Brian introduced me to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings years ago. I started with Cost Of Discipleship and moved on to Life Together. I can’t find my copy now. But I found this quote from it on-line. It has everything to do with what Brant posted today about ants and leadership.
Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.
By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both.
A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves this dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.
God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians which his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together.
When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first the accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.
Keep in mind the time in which Bonhoeffer, a German minister, wrote these words. Hitler was ruling. Many churches (and most Lutherans) had thrown their support behind Naziism in what Bonhoeffer seems to have felt was a move of selfishness, hoping it would pay off for them in the long run. Bonhoeffer, on the other hand, was running a seminary he hoped would create dissident non-violent disciples able to stand against the idealistic “visionaries” and golden tongued orators selling the Third Reich to the Church. He was vilified by others in the Church who took a different stance on violence and Hitler.
Eventually imprisoned and killed (for plotting to kill Hitler – long story), his belief seems to have been that faithfulness should be the highest aim of the individual Christian, and that making it so would result in the strongest Church no matter the circumstances around her. That’s what I get from his writings anyway.
What’s your take? Is idealism in the church such a bad thing? Dreamers? Leadership? Is the faithful mob as trustworthy as the expert leader?