April 2000 Newsletter

Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia

Newsletter- April 2000- Vol.VI, no. 4

guest editor: Doris L. Bergen, University of Notre Dame


1) Obituary for Eberhard Bethge

2) Excerpt from the foreward (by Clifford Green) to the new edition of Eberhard Bethge’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography (edited and translated by Victoria Barnett)

3) Viewpoints on the Pope’s Visit to Israel

a) Scott Appleby
b) Susannah Heschel

4) Book review of Anne Loveland, Evangelicals in the United States Military

5) Book notes:

a) John Cornwell, Hitler’s Pope
b) Susannah Heschel, Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus
c) Robert P. Ericksen and Susannah Heschel, eds., Betrayal: German Churches and the Holocaust
d) Gerhard Lindemann, “Typisch jüdisch” Die Stellung der Ev.-luth. Landeskirche Hannovers zu Antijudaismus, Judenfeindschaft und Antisemitismus 1919-1949

5) Conference Reports:

a) American Society of Church Historians, January 2000
b) Holocaust and Churches Conference, Philadelphia, March 2000
c) Military Chaplains in their Contexts, March 2000

6) Research in Progress: Victoria Barnett



Dear Friends

Many thanks to John Conway for inviting me to edit the newsletter for
April 2000. The last month has been an eventful one, both for scholarship
in church history and even more significantly, for the churches in the
world today. Some of the news is sad: Eberhard Bethge, biographer and
publicist of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and an influential theologian in his own
right, died in March. John Conway’s moving obituary of a man many of you
knew personally is the first item in this newsletter. Information on the
new, English-language edition of Bethge’s biography of Bonhoeffer

Pope John Paul II’s trip to Israel caused a sensation this past month,
although reactions among Christians, Jews, and Muslims have ranged from
euphoria to resentment. Not often do events connected with the churches
make top news stories all over the world; not often are scholars of
religion called on to discuss international politics on primetime
television. March 2000 saw both phenomena. I have tried to provide a
sense of that coverage by including a section called “Viewpoints on the
Pope’s Visit to Israel,” featuring reflections by Scott Appleby and
Susannah Heschel. Other items this month–book reviews, notes, conference
reports, and an account of research in progress–address matters that
were central to Eberhard Bethge (and Dietrich Bonhoeffer) and echo issues
that the Vatican and our newspapers remind us are still at stake today:
Christian antisemitism; religion and war.

I am grateful to everyone who submitted items for the newsletter. I hope
that all of you who receive it will find grounds for critical reflection.
Best regards!

Doris L. Bergen

1) Obituary for Eberhard Bethge

It is with great sorrowthat we share with you the news of the death at the
age of 90 of Eberhard Bethge. Although he had been in failing health, it is
good to know that
he was recently able to celebrate the completion of the German-language
edition of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s collected works, to which he and his
wife Renata had contributed so much.

Eberhard is known primarily as the pupil and then closest friend of Dietrich
Bonhoeffer, and as the recipient of the Letters and Papers from Prison,
which were so carefully
preserved and later published under his auspices. Subsequently Bethge
went on to write what must be one of the most notable biographies of this
century. His portrait of Bonhoeffer is based both on his close personal
friendship and collaboration in the 1930s and 1940s, but also on his
sharing in Bonhoeffer’s striking challenges to Lutheran theology, and
rejection of Nazi pretensions. It was Eberhard’s determination to rescue
Bonhoeffer from the damaging accusations of national as well as
ecclesiastical disloyalty, which led him to undertake years of work to
make Bonhoeffer’s views and writings known to the world.
In this endeavour and in his personal commitment to endless meetings,
conferences and seminars, he was ably supported by Renata, as Bonhoeffer’s
niece. Eventually after years
of misunderstanding and even opposition within their own church, the
Bethges succeeded in changing the theological climate, not merely in
Germany but world-wide. Had it not been for their efforts, Bonhoeffer
might still be as largely unknown as he was at the time of his murder in

At times it could appear as though Eberhard was so devoted to the memory and
legacy of Bonhoeffer that he was unable to develop his own theological
stance. But in fact
his services in the cause of Christian-Jewish reconciliation deserve to
be remembered as a highly significant contribution to this very
problematical field. It was largely due to Eberhard’s persuasions that
the Rhineland Synod of the German Evangelical Church in 1980 issued a
notable declaration on this subject which demonstrated an unprecedented
readiness amongst Lutherans to acknowledge the sins of the past, and
called for a wholly new stance towards Judaism.

