Podcast: Bonhoeffer, Nationalism, and New Beginnings

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Dear friends,

On Saturday, a rally called the “Election Jericho March” was held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This nearly 5-hour event shamelessly fused Christian identity, American nationalism, and a cult of personality around Donald Trump. (It’s one thing to support some of Trump’s policies. It’s another to give unquestioning allegiance to Trump as a leader.)

The “Jericho March” was MC’ed by Eric Metaxas, the author of the famous biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Early in, Metaxas told the crowd that if they saw a helicopter that wasn’t Trump’s Marine One, “get your bazooka out and shoot it down.” The “joke” would have seemed more fitting at a Taliban rally, but the crowd erupted with cheers. Later on, another speaker said that Trump should invoke the Insurrection Act to stay in office; if he didn’t, they would start “a bloody war.” Again, the crowd went wild, and Metaxas kept saying, “Praise the Lord!” Another speaker urged the crowd to threaten local leaders that they will “burn it down!” if they don’t get what they want. Metaxas continued declaring, “Thank you Jesus!” and “God bless America!” Alas, Metaxas has become a cautionary tale of how desire for popularity and power easily drive us to betray the “costly discipleship” Bonhoeffer gave his life for in the face of Christian nationalism.

By the end of the night, the senior pastor of the nearby Asbury Methodist Church, an historic African American congregation, lamented that marchers from the event had ripped down their church sign and burned it in the street as brawls erupted. (Watch the video here.) Pastor Mills wrote in the church’s public statement, “For me it was reminiscent of cross burnings.”

In response, I’m sharing a podcast interview that I recently recorded with the Beatrice Institute. The discussion focuses on the ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, making new beginnings, and practicing neighbor-love in a context of conflict. What might Bonhoeffer say to us in this time? How should followers of Jesus respond to rising nationalism? What’s the right relationship between unity and diversity, and how do the Tower of Babel and Pentecost give us clues?

You can listen to the discussion or read the transcript here. I hope it encourages and energizes you. Special thanks to Dr. John Buchmann for inviting me on the show.

I’ll close with words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer who spoke out as nationalism began dominating German Christianity in 1934:

“Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness, and pride of power and with its apologia [defense] for the weak… Christianity has adjusted itself much too easily to the worship of power. It should give much more offense, more shock to the world than it is doing. Christianity should […] take a much more definite stand for the weak than to consider the potential right of the strong.” (Sermon from 1934; 13:401-402)

Yours with love and hope as we look toward the birth of Jesus,

Andrew

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