How to Become a Hero c.j. hayden
   How to Become a Hero
   You Are the Champion the World Is Waiting For

   C.J. Hayden, MCC

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Questions of peace in times of war 

During World War II, the actions of many individuals might be considered heroic. If you asked the average American to name a Second World War hero, you might hear names like the generals George Patton or Douglas MacArthur, the young president-to-be John F. Kennedy, or America's most decorated soldier Audie Murphy. But there were many individuals who showed their heroism during this turbulent era who never fought in the war as soldiers. Some were political leaders, others were writers and teachers, many were pacifists. One intriguing figure I learned of recently was Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor in Germany who opposed the Nazis and called for resistance by the Christian church to Hitler's treatment of the Jews. He was banned by the Gestapo from preaching and eventually from teaching and all public speaking. He was arrested for funding the escape of Jews to Switzerland, and later implicated in the July 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler, for which he was executed.

What caught my attention about Bonhoeffer was that he began as a pacifist, but he became convinced of the need to plan Hitler's assassination. How does a pacifist preacher become a murderer? In a review of the documentary film Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace, the Christian Broadcasting Network asks: "What does a Christian do when faced with the choice of following an immoral law or adhering to God's law?... The actions of Bonhoeffer raise questions about justice, service, sacrifice and moral responsibility."

Bonhoeffer finally came to the conclusion that he must choose the lesser of two evils. He reportedly declared, "I believe it is worse to be evil than to do evil."

When is it ever appropriate to take violent action in the pursuit of peace and justice? No less an authority on pacifism than Martin Luther King once said, "If your opponent has a conscience, then follow Ghandi and non-violence. But if your enemy has no conscience like Hitler, then follow Bonhoeffer." Nelson Mandela was also committed to peace, but turned to violence when all other avenues seemed blocked.

There are no easy answers to these difficult questions. Perhaps we can find some guidance in the words of South African theologian Dr. John De Gruchy, who has studied both Bonhoeffer and Mandela. De Gruchy suggests: "Only those committed to peacemaking have the moral authority to move to violent resistance. Only those who risk their own lives for the good of others deserve our acclaim, even if in our own struggle we do not agree with them."

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