Immediately after the war, Eberhard had served in the London Lutheran
parishes where Bonhoeffer had preceded him. He there gained a fluency in
English and with
English-speaking theology which opened many doors. He was frequently a
welcome guest in North America, as for example at the Annual Scholars’
Conferenmce on the Holocaust and the Churches. His genial and warm
friendliness was guaranteeed to counteract any lingering anti-German
prejudices left over from the Nazi period. He and Renata were in this
sense marvellous ambassadors for the new Germany and standing rebuttals
of the exaggerated charges of such as Daniel Goldhagen. Though never
employed in a German theological faculty, it would be true to say that
his theological influence has been of enormous value to contemporary
Protestantism. He will be much missed.

– John S. Conway, University of British Columbia

2) Victoria Barnett has prepared an edition in English of
Eberhard Bethge’s _Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography_. The following is an
excerpt from the foreword by Clifford Green:
This new edition of Eberhard Bethge’s classic biography of Dietrich
Bonhoeffer brings into English for the first time the complete text of
the German edition that was first published in 1967. It includes all
material that was omitted or abridged in the 1970 English translation,
and all revisions and additions made to subsequent German editions.
This new English edition has been enhanced in other ways as well. In
addition to citing English translations of Bonhoeffer’s books in the
notes, it provides citations to the newly completed German critical
edition of his writings, the <underline>Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Werke</underline>. Because this seventeen-volume collection contains
material not published in the <underline>Gesammelte Schriften
</underline>when the biography was first published, it has been possible
to add numerous notes. Finally, Victoria Barnett has compared the entire
text of the latest German edition with the previous translation and made
numerous corrections throughout. Because of all these enhancements, this
classic of twentieth-century biography comes back into print with even
greater vitality, pertinence, and durability.
Since its first publication in Germany three decades ago, the biography
has gone through eight editions. By the fifth edition in 1983, the
research of a growing number of scholars had begun to supplement Eberhard
Bethge’s monumental work. How was the biographer to respond to this
development? While welcoming the new research, Bethge decided not to
rewrite the biography. As he wrote in the preface to the 1983 edition,
the biography should “show what its original inspiration was and
continued to be.”
Eberhard Bethge turned 90 last August. The new edition of the biography
appeared shortly before his death on March 18. It is a tribute to his
outstanding contribution to the church and to the history of our times —
not only through this book but through his decades of work as the editor
of Bonhoeffer’s writings, as a lecturer and teacher, and as a generous
friend and helper to all whose research has built on his own. Bonhoeffer
wrote eloquent theology about human community. This was embodied in his
leadership in the Confessing Church and his work in the resistance
movement on behalf of Germany and peace. It was also embodied in
friendship. “Finest and rarest blossom, at happy moment springing from
the freedom of a lightsome, daring, trusting spirit, is a friend to
friend,” wrote Bonhoeffer in Tegel Prison in his poem “The Friend.”
Without Eberhard Bethge, the legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in all
likelihood would have gone unnoticed. This biography is a fruit of that
friendship, and the biographer has widened the circle and spirit of that
friendship around the world.
Now that the twentieth century has ended we can assess its achievements
and horrors from a broader perspective than was possible when this
biography was first published. In that light, the life and theology of
Dietrich Bonhoeffer have a paradigmatic significance for the church that
transcends his own lifetime and transcends this century — a witness
against humanity’s perennial temptation to idolatry and its destruction
of life, and a witness to the authentic humanity that is the fruit of a
genuine Christianity.

