Gustav Niebuhr is reporting that George W. Bush is reading Eric Metaxas’s new biography of German theologian and anti-Nazi Dietrich Bonhoeffer. (I saw Laura Bush mention this over the weekend during an interview on Book TV).
Niebuhr is not surprised that Bush is reading or that he is reading about Bonhoeffer. He does wonder, however, what Bush is “getting from his reading.” Niebuhr asks: “Does Bonhoeffer challenge, confirm or add to the former president’s understanding of Christianity?” He continues:
Which Bonhoeffer is George W. Bush encountering? As noted, with his dedicated focus on Christ, Bonhoeffer has long appealed to people who lean toward the theologically conservative, especially American evangelicals. His commitment to social ministry inspires many ranks of more liberal admirers. And Bonhoeffer’s clear status of an a man of action, who put all at risk to defy Hitler–well, who doesn’t find that moving?
I guess I want to know what Bush does next. Will he move on to Bonhoeffer’s own works, including his prison writings? Will he be so intrigued as to make a trip to the library to check out Eberhard Bethge’s comprehensive biography of Bonhoeffer, re-published a decade ago by Fortress Press? Talk about going to the source! Bethge was a student of Bonhoeffer and later married the theologian’s niece.
Bethge’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography clocks in at somewhere under 1,100 pages. As an ex-president, Bush must have some time on his hands.