Monthly Archives: September 2012

KEEP YOUR COURAGE AND JOY an Interview with Dr. Renate Wind

KEEP YOUR COURAGE AND JOY an Interview with Dr. Renate Wind

by Karen Ressel, M.Div. Middler

Dr. Renate Wind read excerpts from her latest biography, Dorothee Soelle-Mystic and Rebel, opening the world of Soelle to the students and faculty of Wartburg Theological Seminary during Wind’s public lecture here September 13. Dr. Wind, Professor of Biblical Theology and Church History at the Evangelische Hochschule Nürnberg, Germany, is an activist and reformer in her own right.  She was, and continues to be, engaged in the peace and justice movements.  “I think we can change the world only with movements from below, from the grassroots; in Germany it is graswurzel,” said Wind

In 1968 she stood with many others in protest of the Vietnam War and the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Army.  “We demonstrated against the two super nations.  We opposed the use of military forces used to stop liberation movements here and there.”

Wind always knew she wanted to be a teacher; however, becoming a theologian and a biographer was not as obvious to her.  “I wanted to be a teacher since my first year of school.  As a pastor’s daughter, I was familiar with my church, but also in protest against it, like many pastor’s children are. Even now I have some difficulty with conservative Lutheran theology.”

“When I was eighteen I wanted to study art, or journalism, but then came the theology of liberation from Latin America and a new perspective of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (among other things).  That was new thinking in theology.”  She began as a parish pastor in southwest Germany.  Then she found herself serving as a school pastor for twelve years, and finally she was elected as a professor.

“During the 1970’s there was a great change and a lot of reform, and a will to reform school education to help children of all abilities.  It was a very exciting time.  I worked at one of the new schools that integrated all kinds of pupils together.  I gave a lot of energy to that!  Many of the children came from very difficult circumstances.  All children should have the chance to make the best of it.  Yes, it was very exciting to be there.”

Her desire to educate her students was the motivation for each of the biographies she has undertaken, “I wanted to make a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for my pupils who were 16, 17, and 18 years old.  I wanted to show the young people that there is a way to be a politically active person, a way to be in life and society.”

“I did not make the Bonhoeffer biography to become a famous writer!  I never thought it would be so successful!  I only wanted to make it for my pupils but it brought me to Wartburg, for example, and many other places.”

“All of the biographies have to do with my engagement in the peace activist movement and solidarity of the Latin American liberation movements. …All of my subjects had a great influence on me and my theological thinking.  Each biography is not the biography of saint; it is holistic.  I wanted to have dialogs with human beings that impressed me; that influenced me.”  As she researched, she asked herself, “What is the legacy that is important for us today?”

Wind feels there has been a shift in education over the last twenty years to a more conservative, elitist thinking, but she is not discouraged, “I take courage in my job as a teacher.  I think there will be something going forward in many people, not in all of course, but many.  My students become teachers in schools.  I am always connected with school life.”

“I took part in many movements that were not very successful.  But, the movement of Jesus was also not very successful in the beginning.  I am an old revolutionary student from 1968.  I still hope we can change the world and make it a better place! I think education is one of the main things to do that.”

Dr. Renate Wind is an inspiration and has this advice for those who will come after her, continuing the work toward peace and justice: “Keep your courage.  Keep your joy.  If you have no joy in the movement and what you are doing politically, you will not get through the difficult times.”

POEM – DREAM ME, GOD by Dorothee Soelle

As published in Dorothee Soelle: Mystic and Rebel by Renate Wind (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012), p. 1

It’s not you who should solve my problems, God,
But I yours, God of the asylum-seekers.
It’s not you who should feed the hungry,
But I who should protect your children
From the terror of the banks and armies,
It’s not you who should make room for the refugees,
But I who should receive you,
Hardly hidden God of the desolate

You dreamed me, God,
Practicing walking upright
And learning to kneel down
More beautiful than I am now,
Happier than I dare to be
Freer than our country allows.

Don’t stop dreaming me, God.
I don’t want to stop remembering
That I am your tree,
Planted by the streams
of living water.

Translated from the German, “Träume Mich, Gott” in das Brot der Ermutigung (Stuttgart: Kreuz, 2008),


BOOK REVIEW: DOROTHEE SOELLE: MYSTIC AND REBEL by Renate Wind. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012, 203 pages. Cloth $ 25.00

Reviewed by Norma Cook Everist, WTS Professor of Church and Ministry

Through Renate Wind’s compassionate, truthful telling of the life of Dorothee Soelle we truly begin to know the woman who at twelve in 1941 had not yet felt the terrors of the War in the affluent suburbs of Cologne. This woman at seventy was celebrated ecumenically and globally as theologian, poet, and activist for peace and justice. Soelle sought the truth, so she studied theology and believed it must be lived and experienced in relationship. Wind writes, “She was such a living witness of an exciting love for God and the world that many of her friends remember her as if she were still with them.”

Wind’s book is compelling drama. Soelle in post-war Germany searched for a way to move from German humanist culture, without bypassing repentance, toward a radical Christianity. She became student, writer, wife, mother, instructor in a girls’ high school, all acceptable roles for a woman in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. And then catastrophe for that time: separation, divorce, a woman on her own; but also new communities, new challenges and “Political Evensong.” Soelle’s deep theological inquiry, prolific writing, speaking and activism led her to become world-renowned and controversial. She was invited to discussions, conferences, organized actions and teaching assignments, including a professorship at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Dorothee Soelle became one of the most highly regarded theologians of her time, yet never received a teaching appointment in Germany.

She believed the only way one can really grow into Christ was to grow into the movement for resistance. Wind writes of Soelle, “She was a path-breaker and a torch carrier, a symbol and a role model with whom many identified…She placed signs of hope along the way for all who wanted to set out for the promised land of freedom, equality and brother-and-sisterhood.”

Renate Wind, professor of biblical theology and church history at the Evangelische Hochschule in Nürnberg, is author and peace activist. English-readers will not be able to put down this edition, translated from the German by Nancy Lukens and Martin Rumscheidt.

Renate Wind describes herself as a younger contemporary of Dorothee Soelle, entrusted with this biography by Dorothee’s second husband, Fulbert Steffensky, and friend, Luise Schottroff. Each of us will connect with this book in our own way and find our own questions. Mine: How does one deal with the contractions of wanting to believe in the superiority of one’s country, living a relatively privileged, calm life and the realities of violence, injustice, and death? How am I inspired to do theology sensually, poetically, and politically?