– Clifford Green

3) Viewpoints on the Pope’s Visit to Israel
a) Scott Appleby, University of Notre Dame:
A good deal of commentary on Pope John Paul II’s visit to the Holy Land
explored the political implications of the itinerary, and weighed the
words and actions of the pope in this light. Nonetheless, the pope did not
journey to the Holy Land to endorse specific political positions, or to
move the peace process in a partisan direction; he was hunting bigger
game-cultural/religious reconciliation and dialogue.
There will be no durable peace in the Middle East without some measure
of religious and cultural “acceptance” on the ground, the pope correctly
knows (as did the late King Hussein of Jordan, who often made a similar
claim). Shaping cultural values and promoting religious reconciliation is
the first step in achieving the kind of social and cultural receptivity to
peace accords.
The pope’s remarks and itinerary were, indeed, politically calculated, but
at this higher level of abstraction, so that the pope “kissed the soil” of
the Palestinian West Bank as well as the Jewish Galilee, visited Jewish and
Muslim as well as Christian sacred sites in Jerusalem, and identified
with the human suffering and religious/spiritual aspirations of every side
of the conflict-the Palestinians as well as the Jews, the Muslims as well
as the Christians.
Did the visit have more concrete political implications? Of
course, it did-inevitably. But an analysis of the pope’s actions and
words on this level reinforce the notion that he was more concerned with
building inclusive cultural alliances than with promoting a specific
outcome. His overt political references-e.g., to the Palestinian right to
a “home land” (he disappointed those who wanted him to use the word
“state”)-were in fact cautious, designed to avoid undermining his
cultural priorities. Actually he did no more than to endorse “the facts in
field” as they had been accepted by all major players prior to his arrival.

b) Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth College
First, I believe the Pope’s visit to Israel, especially to Yad Vashem,
was deeply moving to Jews around the world. His comments at Yad Vashem
about the need for silence were very appropriate and seemed soothing to Jews
who are often wary of Christian leaders. It was clear that he spoke with
genuine empathy. The event was historic, something that will be
mentioned in the future in Jewish history textbooks.
Of course, the Pope’s audience was Catholic as well as Jewish, and for
Catholics around the world, this was an important lesson. Most are
perhaps unaware of his earlier statements about Jews and Judaism, of his
visit to
a Rome synagogue, or even of his apology the week before his trip. Not
only did Catholics learn from their Pope how one should respond to Jewish
suffering, they also heard the Pope affirm the continued validity of
Judaism, a lesson many of them need.
At the same time, some Jews were disappointed. Because this Pope has
been at the forefront of improved Catholic-Jewish relations, many Jews had
hoped he might go further while in Israel and express a sense of
responsibility for the misdeeds of the Vatican during the years of the
Holocaust. They
were disappointed. While the Pope spoke specifically about Christians
who acted heroically during the Holocaust to save Jews, he might have also
spoken about those who failed to save Jews, those who were indifferent.
Some Jews feel the Pope should apologize for the Holocaust, because,
unfortunately, there are some Jews who look at a cross and see a
swastika. They confuse the Nazis with the Vatican, Hitler with the Pius XII,
perpetrators with bystanders. Important historical and moral
distinctions are thereby lost. Personally, I don’t want an apology. For one
thing, I
don’t think that an apology is commensurate with the horror of the
Holocaust. And if the Pope were to apologize, then to whom? He would
have to apologize to the people who were murdered, which he cannot do. No
Jew today can accept an apology on their behalf. Nor are Jews really
prepared to
offer forgiveness – that, too, would be inappropriate.
We have not yet been able to determine the nature of Vatican
responsibility during the Nazi years, because the Vatican has not yet opened
archives to historians for their scrutiny. Far more valuable than an apology
would be for the Pope to open those archives.
Until now, many Jews, especially Israelis, have not been very interested
in Christianity or in Catholic theology. The Pope’s visit has brought
Catholicism to the attention of Israelis and to Jews around the world,
demonstrating that it is not only the religion of Crusades,
Inquisition, and the Holocaust, but also of the Second Vatican Council and
Aetate, of a new attitude and openness.

