Madwoman Out of the Attic

a feminist trudging forward in a patriarchal world

Friday, February 06, 2009


I heard a sermon preached last week about Bonhoeffer. Loved it. I wish I could remember more, but I was fascinated by his response to the horrors of Nazi Germany. He was a German theologian who was appalled by what he saw happening around him, and he said there were three responses the church could take. 1) initiate a conversation with the state and question their policies and decisions 2.) Nurse and comfort those who had been thrown under the bus by this regime. 3) Grab the steering wheel of the bus and try to save the people being mown down.

Ultimately Bonhoeffer chose the third. He justified his non-pacifist response to Hitler by saying that it was morally superior to try to grab that steering wheel when a lunatic is driving and try to unseat him, rather than continue to let him kill innocent people. Bonhoeffer was arrested for being involved in a failed assassination plot against Hitler and was hung a few months before Hitler killed himself.

I don't know what I would do in that situation. After watching Valkyrie and seeing how frightening and precarious the situation in Nazi Germany was, I was left with the overwhelming feeling that I would just want to live. I would just want my family to live. I felt so bad for those people that had to choose between Hitler and the resistance, and if they made the wrong choice they would die. So many of them just wanted to live too. It was only a few of the bravest and most principled who were willing to risk their lives as leaders of the resistance.

I'm taking a class on moral agency right now. Traditionally, the most moral person would be the one who made decisions based on principles, rather than the one who makes decisions based on emotion or relationships or individual context. Feminist ethics critiques this traditional view and says that no, making decisions based on relationships, emotions, and subjective inclinations can be just as moral as making those decisions based on principle. I think I firmly fall into that contextual and relational way of making decisions. If my children or spouse were to be put at risk from me being involved in a resistance movement, I doubt I would involve myself. That's kind of seems sad and cowardly to me. But that's an ethical decision too.


Blogger EmilyCC said...

Bonhoeffer is one of those people who makes me feel like one of the worst Christians ever. Did you hear the Speaking of Faith episode about him?

2/08/2009 7:01 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

No.... and I've heard a lot of Speaking of Faiths. I'll have to go into their podcasts and find that one. I would love to know more about him.

2/08/2009 9:27 PM  

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