Dorothee Sölle

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Dorothee Sölle (1981)

Dorothee Steffensky-Sölle (born Nipperdey; 30 September 1929 – 27 April 2003) was a German liberation theologian and writer who coined the term Christofascism.[1][2][3] She was born in Cologne and died at a congress in Göppingen.


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 (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.[4]

She wrote a large number of books, including Theology for Skeptics: Reflections on God, The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance (2001) 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 "theological 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, anti-Semitism, and other forms of authoritarianism.[5]

Sölle was married twice and had four children. First, in 1954 she married the artist Dietrich Sölle, whom she divorced in 1964. In 1969, she married former Benedictine monk Fullbert Steffensky, with whom she organized the Politisches Nachtgebet. The historian Thomas Nipperdey was her brother.

Sölle's theological thinking[edit]

"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."

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[who?] Sölle was a kind of prophet of Christianity, who abolished the separation of theological science and practice of life, while for others[who?] she was a heretic,[citation needed] whose theories couldn't be united with the traditional understanding of God, and her ideas were therefore rejected as a theological cynicism.[citation needed]

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."


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

For publications in German language see de:Dorothee_Sölle#Literatur

Musicked texts[edit]

  • The musician Sergio Pinto musicked the poems Credo für die Erde and Ich dein Baum, of Dorethee Sölle, published in: entwurf 1/2008, Friedrich Verlag. The recording on CD was performed through the band Grupo Sal.[6]
  • The composer Ludger Stühlmeyer musicked Sölle's poems Kreuzigen and Atem Gottes hauch mich an (vocal-solo and piano/organ, commissional work by circel of friends of the Evangelische Akademie Tutzing, First performance: April 2013 in context of a reading with Ursula Baltz-Otto in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the death of Dorothee Sölle).


  1. ^ Dorothee Sölle (1970). Beyond Mere Obedience: Reflections on a Christian Ethic for the Future. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House.
  2. ^ "Confessing Christ in a Post-Christendom Context". The Ecumenical Review. 1 July 2000. Retrieved 2007-12-23. ... shall we say this, represent this, live this, without seeming to endorse the kind of christomonism (Dorothee Sölle called it "Christofascism"! ...
  3. ^ Pinnock, Sarah K. (2003). The Theology of Dorothee Soelle. Trinity Press International. ISBN 1-56338-404-3. ... of establishing a dubious moral superiority to justify organized violence on a massive scale, a perversion of Christianity she called Christofascism. ...
  4. ^ Mary Grey (2005). "Diversity, Harmony and in the End, Justice: Remembering Dorothee Soelle". Feminist Theology. SAGE Publications. 13 (3): 343–357. doi:10.1177/0966735005054916.
  5. ^ Pinnock Sarah K., editor (2003) The theology of Dorothee Soelle, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, ISBN 1-56338-404-3
  6. ^ Dorothee Sölle auf der Website von Grupo Sal Archived 2 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.