What Would Bonhoeffer Say? By Al Staggs (Parson’s Porch Books)
Al Staggs is an itinerant performance artist who has been dramatically interpreting Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Walter Rauschenbusch, Archbishop Oscar Romero, Clarence Jordan and Thomas Merton for decades. He’s a theologian who, like Bonhoeffer, first made his way in ministry as a pastor. Staggs later was called to live out a larger role on behalf of the soul of the church by bringing to life these important shapers of the 20th century church.
It’s the right time for Staggs to bring forward a book that raises Bonhoeffer’s questions of conscience in light of the world’s complicated issues at the turn of the millennium. To hear Bonhoeffer from his time, one is startled to learn that the issues of pre-war Germany are strikingly similar to those of the American church two generations removed.
For most Baptists, the book might operate as “Bonhoeffer for Baptists,” as Staggs continuously references the struggles of Baptist life over issues of freedom and conscience. Bonhoeffer, like most Baptists, struggled with how the church should relate to the world in a contentious time. He struggled with racism and the agonizing questions of how one could support his country as a form of patriotic nationalism in the face of Hitler’s solution to the Jewish problem of Europe.
This book will challenge the Baptist preference of piety over God’s preference for the poor and the issues of social justice. The book covers an important field of questions without providing simplistic answers. A group that is not afraid to ask the hard questions and who would appreciate the struggle of finding answers would benefit by attending to Bonhoeffer’s life and the heritage of his writings.
Keith Herron is pastor of Holmeswood Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo.