What is the main Christian value

"The importance of Christian values ​​for the future of society" - speech at the annual reception of the Evangelical Working Group of the CSU in Munich


It is a special coincidence that the chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany is allowed to speak at the Evangelical Working Group of the CSU - nine days after a Protestant Christian was elected Prime Minister of the Free State of Bavaria for the first time. Yesterday evening at the international match between Germany and the Czech Republic in the Allianz Arena, I had the opportunity to express the warm wishes of the Evangelical Church in Germany to Günther Beckstein; I am repeating it most cordially at this point and include the entire Evangelical Working Group of the CSU in the good wishes.

It is also a special coincidence that I am speaking about the importance of Christian values ​​for the future of our society in a week in which the ten commandments are suddenly on everyone's lips. In this case, however, it was not the CDU / CSU who took care of that, but their coalition partner. Their argument about whether changes to Agenda 2010 are allowed has prompted former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to comment that Agenda 2010 is not about the Ten Commandments, so changes are allowed. He even added that no one who worked on Agenda 2010 should see themselves as Moses. Because it is not.

Our German newspapers, also insofar as they appear in Munich, has once again made it possible to prove that they cannot distinguish between “Old Testament” and “Old Testament”. Because the former Federal Chancellor did not bequeath something to someone else with an Old Testament; rather, he referred to a connection from the Old Testament, that is, to something “Old Testament”. So he did not “mock the Vice Chancellor”, but rather, if you want to put it that way, “mocked him in the Old Testament”. If you put it that way, it also becomes much clearer why you shouldn't do something like that.

But the same newspaper, it should be added to save its honor, used this debate to inform its readers today about who Moses was, and with it the statement by Franz Müntefering that Moses was "a really great guy", some more Relevant information added: the central figure of the Pentateuch, i.e. the five books of Moses, who, after the revelation of the Name of God in the thorn bush, received the order from God to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage. It is precisely this guide to freedom that is given the task of conveying the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel.

These ten commandments draw attention again. Not only the German Hygiene Museum has dedicated a series of lectures to them. Theater programs are based on them, here in Munich, too, and exhibitions are dedicated to them. A new series of the TV talk show Tacheles is devoted to the ten commandments from next Saturday. In such a context, young people are asked which commandments are most important to them: “You should not kill” is the answer. And: “You should honor your father and mother.” The young people are also asked which commandments should be added. They answer: “You should respect the children.” And: “You should protect the environment for your descendants.” The agnostic Thea Dorn also replies impressively: “You shouldn't spend your lifetime uselessly.” And less seriously, but also thinking worth, the late poet Robert Gernhardt: "You shouldn't make noise."

By the way, hardly anyone notices in such contexts that the ten commandments do not begin with any of the so often cited requests. You don't start with a prompt at all. Her first sentence is: “I am the Lord your God, who I brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of bondage. Then comes the first request, the first commandment: “You shall not have any other gods next to me.” Just as the introduction is underestimated: the promise of freedom, the first commandment is also underestimated: the direction of freedom. At the same time, the topicality can hardly be overestimated. It is too obvious that no matter how often we repeat the claim that we live in a secular society, we are in danger of submitting to new gods. The gods of success, self-fulfillment, personal responsibility, the tendency to allow economic standards to rule over everything and everything, including Sunday, for example, all of this shows what kind of idolatry we have to deal with today. The fact that people still keep a sense of proportion in times of globalization is by no means self-evident. Jesus' famous "interest penny" word must be taken up today in such a way that one frankly says: "Give the economy what the economy is, and God what God is. ”Incidentally, this is a principle which, if adhered to, would in no way be detrimental to the economy itself.

It is also part of the effects of globalization that we discuss such issues in a situation characterized by religious plurality. It is true: we are asking again and again about the significance of Christian values ​​for the future of our society because other, namely Islamic, values ​​are increasingly claiming validity in our society. What is our attitude towards this development? How do we convincingly show respect for religious freedom, including those of other faiths, while at the same time attesting to respect for the formative power of Christian faith for the present and the future? How do we practice tolerance without false submission? This question is obviously topical.