4) Book Review
Anne C. Loveland, American Evangelicals and the United States
Military, 1942-1993. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press,
1996. Pp.356.$55.00, hardcover.
Reviewed by Duff Crerar, Grande Prairie Regional College

During the Gulf War, rumours of revivals among the troops
thrilled American evangelicals, helping to balance other
rumours about rampant immorality within the gender – mixed forces.
Stories emerged of dedicated “Bible-believing” chaplains (who were
found in greater numbers than ever among the padres) effectively
“getting through” to their men, and evangelicals having great
influence with fellow-soldiers. While the revival tales were nothing
new to students of American wars and religion, what was new was the
high profile of evangelical Christianity over there – the culmination
of trends in both the United States military and society since the
Vietnam War. Not since the 1860s had evangelicalism so dominated the
chaplaincy – in fact the entire military establishment. How did this
come to pass?
Anne C. Loveland’s fine book provides a careful examination of this
complex but profound and growing interrelationship between fighting
Americans and evangelical Protestantism. She thoroughly and
convincingly documents the growth of evangelicalism in American
society after the Second World War and correlates it to the growing
numbers and influence of evangelicals in both the chaplaincies and
officer corps as well as the ranks of the military. Whereas other
denominations increasingly turned away from war, and
often became outrightly anti-military during the turbulent
Vietnam years, evangelicals identified military men and women
as a vital mission field, and, as loyal Cold Warriors, became
increasingly pro-military in their orientation. Whereas many secular
American soldiers found Vietnam a spiritually searing experience,
evangelicals found it an energizing crucible of faith. Loveland provides
several convincing studies of prominent chaplains, flag officers and Chiefs
of defense staff who played leading roles in
fostering this mutual reinforcement.

Such renewed interest in the soul of the military corresponded with
the increasing stake in mainline American society held by the
socially, economically and politically rising evangelical classes of
American society (remember the endorsement of the Eisenhower
presidency by the young Billy Graham?). Just as the Cold War and
Vietnam crisis hardened mainline (and we can talk about
evangelicalism becoming “mainline” in American public life by the
1980’s) evangelical militancy, so embattled officers and
soldiers, thanks to the legacy of Vietnam, came to trust and even
welcome the only segment of American Protestantism which faithfully
supported their wars. American soldiers learned that
they could count on the evangelicals, both in public life (and
controversy), and in the field. By the 1980s, even flag officers and
staff officers of the highest rank were found at prayer-breakfasts
and upholding the work of evangelicals such as James Dobson, the
Navigators, and Full Gospel Christian Businessmen among the troops.

Such close mutual relationships, however, have their weaknesses. It
is especially poignant for a scholar of First World War chaplains to
read the religious phrases and preaching sentiments of the trenches
repeated in the boonies of Vietnam, given the profound
disillusionment felt by many veterans after both wars. Chaplains,
by the 1960’s, no longer could exercize as prophetic a role as they
had when militarism and evangelicalism were mutually suspicious (a
situation before and during much of World War Two). Evangelicals
still wince when they remember how the Nixon presidency
turned the tables on them, and impaled even Billy Graham on
the horns of the religion-state policy dilemma. Parallels with
the 1980s and the Reagan administration are obvious. The alliance of
evangelicals and officers works well when American civil religion
embodies evangelical values, but what happens when (as in the early
1990s) the Commander-in-Chief wants to bring gays into the military?
As Loveland points out, the steady and stubborn resistance to the
Clinton administration on this issue may well have been the last
victory of the military evangelicals, as new secular – and religious
– movements arise to challenge the public Christianity of United
States politics and society. As evangelicalism continues to fragment
and divide in American public life, how will this affect the troops?
This, and other religious developments in and around the United
States Armed Forces, obviously bear watching.

Clearly anyone arguing that armed forces are representative cross-samples of
their host societies will find Loveland’s book of interest. Especially
provocative are the implications of the growing divorce between American
society and its increasing pluralism and the conservative military creed of
its fighting men and women. Pluralism
will certainly remain a fundamental challenge to the evangelical
military consensus. But Loveland’s book is still only a first word on
the subjects of American civil and military religion. Roman Catholics
have not by all means been anti-war through this period, and call
for detailed study. Loveland’s work concerns, primarily, officers
and chaplains, as well as public and policy relationships: what about
the effects at the level of the rank-and-file? What about “folk
religion” in United States forces: that blend of fatalism,
patriotism and the cult of honour and duty which so resembles the
Mithraism of the late Roman Army?

Loveland’s book is a dispassionate, but sensitive to the sincerity
and depth of the people who bear their creed and wear the United
States uniform. Her book will be an essential part of any study of
the U.S. military and its religions. It will have to be taken into

full account by both secular – and secularist – as well as
evangelical scholars who want to monitor the subject in future. Above
all, it profoundly adds to the growing understanding of the
interelationship of all of a society’s elements with the men
and women who guard it.

