“We must finally stop appealing to theology to justify our reserved silence about what the state is doing — for that is nothing but fear. ‘Open your mouth for the one who is voiceless’ — for who in the church today still remembers that that is the least of the Bible’s demands in times such as these?”
Deitrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), the German author of The Cost of Discipleship and founder of the Confessing Church, attended seminary in New York, where he developed a friendship with Frank Fisher, a black fellow-seminarian from Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, and was moved and inspired by the Gospel of Social Justice.
As his own Christian conviction was deepened, Bonhoeffer made the decision to return to a Germany increasingly under the sway of Nazism, leaving behind his friends, fiancé and safety, becoming one of its most vocal resisters.
“I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people … Christians in Germany will have to face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose but I cannot make that choice from security.”
He was imprisoned for nearly two years, and ultimately was accused of playing a role in a plot to murder Hitler and hanged. Despite the danger of dissent, Bonhoeffer never hesitated to speak truth to power.
If there is one thing we have seen in the current alignment of power, nationalism, and greed gaining ground all over this beautiful wounded planet, it is that no theology (or lack thereof) has cornered the market in hypocrisy. There seem to be factions of every faith and philosophy that can find justification within their man-made tenets for cruelty to the voiceless, the powerless.
Here in the United States, there are Christians who cling to isolated stories of persecution in the Middle East, or at home where secularists might have the gall to wish them “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. They revel in examples of persecution by radical Islamists, ignoring the persecution of Muslims in China, India, Myanmar, Israel, the United States and elsewhere. They choose to focus on the insignificant, rather than see their own hypocrisy in supporting an Administration that treats immigrants and refugees (most of them professed Christians, themselves) inhumanely, even rationalizing the separation of young children from their parents, causing irreparable trauma and harm to their developing psyches.
It’s in this brutal reality, that my grandchildren return to school and autumn colors blend into our mountain palette, and it’s got me thinking about the coming winter edition of DoveTales. Adviser and Guest Editor, Robert Kostuck, has chosen the insightful theme, “Gardens in the Desert: Cultivating Awareness.” What are we, dear Writers of Peace, if not gardeners in the desert?
If Bonhoeffer, in the midst of a nation frothing for death and destruction, could plant seeds of courage and resistance in enough hearts to become a threat to Der Führer – a testament to the power of conviction and words – then what can thousands of us with that same conviction accomplish?
We will create gardens in the desert of social injustice with our words and actions. We will not stand idly by as children are deprived of hope and safety and life. We will not remain silent as our planet is ravaged and the Amazon disappears into flames. This globe is our garden. The refugees and prisoners across its surface are our family. Yours and mine. Silence is not an option.
The reading period for our Winter Edition is open until November 1st. As writers, we cultivate awareness through our words, stanzas and sentences. Send us your work and together we’ll spread the seeds of social justice and peaceful activism where there is fertile soil and where there is not.
Carmel Mawle is founder of the nonprofit literary organization, Writing for Peace, and has served as Editor-in-Chief of DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts since 2013. A Pushcart Nominee, her short stories, essays and poetry have been published in literary journals and anthologies, including Smokelong Quarterly and Shake the Tree Anthology.
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