Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Bonhoeffer insists on Christians’ freedom to live their lives responsibly and freely under God-reality in Jesus Christ, the ultimate form of complete empathy of the God-human nature in Jesus Christ. To that end, Bonhoeffer offers some ethical examples:No one may kill arbitrarily, and no one may kill anyone unable to defend himself or herself. One may kill the enemy soldier as one who acts as agent of some agency who would bring chaos over one’s own land. No euthanasia is permitted except with the consent of the person euthanized. However, if a ship were to contain sick people who with certainty would infect healthy persons aboard, one may kill the sick to save the ones who are well. Abortion is murder, but if the mother is alone and desperate, the community bears the guilt for the act. Catholicism is wrong about birth control because its insistence leads to joyless marriages, which are wrongs in themselves. The mandates being separate, the Church also should not be involved in any pronouncements about a personal mandate dedicated to mutual pleasure. Only voluntary sterilization is permitted. No slavery may be permitted. Torture, such as state-ordered sterilization, is a breach of a person’s sphere of privacy; it is never permitted. It is a sign of lack of education (lack of Bildung) to laugh at culturally different forms of dancing, to devaluate any work, to take advantage of a person’s momentary weakness, not to know the basic conditions of nature and mental life, to make fun of something because it is different from one’s own culture, to showcase one’s education and learning, or to tend toward excessive ambition. Prayer should be private; public prayer shames, like deep joy or deep sorrow. One should never judge or even judgingly talk about anyone else. In some cases, one must lie. Truth and words are contextual. Bonhoeffer’s example is a child’s being asked in the classroom by the teacher about the father’s alcoholism and instances of drunkenness. The child’s lie is appropriate because the question occurs in the wrong context. With greater sophistication, the child might have addressed the contextual inappropriateness.