Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Eric Metaxas is a tool

Bonhoeffer would be rolling over in his grave, if that were a thing. Here's a recent quote by Eric Metaxas, a "biographer" of Bonhoeffer.
The anti-Nazi martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer also did things most Christians of his day were disgusted by. He most infamously joined a plot to kill the head of his government. He was horrified by it, but he did it nonetheless because he knew that to stay “morally pure” would allow the murder of millions to continue. Doing nothing or merely “praying” was not an option. He understood that God was merciful, and that even if his actions were wrong, God saw his heart and could forgive him. But he knew he must act. 
Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer knew it was an audience of One to whom they would ultimately answer. And He asks, “What did you do to the least of these?”
For a long time I've tried to convince anyone who will listen that they should skip the Metaxas biography and read others, perhaps especially by Schlingensiepen, Bethge, Christiane Tietz, Reggie Williams, and Charles Marsh (read them in that order, and skip Metaxas altogether). 

Why do I argue this? Because all Metaxas does is apply his agenda and then attach Bonhoeffer's name to it. He makes Bonhoeffer into his tool.

Then, in this case, he becomes a tool of a particular kind of disturbing right-wing politics.

There are so many ways Metaxas is misappropriating Bonhoeffer and besmirching his name in his current defense of a vote for Trump, but the most egregious is his complete corruption of Bonhoeffer's insight that "everyone who acts responsibly becomes guilty."

He corrupts it because he detaches the concept from its Christological origins and instead uses it as a saccharine platitude defending a vote for a candidate that "may not be a vote for that candidate" (introducing another form of bizarre rationalization heretofore unheard of). 

The best indicator of the extent of Metaxas's tool-ness, Metaxas-as-tool, is his rolling out of all the lies and half-truths the Republican party, Trump in particular, has been spouting against their opponent. Metaxas has to lie, must lie, about Clinton in order to convince himself she is a worse candidate than Trump. 

Which is yet another way he is so very different from Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer didn't have to invent lies against people in order to oppose them. He would articulate opposition straight up, and reserve the state of confession (which is what Metaxas is claiming) for incredibly extreme situations like the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party.

Bonhoeffer himself believed we were called, like Christ, to accept guilt for the sake of others, but this guilt is always construed by Bonhoeffer in Christological terms. It is a Stellvertretung. Standing in the place of. Vicarious action and responsible love on behalf of the other.

But Bonhoeffer came to such insights when he saw the situation of the African-American community in Harlem, the Jews under Nazi Germany, and so on. In a national situation where one candidate (Trump) so clearly stands as a real threat to the lives and well-being of minorities of all kinds in our country, and really, all women, Metaxas's argument that Christians must vote, and that they must vote for Trump, isn't actually absurd, it's beyond absurd, and lives at the intersection of heresy and threat, a space Bonhoeffer himself would never have inhabited.

Although Bonhoeffer himself took responsibly for himself, he never inflicted responsibility on others in the way Metaxas does in his fatuous op-ed. 

And although Bonhoeffer did himself have to make difficult moral choices, some of which went against his own non-violent commitments, he did so only under great duress, and in a time of true "confessing."

Metaxas would like to think his is a confessional church moment. He seems to think that western civilization hinges on the nomination of one Supreme Court candidate.

But it does not, and by acting as if it does, Metaxas proves himself to be not only a tool, but a bombastic demagogue, all while taking the name of one of the greatest theologians and saints of the 20th century in vain.

Eric Metaxas, shame on you. Shame.


  1. You are right. Thanks for sharing your insights.

  2. Besides that, he can't write.

  3. Great analysis. Thank you! For me, this demagoguery is not just Metaxas' problem. Evangelical leaders across the board have basically betrayed the gospel in order to obtain power. Their lack of logic, as shown in Metaxas, but also others, proves it. I wrote a little piece myself, forgive me for sharing it here with you (