How does religion shape a human person

"What is the significance of religion for society?"

Dear Sirs and Madames,

what significance does religion have for society? I am to answer that question today. Anyone who asks this assumes that religion has a meaning in society. Quite a few see it differently and therefore more or less loudly proclaim that religion is a private matter. You suspect that I want to contradict that.

“Every religion is associated with a comprehensive claim. There is no religion that remains without consequences for the conduct of life. In this respect, every religion also has a political dimension. It affects not only private, but also public life. ”In my opinion, this statement by the former chairman of the EKD Council, Wolfgang Huber, can hardly be contradicted. What he formulates abstractly, the ZEIT journalist Evelyn Finger expresses concretely. With regard to faith, she stated two years ago: “[Faith] is suitable for ... igniting wars and devastating entire countries - as in Syria; to divide a population and pillage places of worship - as in Egypt; to support autocratic regimes - as in Russia and Iran. On the other hand, the belief is also suitable for naming political problems with a clarity that politics was no longer capable of: for example, to question the European refugee laws and to trigger a worldwide debate about social justice - as the new Pope did ". (28.12.2013)

There is no need to fully share this analysis. Personally, I do that to a large extent, although I think the role of religions could be portrayed in a much more positive way. In any case, one thing is clear: religion is a highly personal matter, but it has a variety of effects on the societies of this world. It is just not a private matter.

Of course, with a view to many of the events described by Evelyn Finger - and the new dynamism of violence caused by IS is undoubtedly one of them - one can say that religion today is simply misused and instrumentalized for power politics. This instrumentalization has demonstrably existed at all times. However, this does not mean that the religions - or better: their respective representatives - are not also responsible for what happens in the name of their faith. And this is where the second part of Evelyn Finger's observation comes into play: the potential of the religious with regard to political issues, the contribution of religion to the prevention or resolution of conflicts.

Today - and I suspect that this corresponds to your expectations of my contribution - I would like to deal with the importance of religion, not from a world-political and also not from a historical perspective, but with a view to today's conditions in Germany and from a Christian perspective Structure the versions as follows:

1. The Christian churches as pillars of society
2. The Christian churches as pillars of democracy
3. The challenges posed by the growing number of Muslims in Germany

I. The Christian churches as pillars of society

The Christian churches differ from many other social forces in that they create meaning. They support, comfort and accompany millions of people in our country through the proclamation of the gospel, and they offer them a spiritual and social home in the church. That is their first and foremost task. But that is by no means all: Christianity cannot help but have an impact on society. It cannot withdraw into a worldly spirituality and it cannot be satisfied with the role of the “personal lucky charm”. Christianity focuses on people as relational beings. From our relationship with God, we Christians are always referred to our relationship with our neighbor. When Jesus was asked what the highest commandment in the Jewish law was, he replied: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the highest and greatest commandment. But the other is the same: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets hang in these two commandments ”(Matt. 22, 37-40)

The Gospel calls Christians to be responsible for creation and for fellow human beings with all freedom; To be a Christian means for many believers to stand up especially for the weak, the sick, the old - for people on the fringes of society. The contribution that Christians make to our society because of their faith cannot be quantified. At most, what falls within the sphere of activity of Diakonie and Caritas can be measured: I will only mention the Protestant side here: the service of around 465,000 full-time employees in diaconal institutions is used by around 10 million people. Our community derives multiple benefits from the charitable dimension of the Christian religion: It benefits from the special skills of the Diakonie and Caritas employees, from the financial contribution made by the church in various areas, and in particular from the additional commitment of around 700,000 volunteers, who work in the diaconal institutions. Here the church and diakonia provide resources for all citizens.

The churches also make an important contribution to society in education and culture. The constituted church is committed to supporting schools, universities, academies and day-care centers. The demand for this religious service to society is great: Contrary to the trend, for example, the number of Protestant day-care centers and after-school care centers is growing. (To almost 8606 institutions. Every sixth place in a daycare center is supported by the Protestant church.) The church and diakonia also support 1,134 Protestant schools of all school types.

