The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Harbors of Heaven and Sophie Scholl


Harbors of Heaven: Bethlehem and the Places We Love by Jeffrey Johnson addresses our too common tendency to take for granted the places where we live, work and worship. We forget that the ground on which we walk is holy. Johnson, ELCA pastor of Peace Lutheran Church, Wayland, Mass., has written a thoughtful, creative and energizing book that enables us to appreciate the places in our lives and to savor Bethlehem as a place we love in our hearts. He includes poems by such connoisseurs of place as Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Vassar Miller, Richard Wilbur and Frank Conroy to help us use our imaginations as a creative tool of recognition and renewal. Whether writing about the manger, the stable, Bethlehem, Mary, Jerusalem or the meaningful locations in his life, Johnson encourages us to renew our connection to the holy ground in our tradition and in our communities (Cowley Publications, 2006).


Sophie Scholl, a 2005 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, is a compelling and deftly acted German movie directed by Marc Rothemund. It’s based on the true account of an idealistic young German girl who stands out in history as one of the few nonviolent protesters against the Nazi war machine. She was a hero of great stature who listened to her conscience—even when facing death she refused to take the easy way out. A national icon in Germany (she and her brother came in fourth in a poll of the most “good” people in all of German history), Sophie Scholl is a moral mentor for anybody seeking freedom and justice today.

In 1943 many Germans are reeling from the terrible defeat at Stalingrad where 330,000 soldiers have been killed or captured. The 21-year-old Sophie (Julia Jentsch in an outstanding performance) and her older brother, Hans (Fabian Hinrichs), are members of the underground White Rose resistance group. When they are caught at Munich University distributing leaflets urging the people to reject Adolf Hitler and seek peace, they are arrested by the Gestapo, questioned for days and put on trial. The interrogation scenes, based on previously unavailable original minutes of Gestapo interrogations and eyewitness reports, reveal the fierce resolve of this young woman who believes that loyalty to the dictates of her conscience is the only way to live a life of integrity.

Throughout her ordeal, Sophie displays a full range of emotions—fear, righteous indignation, sadness, determination and remarkable courage. By the time she faces a Nazi judge, charged with “high treason, troop demoralization and aiding the enemy,” she has come to a deep and unassailable peace about her commitments. We also witness her Protestant faith as she stammers out prayers to God (from her diaries) and meets with a chaplain after the trial. (Zeitgeist Films, Not rated).


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February issue


Embracing diversity