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. So, what WAS Bonhoeffer's role in the plot ?

    He communicated with George Bell, Bishop of Chichester. He could travel outside of Germany with his papers. He told Bell what was going on in Germany: jews, concentration camps, the works. Bell, in turn, talked to government leaders (Eden, etc) to keep them current with German Resistance. The British government was ambivalent at best, never agreeing to support those trying to depose Hitler and the nazis.

    Bell and Bonhoeffer went way back, they were co-conspirators against death and hatred.. in short, the war. Bell, carefully laundering the information from Bonhoeffer, wrote letters in The Times, spoke in the pulpit, and addressed the House of Lords; getting the word out. He was opposed by C of C leadership and Churchill. He spoke out, too, against the RAF policy of saturation bombing, dropping bombs at night over Hamburg and other cities to simply destroy whatever they could. Although it was demonstrated during the war, and proven after the war, that this bombing attack - exactly the same as the blitz against London and Coventry served no military purpose, it was supported wholeheartedly by Temple and others who proclaimed that it was better for German civilians to die in the night than for British civilians to die in the night. The firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo were evils of the same nature as anything the Nazis did, and Bell stood against it.

    Bonhoeffer and Bell fought both Hitler and Churchill, (and Roosevelt), and the established church. Their plot was not only against Hitler, but against Shock and Awe, inhumanity, hatred and evil from both sides of the war. THEIR battle, Bonhoeffer's war, is still being fought today. We still manage to parse our "Christian religion" in Nationalist and ideological terms, while women, homosexuals, the poor.... on and on and on... are under attack from all sides. We are still fighting Bonhoeffer's war, which simply involves the job of following Jesus, of being for other people.

    Dismissing Bonhoeffer simply as a 'Hitler Plotter' is to put the commandment into a box, and putting it out of sight: In Holy Week, love each other as I have loved you. No exceptions, not loopholes. Dietrich recognized HIS choice was to sacrifice his cherished pacifism, and deny his God, or to accept his God, and deny his comfortable principle. He said he would give up himself and follow Christ.

    1. don, beautifully said. Both profiles are excellent; I have lots to ponder about both of these saints. What I have really loved about LM is adding what i have learned about the saints to my prayer and meditative life. I'm also sharing with my three daughters. Love it! and I choose Bonhoeffer.

    2. Thanks Don Cardwell...
      the decisions made by Bonhoeffer and Bell humble me. I am pleased to know more about this Halo-worthy man. Bonhoeffer will be in my prayers this Holy Week.

  2. Thank you Peg, for doing what I wanted to do - make a Lent Madness verse to one of my favorite hymns! I love it. And Thank you Don for the added information about Bonhoeffer. He gets my vote today.

  3. Although I chose Bonhoeffer, both he and Emma demonstrate courage and grace to be emulated. My daily problems seem so petty compared to theirs.

  4. This is tough--voted for both in past rounds and now--well--I guess its DB--standing against the horrors of war and the evil that went with it speaks loudly today: the son of a close friend was in a training unit of 15 in Afghanistan--2 are still alive, although neither is whole: both were injured so severely that they were given discharges from the army. These are kids that are being sent off to die. (Our friend's son is one of the two--therapy, dead-end job and all: he is alive.)

  5. Bonhoeffer's decision to help assassinate Hitler was not only morally indefensible,
    but tactically shortsighted. Killing Hitler would not have stopped the Nazis. They
    would simply have replaced him with another evil man and things would have gone
    on as before. Also, if this assassination plot was God's Will , why did it fail?

  6. Ē nā ali‘i, ma ka hana maika‘i i lawe mai ai ka ho‘omana, ka na‘auao me ka ho‘ōla; a ma ka ‘eha ā pilikia ne he ‘ohana i loko o Kristo e a‘o mai i ka ha‘aha‘a me ke aloha e ho‘omaika‘i ko‘olua mau inoa, ā e nonoi a‘e e pule ai no mākou, ‘o kō ‘olua mau keiki mana lani.

    The invocation above asks the intercession of the King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma Kaleleonālani on behalf of the Church: “O holy chiefs, through your good works you brought us faith, knowledge and health, through your pain and suffering as a family in Christ you have taught us humility and love, we celebrate your memory, asking you to pray for us, your spiritual children.”

  7. Haiku for DB

    Stern in the cost of His Grace,
    begins at the end.