– Duff Crerar, Grande Prairie Regional College (Canada)

5) Book Notes:

I would like to draw the following items to the attention of those
readers interested in Christian antisemitism and the churches and the
a) Rainer Decker’s review of John Cornwell’s _Hitler’s Pope_ (highly
recommended by John Conway) can be found at the following addresses:

b) Sussanah Heschel, _Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus_ (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1998): Heschel’s original and very readable
study of Abraham Geiger, a nineteenth-century Jewish theologian and
historian, “reverses the gaze” to reveal the anti-Jewish content of
familiar Christian interpretations of Jesus. Anyone interested in
Christian-Jewish relations in Europe, particularly Germany, will find
this book valuable.
c) _Betrayal: German Churches and the Holocaust,_ edited by Robert P.
Ericksen and Susannah Heschel (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999): This
collection includes essays by Ericksen, Heschel, Bergen, Shelley
Baranowski, Kenneth Barnes, Guenter Lewy, Michael Lukens, and Micha
Brumlik. Much of the material is familiar to those in the field, but
having these pieces pulled together in one volume should prove useful for
students. At least some readers of this newsletter have already assigned
parts of the book in their classes.
d) Gerhard Lindemann, _”Typisch juedisch”: Die Stellung der Ev.-luth.
Landeskirche Hannovers zu Antijudaismus, Judenfeindschaft und
Antisemitismus 1919-1949″_ (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1998): In more
than 1000 pages this book recounts the depressing history of Protestant
hostility toward Jews and converts from Judiasm to Christianity in the
Hanover region. Less detail and more analysis might have made for easier
reading, but the study is nevertheless extremely useful, in particular
for its treatment of pastors defined as “non-Aryan” under the Nazi
regime. (I will be reviewing this book at length in _The Catholic
Historical Review._ )DB

5) Reports from Conferences
a) The American Society of Church Historians
On January 6-9, 2000, downtown Chicago swarmed with historians.
Walking along Michigan Street that weekend, one could catch fragments of
intricate historiographical discussions and debates of all sorts as the
participants of the American Historical Association’s annual meeting
wandered out of
their hotels and into the brisk wind. Around the Downtown Chicaco
Marriott, these discussions tended to center around religious
themes–since there most historians participated in the meetings of the
Society of Church History, alongside those of the AHA.
Founded in 1888, the American Socity of Church History encompasses a
broad range of topics relating to religious history. Sessions ranging from
“Demons in Late Antiquity” to “Religion on the Edge: Heterodoxy and
Orthodoxy on Frontiers of Christianity” opened for discussion religious
topics reaching around the globe. While many sessions focused on more
traditional American church history topics, such as “Continental
Pietism and German-American Religious Traditions” and “Twentieth-Century
Biblical Exegesis,” other sessions like “Queer Theory and the Study of
Christianity” pressed into less familiar territory.

Several of the sessions and individual papers dealt with women, gender,
and religion. Some of the established historians of women in religious
history noted during a breakfast for Women in Theology and Church History
this had not always been the case. They reminisced about their early years
in the organization when it was very much male dominated, and welcomed the
younger women who as graduate students or professors had joined their ranks.

The sessions gave both distinguished scholars and graduate students
opportunities to present their work. Several graduate students from=20
the nearby University of Notre Dame, as well as students from around the
country, gave papers at the conference and benefited from helpful
feedback for their continuing studies. The congenial atmosphere at the
conference made it possible for historians of all ages to share their work
and to
leave with fresh ideas for further research.

