julia Ogilvy, a successful businesswoman and elder in the Church of Scotland, who wanted to learn the stories behind the sadness and anger she witnessed. Through twelve profiles of leading women in the church, Ogilvy moves towards advocacy in the recognition that ‘it is personal encounters with women in the church that change long-held views based on prejudice rather than sound theological arguments’ (p.9). While the subtitle’s assumption of prejudice unhelpfully leads the question, these biographies remain crucial to the deliberation at the heart of this institution, particularly as the vote on episcopacy is repeated at General Synod today. …
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© David Robinson, 2018