Tuesday, December 30, 2014

thoughts on Bonhoeffer Abridged

I saw a copy of Metaxas’ very thick book “Bonhoeffer” on a friend’s bookshelf, and thought that someday, when I have lots and lots of time, I would like to read it. And then “Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor Martyr, Prophet, Spy” (Eric Metaxas, Nelson Books, 2014) became available for review through BookLook Bloggers. I’m glad I took advantage of the opportunity.
I’m glad for two reasons. First because I liked the book (more on that in a moment), and second because I think 200 pages was plenty, and I’m not sure the details in the extra 400 pages in the original ‘unabridged’ version would have held my interest.
This abridged version has a wonderful combination of theology, history, human interest and commentary on what it was like to live in Hitler’s Germany. In other words we get to see the man Bonhoeffer from multiple perspectives, a fact that allows the reader to really appreciate the complexity of this man who is known, as the title implies, in so many different capacities.
Growing up in a privileged family has certain advantages that Bonhoeffer took full advantage of, and Metaxas does an excellent job of chronicling the adventures and travels made possible because of those advantages.  Although a lot of the book covers the issues concerning Bonhoeffer and his stance towards Hitler, his faith journey is a compelling story within the story. The glimpse of his studies, his various ministerial positions and how he dealt with the conflict between what he was supposed to do, and what he felt called to do are worthy of a book apart from his fame as a member of the opposition to Hitler.
As a pastor I wonder how I would respond to circumstances like those which Bonhoeffer faced. What would my reaction be? How would I reconcile my beliefs with actions I might feel compelled to take? What is the role of the pastor, the congregation, the church when evil is so prominent in the world. Would I have the strength and the courage not only to stand up for what is right, but also to take the actions to counteract the evil, and then suffer the consequences for my actions? Obviously Bonhoeffer had that moral fortitude, and it cost him dearly. I pray that I never have to make some of the difficult decisions that Bonhoeffer felt compelled to make.  
It’s easy to see Bonhoeffer as being cold and impersonal, but accounts of his family, friendships and the relationship with the young Maria bring just the right touch of humanity to the book and to the person.
And I still might, someday when I have lots and lots of time, read the unabridged version.
(PERSONAL DISCLAIMER: I’ve been criticized in the past because many of my reviews are positive. Not all, but many. I am not selling out, or being kind just because I get a free book. I pick the books I want to review because I like the cover or title, because I think they might be interesting, or because they’re by authors that I like, so it’s no surprise when I like the book. I do not get an assignment to review random books – if that were the case, I’m sure there would be fewer 5 star reviews. Sorry, just had to vent!)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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