Friday, October 21, 2011

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Quakers and the limits of pacifism

Bonhoeffer, a German theologian executed by the Nazis, poses a challenge to Quakers. Although a pacifist, Bonhoeffer supported assassinating Hitler. Meanwhile, German Quakers made a strategic decision to fight in World War II in order to survive as a group. The alternative to military service was execution as a traitor (ie, the Nazis didn’t recognize CO status). Bonhoeffer and the German Quakers raise a question: In extreme situations, how far can the peace testimony bend? Can personal purity or holiness become immoral? Were pacifist Germans wrong to participate in violence?

Learn more at Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Sneak Preview, a review by Diane Reynolds.

Diane Reynolds is a student in Earlham School of Religion’s Master of Divinity program. She maintains a personal blog, Emerging Quaker.

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