Bonhoeffer Pacifism Essay

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Early on in his writing career Bonhoeffer claimed to be a pacifist. Paul Lehmann claims during Bonhoeffer’s 1939 visit to America that Bonhoeffer still self-identified as a pacifist. Up until that time Bonhoeffer’s “resistance” of Hitler and the Nazi had come in the form of condemnation from the pulpit, but not long after his return he began to participate in the organization that conspired against Hitler. By 1940 the group decided that an assassination attempt would be the best thing for Germany and Bonhoeffer, while not directly involved, supported the attempt. By April of 1943 Bonhoeffer was arrested and in April of 1945 he was executed for his part in the conspiracy. From a self-described pacifist in 1939 to being executed as a traitor in 1945, it is safe to say that…show more content…
These scholars point to a letter written by Bonhoeffer on April 11, 1944 as an indication that Bonhoeffer felt true to his feelings. Bonhoeffer writes, “Not have I ever regretted my decision in the summer of 1939, for I am firmly convinced—however strange it may seem—that my life has followed a straight and unbroken course, at any rate in its outward conduct.” Clearly from this quote Bonhoeffer regrets nothing and strongly feels that he has not compromised his convictions in his actions (even though he himself recognizes strangeness of his situation). With such a discrepancy between Bonhoeffer’s claimed pacifism and his political activism scholars have sought to explain the nuance of Bonhoeffer’s pacifism. Clifford Green argues that within Bonhoeffer’s Ethics there are two independent contexts for interpreting ethical action: ethics in extreme situations and ethics of everyday life. Extreme situations are, according to Bonhoeffer, “occasions when… the strict observance of the explicit law of a state… entails a clash with the basic necessities of human life. In such cases, appropriate responsible action departs from the domain governed by laws and principles, from the normal and
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