Dietrich Bonhoeffer vs. Emma of Hawaii

The Faithful Four continues today as Dietrich Bonhoeffer takes on Emma of Hawaii for the right to face Mary Magdalene (who dominated Margaret of Scotland yesterday) for the 2012 Golden Halo. This match-up features one of the favorites to make it to the Faithful Four (Bonhoeffer) along with the true Cinderella of Lent Madness (Emma).

If anyone who completed a bracket before the start of Lent Madness had Emma of Hawaii making it this far, we commend you for your prophetic voice. Though we secretly believe you're lying. Seriously, did anyone out there pick Emma to make it to the Faithful Four?

To get to this point, Dietrich Bonhoeffer defeated James the Apostle, Brigid of Kildare, and Jerome while Emma of Hawaii got past Catherine of Siena, Paul of Tarsus, and Thomas Cranmer. And now, in the final battle before the Championship Round, we turn it over to celebrity bloggers Neil Alan Willard (Dietrich Bonhoeffer) and Heidi Shott (Emma of Hawaii).

Just as a reminder, the polls for the Golden Halo will open at 8:00 am on Spy Wednesday and close at 8:00 am on Maundy Thursday. Here's the updated bracket.

Easter Monday will mark the sixty-seventh anniversary of the execution of Dietrich Bonhoeffer at the Flossenbürg concentration camp in Nazi Germany and of his last words: “This is the end – for me the beginning of life.” Those words, it seems to me, testify to the Easter faith that will be proclaimed this weekend throughout the world. In proximity to human suffering on a scale that is unimaginable to most of us, Bonhoeffer was able to declare that the ultimate word, a word of life, belongs to God.

The St. Stephen’s Martyrs – a group of men at my church – gather weekly for an hour or so of theology and a pint or so of beer. About a year ago we talked about the Holocaust. While having that discussion, there were related artifacts, Nazi and otherwise, in the middle of the table. It’s one thing to see those objects in old black and white news reels and quite another to see them in living color as we wrestled with suffering, revenge, justice, doubt, and – yes – faith, too. I can’t imagine how much harder it must have been for Bonhoeffer and others as they together wrestled not with relics but with realities. These were imperfect people, including Bonhoeffer, making imperfect decisions that they would have to live with for the rest of their lives.

Would we have returned home to Germany rather than stay in the United States? Would we have supported an underground seminary for the Confessing Church? Would we have chosen to jam the wheel of injustice by helping the conspiracy to assassinate the Nazi Führer Adolf Hitler?

Bonhoeffer made a decision, as a result of his faith in Christ, to stand with his own people and with the innocent in the midst of their experience of Good Friday. That, I think, was his most important and courageous decision.
Here’s a final endorsement from a higher authority in the Anglican Communion. Soon after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, announced that he would be resigning his position at the end of this year, he was interviewed about his various roles and secularism and faith by a parish priest in the Church of England. Archbishop Williams was asked, as the final question, with whom he would like to have dinner if he could sit down with anyone who has lived over the last hundred years. He answered, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury has cast his vote. Now it’s your turn.

-- Neil Alan Willard

After such hefty and regular doses of saintliness these past 40 days, the notion of what constitutes a saint is somewhat clearer in my mind. Several characteristics stand out: faithfulness to God despite hardship, fierce loyalty to one’s people, extravagant charity outside the bounds of cultural and social expectations. Queen Emma of Hawaii displayed all of these in boundless measure. Ultimately saintliness - our own included - is determined by the choices we human beings make over the course of our lives. Emma’s remarkable witness and legacy is defined by her choices.

Despite the tragedy of losing her beloved young son and her cherished husband as a woman still in her twenties, she chose to overcome her grief and become a staunch advocate for the Anglican mission in Hawaii and for her people. Despite her high station in life, she chose to work tirelessly to improve the health, the education, and the spiritual well-being of native Hawaiians of all ranks as well as haolies and foreigners.

Upon her death in 1885, Emma, whose baptism had been the first recorded in the parish register of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, was eulogized in Hawaiian by a congregational minister, the Rev. H.H. Parker. He posed the question to the grieving, “How did the late queen hold so supreme a place in the hearts of her people?”

He answered: “She loved the people. Love begets love. The common people believed that Queen Emma really did care for them.”

I am deeply inspired by the choices that Queen Emma made. She could have hunkered down in a cocoon of grief and privilege given her losses, her wealth, and her royal status. She could have abandoned the work of building the cathedral and the schools, but instead she sailed across two oceans to drum up funding for the cause. Indeed Bishop Wilberforce of Oxford, her guide in England, said, “...her energetic efforts and activities taxed his physical endurance.” By the time she left England - where she drew standing-room only crowds at numerous cathedrals - she had raised 6,000 pounds (about $640,000 in today's currency) for the work in Hawaii.

An obituary read, in part:

“The Queen is dead. We will not think of her as dead. Her good deeds will live after her, in them she will live, in that noble Hospital, in her Christian example she will live and those who knew her, loved her, cherished her can say with resignation:

There is no death!
What seems so is transition;
This life is of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life Elysian,
Whose portal we call death.”

Many saints are honored and venerated, but few are so beloved  - generation beyond generation - as Queen Emma of Hawaii.

“Love begets love” is right, and a standard for all the saints of God.

 -- Heidi Shott

Vote once!

