Christian resistance
Jennifer has an interesting entry from yesterday about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor, writer, dissident and martyr who was ultimately executed for his crimes against the Nazi regime. She shares an interesting excerpt from a documentary about his life:
The church has three possible ways it can act against the state. First, it can ask the state if its actions are legitimate. Second, it can aid the victims of the state action. The church has the unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering society even if they do not belong to the Christian society. The third possibility is not just [to] bandage the victims under the wheel, but to jam a spoke in the wheel itself.
The relationship between the individual and the state and particularly between the Christian and the state has always interested me. For the most part, it seems that Christianity teaches that the individual is to go out of his way to be obedient and subservient to those in authority. But even in the well-known passages pointing to Christian humility found in the Sermon on the Mount, there are some hints at resistance to Roman rule.
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. --Matthew 5:39
This verse used to bother me. It seemed to me that Jesus was setting up all kinds of boundary problems in His followers. Accept persecution in His name, yes, but just outright abuse for no good reason? It also seems to violate the resistance Jesus himself offered to religious authorities.

Then I heard a discussion on Jewish customs of the time and found it to be quite interesting. In the culture of the time, it was acceptable to back hand someone on the cheek with your right hand...done from someone of higher rank to someone of lesser rank. Cultural taboos made it impossible to strike with the left hand and only equals were struck with the palm of the hand.

By turning your cheek, you were subtly telling the aggressor that you were an equal.

There are interesting examples from European history which illustrate just how powerful simple acts of respectful insubordination can be.

Perhaps this was not as dramatic as what Bonhoeffer planned in response to Nazi Germany. But there were other options to resist Hitler. Imagine if all who called themselves Christians responded as the tiny Protestant village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon who hid 5,000 Jews from authorities? What if all of Europe had responded as Denmark who managed to move almost its entire Jewish population out of the country with only two days warning that Germany was taking them to a concentration camp? Less than 500 of Denmark's 7,500 Jews were captured, and the Danish government continued to work with Germany on their behalf. Care packages were sent and the Danish Red Cross arrived to inspect their condition at Theresienstadt. Eichmann did not dare move them to a death camp. Very few died. If I remember correctly, Denmark was also the only country which arranged to pick up the Jews as soon as Germany was defeated.
Denmark was also different and special in another way. Almost everywhere else in Europe, returning Jews found their homes had been broken into, and everything of value stolen. When the Danish Jews returned, they discovered that their homes, pets, gardens and personal belongings were cared for by their neighbors.
Had the Christian Church responded universally with such resistance, Nazi Germany never would have existed and violent measures would not have been necessary.

Photo: Danish fishermen saving Jews

Related Tags: , , ,