A Review of Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Charles Marsh

Well, this is awkward. I’m supposed to write a review of a book that a.) I haven’t completely finished reading and b.) has already elicited some controversial reviews. I’m not paid to write this review, but I did receive a free copy of the book in exchange for the review. (If you know me at all, you know I have a weakness for books. And donuts… but I digress.) The review doesn’t have to be positive, just honest. I think I can do that.

Here it goes…

I’ve started reading two different Dietrich Bonhoeffer biographies before this one. He’s a Christian whose life has been so often referenced from 30,000 feet and I wanted to know more about him. Spoiler alert: Hitler had him killed, so a sit-down interview isn’t an option. Anyway, I started these two other biographies and could never make it beyond the first 20 pages because I got bored with the presentation style. I tend to prefer memoirs because a.) they’re by the person they’re about and b.) they tell a story. These other two biographies had lots of great historical information (I’ve been told), but it was like the difference between learning about the Depression by reading a history textbook or by reading The Grapes of Wrath. Stories make things come to life… and hold my attention.

So, when the opportunity to read another biography presented itself, I wanted to give it a shot. *Insert sigh of relief here* Charles Marsh is an academic with the ability to put the “story” in history. Finally, a book that presented information in a narrative I could follow and be motivated to read. He won’t win the next Pulitzer, but Marsh presents a refreshing style for a biographer.

I could stop the review right there. Then some of you would go buy the book and read it, thinking “Tiffany said I should” (which is not a statement that could hold up in a court of law) only to get to the part where Marsh blatantly implies that Bonhoeffer was gay. *Insert gasps of disbelief here* Some of my readers know me in real life, so I don’t think you would accuse me of pushing any kind of agenda. Others of you only know me from this blog (if you’ve stuck around through the extra long hiatus) and might wonder otherwise.

Some thoughts:

  1. No, I’m not gay. When you’re 43 and “still” single, people sometimes jump to conclusions. If you tend to be a conclusion jumper, I hope you roll your ankle.
  2. According to Marsh’s interpretation of certain letters and other historical documents, Bonhoeffer’s relationship with his special friend remained chaste and was not reciprocated. If Bonhoeffer struggled with same sex attraction he never acted on it.
  3. Bonhoeffer married a woman.
  4. Even if he did struggle with same sex attraction, does that negate the encouragement his life and ministry has been to thousands of people over the years? Martyrs cannot be considered saints; they lived sinful lives, too. If you question whether or not someone who struggles with a particular sin can preach the gospel, I would point you to the Bible and remind you of people like Moses, David, Mary Magdalene, and Paul. See also: mirror.
  5. It’s possible that Marsh misinterpreted the letters like some people have misinterpreted David’s relationship with Jonathan, viewing their friendship through a 21st century colored lens.
  6. Regardless, none of this changes the work God did through Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany. Not many Christians can say they stood against evil to the point of death.

So, that’s my review. I plan to finish the book and filter what I learn about Bonhoeffer through the truths of the gospel. If you’re interested in reading a biography that’s written more like a story, you can find Strange Glory on Amazon.

2 thoughts on “A Review of Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Charles Marsh

  1. I love your blog. You make me laugh (out loud) and also cause me to pause and reflect. I assume that is why you write…to make people think! Excellent review – I think I just might want to read this book. And you never called me about lunch. Just a side note!

  2. Dear Tiffany. You are so awesome. Donuts are easier to review, and you didn’t say ‘not that there’s anything wrong with that!’

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