come before winter

    The phrase “fake news” may have become vogue in the months since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, but the ideas behind it have dogged civilizations for years in times of war and crisis, the least of which not being Germany in the years leading up to and through World War II.

    The new documentary “Come Before Winter” examines topics revolving around fake news and high fidelity as it explores the final days of German Lutheran pastor and vehement Nazi resister Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It will be shown Monday, April 17, at the Community Campus, 1050 Fox Acres Road in Hailey, for free.

    Co-sponsored by local Jewish, Lutheran and Adventist congregations, the film was shot on the Baltic island of Rügen, Berlin, Buchenwald, Flossenbürg and various locations in England and Southern California, weaving together dramatic scenes and interviews with leading Bonhoeffer scholars.

    Bonhoeffer’s writings on a person of faith’s role in the secular world have become widely influential, and his books “Ethics” and “The Cost of Discipleship” have become modern classics.

    Bonhoeffer was born in 1906 in a province of the German Empire that is now part of Poland. He eventually completed a Doctor of Theology degree from Berlin University in 1927. Still too young to be ordained, he moved to the U.S. in 1930 at age 24 for postgraduate study and a teaching fellowship at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. During his time in the U.S., Bonhoeffer later wrote, he began to see things “from below,” meaning from the perspective of people who suffer oppression.

    He returned to Germany in 1931 and began lecturing in systematic theology at the University of Berlin, where he was appointed by the World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through the Churches—a precursor to the modern World Council of Churches—as one of three European youth secretaries. He was ordained that year in Berlin.

    His budding academic and ecclesiastical career was halted by the rise of the Nazi Party in 1933. He was a staunch Nazi opponent from the beginning, delivering a radio address attacking Hitler two days after Hitler’s installation as chancellor. In April 1933, Bonhoeffer became the first voice of church resistance to Hitler’s persecution of Jews, declaring that the church must not only “bandage the victims under the wheel, but jam the spoke in the wheel itself.”

    He also opposed the Nazification of the German church in 1933, when a rigged church election installed a number of Nazi supporters into key church positions. In late 1933, non-Nazi church opposition called on Bonhoeffer to co-pen the Bethel Confession, a new statement of faith opposing the Nazi-supported movement in the church.

    Bonhoeffer eventually became involved in underground seminaries after he was denounced as a pacifist and enemy of the state by Nazi-supporting theologian Theodor Heckel and his authorization to teach at the University of Berlin was revoked. He spent two years secretly traveling among German villages teaching illegal “seminaries on the run.”

He eventually was arrested in 1943 and was executed on April 8, 1945, by hanging at Floessenberg concentration camp along with seven others as part of a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler, just two weeks before the U.S. liberated the camp.

Bonhoeffer is commemorated as a martyr by many Protestant and Anglican churches.

Following the viewing of the film, there will be a Q&A session featuring the film’s producer, Gary Blount from Minnesota. Rabbi James Mirel, Rev. Gerald Reinke and Pastor Stephen McCandless—from the sponsoring congregations—will join Blount in the audience discussion.

    Preceding the main event, Blount will also present a one-hour program at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 15, at the Wood River Seventh-day Adventist Church in Hailey at 705 S. Main. He will share the historical framework and issues connected with Bonhoeffer’s involvement with the German resistance and the theologian’s viewpoints on the intersection of faith, action and ethics.

    All events are free.

Email the writer: akerstetter@mtexpress.com

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