“Courage for religion” even in difficult times

The weekly magazine "Christ in der Gegenwart" did not want to celebrate its 70th anniversary with a "home game" in a Catholic environment. There were also provocative analyses in Dresden, which is largely unchurched.

The name says it all: For 70 years, "Christ in der Gegenwart" has wanted to provide orientation in current debates in politics, society and science. To mark its anniversary, the weekly magazine published in Freiburg, Baden, invited its readers to a congress in Dresden, Saxony. There, the weekend was about "Courage for religion in modern society".

Situation of the church has changed

The motto of the conference indicated that the situation of the church has changed decisively since 1948. Back then, Christians had it easier in many ways than today. True, times were hard. The hardship of the post-war years required a daily struggle for survival. But the church emerged stronger from the Nazi era because of its resistant attitude.

Until the 1960s, the church was a moral authority that many politicians would still like to claim today. At the congress, the head of the Saxon State Chancellery, Oliver Schenk (CDU), appealed to his 400 listeners to speak out "loud and clear" on the current contentious ies. In doing so, they should "argue from faith," the Minister of State advised. They should not leave ethical ies such as immigration and digitalization to others.

"Catholic teaching architecture"

Church voices, however, are being heard less and less, as Michael Seewald explained. In the past, many people would have paid attention to magisterial or theological positions at least as "possibly relevant," the Munster dogmatist emphasized. "Today that is no longer the case."

He shared responsibility for a "Catholic doctrinal architecture" that regulates all questions of life in detail. "The more questionable the concept of nature has become outside church walls, the more precisely the church seems to know what exactly constitutes human nature, what corresponds to it and, above all, what contradicts it – in social, political, sexual and religious terms".

Focusing on the essentials

The consequence is an emigration movement, "which, from a dogmatic point of view, one has so far watched completely inactively, perhaps helplessly," says Seewald. He advised that it should be left more "to the reason of the individual" to concretize the Christian message in their living environment.

Even within the one church there can be "a diversity of ideological positions". Seewald pleaded for "limiting ourselves to the few things that are the raison d'être and the goal of church life: to credibly communicate the hope that Christ has given".

Nothing "glossing over"

Gotthard Fuchs also noted a change in epochs. The Wiesbaden theologian and educator explained that today's church must die in order to be born anew, using the terminology of mysticism. Thus the message of the presence of God must be freed from a "tight grip of the church". However, this is not possible in the form of an "experience-addicted spirituality that is geared toward perfectionist self-optimization". Christian spirituality must also face up to suffering and not "gloss over" it.

A basic attitude of trust in the Christian message without conditions is particularly difficult today, said Barbara Zehnpfennig. "We are so used to having to fight for everything on our own, to not being able to rely one hundred percent on anyone, that such unreserved trust seems almost naive," said the Passau political scientist.

Confessional openness

Heinrich Timmerevers gave very practical recommendations. The bishop of the diocese of Dresden-Meissen suggested that people who do not feel they belong to any religious community should no longer be described as unconfessional, but as confessionally open, and should be treated as such.

The church should also see its day care centers, schools and nursing homes more as places where non-Christians can "come into contact" with living faith. In this respect, Timmerevers said he had learned a lot "in the East," when he came to Saxony two years ago from Oldenburg, a region dominated by Catholicism.

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Christina Cherry
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