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Born Feb. 4 in Breslau, Prussia, died April 9, 1945. This German Protestant theologian has been the most seminal Christian thinker to come out of Europe in this century. Naturally enough, he was executed by the Nazis, but not before he wrote works that still have an influence on today's best Christian theologians. Bonhoeffer owed much to his father, a professor of psychiatry and neurology in Berlin, and to his teachers, most notably Adolf von Harnack, the theological historian, and Karl Barth, the Swiss theologian whose ideas he himself developed in his own doctoral dissertation in 1930, Sanctorum Communio (published in English as The Communion of Saints in 1963). Bonhoeffer's bottom line: Christians must be men and women "for others." Bonhoeffer translated that notion into an all-out campaign against Nazism from the beginning of Hitler's accession to power in 1933. In 1935, he became a leading spokesman for the center of German Protestant resistance to the Nazis. There, he introduced a new kind of spirituality and community, described in his book, Gemeinsames Leben (published in English in 1954 as Life Together), and in another work, Nachfolge (published in English in 1948 and 1959 as The Cost of Discipleship). In these works, he took aim at the cheap grace being marketed in Lutheran churches -- an unlimited offer of forgiveness that served as a cover for ethical laxity. No surprise that Bonhoeffer spurned an offer to sit out the war with a teaching appointment in the United States (under the sponsorship of Harvard's Reinhold Neibuhr). He returned to Germany in 1939, after telling Niebuhr, "I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people." He threw himself into the resistance movement in Germany under cover of a job inside the Nazi's Military Intelligence Department, and flew to Sweden in 1942 to convey a proposal to the British government for a negotiated peace (which was spurned by the Allies, who wanted nothing less than "unconditional surrender"). Bonhoeffer was arrested in Berlin after the Gestapo found documents linking him to the conspiracy of high level officers who made an aborted attempt on Hitler's life on July 20, 1944, and he was put to death less than a year later. Bonhoeffer is most notable for his insistence that there should be no separation between the church and the world, nature and grace, the sacred and the profane. Christians, he said, have a duty to make a better world, which is not evil, after all, but good, because it has been redeemed -- by Christ, and by His followers who are extensions of Himself, in time. Bonhoeffer suggested that modern Christians (men and women who are "come of age") may need to strip off "religion" -- the kind of religion that has urged other-worldliness and pre-occupation with personal salvation -- in favor of a more mature involvement with the world as it is.
MODEL: Bonhoeffer's ability to move from theory to practice. He saw his duty and he did it. Even when the cost was his own life.
Your Birthday Today:
Your own private Idaho. If you were born on February 4, you seem scatterbrained to most folks, but in reality, you just have an unconventional way of thinking. Ruled by the number 4 and the planet Uranus, you can be difficult and argumentative, especially when teased about your peculiar line of logic.
File under "h" for huh? To accomplish even simple tasks, you use the most off-the-wall methods. Others see these methods as impractical or even crazy until they see how it works for you. Your filing system baffles others; your directions leave them mystified; your back is their front; your left, their right.
Working outside the box. Though not always productive when playing by another's set of rules, you can achieve long-range goals when you can set up your own work environment. You work well with others and are admired for your sincerity. Ok--so you're not a leader. But you are quite happy to be in the middle of the maelstrom and hold up well under pressure.
You are a bundle of energy. How to focus that energy in the most constructive way, however, escapes you. Bouncing merrily from one half-finshed task to another, you never finish one to your complete satifaction. You spend much time backtracking to undo the knots you have tied. You get bored easy, and fill your solo time with numerous hobbies and projects.
Advice : Don't give up. Fulfill your end of the bargain and don't cut your losses so quickly. A few rules are a good thing; don't dismiss them. Don't be afraid of feelings or responsibilities. We all have 'em sooner or later.
Also born on this day: