John Stackhouse explains how Bonhoeffer’s attitude to the state differed from his contemporaries.
Bonhoeffer, in many ways, departed from the conventional Lutheranism of his time. Like all Christians everywhere, he believed that we need to bind up those who have been crushed by the wheel of the powerful rolling over them, as he famously put it. But he said something that really made him quite different than most of the Lutherans of his day, who were taught to be compliant with church authority and with state authority. And he said sometimes you have to take a spoke, a stick, and stick it in the wheel – as if, you can imagine a bicycle moving along, you’ve got to stick a spoke in and stop the wheel from crushing people. And that was seditious. I mean that’s literally saying you’ve got to rise up against the established authorities, and make them stop what they’re doing.