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Archive for October, 2013

In preparing for the next meeting of our local Bonhoeffer discussion group, I’ve found myself reading again Bonhoeffer’s April, 1933, essay “The Church and the Jewish Question.” My mind goes back again and again to Bonhoeffer’s famous trio of ideas of how the church is to respond to evil perpetrated by the government.

We first speak out, he said, against the evil and hold the government accountable for doing that which is just. We then with love and compassion bind the wounds of those injured by the government. Finally, if need be, we do whatever is necessary to stop the wheels of state injustice.

The next twelve years of his life were spent in fulfilling those three ideas.

How sad it seems that, just as in Germany in the 1930s, we in America today still have those who insist that holding the government accountable for treating all citizens with justice is wrong. Glenn Beck dismisses with a wave of the hand those who call for social justice, an end to policies which favor the wealthy over the middle class and poor. But Bonhoeffer would not tolerate such a rejection of social justice.

And it is sad that one of our major political parties wants to stop the healing and helping of those who are most needy, most harmed by the amazing greed of those whose wealth grows fastest when the poor are most oppressed. Bonhoeffer would be horrified by the heartlessness of it all.

We do have those willing to stop government today — literally this very day, October 1 — but not because of its unjust treatment of the poor. They simply believe (despite the overwhelming evidence of years since Reagan) that letting the health care industries get richer will somehow make health care better for the rest of us.

I do not believe there is any excuse for such moral and historical blindness. And most certainly a fear of “socialism” does not justify ignoring the fact that the profits of the health care industries have priced health care out of the reach of huge numbers of people.

I am alive today because the people of America — through Medicare — have generously paid most of the huge medical bills I incurred this past summer. Had I been directly responsible for those expenses myself, I would have rejected the treatment rather than accept a mountain of medical bills that could never be paid off in my lifetime.

Some would call Medicare a form of socialism — I call it a lifesaver.

Can we appreciate Dietrich Bonhoeffer while dismissing his call for “social justice” (by whatever name)? Not at all. Not at all.

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