  8. When I was young in the 40's & 50's I read the literature of WWII. The heroes (male and female) of the various resistance movements were my heroes. It was not until I was in college that I read of Bonhoeffer. But he joined that pantheon. But now I am much older. I have spent many years studying local history in the various places where I have lived, including this place. Each of our native saints have had to decide how to proceed in order that their people might not perish and might preserve what they can of their life and land. Native people everywhere have chosen different strategies. They have given their lives that others might live. All of us who are of European descent living in the other places of the world must humbly ask "on whose land am I standing" and "at what price was it secured for me." In this day and age, it is a complicated thing for me to honor Bonhoeffer while others who plot to kill to protect their people are branded savages, terrorists, etc. The price Emma paid was perhaps not as visible as the price paid by Bonhoeffer, but it was no less heroic. To men perhaps it looks as if she benefited from her choices. But many of us who have related across cultural boundaries in times such as hers and ours, know that we die many small deaths in the service of love. I love the line "She loved the people. Love begets love..." My vote goes for Emma who like Esther was faithful via a woman's way of being.

    1. If you go far enough back, EVERYONE is living on land that his ancestors took from someone else's ancestors, unless you live in the Olvadui Gorge.

      1. There is controversy concerning The Olduvai Gorge being the Cradle of Civilisation.Perhaps Mary was incorrect in her findings. The Hawaiian people were probably the native people of the islands. There might have been a very small tribe of little people similar to the Menehunes inhabiting the islands before the pure Hawaiians, or not. The citizens of Hawai'i are today a melting pot of many races, cultures, and religions. All of these Children of God embrace the good works of Emma. h+++

  9. I am currently reading, "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy," by Eric Metaxas. I make a confession here, now, that I did not know about this amazing man (SAINT) until this year when I joined a group at church -- Journey to Jesus. Bonhoeffer came up in a conversation about theology and important theologians. One of the deacons in our group raved about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, so I began searching for information about him. All I can say is, WOW!!! I, too, would love to spend time with this saint -- dinner, walk in the park, listening to his sermons ... !

  10. Love begets love. She gave her love and life to Her Lord. Vote Emma. h+++

  11. I'm not sure Bonhoeffer did consider his decision 'morally defensible'. My impression is that he struggled greatly with what a faithful response to the atrocities he was witnessing should be. What don said, about sacrificing principles (and what Kierkegaard says, about Abraham and Isaac).

    I greatly admire Queen Emma for her legacy of faith and service despite significant personal hardship.

    I'm voting Bonhoeffer because of his legacy of faith, service, and struggle. I find his writings (eg 'religionless Christianity' and the cost of discipleship) and the example of his life deeply inspirational. Because I look around and see a world where the path of God's Will isn't always lit up with runway lights, I appreciate the lamp Bonhoeffer holds to guide my feet.

  12. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was not involved in any plot to kill Hitler. The activities of various German resistance movoments are well documented and an excellent source of information are the various Jewish Archives regarding World War II. These archives agree that although DB was involved in a plot against Hitler it was not a plot to kill him.

    In 1938 members of the German Officer Corps became concerned that Hitler was going to lead Germany into a senseless war that Germany would lose. When they became aware of Hitler's plans to invade Czechoslavakia they recruited Bonhoeffer in hopes of blocking Hitler's plans. Bonhoeffer was sent to England to use his friend George Bell to convey to the British that opposition to Hitler's plans existed within the military. The plotters hoped that Bonhoeffer and Bell could convince England and France to take a firm position against Hitler's plan and that between all of them Hitler would be forced to back down. The plot failed because the British were not convinced that the opposition in Germany was well enough organized to be effective and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain thought that he could negotiate with Hitler.

    Some have agonized that Bonhoeffer violated his principles by plotting to kill Hitler. I think that history actually tells us that Dietrich Bonhoeffer stood firmly on his principles by plotting to keep peace and preventing war.

    1. I haven't spent time with primary sources but at least one published biography describes his statement at his brother-in-law's that he would be willing to kill Hitler or assist in a plan to do so, but that he would resign from the Confessing Church first (made in the context of repeated rebuffs of by Churchill et al later in the war). I think his choices were considered and costly -- I like dr. primrose's post on ethical decision-making.

      1. I would agree with you on Dr. Primrose's post on ethical decision making. In addition it is true that Bonhoeffer's decisions were considered and costly. First he was involved in a plot to involve England in blocking Hitler's plans to invade another nation. Later he was involved in a plot to smuggle German Jews to Switzerland using forged diplomatic visas bought with money diverted from the German Intelligence Service.

        These acts forced him to decide if a private citizen should plot to thwart the plans of the duly elected, although hellish, leader of the country. Regarding personal safety either of these plots, if discovered, would have been more than enough to send him to the gallows.

  13. Bonhoeffer. As I said earlier on in this contest. Bonhoeffer showed that ethical decision-making is often very, very hard. The problem is not following the rules in a particular situation. The problem is that in a particular situation there are rules that conflict. If I follow one, some good and some evil will happen. If I follow the other, the same thing. No matter what I do, something good will happen but something evil will also happen. Or I can sit in paralysis and do nothing at all. Which may result in more evil than choosing one way or the other.

