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Bonhoeffer and Interpretive Theory

Essays on Methods and Understanding

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Edited By Peter Frick

How does the contemporary reader make sense of the life and writings of such an icon as Dietrich Bonhoeffer? The essays in this volume seek to address this question by carefully examining the social, cultural, religious and intellectual locations that inform the Sitz im Leben of a vast readership of Bonhoeffer. The focus of each of the essays is thus on the task of articulating and clarifying a hermeneutically self-conscious and responsible approach to interpreting and understanding Bonhoeffer. The authors come from widely divergent backgrounds, both geographically and intellectually, and therefore offer a wide spectrum of dialogue. Methods and approaches examined in the essays discuss themes such as gender, religion, race, ecology, politics, philosophy, literature among others.

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Josiah Young: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Three Black Writers:James W. Johnson, Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen

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Josiah Young Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Three Black Writers: James W. Johnson, Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen Introduction Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in his “Report on My Year of Study at Union Theological Seminary in New York, 1930/31” that he worked in Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church “every Sunday at 2:30 in the afternoon” with black Union seminarian Albert Franklin Fisher. He and Fisher taught “a group of young Negroes in the Sunday school.” Bonhoeffer also “conduct- ed Bible study for some Negro women and once a week helped out in a weekday church school.” He not only became “well acquainted with several young Negroes,” but he “also visited their homes several times.” Bonhoef- fer’s encounter with black youth (who bring his work in East Berlin to mind) was a highlight of his experiences in the United States. Through them, he got “to know America quite intensively at one of its delicate points without being in a position where someone might dazzle [him].” 1 I take him to mean that black youth honestly and unpretentiously revealed their struggles against racism and the discontent they suffered because of white privilege. They disclosed to Bonhoeffer “the real face of America hidden behind the veil of words in the American constitution [sic] saying that ‘all men are cre- ated free and equal’.”2 Bonhoeffer remarked that some of the young blacks thought Christian- ity had “made their fathers […] meek in the face of their incomparably harsh fate” and so had begun to oppose the church....

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