Thursday, June 01, 2006

Bearing the Image of God

UPI column

Part Two of last week's column, but certainly far from the end of the conversation. :)



jim said...

Bonhoeffer's probably my all time hero of the faith, though I am still at times troubles with his decision to go along with the assination attempt. It's one of the most preplexing things about him and his life.

I think what attracts me to him is that he so fully lived out and through his theological convictions and was indeed able toward the end to look beyond his own security to what he thought would truly make a difference in such a horrible situation.

I had not made the connection that you suggest between his actions and bearing the 'image of God' within that context. I guess I'd not thought of the way we actively bear our own understanding of God's image with the way we live out our lives.

Thanks for yet another provocative post!

julieunplugged said...
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julieunplugged said...

Hi Jim.

Bonhoeffer is my hero in the faith too. I plan to write my MA thesis on his Letters and Papers from Prison.

I'm with you, though. I have not always been comfortable with the assassination attempt either. I remember reading on a Bonhoeffer list (yes, there are several on yahoo) the raging debate about whether or not God thwarted DB from achieving success because God didn't approve... seemed an absurd idea to me given that God didn't stop the Holocaust of which surely God did not approve.

But really, ironically, what we are left with, challenged to consider and confront is just how seriously we take our images of God.

One of Bonhoeffer's constant refrains is that a Christian must risk all, even his secure salvation, in an attempt to live Christ's values, his example, in this life. That is what the cross shows us--not a comfortable, settled theology without challenge to our belief systems, but a risk to live out what we make real inside of ourselves in the faith. Jesus's life and death show us that but they are too familiar to evoke the kind of shock that would cause us to reevaluate our choices and the image of God we live.

DB's call and life is a radical challenge for us in our time, and one I hope to grow into.

Sacred Center said...

I have been thinking a lot about your previous column and how I articulate the ways I believe God acts in the world. This is a very lovely follow-up and a wonderful question, I especially like "What God does my life suggest?" as it resonates with the question I often ask myself, which is "To what way of being does my life witness?" It has helped me to see, as just one example, that living contemplatively and resisting our cultural impulse towards busyness and overwork, is an act of justice in itself, a witness to a profound alternative in the world. An alternative reflected in God's very being, the God who rested after six days of work and delighted in creation.

I love Bonhoeffer because he is not easy to fit into categories. His ethics were so radical and his call so fundamental. He talked about how we all share in the guilt of the Nazis, and for Christians to do nothing is a greater act of sin than to risk getting one's hands dirty, in the case of Bonhoeffer to make the remarkable choice to participate in the killing of another man. No matter how you feel about that choice, it is hard to deny the courage that act took. He does not provide easy answers but invites us into wrestling with God and the difference our faith makes. I am realizing for myself, that it is in the willingness to wrestle like Bonhoeffer, and like Jacob, that my faith has integrity. I will be blessed in the process, but I will also carry the wound of facing the realities of this world without the pretense of holiness. I have to be willing to do both.

Thanks very much for your thoughtfulness. I will continue to reflect on this.

Christine Paintner

jim said...


After your column and our subsequent comments last week I tried to work Bonhoeffer into my Pentecost Sermon on Sunday, but in the end it felt like I was trying to do way too much.

And, I kept asking myself just what bearing does such an heroic deed and life have on the average middle class american sitting in the pew?
Alot, but probably more than I can possibly ever do justice in a sermon and probably more that will just simply go over their heads.

Though, I do like your thought about Jesus familiarity no longer provoking the kind of shock he used too and that Bonheoffer's example might be able to provoke that once again.

Ah well, more to think and maybe some day the Spirit will lead me to a way to work him in.

julieunplugged said...

Jim I'm touched by your effort.

I think you're right that the average middle class American has a very different struggle than Bonhoeffer's contemporaries. Ours really is the unreality of what we say we believe. We live in such a cloud of comfort that our beliefs end up being admission tickets to a club of friends and values that we all share.

It's hard to really test those in our suburban existences - me as much as anyone else!

I think a comparison for today would be to really ask ourselves to get inside the world of a homosexual, for instance, or an immigrant from south of the border. It's getting out of our comfort zones into the real lived experiences of others that causes us to rethink what we believe and how we live it.

Bonhoeffer spoke to me in many ways, not the least of which was his willingness to tell the truth over and over again. That's actually a great place to start for any of us, I think.