In the field of culture, the Catholic and Protestant Churches raise considerable funds annually, namely between 3.5 and 4.8 billion euros. This corresponds roughly to the amount that all federal states together make available each year. Monument protection and music are just two areas in which the church is particularly active.

The advocacy of the Christian churches and their members for social issues is not limited to individual or organized charity and care. As was already clear in the quote from Evelyn Finger mentioned at the beginning, it is always about fair structures. “Whoever wants to love God and his neighbor cannot leave politics outside! If someone is in need, I have to ask how this need can be overcome. ”This is what the chairman of the EKD Council, Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, said in the evangelical magazine“ chrismon ”(November 2013). Our religion also motivates social lawyers and political action in society. The connection between Christianity and political commitment cannot be put into figures either. One can, however, ask whether the high proportion of Protestant and Catholic Christians in the current federal government is a coincidence. I do not believe that.

On the church side, the political commitment is extremely diverse and, as you may have already noticed, sometimes polyphonic. “With a few exceptions, God's word gives us no clear ethical-political instructions. The Gospel works like a compass, not like a navigation system! ”, This is how the former EKD council chairman Nikolaus Schneider put it. It is the task of the offices in Berlin and Brussels that I manage and the offices at the headquarters of the state governments to keep moving this compass into the focus of those responsible in politics. I like to describe our ministry as a commitment on three levels. On the one hand, we want to be the church in politics - with church services, devotions, pastoral care, educational events and much more. Second, we want to influence the formation of political opinions and consistently bring the perspective of the weak and weakest into play. Finally, we make sure that the institutional interests of the church are safeguarded. In particular, we speak up when we see the relationship between state and church - according to the Basic Law, the ideologically neutral state is in favor of the churches in promoting neutrality - misunderstood. If you wish, I will explain that in more detail in the debate that follows.

II. The Christian churches as pillars of democracy

The contribution of the Christian religion to the support of our community is today existentially interwoven with its democratic character. The free, democratic form of government corresponds to the Christian image of man. According to the Christian understanding, God has given every human being, because he is human, an inalienable and indestructible dignity. This dignity is independent of what a person thinks, believes or does. The churches became painfully late in making this clear. For the first time in 1985, only thirty years ago, the EKD Council formulated in the memorandum “Evangelical Church and Liberal Democracy” the conviction that a democratic constitution based on a clear distinction between state and religion is most likely to safeguard human dignity correspond to . Consistently, in the social word of the churches of 1997 it is designated as a central concern “to contribute to an understanding on the foundations and perspectives of a humane, free, just and solidary order of state and society”. According to the Christian understanding, freedom, justice and solidarity are essential shaping forces of a “good” society. With this in mind, it is no coincidence that the churches played a central role in the Peaceful Revolution of 1989.

The Christian religion can best develop its effective power in democratic structures; conversely, the free democratic state is dependent on this active power of religion. In the publication “Democracy Needs Virtues” from 2006, it says: “The idea that in an order of freedom everyone can pursue his interests regardless of the whole, because the rules are able to bring about a reasonable balance on their own , is widespread ... but it is illusory. ”The future viability of our society does not only depend on the structures that it once gave itself. It is important to maintain these structures, to fill them in and, where necessary, to modify them. The churches bring their religious convictions into the process of social orientation and value formation. In this way, they contribute to the renewal and further development of basic attitudes, without which democracy in particular cannot exist. As sources of an ethos that “unites society”, they contribute to the stability of the state. Of course, the Christian religion is not the only source that produces values ​​that support democracy. But it is an essential one. Here I would like to quote Norbert Lammert, President of the Bundestag, who asked so well: "Enlightened religions as outstanding mediators of ethical standards - who else could stand up for principles such as justice, truthfulness, non-violence or equality in the true sense of the word 'credibly'?"
The responsibility to support and protect the free state rests with all citizens of our community - regardless of their religious affiliation. However, the awareness of this responsibility is not innate, but has to be learned. Parents' homes, kindergartens and schools have the task of shaping the attitudes of the younger generations towards our society accordingly. In this educational mission, too, the Christian religion and the church, as their institutional garb, can play a key role. I have just spoken of the large number of day-care centers and schools run by Protestants. Religious instruction is also of particular importance in this context. These lessons do not only benefit Protestant or Catholic students. In Saxony, for example, the proportion of those taking part in religious education has increased from 4 percent in 1992 to almost 25 percent in 2012. This means that in many learning groups a significant proportion of the students are not confessional. In other federal states, too, the churches often reach more people in religious education than they have members.