NOTE: At 12:14 a.m. EDT, the Supreme Executive Committee removed 70 votes from Emma of Hawaii. We noticed that there were 20 votes in close succession from a residence in Hawaii and 50 from a residence in Arizona. While we commend your enthusiasm, we do not commend repeat voting. We're watching this one carefully, so don't vote more than once, please.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer vs. Emma of Hawaii

  • Emma of Hawaii (51%, 1,388 Votes)
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer (49%, 1,356 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,744

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108 comments on “Dietrich Bonhoeffer vs. Emma of Hawaii”

    1. Queen Emma's moon is in my skies. Inspite of potentially devastated losses she continued to be faitherful to God and her people. Through charity and kidness, she built hospitals, churches, schools and libraries, and we continue to benefit from her life's work today. Kaleleonalani. Absolutely!

  1. The loss of sons seems to be the theme of this week--the most important being Mary's boy. I was truly going to vote for Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but reconsidered after the funeral yesterday of one of my high school students (only 16). I sat and ached for his mother and father, and decided to vote for Emma, not because she's the Cinderella of Lenten Madness, but because as a mother, she did so much after losing so much.

  2. I went with Emma today. I admire her decision to help others in response to her grief. I will never be comfortable with Dietrich's decision to be involved in a plot to kill Hitler.

  3. I know what is it to lose a child. It is a grief which remains for all this lifetime but hopefully, like Emma, the suffering becomes a life-giving gift to others in need. I deeply respect and understand Emma's faith witness and she would have my vote if not for the martyr Bonhoeffer.

  4. Wow! out of what, 35 voting sessions I have only missed 7 saints. Pretty good discernment on my part. I'll see if my Golden Halo prediction carries through as a win as well. Now why didn't I buy that lottery ticket?!?!?!?!

  5. I choose Bonhoeffer without hesitation. He was a soldier in a war against madness. He left safety behind and marched straight into hell where he ministered to the souls around him, including his captors. He didn't turn from his cup. His life and writings reach across the generations to inspire and uplift.

  6. Great write-ups today. Both saints look a bit less "saintly" and a lot more real and personal and thus easier to relate to. I think that I have to go with Emma today.

  7. DB. He could have remained in this country and safely ridden out the war. In the face of grave personal danger, he chose to return to his country and to actively resist perhaps the most evil movement of the 20th century. I understand, and, to an extent identify with Cori's comment, but I also must consider the context in which Bonhoeffer, at such obvious personal risk, participated in the effort to stop what many would call the most evil force of the 20th Century. RIP Dietrich.

  8. I voted for Bonhoeffer; however, will not be disappointed if Emma wins. From what I've learned about her, it seems her path sainthood is similar to the more ancient path to sainthood, where someone became a saint because people in the local community saw them as such and continued to be devoted to them after their deaths. In her case she built in her own Cathedral rather than a chapel being built for her.

  9. For me, it was a clear choice. Not that Emma is less than wonderful and did great things for her people, but Bonhoeffer gave absolutely everything for his faith, including his life. Emma joined with Victoria, one of the worlds greatest colonialisers, while Bonhoeffer stood up against Hitler, one of histories great Satans.

  10. Heidi and Neil have done an excellent job of giving us a peak into all the saints about which they have written and today is the "frosting on the cake" or should I say "the polish on the halo". Scott and Tim did an excellent job of choosing (and coaching?) the guest authors. All the write ups have been wonderful.
    Before I read todays comments I was sure I would vote for DB, a true martyr but Emma captured me. Perhaps that is why she is a "Cinderella"? Still not sure who will get my vote. Good contest.

  11. It's hard to choose when I voted for both, but Bonhoeffer gets my vote again this time.

  12. "This is the end-for me, the beginning of life." On Maundy Thursday, on Good Friday, at the Great Vigil as the new fire blazes forth from a spark to glorious light and the bells peal throughout the cathedral, on Easter morn, and finally on Easter Moday, these words wil echo and re-echo throughout my head. They are now indelibly imprinted on my poor feeble brain and in my heart. I've had a glorious time with LENT MADNESS, but for the first time, it really doesn't matter who wins the GOLDEN HALO, because he who chose to lose his life by returning to fight pure unadulterated evil knew the only result would be sure and certain death, but the ultimate victory.

  13. I love the story of Emma, but I must go with Bonhoeffer, who not only gave his life to save the faith in a beleaguered country, but inspired countless others to live their lives more in harmony with God than would have been the case under the terrors of Nazism.

  14. We think both saints were amazing people. Since we couldn't decide we got our Wilson tennis racket out and voted down or up. The W was for Emma and the M was for Bonhoeffer. The racket came up with the W. So we are voting for Emma of Hawaii!

  15. I spent my Lent on a Madness jag,
    Kitschy and daft and fun.
    I laughed and learned as the brackets churned.
    I'm sorry it's almost done.
    And one is Hawaiian and one is a "Scot"
    And one fought the Nazis and one did not.
    They are all halo-worthy, I would agree,
    But Deitrich's the one for me.

    1. Most excellent verse to one of my favorites. 🙂
      Rachel and Adam announced their intentions to vote for Bonhoeffer at breakfast, so I'm betting that's what we'll do unless someone has a last-minute change of heart.

  16. Bonhoeffer truly is a saint. No contest. But Emma represents for me someone wonderful among the Hawaiian people. She was caught up as an Anglophile in her moment in time. But she never lost sight of her responsibility to her people and being a servant in addressing their needs. I love her for that and am grateful for what a model she is for the Church in Hawaii today, a true servant leader.

      1. So, did you vote against Margaret when so many Scots/Celts were pulling for her?

        1. Guess I just remembered the discussion about whether she was instead English, Hungarian, anti-Celtic church and figured it would balance!