– Kristin Kobes, University of Notre Dame

b) Holocaust and the Churches Conference, Philadelphia

The highlight of this year’s Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and
the Churches, held at St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, from March
4th – 7th, was the award of an honorary degree to Elie Wiesel. As the
Conference patron, Wiesel has addressed this group frequently with
insight and inspiration. So it was highly interesting to hear his
confident opinion that “Never in history have Christian-Jewish relations
been so good”. Wiesel attributed this to the significant change in
Christian attitudes over the past generation, and the example of the
present Pope, of whom he was at first suspicious, but now admires for his
tenacity and sincerity on this matter.
Certainly the atmosphere at the conference fully reflected Wiesel’s
opinion. Over 400 registrants took part, and lively discussions followed.
Particularly notable was the larger number of women participants, some of
whom gave first-rate thoughtful papers. As usual, we had several valuable
contributions to the history of the Nazi period, which added yet further
mosaic stones to the wider picture. At the same time, the larger debates,
such as the uniqueness of the Holocaust, were revisited, and new
interpretations explored. One notable innovation was a televised
conference call to Jerusalem, so that we were able to see Professor
Yehuda Bauer on one half of the screen, and the local speakers on the
other, for nearly two hours. At this session a particularly significant
speech was made by Ward Churchill, speaking for the American native
Indian community, which reminded us that the issue of restitution and
reconciliation with this community has as yet hardly been touched. At the
same time, it was good to learn about the building of a new Holocaust
memorial centre in Britain, with the hope that the same process of
exchange of views between Christians and Jews will receive an additional
impetus in that country. As usual the conference concluded with sessions
devoted to the strategies for teaching this legacy to the next
generation. Once again we are grateful to the leadership provided by
Franklin and Marcie Littell for organising such a stimulating experience
for all comers.

John S. Conway

c) Military Chaplains in their Contexts, University of Notre Dame, South
Bend, Indiana, 18-20 March 2000

In the last twenty years, a growing interest in the experiences of
clergymen ministering to soldiers has led to a wide and disparate
body of scholarly literature on the military chaplaincy. This
conference, organized by Doris Bergen and David Bachrach of the History
Department at Notre Dame,brought together several dozen scholars, chaplains
and graduate students to focus on the oft-controversial military padre.
Papers ranged
from the medieval and late-Roman origins of the office, through to the
experiences of American chaplains in Vietnam and afterwards. Two common
themes ran through most: chaplains have consistently faced profound
role tensions as representatives of both religion and the government
on the battlefield, and they have struggled for credibility with
their own men , because most chaplains were given officer or
gentlemen status, and thus represented the establishment in the eyes
of the soldiers. As a result, modern-era observers, many of them
ex-soldiers, have portrayed chaplains as ineffective and
hypocritical, having sold out to Caesar and neglected the deepest
spiritual needs of the fighting man. These discussions prompted
distinguished writer, and veteran, Paul Fussell, to suggest that
future chaplains should be non-commissioned officers, or privates,who live
with the men and share their fighting and living conditions,
much as the way medics accompanied his unit in World War II.
Fussell’s observations were illlustrated by Thomas Kselman’s
comments on French soldier-priests in World War I, but challenged

by serving chaplains present, who pointed out that without officer
rank they were unable to minister effectively to officers, or freely
function in hierarchical military cultures. Kselman’s portrait of the
soldier-priests viewing themselves as missionaries to their own
secularized state and army was also noted by other scholars of other
chaplaincies at the conference. Their missionary zeal was added to by
the intense battles between church and state in the Third Republic,
which spurred them on, along with the xenophobic nationalism of their
times. Then, as always, padres have often felt that they had
something to prove.
During the session on late Roman and medieval chaplains (which
included passages presented by Michael McCormick from a ninth-century
sermon), discussion centred on the practical and expedient as
well as spiritual tasks: chaplains were there to pray the “liturgy of
war”, but also to foster loyalty to the king and obedience and
effectiveness in the troops. By the time of the crusades, the
desperate situation of the Franks brought renewed urgency to their
prayers, which still drew on their Carolingian forefathers.
Chaplains were not only spiritual counsellors, they provided some of
the vocabulary and ideology for the institution of chivalry. As
Patrick Geary noted in his commentary, guided by the needs of the
age, the Christian priest had gone from shyness about and shunning of
war to, aided by new forms of penance before battle, baptizing and
blessing organized killing, creating the powerful vocabulary and
controversial image of the fighting saint which endures into the
modern period. The deplorable side of this, to Geary, was the way in
which the prophetic office of the cleric was undermined, and
chaplains became mere easers of conscience, while unit officers
were the true spiritual leaders of the men.
In the discussions of the chaplaincy in the early modern era, Anne
Laurence presented the complicated picture of chaplaincy to both
Royalist and Roundhead in the English Civil War. Chaplains and
soldiers found civil war one of the most complex of contexts for
discussion of religion, as the question of “which IS the state?”
blended with the religious chaos caused by the many dissenting
denominations arrayed for battle over political supremacy. The
pluralism of the Civil Wars meant that many a Parliamentary padre
spent as much time debating with his own men over which vision of the
kingdom or Kingdom was legitimate, as he did preaching the cause of
his army or easing consciences. In such wars, where preachers were
also often in short supply or unable to visit the many small
detachments throughout England, most soldiers ended up creating
their own moral and spiritual worlds. John Lynn presented a strong
contrast, in the chaplaincy to the Royal armies of Louis XIV, who

