When Hitler came to power in Germany and tried to unite all Protestants into one German national church justifying Nazism and anti-Semitism, a group of Lutheran, Reformed and Union church pastors and lay people rebelled and formed the Confessing Church. Their “Barmen Declaration” of 1934 stated that the church’s proclamation consists only in Jesus Christ, not in Nazism. Confessing Church people engaged in various forms of resistance, ranging from hiding Jews, to training pastors in an illegal seminary, to secret plots to assassinate Hitler. Chief among them was the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor executed by the Nazis in 1945.

Bonhoeffer is the man new Labor leader Kevin Rudd has described as the man he most admires from the 20th century because he did the right thing in the difficult reign of the Nazis. As Rudd told Kerry O’Brien on the 7.30 Report on the night of his election, Bonhoeffer “stood up against the regime, he obeyed his conscience, he did that which was uncomfortable.”

John Roskam, writing in The Age this week, suggests this admiration for the German theologian indicates that Rudd will be “brave enough to confront those who believe that the challenge to liberal democracy can be solved through discussion.”

As a guide to what else we can expect from the new Labor Leader in the months ahead, some extracts from the works of the German theologian might be of assistance:

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”

“To endure the cross is not tragedy; it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ”

“A God who let us prove his existence would be an idol”

“Politics are not the task of a Christian.”

“Only he who believes is obedient and only he who is obedient believes.”

“It is the characteristic excellence of the strong man that he can bring momentous issues to the fore and make a decision about them. The weak are always forced to decide between alternatives they have not chosen themselves.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey