Today is Halloween, but most people don’t know why. It is a contraction for All Hallows’ Eve. A day, in the Catholic tradition, for remembering those who have gone ahead of us into heaven and praying to them for intercession on our behalf. In Protestant traditions it is more of a memorial day. As a Baptist we don’t go in for that kind of thing too much, but I do think it is appropriate for us to remember our examples. That is, after all, the purpose of Hebrews 11 and 12.
For me I shall remember two, one personal and one very much public.
My Grandfather Loran Benjamin Gray was my favorite person in the world. He died when I was eight years old, about a week or so before my ninth birthday. He played cowboys with me and let me sit in his lap. When you were at PawPaw’s house and it was time for him to study his Bible you had to be quite and leave him alone. He was Sunday School director at the church and sometimes I would go stand next to him in the pulpit.
Church was important to him and that is probably why we went. Later in life I learned more things about him. He was a Steelworkers Union rep and in the height of the 60s and 70s racial tensions insisted that everyone in his Union got treated fairly at the Hospital in Bessemer, Alabama regardless of color. People named their children after him because he made sure they could be born in a hospital. He took in stray people and fed the whole neighborhood. I wish I had known him better.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, the head at an underground seminary and key founding member of the Confessing Church. His writings on Christianity’s role in the secular world have become widely influential, especially The Cost of Discipleship and Ethics.
Bonhoeffer was known for his staunch resistance to Nazi dictatorship, including vocal opposition to Hitler’s euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews. He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and imprisoned at Tegel prison for one and a half years. Later, he was transferred to Flossenbürg concentration camp.
In the face of Nazi atrocities, he concluded that “the ultimate question for a responsible man to ask is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation shall continue to live.” “When a man takes guilt upon himself in responsibility, he imputes his guilt to himself and no one else. He answers for it… Before other men he is justified by dire necessity; before himself he is acquitted by his conscience, but before God he hopes only for grace.”
Under cover of the Abwehr, (the German Military Intelligence Office) Bonhoeffer served as a courier for the German resistance movement to reveal its existence and intentions to the Western Allies in hope of garnering their support, and, through his ecumenical contacts abroad, to secure possible peace terms with the Allies for a post-Hitler government. His visits to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Switzerland were camouflaged as legitimate intelligence activities for the Abwehr. After being accused of being associated with the July 20 1944 plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, he was quickly tried, along with other accused plotters, including former members of the Abwehr, and then hanged on 9 April 1945 as the Nazi regime was collapsing.
Two of my role models.
Who are your Hallows?