A knowledgeable and attentive observer, the ZEIT editor Jörg Lau, has characterized the discussion in Germany these days as follows - and I quote literally: “Among the churches in Germany, a kind of division of labor seems to emerge in the dialogue with Muslims. The Catholic Church relies more on a strategy of embracing - interrupted by occasional outbursts such as the Pope's Regensburg speech, Cardinal Lehmann's doubts about the readiness for recognition of the Islamic associations and Cardinal Meisner's rejection of interreligious celebrations. The Protestant Church, on the other hand, has chosen the part of consistent content-related discussion, also at the price of dear dialogue peace. This became clear in your paper "Clarity and Good Neighborhood". "

The reason for Jörg Lau's comment is a newly flared up debate about mosque construction, to which I contributed at the beginning of the week by revisiting considerations that I made in my book “Position. The end of arbitrariness ”. In doing so, I followed up on the observation that more mosques are currently being built than have existed in Germany up to now. According to the Islam Archive in Soest, 184 mosques are currently under construction or in planning in Germany. 159 mosques are already in use. These are "classic mosques" that can also be recognized from the outside through domes or minarets. There are also around 2,600 houses of prayer and assembly, as well as school mosques and Islamic places of prayer.

My thoughts on this development are based on the assumption that religious freedom is always also the freedom of those of different faiths. We can point out that the discussion about the construction of mosques in Germany would also benefit if Christians in Saudi Arabia could build new churches and if religious freedom were also guaranteed for Christian communities in Turkey, instead of converting Christianity in the region fear his existence in which the apostle Paul wrote some of his most important letters. Nevertheless, the same applies: We ourselves cannot make our understanding of freedom dependent on whether it is granted in other countries or not. This of course also includes the construction of mosques in this country. In this context, I think it is better for Muslims to move around in their mosques than in some backyards.

However, members of other religions also share responsibility for maintaining religious freedom and tolerance. Anyone who invokes religious freedom must also accept the other statements in our constitution. Equal treatment for men and women is just as important as the freedom to change religion. No religion can justify violence.

But after all of this has been made clear, the question must also be allowed what the apparently large-scale mosque-building initiative in our country is all about. That is why I repeat the question here as well, to what extent it is a question of the legitimate satisfaction of religious needs or whether further claims to power are connected with it. Muslim associations would be well advised to deal openly with questions of this kind instead of rejecting them across the board, as happened again this week.

I am convinced that what we need in this country is a really steadfast and principled dialogue with Islam. He assumes that our Muslim fellow citizens are by no means defined from the outset from our values ​​and constitution. Rather, we must try to involve them in their shared responsibility for religious freedom and tolerance. But this also includes the willingness to question claims to power without giving up our principles of freedom. I am glad that this approach is also understood by the public. It goes without saying that it also triggers lively controversies. And when the question is asked whether the position of the Evangelical Church in Germany has developed further on such issues, I ask who it would be of use if we were to address such important issues would not learn. In any case, the Evangelical Church sees itself, if I may express this in a very worldly way, as a learning system. And if I may say it spiritually: She trusts in the Holy Spirit. And as is well known, it has to do with the fact that it not only blows where and when it wants, but that it also brings new things with this labor.


These examples may suffice to make it clear that the discussion about Christian values ​​and their significance for the future of our society is moving back to the center of attention. However, caution should be exercised in this debate. Because the Christian faith is not limited to values. The theologian Eberhard Jüngel even described the gospel as a "worthless truth" in a polemical way. The Christian churches and Christian theology do not form a “Federal Agency for Values”; their mission is not limited to providing values ​​and thereby providing the lubricating oil for the social engine. In certain cases, what they have to say has to act more like the sand in the gears. Because the truth for which they stand up is not based on social needs and does not fit into the political power calculation. This truth relates to the fact that God reveals himself in a person who is a nuisance to the mighty, refuses the usual temple cult and turns to the lowly to help. That God shows his human face in him is so strange that the natural religious instinct tends again and again to want to have faith in God without having to look at the crucified one.

