Bonhoeffer on Stupidity

Published June 4, 2020

“Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force.”

“Against stupidity we are defenseless; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed, and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one.”

“It seems obvious that stupidity is less a psychological than a sociological problem. It is a particular form of the impact of historical circumstances on human beings, a psychological concomitant of certain external conditions.”

“The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he speaks on behalf of an empowered group. In conversation with him, one feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans and catchwords that have taken possession of him.”

“The stupid man is under a spell…[And] having become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil.”

“The Bible’s words that the ‘fear of the Lord God is the beginning of wisdom’ teaches us that a person’s inward liberation from foolishness and decision to live responsibly and intelligently before God is the only real cure to stupidity.”

Bonhoeffer, “After Ten Years”, Letters and Papers from Prison

I am ceaselessly astounded to be living in an hour when this is happening:

…while the people who totally believe this utter rubbish can simultaneously watch a dimestore antichrist violently assault protesters and drive worshippers out of a sanctuary for the sake of a photo op of him holding a Bible he does not read in front of a church he does not attend and sigh

The sheer and utter Black is White/Freedom is Slavery/Oceania Has Always Been at War with Eurasia inversion of truth would be hilarious if it were not so tragic. All I can think of is this:

The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Th 2:9–12).

Conservative white American MAGA cultists have forgotten that the warnings of Scripture are directed first of all to them, not to Those Damn Libruls Over There and related bogeymen. That’s because judgment starts with the House of God, not with whoever Christians point their fingers at to deflect from their sins.

The Abp of DC has condemned this evil charade.

Image

The people of God listen to the voice of their Shepherd, not to this obvious Wolf setting himself up in the Holy Place for a photo op.

12 Responses

    1. The article at your link, “History Will Judge the Complicit,” by Anne Appelbaum, is among the most trenchant exposés of Trump and Trumpism I’ve encountered. From time to time I’ve opined that the enormity of this administration defies summary, but she does it (though at some length!). I’m grateful for such lucid analysis of what some of us have been sputtering about these four agonizing years. For the love of all good, vote Trump and the GOP out in November.

      1. The article is worth the lengthy read and dissects the decaying corpse of GOP/tea party/values voters. If we survive Trump with any integrity left, the hope is that the movement will rot into oblivion and that our senses will be heightened enough to prevent another.

    2. A great article, Linda. It was well worth reading. It was far more nuanced than my usual chorus of “power, money, dominion, and in the age of Trump, revenge, Against the people who dare to stand up and say,’my life and participation in society or as valuable as yours.’

  1. My thought is, a lot of us are whether we like it or not, not Harry or Hermione or Luna or Neville. We’re Percy and we’re Ron. We get caught up in our own desire to stand out, our own desire to be affirmed, our own misguided understanding of what is and is not of value. Love breaks through in the story both times. Love can still. Love can beat stupid. Keep the faith.

  2. I agree that stupidity is the ‘hardest” problem to overcome, especially in the era of social media. I think though we are underestimating it’s willfulness. It seems that the republicans have long eschewed e pertinent; long eschewed learning and knowledge. They have convinced their followers that “mass” knows. In many ways trump is the ultimate outcome of this long established pattern.
    I believe we also have to examine how many who claim to be conservative are operating from a place of fear. They fear that what they perceive as their rightful place in the world is being taken from them. They fear that their self-perceived superiority is being laid bare for the world to see. I see this not only in trumponian republicans, but also in the anti-Pope Francis crowd.
    These two feelings are the playground for Satan. He us able to manipulate those folks because they have lost their faith, is some have had it, in God.

  3. Okay, I know I said I relied on Disqus to comment but I just couldn’t pass up anymore when I read this.

    My perspective has been called many things: Cynical, malicious, god-hating, without compassion, massively perverted and uncaring towards any concept of good or evil.

    And yet, when I hear the things MAGA types say and do, how it repulses even a selfish, degenerate weab such as I, it really shows how bad the Stupid Evil alignment can get. I don’t necessarily agree that fear of the Lord is the cure for stupid, but I’m now certainly convinced it would cure this particularly malignant strain of Christian Stupid.

    I’d gladly play the role of the tragic, misotheistic villain with all his wordly wits if it means finding an equal in a Christian who actually lives up to his/her faith (and is really sincere about showing me that their god-inspired idea of love is stronger than, well, I already said what my perspective’s been called).

    But nope, instead I’m facing the likes of the MAGA Cult, the resulting ideological culture warriors they breed and the threat of nuclear bombs falling in my geographical vicinity (all idiotically disguised as ‘saving my heathen soul’). Oy vey….

  4. though this isn’t an exact quote, Einstein put it best: the difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has limits.

    From the 60s, we have this: don’t believe everything that you think.

    And from today, we have this: The Internet has given everyone a voice, but has not given everyone the ability to criticize what is being said. The end result is that secondhand stupidity is our intellectual coronavirus. The net result of having all of human knowledge in our hands is that we have increased the sheer amount of stupidity.

    1. Another quote commonly attributed to Einstein, let me paraphrase, “Two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity. I’m not sure about the former.”
      If Trump wasn’t real, he would materialize into being as a projection of all the shared mindset of the MAGA cult.

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