Dietrich Bonhoeffer : creating ethos in uncertain cirumstances / Michael Martin
- Saarbrücken : VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, 2008
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Table of contents from Deutsche Nationalbibliothek
In April 1943, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor, was arrested by the German authorities for crimes against the government. Bonhoeffer was a central figure in the Confessing Church's (those Christians who refused allegiance to the Nazis) struggle against Hitler. He was hanged in the Flossenbürg concentration camp in April 1945.Examination of Bonhoeffer's writings demonstrates how he fashions a well-developed rhetorical strategy as he attempts to maintain consistency between radically disparate situations with radically disparate exigencies, audiences, and above all, constraints. What becomes evident through analyzing Bonhoeffer's writing is that as he develops themes of truth and community, he employs rhetorical strategies that seem inconsistent with those themes-namely the rhetoric of misdirection. As such community and truth take on a kind of paradoxical nature for Bonhoeffer. Scholarship on Bonhoeffer has concentrated on his work as a theologian or as a member of the resistance against Hitler. It is contended that doing a rhetorical analysis of some of Bonhoeffer's main writing constructs a bridge connecting his theology and his actions as a member of the Abwehr, the German Military Intelligence Agency.A rhetorical analysis of the written responses given to his interrogator in a Nazi prison demonstrates how Bonhoeffer creates a complex sense of ethos trying to maintain and prove his innocence of a charge of treason while simultaneously concealing the conspiracy of which he was a member. Taking a step back, two essays that circumscribe his interrogation illustrate a deeper understanding of Bonhoeffer's rhetorical methods, and the consistency of those methods. Written in completely different times to thoroughly different audiences, Bonhoeffer's attention to questions of ethos becomes much more apparent. Finally, consideration of the how faith undergirds and changes what seems on the surface, unethical, to a rhetorical practice that is based in a deep abiding faith that cries out like a "voice in the wilderness" on behalf of the Jews and against the horror of the Nazi pogrom.What is discovered is that "creating ethos" becomes the central strategy that Bonhoeffer uses throughout his life. It matters not whether he is a student, a pastor, a professor, or a conspirator; analyzing his ethos from situation to situation demonstrates how he refines his strategies from one moment to the next. Operating in a somewhat "Burkean mode," Bonhoeffer is caught in the intersection between the rhetorical and the symbolic, never able to leave the division behind. From the beginning of his professional life as a student to the end of his life on the Nazi gallows, Bonhoeffer is a faithful Christian and a consummate rhetorician.
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