Monday, November 26, 2007

Bonhoeffer at the Coffee Shop

Sitting by the fire at our favorite coffee shop this morning, my wife and I were enjoying a morning together with some of our favorite books along with coffee and tea. We had a book about Dietrich Bonhoeffer with the title "The Bonhoeffer Phenomenon" by Stephen R. Haynes, with the subtitle "Portraits of a Protestant Saint".

The cover of the book featured a portrait of Bonhoeffer in profile, that is familiar to many of his readers. So familiar that a man walking by us stopped to say, Bonhoeffer means so much to me and my faith.

In his book on Bonhoeffer, the author Stephen Haynes remarks that a fairly recent poll among "religious seekers" asked what modern figures they would propose for sainthood. Participants nominated Mother Teresa, Albert Schweitzer, Bill W. (AA founder) and others. But the person most listed was Bonhoeffer.

I recall first reading "Letters and Papers from Prison" when I was in high school after a seminary intern suggested it. And I introduced my oldest son to Bonhoeffer when he was in high school.

There's a quality about Bonhoeffer that attracts seekers and Christians from a wide spiritual and theological spectrum. Haynes examines this in his book, noting that Bonhoeffer has assumed a variety of roles in the religious imagination- seer, prophet, apostle, hero, bridge, martyr, and even saint.

In the church I currently serve, this was born out to me when a man in the church noticed a copy of my "Cost of Discipleship" by Bonhoeffer some months ago. It reawakened his own interest and he subsequently led a men's study group in a discussion of some of Bonhoeffer's writings. Another man in the group observed that conservatives as well as liberals were drawn to Bonhoeffer. How striking! At the same time, that's a refreshing insight into the power of Bonhoeffer's lived theology. He challenges us all!

For me, the attaction of Bonhoeffer is that he linked thought with life, theology with practice in a world of moral and ethical challenge. Bonhoeffer's courageous stand against Nazism and willingness to put his own life at risk continues to appeal to me, and I think to many.

I think that's what caused our fellow coffee shop acquaintance to stop and visit for a while this morning.


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