Friday, May 13, 2005


Wayfaring Strangers, Part 11

(Wayfaring Strangers is a continuing series about our experiences as my wife and I study to convert to Catholicism.)

Thrown For A Loop By Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This intensive cram session of theology that I've decided I must do in order to convert to Catholicism feeling certain that I've done the right thing has included reading by plenty of protestants as well as Catholics. For every Scott Hahn and G.W. Chesterton book I read, I also read something by C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, etc.

Tonight I was reading Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship, and found myself totally floored by the book. Bonhoeffer, if you don't know about him, was a brilliant German protestant Pastor and Theologian who wrote and published during the rise of Hitler's Nazi party. Because Bonhoeffer refused to stop resisting the Nazis, he was jailed, sent to a concentration camp, and eventually hanged. I'm almost certain that, were he Catholic, I'd be referring to him now as St. Dietrich.

Anyway, not only has Bonhoeffer not said anything in The Cost of Discipleship yet to criticize or refute Catholicism (I'm about half-way through the book, so I can't say for sure that he won't, but it doesn't look like he will), he's actually written things that adamantly support John Paul II's stance that the war in Iraq is wrong, and that war in general is wrong and not to be supported by Christians.

This really throws a kink into the system for me, as a Christian that supports the war. Most of The Cost of Discipleship is a really a study of the Sermon on the Mount, and Bonhoeffer reads it not just as an inspirational sermon but as a list of commands to Christians from Christ. The Beatitudes, for instance, aren't merely praise for the meek, the peacemakers, those who mourn, etc… but actual commands to Christians to embody those characteristics. It seems so basic to me now, but I'd never thought of it that way.

The point is, Bonhoeffer has about 90% convinced me that it is my Christian duty to oppose war. PERIOD.

Good grief, I wasn't ready for this particular bit of soul searching yet. I thought I knew were I stood on the war and had just reasons for my feelings. Now I have to really back off and think about it.

I'll post more when I finish the book. Just had to get this out there.

Your openness and honesty about the spriitual path you're on is really refreshing. As someone who was raised as an atheist and is now searching for something that makes sense from my own place in the world, its enlightening to see other people working to educate themselves about the choices they're making.

I can do nothing but support your change of heart about the war. Or any war, if you were asking me. I think that if we are to hold life as sacred, we have to hold ALL life sacred. This does not mean that you don't support your fellow Americans who made the choice to join the armed forces and are therefore involved in the violence.

Good luck on your journey.
Meepers, don't get me wrong, I'm not ready to start protesting the war. It is still a really complicated and confusing issue for me. The Cost of Discipleship is pretty much the most demanding book I've ever read (The Bible excluded), and it's taking me to task for EVERY secular belief I have, every prejudice and selfish idea and worldly ideal I hold as my own. This book is even making me wonder if I should be blogging about this particular aspect of my life. Do I cheapen it by doing so? By blogging about it, am I showing an insincerity about the journey itself and really just trying to glorify myself? I don't know. I don't know at all right now. Right now I am totally reduced to humility and uncertainty about my ideas and actions... and I'm pretty sure that I'm supposed to be. The question now is, where do I go from here? I know I want to go to Christ, but I am worried that I am making mistakes on the way that I don't even realize.
What are you converting from to become Roman Catholic?
I suppose you could say I am converting from "Generic Protestant Christian." I was raised southern Baptist, but I'm adamantly no longer a Baptist. The church I most recently attended with our family... and the church I've attended the longest (we were even in the directory) was a First Christian Church, which proposes to be non-denominational, but in our experience, was basically defined by it's anti-Catholic, anti-gay positions. The anti-Catholic stuff rubbed me the wrong way and may have even given me the slight push in the direction I'm going now. Darn, I hope the anti-gay stuff isn't doing the same thing subconsciously. It did bug me, though. Why focus on someone else's sin instead of chiseling away at your own?
Darrell: I sincerely hope you continue posting about this, although I would understand if you decided not too. I've only read Voices in the Night by Bonhoeffer, and mean to read more of his works at some point. So I'd love hearing what you get from it.
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