institutionalized the army chaplaincy and wedded it to a system
which became the model for other armies of Europe. Louis’s regiments
and brigades were more likely, between battles, to have absentee
officers than absentee chaplains. Chaplains became promoters of good
discipline and responsible to officers for reporting on conduct and
morale, as well as preaching the rightness of the cause.

Just as the Bourbon, so the Hohenzollern monarchy, Hartmut Lehmann
pointed out in his paper on the Prussian chaplaincy, where the first
chaplains were chosen from the ranks of Pietism to sustain conformity
and good evangelical moral discipline in the barracks. Unfortunately,
he argued, as subsequent rulers from Frederick the Great
through to Kaiser Wilhelm II involved the armies in tumultuous and
ultimately disastrous wars, the chaplaincy evolved both an ethos and
theology which made Germany’s destiny and dominance identical with
the cause of Christ, something which would have appalled the Pietist
forefathers in chaplaincy, and which led to disastrous outcomes in
World War I. Chaplain preaching ultimately embodied rather than
challenged the hyper-nationalism of imperial society. By the
end of the Great War, Lehmann argued, many chaplains, including Paul
Tillich, had realized that a fatal and even toxic union of
nationalism with faith had undermined the validity of the office and
the chaplain’s message.
Dr. Lehmann’s comments were especially apposite in the light of a
session on the world wars. Duff Crerar argued
that the negative stereotype of the military chaplaincy in Canadian
society stemmed from post-World War I distortions by an angry and highly
articulate minority of veteran writers, and that this stereotype
persists in contemporary scholarly studies of the Canadian
chaplaincy. Despite a growing body of literature on the Canadian
military chaplaincy to the contrary, most Canadian scholars and
commentators still prefer to refer back to the negative portrait
in the inter-war literature, perhaps because Canadians view
the war and its crusading rhetoric and propaganda with profound
ambivalence, and hold the padres largely, perhaps unfairly,
responsible for it.

Doris Bergen’s paper on the German army chaplains in the Nazi era made a
profound impression on participants, as she argued that, though hated by
Hitler, disadvantaged by commanders and even ordered into suicide missions,
army chaplains ministered in the face of death, paradoxically abetting the
many appalling atrocities of the war
by their presence at the front and commitment to their men.. Though few were
diehard Nazis, they ironically furthered the Nazi cause by assisting
army morale and nationalist sacrifice. In a spiritual and moral world

turned upside down, doing their best at the front would come to haunt
the German army chaplaincy after the war, and into the present.

Irony also coloured the paper given by Gardiner Shattuck on the
American Civil War. Union chaplains were haphazardly recruited
and untrained, unsupervised and unranked in the armies of the war,
and yet were expected to represent Christ in the field. Even more
chaos existed on the Confederate side. Yet padres on both sides
consistently reported the phenomenon of revival breaking out. The
fighting power of the men and the lethal battlefield technology combined
with revival to present the tremendous irony of committed evangelical
Christians slaughtering each other by the thousands. Most padres proved to
be surprisingly effective at reassuring the men that if they died they went
heaven, which may have made soldiers less rather than more effective in
battle, as the promise of heaven made one’s own sacrifice (rather than
killing the enemy) the main objective. Civil war padres may indeed have made
too many
soldiers too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly military good!

