There’s no room for hate: speak out!

by Thom Johnson | Special to the Courier

I was encouraged to see the Claremont City Council reaffirmed its commitment to fight hate on Valentine’s Day, a day that commemorates a saint that was bold enough to take a stand for the sake of love and freedom.

Today we need more examples of those who are willing to speak out against the kind of hateful rhetoric being aimed at various ethnic and religious groups, as evidenced in the mail that went out locally in an attempt to terrorize the local Jewish community. I wholeheartedly agree with the council members who proclaimed that this kind of hateful language and attitudes will not be tolerated in our community. Hopefully this will be a call to action by us all to do our part and speak out, for it can make a difference if we are united against hate.

A powerful example of this is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor who was one of the first to speak out against the hateful propaganda the Nazis were using to justify violence toward anyone of Jewish heritage.

Bonhoeffer was a double agent who secretly secured the escape of 12 Jews who worked with him. When he was arrested and in prison for two years he wrote extensively, and today we are able to read his works entitled, “Letter and papers from prison.” His most famous book was “The Cost of Discipleship.” He was executed on April 9, 1945, two weeks before the liberation of Germany.

For the past 10 years Claremont has hosted a festival to remember and be inspired by his example of courage and commitment to justice. The lunch is hosted by the Center of Lutheran Studies at Claremont School of Theology. You are invited to attend the free and open to the public 11th annual Bonhoeffer Festival on Thursday, April 13 at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1700 N. Towne Ave., Claremont 91711.

Lunch will be served at 12:30 p.m., and the program will begin at 1:30. This year’s speaker will be Lori Brandt Hale, professor at Augsburg University in Minneapolis and author of “Bonhoeffer: His Theology and Political Resistance.”

As in the past 10 years the program includes an interfaith panel to respond to the speaker’s presentation. Local representatives of the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities will offer their feedback and help further the discussion.

The event will also be available online. To register to either attend in person or receive the link to attend online, email

Organizers always strive to hold this event to coincide as closely as possible with April 9, the date Bonhoeffer was executed for taking a stand against hate.

Sometimes speaking out has consequences, but I hope that both our City Council and all the citizens of Claremont will follow through on this commitment not to tolerate hate and to work together to build a compassionate community that upholds the dignity of each member, regardless of race or religion. Otherwise, as Bonhoeffer once said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil … not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Thom Johnson is a Lutheran pastor.


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