Taking Hold of the Real

Barry Harvey


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Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in one of his last prison letters that he had come to know and understand more and more the profound this-worldliness of Christianity. In Taking Hold of the Real, Barry Harvey engages in constructive conversation with Bonhoeffer, contending that the shallow and banal this-worldliness of modern society is ordered to a significant degree around the social structures of religion, culture, and race. These mechanisms displace human beings from their traditional connections with particular locales, and relocate them in their proper places as determined by the nation-state and capitalist markets.Christians are called to participate in the profound this-worldliness that breaks into the world in the apocalyptic action of Jesus Christ, a form of life that requires discipline and an understanding of death and resurrection. The church is a sacrament of this new humanity, performing for all to hear the polyphony of life that was prefigured in the Old Testament and now is realised in Christ. Unable to find a faithful form of this-worldliness in wartime Germany, Bonhoeffer joined the conspiracy against Hitler, a decision aptly compared to the actions of a small church in the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon which, prepared by its life together over many generations, saved thousands of Jewish lives.


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