Retired chaplain Joseph O’Donnell, C.S.C. brought the
conference back to earth with his honest and straightforward account of
ministry in Vietnam and afterwards. His moving stories illustrated
the many challenges contemporary pluralism, peacekeeping missions and
disastrous situations create for the modern padre. Modern
communications as well as modern technology have created new
stresses as well as advantages for chaplains: next-of-kin today are
much closer in time and space to the chaplain, thanks to technology,
than they ever were before. O’Donnell’s ministry to them, judging by
his stories, remains one of the most traumatic and yet satisfying
parts of the profession. As commentator Anne Loveland put it,
chaplains since Vietnam have surrendered the front-line
morale-building role, somewhat as a result of the critics of the
Vietnam era who attacked padres as servants of state not church.
Today this has been replaced by character formation and
transformation of military culture missions, as padres in the
American forces have become more professionalized. Padres now are
moral advisors to commanders, and guardians against atrocities: they
are affirming human values in peacekeeping and peacemaking missions
as much as on the field of conventional war. Yet, pastoral care to
men and their kin at home remains, and will continue to remain, their daily

As the conference closed, comments from the audience raised new
topics for future discussion. Has the density of chaplains gone up as
armies matured, and have their social origins changed from past to
present? If so, what do theses trends mean? How do military
and ecclesiastical structures (after all, chaplains are “officers” in
both) relate to each other through the office of chaplain? What does
the ecumenical and increasingly secular pluralist nature of armies
mean for chaplains, and will historic responses be adequate for the
future? Is any armed force today training chaplains adequately, and
if so, how have they learned from the past? Can padres serve in
modern armies at war without demonizing the enemy? How has the
understanding of war, from distasteful but necessity to
apocalyptic harbinger, influenced their work. And how has the ongoing
pastoral care imperative shaped chaplaincy? All these questions
continue to call for more scholarly inquiry, and, one hopes, another

– Duff Crerar, Grande Prairie Regional College (Canada)


6) Research in progress:

So many of the readers of this newsletter are engaged in important
programs of research. Mindful of the themes in this month’s
contributions, I asked one of them, Victoria Barnett, to describe her
current work. In addition to her edition of Eberhard Bethge’s Bonhoeffer
biography, Barnett recently published an insightful study called
_Bystanders: Conscience and Complicity During the Holocaust_ (Westport,
CT: Greenwood Press, 1999). She is also the author of _For the Soul of
the People: Protestant Protest Against Hitler_ (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1992). db

“There has already been research, notably that of Klemens von Klemperer,
on the communications between the German resistance and Catholic and
Protestant leaders abroad. Some of these Christian leaders not only
passed on German position papers, but reflected themselves on what kind
of society they hoped for in a post-Nazi Europe, and some of these
reflections included specific suggestions about the status of Jewish
citizens in European society after the fall of Nazism.

A deeper examination of the international Christian community’s knowledge
of, and response to, the persecution and genocide of the Jews offers a
context for understanding these ecumenical reflections and the
conclusions that were drawn. In any case, it is clear that these
discussions were affected by the communications being received from the
German resistance. It is particularly interesting in this context to
look at Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s reflections on the future of the church.=20
Several of his writings, including his fragmentary notes made for the
1943 Breslau synod (which he was unable to attend, since he had been
arrested) show how his notion of “religionless Christianity” was part of
a profound rethinking of the church’s place in civil society. It is
impossible to separate this development from the work he was doing for
the resistance. The case can be made, I think, that these writings
reveal much more about his attitude toward Judaism and the Jewish
community toward the end of his life than do his theological writings on
Judaism per se.

Several documents from the Myron Taylor papers in the Library of
Congress, the National Archives, the Henry Smith Leiper papers at Union
Seminary and the Federal Council of Churches archive in Philadelphia shed
light on this issue. In an interview I conducted with him in February,
Dr. Gerhardt Riegner in Geneva directed me toward copies of archival
documents that he sent to Willem Visser ‘t Hooft during the 1960s at the
latter’s request; these documents reveal much about the extent of Visser
‘t Hooft’s and Adolph Freudenberg’s knowledge and activities.
A preliminary paper on this research will be presented at the forthcoming
International Bonhoeffer Congress in Berlin in August”.

– Victoria J. Barnett, Arlington, Virginia

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Doris L. Bergen
Department of History
219 O’Shaughnessy Hall
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN 46556-0368
fax: 219-631-4268
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