Peaceful Easy Feeling?

All that great writing time that I was planning to spend on various projects this weekend? Well…it was a holiday weekend, so I have an excuse, right?

This year’s Memorial Day was not nearly as eventful as last year’s, and mostly consisted of furniture shopping and good conversation. I’ve always thought it interesting how the same occasions find us in such different places in life from one year to the next.

In any case, I was sitting in a green room backstage on Sunday having a conversation with a professor friend about Bonhoeffer. I’m always up for a good Bonhoeffer discussion, as he stands out as one of the two most influential theologians in my life. To date, the definitive biography on Bonhoeffer is Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography by his close friend, Eberhard Bethge. My friend and I talked for a while about Bonhoeffer’s pacifism and how it he laid it down to be a part of the resistance plot to assassinate Hitler during World War II…an action for which he was ultimately imprisoned and martyred. We talked a bit about the concept of a “just war,” something that has been on my mind here and there lately in light of recent world events.

Memorial Day is a holiday in the United States set aside to memorialize those who have died during service in the armed forces. Last year, I was more focused on memorials and history. This year, I fell a bit into the apathy that makes this holiday merely the beginning of summer.  Of course, that apathy becomes easy to fall into, given the media saturation of worldwide violence that pervades the news outlets. There comes a point of de-sensitization.

Yesterday’s conversation was perhaps the most real observance of Memorial Day that I had this year. I think that’s because I’m tired of perpetual warfare. I’m not naive enough to think that it will end any time soon, because humanity seems to just have too much fun hurting itself. I just recognize that the extent of my memorializing this year was a brief pause to wish that the war would stop, that we could breathe, that we could try just a bit harder to find peaceful solutions to our problems.

And, as Bonhoeffer ultimately concluded, I end in a recognition that there will be those on the international stage that will make that impossible in some cases. And, for that tragic reason, there will be more people to remember when Memorial Day arrives next year, wherever we all may be then.

I won’t be any more fond of that unfortunate truth then than I am now. War, regardless of how just it may or may not be, is a horrific state of affairs.

2 thoughts on “Peaceful Easy Feeling?

  1. I am conflicted about your use of the word martyr to describe Bonhoeffer. He was involved in trying to assasinate someone and failed. Even if it was Hitler, I just don’t think the word martyr fits. Perhaps he was doing the right thing, I don’t know. In his letters from prison he seemed to regret being involved, but perhaps that’s because it failed. He may have been executed anyway for his work with the confessional lutheran church.

  2. Odd that you point that out, Christine, because I wrestled with that word as I was writing this post (I originally used “executed”). I think where I land on it is that he was executed because of his choice to become involved in the plot, and, ultimately, that decision was because his faith re-informed his ethics. I agree, he does seem to indicate regret in his letters (although we can’t be certain, as he was disguising his references and being intentionally vague to get them past the censors). Even if he did, though, his initial action was still based on his decision that was informed, contrary to his personality, by his faith. Thus, in my mind, he was executed due to acting out his faith, which makes him a martyr in my mind. I think that’s where most historians end up with it, as well. I certainly understand your perspective, though. I don’t find it unusual that he would second-guess the decision that resulted in his incarceration. Most of us have second-guessed a decision that was informed by our faith. I suppose that, if we’re wrong in doing so, there’s grace.


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