Stupidity and Evil

After ten years of resisting Hitler and the Nazis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote an essay asking the question, “Who Stands Firm?” What kind of people have proven able to see and resist Hitler with patience and persistence? By this time, December 1942, he has seen nearly every resistor fall by the wayside: The reasonable people, the fanatics, folk of sensitive conscience, those with a high sense of duty, those who value freedom above all, people committed to a private, individual sense of virtue. None of these have been up to the long struggle.

Who stands firm? Dietrich answered, “Only the one whose ultimate standard is not his reason, his principles, conscience, freedom, or virtue; only the one who is prepared to sacrifice all of these when, in faith and in relationship to God alone, he is called to obedient and responsible action. Such a person is the responsible one, whose life is to be nothing but a response to God’s question and call.” This was not some sort of religious bias on his part. He had seen religious people by the thousands succumb to Hitler. No, this was plain old experience on Dietrich’s part..

He also spoke of some of the reasons why the struggle had been so hard. One such reason was that resisting Hitler meant resisting his many, many followers. A very highly thoughtful person himself, he had learned that the supporters of a tyrant are not thoughtful but are enslaved to their own gut-feelings. In conversation they seem truly stupid. “Stupidity,”Bonhoeffer noted, “is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force.”

That observation is true in today’s American political scene as much as in Germany of the 1930s. Bonhoeffer could well have pointed out, however, that evil on the part of the leaders is itself extremely stubborn. Hitler induced a certain stupidity among the German people and that stupidity provided something of a protective wall behind which he could carry out he evil work.

Now in America, as the GOP Convention gets underway with donald trump the inevitable nominee to emerge from the proceedings, we need to remember the lessons of the Nazi era. I’ve been listening with great care for more than a year. For a long time I thought he was an amazingly accomplished liar.

Now my mind has changed. I no longer believe that donald trump has “truth” anywhere on his list of virtues. He does not care about truth, does not think about it, does not even recognize any particular difference between truth and falsehood. He is one of the most profoundly amoral men I’ve ever observed. He is a man of zero moral concern.

He loves to point out moral flaws in others, of course, while brazenly demonstrating again and again that he does not believe there are any moral restraints on him. to anyone of any moral sensitivity at all, donald trump is deeply repulsive.

The law is to be used for his own personal gain. Judges are to be intimidated. Politicians are to be bought. Foreign nations are to be put at disadvantage in their relations with us.

His lack of a moral dimension makes him evil and very, very dangerous.


About mthayes42

I am a retired pastor, interested in the Bible, cross-cultural ministries, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the current and past history of western civilization.
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