Especially in a time of incalculable refugee movements to Germany and a strengthening of aggressive defensive reflexes - "Pegida" has again received a significant boost! - The education for a religiously tolerant, understanding and peaceful coexistence is gaining importance almost every hour. Also and especially in schools, answers are needed to the question of how the plurality of origins and world views can be integrated into common learning and living. The religiously motivated and thus authentic contribution to the creation of meaning, the ability to communicate and tolerance that religion teachers make is becoming increasingly important. It is equally important to continue to find ways and means for Islam to participate in this challenge. Therefore:

III. The challenges posed by the growing number of Muslims in Germany

The discussions about whether Islam belongs to Germany or not are overtaken by the course of events. The vast majority of refugees who are currently arriving in Germany are Muslims. Many of them will live with us, and so Islam will also take hold in this country even more. What remains is the question of how exactly the role Islam can play in our society will be.

Based on the three principles: religious freedom, ideological neutrality of the state and self-determination of the religious communities, our Basic Law guarantees the freedom and equality of all religious and ideological communities vis-à-vis the secular state. The state's neutrality towards religious communities, which the Federal Constitutional Court calls “promoting”, includes numerous “interfaces” between church and state in the sense of cooperation in the interests of the citizens. I am giving examples of church tax collection by the state, religious instruction and the theological faculties at state universities, as well as pastoral care in the armed forces and in prisons. This grown relationship must now be checked for its ability to integrate with regard to Islam (or Islam's ability to integrate with regard to the tried and tested structures) and re-established. Who can get help from the state when collecting their membership fees? How great can the independence of a religious community be when training clergy? Who is allowed to give religious instruction in public schools and who is entitled to pastoral care in state institutions such as the armed forces or the penal system?

Of course, no other standards can apply to non-Christian religious communities than to the Christian churches. The support that the state gives the latter is tied to certain basic requirements. For example, the collection of church tax by the state depends on the status of a corporation under public law - which, by the way, already has the Jewish religious communities, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Muslim Ahmadiyya community and the Lower Saxony Humanist Association, which is after lunch will be represented here on the podium. This is important because the procedure for collecting membership fees as church tax is public law. It is just as important that the training of clergy and religion teachers takes place in reliable cooperation on the part of the state with representatives of religious communities who have a certain constitution and represent a large part of the believers - and thus also their faith.

We will be preoccupied with the question of whether Islam should be properly incorporated into the existing structures for a long time. From the point of view of the Evangelical Church, it is essential for the cohesion of our community to come to a practicable solution that makes sense for all parties. We are therefore happy to take part in all debates and the search for answers on this topic.

The renewed consideration and evaluation of the existing state-church relationship in Germany connected with the question of the integration of Islam, in my opinion, confirms its quality. Here I know I am in good company: At a discussion event held by my department, Federal President Norbert Lammert said three weeks ago that the relationship between church and state has never been “more sovereign and better” than it is today. To analyze and appreciate this interaction alone would be worth a separate lecture.

Let me conclude.I hope to have conveyed that our society needs religions. It needs its effective forces and it needs religious tolerance. It corresponds to the core of Christian belief that believers of all religions are entitled to human dignity, human rights and thus religious freedom. Mutual respect and the rejection of any form of violence to achieve religious purposes are prerequisites for peaceful coexistence in our increasingly plural society and - and now I'm looking beyond the national horizon - for peace between peoples, cultures and religions. Maintaining these conditions is the task of everyone, especially religions.

Thank you for your attention.