"A Triumphant Cautionary Tale"
What You Need To Know:
Listening to the entries in Bonhoeffer’s diaries and books brings one closer to the one true faith of the Apostles. He understands that you cannot strive for success or sainthood, but only follow the resurrected Jesus. He presents this vision in a way that converted people whose hearts had been hardened by their own striving for success. HANGED ON A TWISTED CROSS is a powerful program. Like all the programs on Bonhoeffer, it must be seen
(CCC, V, M) Strong Christian worldview; shots of National Socialist death camps with bodies piled up; and, shots of churches with Nazi flags and paraphernalia.
The story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a triumphant cautionary tale that will speak to the Church until the end of time. HANGED ON A TWISTED CROSS, a documentary, gives the most comprehensive view of Bonhoeffer ever presented. It is not dramatic, but it is extremely powerful. Narrated by Ed Asner, it shows how Bonhoeffer’s faith grew throughout his life until the clarity of his vision of the Kingdom of God became so strong that he marched to his execution saying triumphantly, “This is the beginning of my life.” The final quotes regarding the depth of his relationship with Jesus Christ are awe inspiring.
The caution comes in the fact that the German church, the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation, and home to some of the greatest theological thinkers, not only cooperated with National Socialism, but embraced it. This video makes it clear why. They had lost their faith in the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Years of higher criticism, and its attempt to abandon the Jewish roots of Christianity, had produced an anemic and, in the theological sense, liberal faith. When Hitler came, the church even paraphrased the Creeds and key statements of faith to extol Hitler instead of Jesus Christ. One of these blasphemous paraphrases proposed that Jesus went through persecution only to die, whereas Hitler went through persecution, only to rise up and build the Thousand Year Reich. In effect, the German churches wanted a temporal king…a temporal savior. They put their faith in politics, and at the head of the political system was someone who was all willing to manipulate the church that had lost sight of the Kingdom of God.
A few Christians in Germany were disturbed by this perversion of the faith, which twisted the symbol of the Cross and embraced Adolph Hitler as the Savior. They acknowledged one Savior, who is Jesus Christ, and they tried to warn the Church that it was headed toward self-destruction. They called themselves the Confessing Church and refused to adopt all of the paraphernalia of the Nazi Party. In the crucible of their persecution, they drew closer to the true Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In their execution, they triumphed. The Germany of the Third Reich collapsed and what remained was the Truth the confessing represented, the incorruptible Truth that the Church, the Body of Christ, has but one Lord, who is Jesus the Christ.
Listening to the entries in Bonhoeffer’s diaries and books brings one closer to the one true faith of the Apostles. He understands that you cannot strive for success or sainthood, but only follow the resurrected Jesus. He presents this vision in a way that converted people whose hearts had been hardened by their own striving for success.
How does this apply today?
Well, when I was in seminary in the 1970s, it was the politically liberal church that put faith in politics in order to realize a social gospel. In the process, they became irrelevant and now the National Council of Churches faces bankruptcy, morally, spiritually and financially. Now, it is the conservative churches who are putting all their chips on the big board of politics. Already, there are those who understand that there’s a big difference between faith in God and faith in men. Billy Graham experienced this acutely when he supported President Nixon, only to receive a call early in the morning one day from the President, asking for his forgiveness and telling him when he read the newspaper that day, he would be shocked. Billy read the transcript of the Watergate tapes in the news. He stayed in his room all day deeply hurt by what was revealed. He had thought that the President was a godly man, but printed on the page were words he had never heard being spoken, words that blasphemed God.
All this is not to say that the Church does not have a role to play in politics or media. It is called to speak in every area of life, but it always must beware that the tail does not wag the dog, that it doesn’t let the politicians or the media (or any other powerful group) manipulate it and deter it from its true mission, which is the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. This mission cuts across political boundaries and raises up a standard much higher than cheap grace, easy believism and warm feelings.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer raised up the standard of Jesus Christ. This program makes it clear that he was not perfect, but as he gave up himself for Jesus Christ, he left a legacy that will speak to every generation. HANGED ON A TWISTED CROSS is a powerful program. Like all the programs on Bonhoeffer, it must be seen.