[This is a posting from my Bonhoeffer blog, dated July 30, 2015. It has proven popular, so I’ve decided to expand it slightly and post it on this site as well.]
In January, 1933, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was preparing a radio message in which he was going to warn Germany that, in her hunger for some strong leader to take over the state and take full responsibility for the nation, Germany was in fact looking for a tyrant. And of course there was no question that at least one person, Adolf Hitler, was eager for the chance to become that tyrant.
The radio message was in fact delivered and broadcast live on February 1. . . .two days after the aging President Hindenburg had appointed Hitler to be Chancellor (somewhat akin to the British Prime Minister). So Bonhoeffer’s warning was a direct challenge to Hitler. Unfortunately, Bonhoeffer was too subtle, too careful in building his case, so that by the time he reached the conclusion of the talk in which he was to speak most directly about the danger Germany was in, the talk was cut off the air. Some say the Gestapo cut the speech, though Bonhoeffer himself merely said he had gone over the allotted time.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, so quick to recognize the threat of Hitler and the vulnerability of Germany, would have no trouble today recognizing many of the same problems in America. Large numbers of people have felt helpless as our culture undergoes a major transformation bigger than anything in the West since the Renaissance. And more than a few of them are starting to place all their hopes on a man who is marked by unlimited hubris, an inability to realistically assess himself or admit any mistakes, and an eagerness to elevate himself by denigrating others.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I am very sure, would be preparing a radio talk right now, warning us of the severe dangers of tyranny.