Yesterday a discussion broke out in the comments about whether or not the murderer of abortionist George Tiller is equivalent to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who conspired to kill Hitler. It so happens that I had just seen the movie “Valkyrie” about a different plot to kill Hitler and had been searching the web for information about exactly what Bonhoeffer did. According to this account, Bonhoeffer was actively involved in the broader resistance movement, though his involvement with the conspiracy to kill Hitler was very indirect. Still, I was struck by this:
He did not justify his action but accepted that he was taking guilt upon himself as he wrote “when a man takes guilt upon himself in responsibility, he imputes his guilt to himself and no one else. He answers for it… Before other men he is justified by dire necessity; before himself he is acquitted by his conscience, but before God he hopes only for grace.” . (In this connection, it is worthwhile to recall his 1932 sermon, in which he said: “the blood of martyrs might once again be demanded, but this blood, if we really have the courage and loyalty to shed it, will not be innocent, shining like that of the first witnesses for the faith. On our blood lies heavy guilt, the guilt of the unprofitable servant who is cast into outer darkness.”
One difference between Bonhoeffer and violent culture warriors today is that he didn’t justify what he did. He didn’t insist that he was doing the right thing, that what he did was really good and carried out in a spirit of self-righteousness. He did it in guilt and in the need for grace.