During this Thanksgiving holiday, I am reading a revelatory biography on one of my favorite theologians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (d. April 9, 1945), who, like millions of his fellow German citizens, would become an involuntary victim of Hitler’s fascist government and Nazi genocide literally weeks before the death of Hitler, the fall of Berlin and the triumph of the Allied Powers on V-E Day (May 8). The book is titled, “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” (2010) by Eric Metaxas.
When Bonhoeffer came to America to do post-graduate studies in theology on a teaching fellowship at New York’s Union Theological Seminary from 1930-31, little did he realize that he was at Ground Zero of an epic war between liberals and fundamentalists, progressives and conservative Christians. Harry Emerson Fosdick’s Riverside Church – mere blocks from Union and built specially for him by John D. Rockefeller – was the most famous liberal preacher in America. On the other side, representing traditional faith and described as a fundamentalist, stood Dr. Walter Duncan Buchanan, pastor of Broadway Presbyterian Church, six blocks south of Union and built without this existential Faustian bargain with the devil (or Mr. Rockefeller’s money), thank you.