The title of my forthcoming presentation for the 2020 FairMormon conference has now been posted. It is “The Book of Mormon Witnesses: Variety and Complexity.” My remarks will likely include a medley of four short clips — totaling, altogether, roughly five or perhaps six minutes — from the forthcoming Interpreter Foundation Witnesses theatrical film. They are also very likely to be accompanied by still photographs taken on the set of the film.
Over the past few days, I’ve been doing some reading in Christiane Tietz, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologe im Widerstand (Munich: Verlag C. H. Beck, 2013), about the heroic Protestant theologian and anti-Nazi martyr (1906-1945), who was executed just twenty-one days before Adolf Hitler committed suicide. As my own notation inside the book indicates, I bought it during a visit to the Nazi death camp at Buchenwald in August 2015.
Here are three passages stemming from the year of study (1930-1931) that he spent in the United States at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. I give them in my translation:
The first is a passage from a letter to his parents. In my translation, I use the ethnic term that I expect Bonhoeffer himself to have used when speaking English:
I lived in Washington entirely among the Negroes [unter den Negern] and, thanks to the students, came to know all of the leading people of the Negro movement [Negerbewegung]. I spent time in their homes and had extraordinarily interesting conversations. . . . The circumstances are, frankly, rather unbelievable. Not only the segregated railway, tramway, and bus south of Washington, but also, when (for example) I wanted to go with a Negro [mit einem Neger] to a restaurant for something to eat, I was denied service. (31-32)
So far as I can tell, the second passage may come from that same letter:
The way in which Southerners talk about Negroes [die Neger] is simply disgusting, and pastors are no better than others in this respect. . . . Frankly, it is incredible [unheimlich] that such things go wholly uncorrected in a land with so exceedingly many phrases about “brotherhood,” “peace,” and so forth. (32)
His impression of such Christian racism is especially striking in view of a passage in a letter that he wrote to his friend Max Diestel:
In New York, one can hear preaching about almost anything. There is just one thing that you won’t hear about. Anyway, it’s so seldom that I, at least, haven’t yet managed to hear it — namely, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of the cross, of sin and forgiveness, of death and life. . . . But what takes the place of the Christian message? A belief in Progress, an ethical and social idealism that arrogates to itself (on what basis one can’t really tell) the right to call itself “Christian.” There are essentially “benevolent” churches, and some that really do engage in social issues, but one can scarcely escape the impression in many such cases that people have forgotten what it’s actually about. (30)
The official website of the Church of Jesus Christ has posted a nice article and a very short video in preparation for Pioneer Day, which is a state holiday in Utah that is celebrated annually on 24 July and that is often also noted by Church members elsewhere around the world:
Posted from Estes Park, Colorado