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Dorothee Sölle

Dorothee Sölle German theologian

German theologian
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro German theologian
A.K.A. Dorothee Steffensky Sölle
Was Religious scholar Theologian Professor Educator Poet Writer
From Germany
Type Academia Literature Religion
Gender female
Birth 30 September 1929, Cologne, Germany
Death 27 April 2003, Göppingen, Germany (aged 73 years)
Star sign LibraLibra
Family
Spouse: Fulbert Steffensky
The details
Biography

Dorothee Steffensky-Sölle (née Nipperdey, 1929–2003), known as Dorothee Sölle, was a German liberation theologian who coined the term Christofascism. She was born in Cologne and died at a conference in Göppingen.

Biography

Sölle was born Dorothee Nipperdey on 30 September 1929 in Cologne, Germany. Sölle studied theology, philosophy, and literature at the University of Cologne, earning a doctorate with a thesis on the connections between theology and poetry. She taught briefly in Aachen before returning to Cologne as a university lecturer. She became active in politics, speaking out against the Vietnam War, the arms race of the Cold War, and injustices in the developing world. Notably, from 1968 to 1972 she organized Cologne's Politisches Nachtgebet [de] (political night-prayers).

Union Theological Seminary, New York

Between 1975 and 1987, she spent six months a year at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where she was a professor of systematic theology. Although she never held a professorship in Germany, she received an honorary professorship from the University of Hamburg in 1994.

She wrote a large number of books, including Theology for Skeptics: Reflections on God (1968), The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance (1997), and her autobiography Against the Wind: Memoir of a Radical Christian (1999). In Beyond Mere Obedience: Reflections on a Christian Ethic for the Future she coined the term Christofascist to describe fundamentalists. Perhaps her best-known work in English was Suffering, which offers a critique of "Christian masochism" and "Christian sadism". Sölle's critique is against the assumption that God is all-powerful and the cause of suffering; humans thus suffer for some greater purpose. Instead, God suffers and is powerless alongside us. Humans are to struggle together against oppression, sexism, antisemitism, and other forms of authoritarianism.

Sölle was married twice and had four children. First, in 1954 she married the artist Dietrich Sölle, with whom she had three children before divorcing in 1964. In 1969, she married the former Benedictine priest Fulbert Steffensky [de], with whom she had her fourth child and with whom she organized the Politisches Nachtgebet. The historian Thomas Nipperdey was her brother.

Sölle died of a heart attack at a conference in Göppingen on 27 April 2003.

Sölle's theological thinking

"I believe in God/ who created the world not ready made/ like a thing that must forever stay what it is/ who does not govern according to eternal laws/ that have perpetual validity/ nor according to natural orders/ of poor and rich,/ experts and ignoramuses,/ people who dominate and people subjected./ I believe in God/ who desires the counter-argument of the living/ and the alteration of every condition/ through our work/ through our politics." (ET, from Meditationen & Gebrauchstexte. Gedichte. Berlin 1969, ISBN 978-3-87352-016-5)

The idea of a God who was "in heaven in all its glory" while Auschwitz was organized was "unbearable" for Sölle. God has to be protected against such simplifications. For some people Sölle was a kind of prophet of Christianity, who abolished the separation of theological science and practice of life, while for others she was a heretic, whose theories couldn't be united with the traditional understanding of God, and her ideas were therefore rejected as a theological cynicism.

Some of Sölle's provocative statements:

  • "Vietnam is Golgotha."
  • "The Third World is a permanent Auschwitz."
  • "Every theological statement must be a political statement as well."
  • "God has no hands except from our hands."
  • "We should eat more at the Eucharist and we should pray more when eating."

Publications

  • Sölle, Dorothee (1967). Christ the Representative: An Essay in Theology After the 'Death of God'. London: SCM Press.
  • ——— (1970). Beyond Mere Obedience: Reflections on a Christian Ethic for the Future. Minneapolis: Augsburg.
  • ——— (1974). Political Theology. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press. ISBN 0-8006-1065-2.
  • ——— (1975). Suffering. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press. ISBN 0-8006-0419-9.
  • ——— (1978). Death by Bread Alone: Texts and Reflections on Religious Experience. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press. ISBN 0-8006-0514-4.
  • ——— (1981). Choosing Life. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press. ISBN 0-8006-0667-1.
  • ——— (1983). Of war and Love. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. ISBN 0-88344-350-3.
  • ——— (1983). The Arms Race Kills Even Without War. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press. ISBN 0-8006-1701-0.
  • ——— (1984). The Strength of the Weak: Toward a Christian Feminist Identity. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press. ISBN 0-664-24623-0.
  • ———; Cloyes, Shirley A. (1984). To Work and to Love: A Theology of Creation. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press. ISBN 0-8006-1782-7.
  • ———; Beyers Naudé, C. F. (1986). Hope for Faith: A Conversation. Geneva: WCC Publications. ISBN 2-8254-0860-3.
  • ——— (1990). The Window of Vulnerability: A Political Spirituality. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. ISBN 0-8006-2432-7.
  • ——— (1990). Thinking About God: An Introduction to Theology. London: SCM Press. ISBN 0-334-02476-5.
  • ——— (1993). On Earth as in Heaven: A Liberation Spirituality of Sharing. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 0-664-25494-2.
  • ——— (1993). Stations of the Cross: A Latin American Pilgrimage. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. ISBN 0-8006-2688-5.
  • ——— (1995). Theology for Skeptics: Reflections on God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. ISBN 0-8006-2788-1.
  • ——— (1999). Against the Wind: Memoir of a Radical Christian. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. ISBN 0-8006-3079-3.
  • ——— (2001). The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. ISBN 0-8006-3266-4.
  • ——— (2007). The Mystery of Death. Translated by Lukens-Rumscheidt, Nancy; Lukens-Rumscheidt, Martin. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

For publications in German language see de:Dorothee Sölle#Literatur

Texts in music

  • The musician Sergio Pinto converted Sölle's poems Credo für die Erde and Ich dein Baum, into musical compositions which were published by Verlag in 2008 under the title entwurf. The CD recording was performed by the band Grupo Sal.
  • The composer Ludger Stühlmeyer converted Sölle's poems Kreuzigen and Atem Gottes hauch mich an into musical compositions as well. The vocal and organ arrangements were commissioned by a circle of friends of the Evangelische Akademie Tutzing; the work was first performed in April 2013 and included a reading by Ursula Baltz-Otto during a commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the death of Dorothee Sölle.
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References
https://www.religioussocialism.org/flashback_friday_on_dorothee_soelle_political_theologian_par_excellence
https://itself.blog/2009/04/26/narrative-cv-adam-kotsko/
https://www.zeit.de/2003/19/Dorothee_Soelle
http://www.grupo-sal.de/html/soelle_schule.htm
https://web.archive.org/web/20160302031639/http://www.grupo-sal.de/html/soelle_schule.htm
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https://www.jstor.org/action/doBasicSearch?Query=%22Dorothee+S%C3%B6lle%22&acc=on&wc=on
https://archive.org/details/suffering00soll
https://archive.org/details/deathbybreadalon00soll
https://archive.org/details/choosinglife00soll
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