So I’ve been on a World War II era movie theme. I’ve watched Downfall, The Last Days of Sophie Scholl, and now Bonhoeffer.
All of them left me with much to ponder, but the last one dragged up some memories of my schooling that started 41 years ago. Yes I’m that old.
Anyhow my early education, grades 1 through 12 were in Catholic schools. And as you might think, they had regular religious instruction. But you have to remember, I was in schools immediately AFTER the reforms of Vatican II were put in place.
So what they taught us was interesting. I remember learning about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, he gave his life trying to change Germany and the world. And in fact he was part of the group that tried not once but several times to kill Hitler!
That’s pretty remarkable for a Lutheran theologian!
The film also made passing reference to Martin Niemöller. I remember learning of him in high school too!
That last is the one who wrote this famous passage:
First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Pretty powerful stuff. I think the central message of my education, particularly when it came to the religious instruction, was that whenever you see injustice occurring, stand up and fight against that injustice.
It’s too bad the churches of the world have moved away from that. But there are signs they’re coming around, particular since I read recently that some clerics of the Baptist faith in Maryland are now coming out in support of marriage equality in Maryland!
And even here in RI, more than 125 pastors and ministers have signed declarations and presented them to the RI legislature in support of marriage equality.
And in a more interesting light, you have a group called Catholics for Marriage Equality active here in RI too.
Of course the Catholic hierarchy will NEVER come out in support. Hell, watching the movie about Bonhoeffer it was mentioned that most of Hitlers power bases was in southern Germany, and most of that was Roman Catholic. So the Catholic church shares much of the blame for the antisemitism that was rampant then, and the tacit support of the Nazi regime.
Don’t misread what I’m saying. I’m still an atheist, but damn it the words and actions of some of the theologians, particularly of that time period in Germany, they make a hell of a lot of sense.