More Conversation with My Sister

I posted on my Facebook page on August 27, 2013, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s letter from prison:

To Eberhard Bethage, July 21, 1944:

During the last year or so I’ve come to know and understand more and more the profound this-worldliness of Christianity. The Christian is not a homo religiosus, but simply a man, as Jesus was a man…

That solicited more conversation with my sister (she doesn’t miss a thing):


Rob, this is taken out of context.  The letter was written after Bonhoeffer heard of the failed assassination attempt (Valkyrie and the Stauffenberg plot).  Here is more of it:

During the last year or so I’ve come to know and understand more and more the profound this-worldliness of Christianity.  The Christian is not a homo religiosus, but simply a man, as Jesus was a man….I don’t mean the shallow and banal this-worldiness of the enlightened, the busy, the comfortable, or the lascivious, but the profound this-worldliness, characterized by the discipline and the constant knowledge of death and resurrection.

I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith….One must completely abandon any attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, or a converted sinner, or a churchman…a righteous man or an unrighteous one, a sick man or a healthy one.  By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities.  In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world-watching with Christ in Gethsemane.

Rob, Did you see this quote on the Unsettled Christianity blog?


Sister, I could have expected “this from you,” but did not.  Thank you for inquiring.  As we find meaningful passages in the Bible that support our theological premises, so it is with my reading any book, including Bonhoeffer.  I have his Letters and Papers from Prison, but in this case, thinking of those Christians who do not fit the popular Christian mold, I knew Bonhoeffer addresses what was called a “religionless Christianity,” so I Googled it: what better, more authoritative way to do scholarly research?   I found this quote at  This is a site that inquires into what it really means to be Christian in the modern world.

Bonhoeffer was in New York when he deided to return to Germany.  He knew the American Christian response to the horror of Hitler and, perhaps contributing to the statement you more fully produce, he was shocked that there was no Christian response to that horror.  Of course, the US stayed out of the war, except for shipments of material support to Britain, until Pearl Harbor.


Just to be clear, my theological premises are based on what I find in scripture, not the other way around.

Friend S:

Do we too often over-analyze?  I believe Jesus has a special place in his kingdom for children and the mentally handicapped.  They just see things simply and love without reserve.  Isn’t that what God really wants?  By the way, we’re going home Sunday.  Hooray.  Still have a long way to go, but we’re getting there.


Yes, [Friend S.], I believe we do over-analyze.  Like children we should take God’s Word at face value as His very voice which is what it claims to be and Jesus affirmed.  Doing so we find that all the pieces fit together and discover the unexpected claims about God, humanity and salvation that are made.  We discover God’s amazing grace and love for sinners and His readiness to transform them when they turn to Him.  Amazing Grace being put on display.


Well, I’m back.  Did I miss anything?  Oh, did I!
First, my good friend, fine musician and organist, Friend S., announces that she and her husband are going home Sunday.  That IS a miracle!  They survived a head-on crash, awful injuries to head and rest of the body, ICU, multiple surgeries, each, and long therapy and recovery, which will continue.  S and B, so happy you are going home and to loving church family!
OK, I feel obligated (as I truly believe) to step out in faith as others have courageously shared their faith:
I also want to be clear.  I am not trying to convince anyone that their Christian faith is inadequate or that my own is right.  I trust that I am growing in my faith, as in my living, which necessarily implies change.
 Some background: As my parents have written, I had polio in the Louisiana epidemic of 1949 and was hospitalized six months on a polio ward of eighteen infants.  I have no verbal memory of that or of hot water therapy thereafter, but I know the emotional experience of abandonment.  It has subconsciously driven me for 64 years.  I am also aware of many of the paradoxes of bonding and attachment disorder (I am as faulty and guilty, perhaps more so, as others).  One area in which I can recognize particular sensitivity (among all my insensitivities) is Christian exclusivism.
I see the implications: all others (progressive Christians(?), agnostics, atheists, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, on and on, are “out.”  They will not, in that Great Day) be admitted to “the Kingdom.” Not that they will go to hell, but “Jesus is the only way” as revealed (or limited, as the case may be) by Paul.
I want those that fear that they don’t measure up, are lost, or condemned to feel the love of God, as Jesus and many other loving and wise people have revealed it, and to share that love with all others and with the world we live in. Unconditionally, as Jesus taught.
“I take the Bible too seriously to take it literally.”  Open Christianity: Home by Another Road, by Jim Burklo. The Gospel (Good News) may be at the heart of Christianity, but I believe it is shared by loving people of many faiths, religions and nations.  Christ (the Anointed One) appears to many different people of all faiths and circumstances (“inasmuch as you did it unto the least of these”).
“Made in the image of God” means something special about all people.  Michelangelo, in Creation of Adam, is honoring the gift of reason to humankind.  How you get to the Kingdom, which “is at hand,” is not important to me.   I want to reach out to all, including the outcasts of mainstream Christianity, and remove stumbling blocks.  “By their fruits you will know them.”

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