    In his Ethics, I think he realizes that in this type of situation, he has to accept guilt for the evil that results from whatever decision he makes and to ask God for forgiveness. He was not asking for a free pass or a get out of jail card.

  14. This is a difficult vote. In the end I remembered a quote I read that said "All that is necessary for evil to prosper is that a few good men do nothing" My heart goes to Emma for the tender care she took of her people, but Deitrich's example of standing against evil was so powerful. A wonderful example of giving all for Christ and his people.

  15. Hawaiians, come to the aid of your dear Queen Emma. She gave so much to her church and people, you see and feel her love everyday, in all you do. Love begets love. That says it all! h+++. Priory peeps, vote!

  16. "In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
    With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
    As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
    While God is marching on.
    As a young mother active in Cursillo, Sunday School and other church activities, I would notice that when the Battle Hymn of the Republic was sung in groups, people around me would change the "let us die to make men free." line to "let us live to make men free." The Battle Hymn of the Republic is a great rousing war song and dying for ones Jesus is always stiring to those of us who probably won't ever have to. Both DB and Emma were great people and the decision has taken me all day. But, at 67, I have to believe that, if I've been lucky and blessed, I've lived to make men and women free. That doesn't make me saintly by any means but it does make me want to walk more closely with Jesus and Emma.

  17. Oh, how I have dreaded this day. Having to choose between Deitrich Bonhoeffer and Queen Emma is the toughest call I have had to make during this LM season! I have thought long and hard about this throughout the day. Both are admirable in their faithfulness to and love of Jesus. And both have certainly earned the saintly right to move on into the championship match for the Golden Halo. In the end, however, I went with DB. That doesn't mean I love Emma any less. God bless them both for their lives of service to our Lord and Church.

  18. Today is my daughter's 40th Birthday and when I think of how young she is, I am reminded that Dietrich Bonhoeffer never reached his 40th Birthday! To be so wise, so compassionate, so willing to die for his faith--at such a young age--sorry, Emma, my heart belongs to Dietrich! P S: terrific write-up today.

  19. I chose Emma. It seems Bonnhoeffer will win. I will, then, again, subvert the game and post Emma as the winner on my church's bracket, in the true spirit of Lent Madness. (heh heh)

  20. Lois, don't give up the ghost on Emma. Our Hawaiian brothers and sisters are six hours behind eastern time. They have six extra hours to vote! Emma deserves the Golden Halo and the halo will look so beautiful upon her golden skin and hair. Love begets love! Mahalo, Emma of the people.

  21. I don't know if this helps in understanding Dietrich Bonhoeffer's role in in the attemped assination of Adolf Hitler or not. But he and his brothers were supplying information to the allies regarding said assination plans, not actually planning or carring out the attempt itself. His origional arrest was for helping 15 Jews excape the Nazis, and he was already in prison when the attempt took place. He and his brother and brother -in-law were executed because their names (along with many others) were listed in a diary kept by co-conspiritor Adm. Wilhelm Canaris as members of the anti-Hitler underground. There is a story told by his surviving sister-in-law (Emma)explaining their role: "He told me, ' A dictatorship is like a snake. If you try to stop it by stepping on it's tail, it will just turn around and bite you & those near you. The only way to stop it is to strike the head.' "

  22. Now it is so difficult that I had to choose the prettiest with the best looking outfits.

  23. I was first introduced to Bonhoeffer in a Christian Ethics class in 1965. Such a revelation. Vote Bonhoeffer.

  24. Tim, I must brag on Penny Nash's behalf - here at Bruton Parish in Williamsburg, VA, six in our youth group had Emma making it this far!

  25. Serendipitously, I just returned from the Chrism Mass in the Diocese of California where we sang hymn 695. "And when this cup you give is filled to brimming with bitter suffering, hard to understand, we take it thankfully and without trembling, out of so good and so beloved a hand." These words were taken from a prayer "By Gracious Powers" written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer shortly before his death.
    On my way to the service, I passed a sign commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I hadn't realized he was only 39 when he died. Back when I was nineteen, thirty-nine seemed a whole lot older. Now it seems impossibly young for so much wisdom in the face of the evil we humans hurl at each other.

  26. I have voted for Bonhoeffer throughout Lent Madness until today. I fully intended to vote for him today. After reading the inspired write ups for these two worthy people, I felt the urge to vote for Emma. They lived in different circumstances in which both were responsible for laudable acts of courage, conscience, and love. They are both inspirational to me for different reasons. And from all the other comments, they are to many of you too.

    1. Well, I think it's kind of nice that a bishop gets involved in Lent Madness . . . I wonder how many other bishops would even give it a thought?

      1. I agree with you, Sister. I think it's commendable for him to be involved. h+++