Posted on March 29, 2010 by Dylan Anderson

Chantelle Olson discusses the last of the Annual Theme Faculty Colloquiums: When Philosophy and Theology Become Forms of Dissent. C014 at 12:30 pm

By Chantelle Olson –

The noon hour on Monday, March 29 will feature Drs. Jérôme Melançon and Dittmar Mündel in the last of the Annual Theme Faculty Colloquiums: When Philosophy and Theology Become Forms of Dissent. Mündel and Melançon will pull from recent history the stories of two men who were not afraid to oppose destructive governments. Dr. Mündel will be discussing the life and work of Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian who joined the resistance movement against Hitler and his Nazi regime. Dr Melançon will present on Czech philosopher Jan Patocka and his campaign for human rights in Czechoslovakia.

The translation of philosophical and theological convictions to political action can be extremely powerful. Martin Luther King Jr. is a well-known example from history, but there have been others whose work has gone largely unnoticed.

During the 1930s, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of the few theologians in Germany who had the courage to take a stand against Adolf Hitler and his policies. He was active in smuggling Jews out of Germany, and worked for the German resistance movement as a liaison with Allied countries. His determination to continue teaching non-Nazified theology at a private seminary resulted in Bonhoeffer losing his teaching position at Berlin University. Eventually, he was arrested for treason, having been implicated in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler. He paid the ultimate sacrifice for his efforts on April 9, 1945 just weeks before the end of WWII.

Dr. Mündel will explore the question “why”: why did this eminent theologian and respected academic risk losing his career and his life by consistently speaking out against Hitler’s leadership? According to Mündel, the clue lies in Bonhoeffer’s sincere belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and his conviction of the Bible as the supreme authority for how we are to live our lives.

A changed Europe emerged out of the mess of World War II: the Iron Curtain of communism descended and Czechoslovakia was on the wrong side. In January of 1977, a group of Czech citizens from various political viewpoints, occupations, and religious convictions published a document they called Charter 77, calling for the Czech government to uphold the many human rights previsions it had previously promised and subsequently failed to implement.

Jan Patocka was the spokesperson for the Charter 77 movement, publishing articles in newspapers around the world. As a result, he was arrested and detained on multiple occasions, finally perishing of a brain aneurism while in police custody. He had been subject to intensive interrogations regarding his involvement in the movement.

Dr. Melançon will be investigating Patocka’s motivation for risking his life to fight for human rights. His dissenting actions are intrinsically linked to how he understands the role of philosophy, but also to basic human existence, according to Melançon.

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