Blogger Simon Barrow recently wrote about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor, who was murdered 63 years ago by the Nazis. He refers to an article on Bonhoeffer that discusses the question of how one distinguishes between the spiritual and the political, a question which came into play as people evaluated Bonhoeffer's own martydom:
Strangely, even some of his fellow Lutherans did not realize at first how consistently Bonhoeffer lived out his creed. Immediately after World War II, pastors in Bielefeld opposed plans to have a street named after him. Bavaria’s Lutheran bishop Hans Meiser, himself a prominent anti-Nazi cleric, protested vigorously against a proposal to install a plaque commemorating Bonhoeffer as a “witness to Jesus Christ among his brethren” at Flossenbürg concentration camp where he was put to death only days before it was liberated by U.S. forces.When it comes to the opposing Nazism, someone will have to remind me what the difference is between the political and the religious. I just don't see it. Ultimately, I think it is difficult in general to draw the line between the secular and spiritual realities of life, but when it comes to something as plainly evil as Nazism, this particularly becomes apparent. I would submit that it is an empty spirituality that does not concern itself with institutional evil and social injustice. If a religious faith does not lead one to engage in the political activity necessary to oppose Nazism, then there is something seriously wrong with that faith.
In Meiser’s opinion, Bonhoeffer’s resistance was “political, not religious.” In a sense he was right. The Church of England showed more generosity. It adorned the western entrance to Westminster Abbey in London with a Bonhoeffer statue thus giving him the status of a 20th-century martyr. But then Anglicans do not draw as sharp a line as Lutherans between the secular and spiritual realities of life.
I need only point out that Jesus himself was murdered by the political authorities of a powerful and brutally violent Empire.