What does Bonhoeffer have to do with this election?

October 20, 2016
Regarding comments I’ve made during this very difficult election, let me explain that I have only mentioned Bonhoeffer with regard to this election in response to those who have brought him into the conversation. Some have drawn what I think wrong and irresponsible parallels between the fascism of the National Socialists and the current GOP candidate. As the author of a book on the subject of the former, I thought these parallels understandable, but seriously mistaken. In an attempt to clarify myself, I responded that if one were to draw any parallels with today’s situation, it must take into account not the healthy nationalism and love of country that many see in our nation today — and as manifested in the recent Brexit vote, too — but rather the harmful globalism of many elites today who irresponsibly equate a healthy nationalism and love of country — as I discuss in my book If You Can Keep It — with xenophobia, Islamophobia, and racism. That, to me, is not only wrong, but out of line. So if there is any danger that one wishes to point out as paralleling Bonhoeffer’s era, it must be with those who are guilty of a kind of anti-nationalism, which foolishly abrogates the tremendously vital ideas of national sovereignty and self-government.Also, in using the phrase “God will not hold us guiltless” at the end of my Wall Street Journal article and in a tweet or two, I obviously misled some people into thinking I meant God was insisting we must vote for the GOP candidate. What I was in fact doing was being too clever by half (which is to say, dumb) by using a quote usually attributed to Bonhoeffer that suggests God expects us to take responsibility for our choices. We cannot escape choosing by not voting or voting for a third candidate who we know cannot win. Our choice will affect millions and we need to put those millions before ourselves. But by expecting people to get that and see what I was pointing at was obviously a mistake, since most people did not get that reference — nor how I meant it — and the hue and cry on this subject proved that. What’s the Latin for Mea Culpa?

I will always and ever aver that one’s faith is inescapably political (pace Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer), but one must never make an idol of one’s politics. The Gospel is everything. I should also say that National Public Radio interviewed me on this subject two days ago and will be airing portions of that interview early this next week. I’ll post those clips soon.

Finally, here are two articles that I thought superbly dealt with the Bonhoeffer issue with regard to this election. They speak infinitely better to what I would have liked to say than I have done, so please read them! Honestly, they are terrific. The first is by D.C. McCallister, titled “No, Voting for Trump is Not Idolatry”; the second, titled “Bonhoeffer’s Dirty Hands and the 2016 Presidential Election” is by Mark DeVine.