Following Christ in Contemporary Times: A European Perspective Drawing on Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Gunter Prüller-Jagenteufel
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It is asked how can a church best “serve the poor, the oppressed, and marginalized to prepare the way for the Kingdom of God?” There is a group of self-proclaimed Christians who would be militantly accepting that challenge. But there is another group who would rather live a “pure and tranquil life of faith,” than risking to act on behalf of the poor and the oppressed; here error and mistakes can easily emerge. This article focuses on the challenge of the so-called Bonhoeffer moment, which means that decisive action called for in the manner of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor who participated in the attempt to kill Hitler. The pastor believed that the assassination attempt was the ultimate resort to forestall more mass murder of the innocent in the holocaust. Analogously, some Christians today see respective parallels in the existence of abortion clinics and same-sex marriage which provoke them to invoke the Bonhoeffer moment, that is, engaging in a drastic action like bombing an abortion clinic. Can this be done in the name of Bonhoeffer and be categorized as a drastic response of Christian discipleship? The article balks at this response especially when it is carried out too out of fear leading to the “reflex of aggression/anger or to the reflex of flight/escapism.” So, Pope Francis’ pastoral exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” might provide just that “space of friendly encounter” among polarized societies. Whether this nullifies the radical Bonhoeffer’s option is, honestly speaking, open for discussion.

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