I found the above gem (pictured on top of the greatest book of all!) in our up north home where we recently vacationed for ten days. Our northern home is the only place where I never take books, because so many of our books remained up there when we moved to Southern Wisconsin four plus years ago. We brought some sixty-eight boxes of books down with us when we moved, and they are now mingling on our shelves alongside dozens more which we’ve purchased since 2009. Electronic devices and gadgets will never replace books in my life!
Many of our books have a history of wherever I bought them—a bookstore, antique mall, online sources, library sales, or the quintessential Mother Lode Rummage Sale. We have a lot of books bequeathed by family members. With gift books, I can normally recall the donor. But VOICES IN THE NIGHT is enigmatic because I cannot recall ever seeing it, until I found it lying on a living room table in our Northern Hill House. Maybe an angel popped in and dropped the book off when no one was looking.
I scooped up that book, began reading it, brought it back home to Nashotah, and I have been re-reading and musing over it ever since. German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived from 1906 to 1945. Bonhoeffer vigorously opposed National Socialism and the anti-Semitism which insidiously brainwashed German culture via universities, writers, state sanctioned churches, and theorists—along with deliberate agitation among workers, community leaders, and finally the unconscionable politics and policies of Hitler’s Third Reich.
According to a sermon by Pastor John Luhmann posted on http://sovereignhopechurch.com/ : “Bonhoeffer’s driving purpose was to be faithfully engaged with God and the world. This sense of responsibility led him to play a prominent role in . . . . the conspiracy and assassination attempts against Hitler, involvements which would significantly shape his life as a disciple of Jesus Christ . . . .”
While sympathetic with the assassination plot, Bonhoeffer was imprisoned on the grounds of “subversions of armed forces”; he had discouraged young men from joining the military. His two year incarceration culminated in his execution on April 9th, 1945—within earshot of advancing American troops who, just a few days later, liberated the very village where Dietrich Bonhoeffer died.
Bonhoeffer’s prison poems plus excerpts from letters to his fiancée, Maria, and his friend, Eberharde Bethge, reflect his deepest thoughts and feelings concerning his own life, his family and church, the value of freedom, and the possibility (finally turned probability) of his pending death. All of the Bonhoeffer’s writings in this slim volume are powerful. But the poem Nächtliche Stimmen (Voices in the Night) is classic in its poignant sense of despair over circumstances coupled with Bonhoeffer’s analysis of his role in an assassination plot. In the poem, he asserts that he knows he is guilty before God, but he refuses to acknowledge guilt before man.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer ends the poem with these words: “. . . until our day dawns, we shall hold our ground.”
Other poems reveal the solidarity of Bonhoeffer’s faith in the Savior, along with his passion for and commitment to the Holy Bible. As he realizes that death is fast approaching, he knows that through death he will finally be free!
VOICES IN THE NIGHT . . . The Prison Poems of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is translated by a British pastor, Edwin Robertson, who has invested decades in a study of Bonhoeffer’s life. With each poem, the translator presents insights into the work—and historical documentary is also included in the book. I cannot say enough about this treasure. In fact, I really cannot say anything more because the book and the man who wrote the poems say it all!
While Hitler was not opposed to a watered-down version of once professing Christian churches, those members of German churches who did not compromise with the Nazi regime were called The Confessing Church. These (including Roman Catholics and Protestants) remained firm in their doctrinal confession of faith; countless individuals were executed either in Nazi prisons—or in the gas chambers along with God’s chosen, the Jews.
I would be insulting the intelligence of anyone reading this blog, if I were to present a detailed account of the parallels between Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 40s and the United States of America in 2014. The comparison is a colossal DUH to anyone whose brain is engaged!
Encroaching National Socialism, bleeding heart and out-of-touch academia, perverted morals, situation ethics, tolerance of Islam, rising anti-Semitism, and the erosion of our U.S. Constitution: you connect the dots! I believe the major dot-connector is the present, rampantly apostate, totally watered-down, once-Christian Church in America—and the ever-growing stigma against those of us who are fundamental Bible believers.
Our twenty-one year old grandson, Tyler, a student at Columbia International University (formerly Columbia Bible College) recently encouraged me greatly with the reminder that, down through history, persecution has always strengthened the Church of Jesus Christ.
May God send the cleansing, purifying wind of His Holy Spirit across our land to unite Christians in a return to the Word—and a joyous anticipation of the freedom we will have when we meet the Lord Jesus Christ face to face! May we continue to “hold our ground”, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer did in the perilous days of the Third Reich.
Margaret L. Been, April 2014
NOTE: Along with the above-reviewed book, I recommend a powerful drama, THE BEAMS ARE CREAKING, by Douglas Anderson. The play capsulizes the political issues of the day as viewed through Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his friends, while Dietrich was in the Nazi prison. We saw this play over twenty years ago, presented by a small theatre group in Milwaukee. The play ends with a soul-stirring performance of Martin Luther’s magnificent hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God.