Who stands firm? Only the one for whom the final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all these, when in faith and sole allegiance to God he is called to obedient and responsible action: the responsible person, whose life will be nothing but an answer to God’s question and call.Dietrich Bonhoeffer
In the early 1930s Dietrich Bonhoeffer became a key player in the Protestant ecumenical movement and the so-called Confessing Church (Bekennende Kirche), which was established in 1934 to oppose the creation of a so-called ‘Reich Church’ under the National Socialist party in Germany. Uncertainty about the future had led many church leaders to side with Hitler and support his creation of a German Evangelical Church which was aligned with the interests and propaganda of the Nazi Party. Bonhoeffer’s opposition, outlined in his 1933 essay, ‘The Church and the Jewish Question’, rested on three key principles: first, the function of the church is to challenge state injustice; second, the church has an obligation to help all victims of injustice, whether Christian or not; third, the church must be prepared to undermine the machinery of injustice, effectively becoming a dissident institution.
In today’s world, as we see the Church of England selling out to corporate globalist interests and falling into blind lockstep with the zero-carbon agenda, Bonhoeffer’s example, namely to advocate for a free church uninfluenced by the catastrophic drift in the national and international politics of the time, is once more relevant. It is clear that something along the lines of the Confessing Church will have to emerge to counter the vacuous opportunism of latter-day institutions – especially the church with its intrinsic concern with the relationship between the human person and God.
In the midst of political turmoil, Bonhoeffer continued to question the proper role of a Christian in Nazi Germany. When German synagogues and Jewish businesses were burned and demolished on Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938, Bonhoeffer immediately left for Berlin, despite having been banned by the Gestapo, to investigate the destruction. After his return, when his students were discussing the theological significance of Kristallnacht, Bonhoeffer rejected the theory that Kristallnacht had resulted from “the curse which had haunted the Jews since Jesus’ death on the cross.” Instead, Bonhoeffer called the pogrom an example of the “sheer violence” of Nazism’s “godless face.”Jewish Virtual Library
Bonhoeffer’s achievement is not only his courage in standing up to the Nazi regime, but also, according to some at least, his contribution to the re-examining of anti-Semitic attitudes embedded within the Protestant church since Luther’s times. Some have argued that he bought into the theological anti-Semitism of Luther’s teachings, which doubtless played a role in the rise of secular anti-Semitism. Others, however, argue that this is simply a crude error of interpretation, justified perhaps to some extent by the extreme rawness of the subject, but still simply wrong; that, in fact, he was particularly concerned with the plight of the Jews, and that it was his revulsion at his government’s policies regarding the Jews that turned him fully against the regime, and ultimately got him killed. Either way, his legacy stands as a beacon for those who feel called to resist authoritarianism.
The idea of the Thursday Circle stems from Bonhoeffer’s early appreciation of the need for a place where critical thinking could be exercised and a spirit of free inquiry upheld in a time of growing oppression. Bonhoeffer was murdered for his dissidence by the Nazis just months before the collapse of the regime in 1945, and today his statue adorns Westminster Abbey along with those of other 20th-century martyrs. No one wants to get to that point again, where good people are executed by their own governments for upholding the right to autonomy within the basic principles of human law. Surely it goes without saying. But clearly the need for sober critical thinking and an exchange of views and information unimpeded by technocratic control is still there to be fought for. This is what Thursday Circles are all about.
Holocaust Encyclopaedia, https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/dietrich-bonhoeffer
Jewish Virtual Library, https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/dietrich-bonhoeffer
John Moses, ‘Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Stand on the Jewish Question during the Third Reich’, https://www.academia.edu/42017985/Dietrich_Bonhoeffer_s_Stand_on_the_Jewish_Question_During_the_Third_Reich?auto=download
Join the Thursday Circle Online Telegram Channel Thursday Circles are inspired by Dietrich Bonhoeffer's early concern with the need to promote critical thinking. In this current format, it is an initiative of Dick Delingpole with the support of Jamie Franklin, of the Irreverend podcast, inspired by Bonhoeffer's opposition to the Nazi regime. The aim of this online group is to create an opportunity for those who would wish to participate in Thursday Circles but can’t for geographical or other reasons. The manifesto and focus remain the same as for the face-to-face gatherings. It is my hope and wish to generate interest so that others will be encouraged to create circles of their own in their communities. Meetings take place on the fourth Thursday of each month at 8:30pm CET. Take a look at the TC manifesto here.