Why it Exists
In the previous post I discussed the strangeness of Progressive Christianity’s embrace of Bonhoeffer given the unbridgeable theological and political chasm between them and him. The question remains as to why they are compelled to do so.
Although there are numerous aspects to the answer, the most consequential is this:
Many Christian Progressives have convinced themselves that the easiest and surest means of achieving moral superiority (with its associated political power) is to demonstrate disdain, even hatred, for their own country.
That is, by claiming moral convictions of such purity, such unassailable certitude, such uniqueness and so divorced from normal national connectedness, they are compelled to despise their own country because of its crimes against humanity. Just like did that moral giant and Christian martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Perhaps these moral paragons of perfection will listen to one of their own with regard to the error of their ways. Here’s what Henry Sloane Coffin had to say about their mindset in a 1942 (note the same time period as Bonhoeffer) article titled “The Continuing Pacifist Menace: How Pacifists Do Harm.”
Their type of mind is Utopian. They will have the kingdom of Heaven or nothing. That kingdom cannot be established by human effort alone nor will it be achieved in any historic situation. We can only expect and work for some approximation to the divine ideal—the best we can contrive under the circumstances. But absolutists abhor these relative goods, with their admixture of evil. And when men refuse to work with the best they can get under given conditions they force something far worse on mankind.
Living as they actually do in a liberal democratic republic, this moral pose actually costs them almost nothing while reaping unearned moral credit. This attitude is different than the “cheap grace” opposed by Bonhoeffer in his life. No, this is a far step beyond, into what I have come to think of as “cheap Bonhoeffer-ism.” They do indeed “force something far worse on mankind” by their thought and action.
As we saw in the previous post, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was what would be today called a theological and political conservative. He thus had not the slightest intention or desire to hate his own country, Germany. However, this gentle, brilliant Christian man yet found himself enmeshed within the vile evil associated with Nazism’s rise to power during the 1930s, and its genocidal use of that power in the 1940s. Due only to these extraordinary circumstances, Bonhoeffer was forced by his Christian convictions to actively work against the Nazi state.
Had the Weimar Republic (the German state between 1919 and 1933) evolved in a non-totalitarian direction, it is virtually impossible to imagine that Bonhoeffer would have even approached traitorous resistance. Yes, he would certainly have been an active and effective critic of the shortcomings of such a regime. However, his motivations would have been patriotic and beneficent towards his native country.
Progressive Christianity has twisted this extraordinary man and situation into standard operating procedure for themselves and their politics. That is, whereas Dietrich Bonhoeffer was forced into active disloyalty towards a totalitarian and genocidal regime, Progressive Christianity applies this situation to the normal political disagreements within the liberal democratic republic of the United States.
Thus, whenever a non-Progressive (usually a Republican) dares to oppose their policies, or worse yet, to win an election, some of them (repeatedly) convince themselves that it is the rise of yet another Hitler. In their minds there is no legitimacy for or loyalty to a nation that again and again elects the equivalent of Hitler to power. Thus they literally see themselves as in a similar situation to Dietrich Bonhoeffer!
Some readers may balk at accepting this claim. However, I make it after having personally experienced this progressive “Hitler-mania” on far too many occasions.
For example, recall the “Bushitler” craze during the George W. Bush presidency. In a class supposedly about Dietrich Bonhoeffer I was forced to listen to Progressive Christians earnestly discussing if George W. Bush was the new Hitler. After two wasted class periods I spoke up, explaining my disbelief that such a ridiculous fantasy had consumed so much time. I also pointed out the absurdity of this comparison given the conditions existing in Nazi Germany as opposed to the United States (e.g., Barack Obama was likely to be elected the next President).
Their response shocked and appalled me. That is, they were utterly silent. Here were people who for two entire periods had presumed to lecture those of us evil and/or stupid enough to have voted for the next Hitler being reduced to shocked silence simply by the voicing of an opposing view. What happened to their massive, unimpeachable evidence for this horror? It simply evaporated. And yet, there was not the slightest recognition that they had been both wrong and cruel. In point of fact, when George W. Bush quietly retired as Barack Obama’s presidency began, not a single one of these people admitted their error or apologized for their cruelty.
I recognize in this situation a real-world example of the “Progressive bubble-dom” metaphor. For here we have almost nothing besides air on the inside, reality on the outside, and only an easily demolished membrane separating these real and unreal worlds.
The point is that, by assuming political opponents to be the equivalent of Hitler, some Progressive Christians maintain the absurd fantasy that they are “little Bonhoeffers” who justly despise the nation of their birth. Thus, in the face of such supposed reoccurring evil, they bear no loyalty to the nation, and, they are freed to conduct themselves using any means necessary to destroy that same supposed evil. The consequences of this bizarre derangement are becoming clearer with each passing day.