When the Shepherds Spy on the Sheep

ChristianityToday.com | 11/27/2019 | Staff
tanikakitanikaki (Posted by) Level 3
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Among the many plans for the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the augmented reality MauAR app offers users a glimpse into both the sudden and gradual accretions of that sprawling built environment of political control over the 28 contentious years it stood (1961-1989). Through the application’s lens, the Wall rises again, along with guard towers, barbed wire, and the raked sand of the death strip. For a forgetful world, it provides a sobering virtual glimpse into what life was like.

Far harder to see are the moral forms of control built up by the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in the four decades during which the communist regime held power. In a timely way, Elisabeth Braw’s God’s Spies: The Stasi’s Cold War Espionage Campaign Inside the Church, searches this more hidden dimension. A former journalist and now director of the Modern Deterrence project at RUSI, a London-based defense and security think tank, Braw analyzes why so many East German pastors, bishops, and theologians worked as Stasi unofficial collaborators (Inoffizieller Mitarbeiter, or IMs).

Interviews - Record-combing - Braw - Material - Students

From ground-breaking interviews and careful record-combing, Braw offers up new material for students of the GDR era. But she also treads soberly upon the old, familiar, yet easily forgotten paths of the mealy moral middle of human beings in systems that reward duplicity and corruption.

The Stasi, East Germany’s Ministry for State Security (or MfS), existed to protect the regime, securing and consolidating power through godlike knowledge, and ever-alert for signs of subversion. Of course, the only way to achieve that kind of atmospheric knowing—that pervasive and intimate level of surveillance—was through ordinary people everywhere snooping on almost everyone else. What drives people, even clergy, to such widespread human betrayal is the puzzle at the heart of Braw’s study.

Landscape - Repression - Braw - Church

In a landscape of repression, as Braw observes, the church...
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