Dietrich Bonhoeffer is well known for his heroic opposition to the Nazis. Dr. Hauerwas’ lecture examines Bonhoeffer’s understanding of lying and why it’s approporiate to hold politics to a higher standard of truthful speech. This relationship between truth and politics is a particular challenge for democratic regimes. Series: Burke Lectureship on Religion & Society.

I love Hauerwas’ writing and appreciate the questions he raises even when I disagree with him. Probably more than any living Christian thinker his work has affected the way I think about contemporary issues, and I particularly appreciate his recent works on Bonhoeffer. I recommend this lecture, but as always with Hauerwas, watch for the salty language.

My favorite point made in the lecture is when Hauerwas explains Bonhoeffer’s view of truth by giving the example of a school boy called in front of the class and asked by the teacher whether his father comes home drunk every night. The child then determines to say “no” even though it is a fact that his father does come home drunk every night. In an ideal world the child would be able to answer the question while satisfying the demands of truth which pull him from the direction of his family and the authority of the school, personified by the teacher. However, because the world is not perfect and the child tells a lie–and Bonhoeffer would say it was a lie–the child is forced to honor a greater truth, i.e. the familial bond. As a result of asking an unfair question in an unfair way, the guilt for the lie falls not upon the child who speaks it, but upon the adult who wrongly put him in such an untenable situation. But one must recognize the statement as a lie in order to assign guilt properly. Enjoy.

I also highly recommend this collection of Hauerwas’ essays, dealing with and inspired by Bonhoeffer:

{HT: Inhabitatio Dei}