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Bonhoeffer on American Protestantism

“For the first generation of fugitives the journey to America was a decision of faith for their whole lives.  For them the renunciation of confessional struggle was therefore a hard-fought Christian possibility.  A danger arises here, however, for the subsequent generations, who are born into this battle-free situation without themselves having decided to spend their lives under these conditions.  Sooner or later they must misunderstand their position.  What was for their fathers a right of their Christian faith won at the risk of their lives becomes for the sons a general Christian rule.  The struggle over creed, because of which the fathers took flight, has become for the sons something which is in itself unchristian.  Absence of struggle becomes for them the normal and ideal state of Christianity.  The descendants of the fugitives grow up in a peace that is not won, but inherited.”

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Protestantism Without Reformation”, in No Rusty Swords: Letters, Lectures, and Notes 1928-1936 (New York: Harper and Row, 1965), 103. [Italics added.]

One Comment

  1. Dave Belcher wrote:

    I had forgotten he says this so early on…since upon his second trip to America — to flee from capture and death at the hands of the Gestapo — it is just this sentiment that sent him back to Germany just as the war was about to begin. Isn’t that incredible? Here comes the “second world war” and he rushes head-long back into the struggle, even though death was looming on his horizon, soon to swallow him up.

    Saturday, April 5, 2008 at 8:02 am | Permalink

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