Review: Bonhoeffer

Hey all.

So this year, I’m trying to get into audiobooks.  I spend a lot of time in my car, and in looking for a way to redeem that time, I’m trying out books instead of music.

I started off with The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (and I JUST realized I never wrote a review for that – I’m on it!), then moved to something much weightier – Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas.

Bonhoeffer tells the story of the life and death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer – a German Evangelical pastor who was part of the plot to assassinate Hitler.  As I’ve mentioned in my posts before, I’m a Christian, and the idea of trying to reconcile one’s Christian beliefs with seeking to murder someone for the greater good was fascinating to me.

The size of this book was pretty daunting – I was going to spend over 24 hours listening to this beast of a biography.  Thankfully, the reader (who did a GREAT job, by the way) read slowly, so I was able to increase the audio speed of my app and cut that baby down to 21-22 hours.  Slightly more manageable.

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Eric Metaxas does a great job of leaving no stone unturned.  Bonhoeffer starts with Dietrich’s ancestors – it took longer to get to his birth than I was expecting.  But Metaxas draws on Bonhoeffer’s family history throughout the story, so it definitely wasn’t in vain.

He then takes us through Bonhoeffer’s entire life: his childhood and schooling, his time in America and multiple countries in Europe, his theological journey and convictions, and how he became a part of the Hitler assassination attempt.

Metaxas does a marvelous job of weaving in details and context, helping the reader to understand why each little piece matters.  He writes matter-of-factly but not so much that we don’t care about Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  On the contrary, I found myself caring very much.

The one negative thing I’ll say is that I found the author’s interpretation of the religious climate in Germany a little… how do I say this?  Disappointing.  Or I guess, more accurately, I found myself doubting the validity of what he was saying due to many of his comments the past year regarding Evangelicals in America today and the Trump administration.  His comments have come across as very nationalist, so when I read his criticisms of the German church’s harmful nationalism and how it affected the Jews, I had to roll my eyes just a bit – it seemed hypocritical in light of his defense of many of Trump’s nationalist, racist, and prejudiced comments and policies.

I struggle with trying to understand how an author’s actions outside of their work affects my enjoyment of their work.  More on that another time, maybe.

It was a good biography – thorough and engaging.  I would recommend it if WWII interests you, if Christian ethics interest you, or if you want to think more about today’s political climate through a new lens.

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