But even from this radical attitude, oriented towards Jesus Christ as the crucified and risen Lord, the Christian churches and Christian theology at the same time contribute in a certain way to the ideas that shape society and the ethical standards derived from them. In doing so, they know that they are placed in a perspective of hope that can be captured most briefly in the words with which the biblical story of the Flood closes: “As long as the earth stands, sowing and harvesting, frost and heat, summer and winter should not cease , Day and night ”(Genesis 8:22).

This covenant promise from God, of which the Old Testament story of the Flood tells, has proven itself. The fear of the flood, as it spread again in Europe before 1524 because a respected astrologer had predicted a corresponding constellation, is a thing of the past. Seed and harvest, frost and heat, summer and winter, day and night determine our rhythm of life to this day, despite all the technical developments. Knowledge of this cycle, which is developing every year, is the basis not only for economic success, but also for our diet. And at the same time we experience more and more that this rhythm is constant on a large scale, but very endangered in detail. It is influenced and changed by human hands. It is precisely in this respect that the achievements of modern science turn into threats, for example when global warming is accelerated by the emission of greenhouse gases or the risk of flooding is increased by straightening watercourses. We feel that the short-term advantage does not guarantee that our actions are responsible in the long term.


The knowledge that responsibility for our actions includes its long-term consequences has been firmly anchored in agriculture and forestry for centuries. The word "sustainability", which is so popular today, was first coined for forestry. You had to pay attention to the good age structure of a forest if a long-term yield was to be secured. Here the idea of ​​a generation contract was initially coined, according to which economically effective action is geared not only to one's own advantage, but also to the benefit for the next generation. Today we see - at least to some extent - that future-oriented action must be based on such principles of sustainability and the intergenerational contract. That this kind of responsibility is of decisive importance for our future viability, for the formation of fundamental values, for the sustainability of our lives and business.

But such insights cannot be taken for granted. Mostly one restricts the application of this conception to the area of ​​ecology. But as important as this area is, it is just as important that we keep an eye on both ecological and economic sustainability as well as social and cultural sustainability. Whether our society is sustainable is not only determined by whether we use natural resources responsibly and keep our economy efficient and competitive. It also depends on whether we treat the institutions of social coexistence with care, whether we consciously preserve and develop our cultural identity, yes, whether we succeed in creating a picture of the future of our society. Otherwise we could gamble away important elements of social cohesion and cultural heritage within a short period of time with no viable substitute in sight.

The key topic on which such a broader view of sustainability decides for me is the topic of the family. The demographic change that we are experiencing compels us to recognize the original meaning of the fourth commandment again: “You shall honor your father and mother”. In the original sense of the commandment, it refers to the parents of adults who have grown old and who are particularly dependent on honor and care. But we should remember that gratitude and caring should be applied in the same way when it comes to the gift of life, the gift of being born, the growing up of children. The fact that we come to a paradigm shift at this point is, in my opinion, one of the most urgent tasks of our time.

The example of Sunday can also explain what I mean. Even after the federalism reform, dealing with him is subject to the constitutional requirement to respect Sundays and state-recognized public holidays “as days of rest from work and spiritual exhilaration”. With the increase in the number of Sundays open for shopping, which particularly Kluge then combine with a “pool regulation”, this constitutional requirement is being eroded step by step in some federal states. The two churches have therefore decided to appeal to the Federal Constitutional Court on this issue.

Because the special protection of Sunday is turned into its opposite by such developments. Such a project only perceives people as consumers. The impression arises that the duty to protect Sunday, which arises from the corresponding constitutional provisions, is not at all in the consciousness of such projects. Anyone who wants to strengthen the value basis of social coexistence must be careful with the institutions of social culture.

The Christian churches bring the Christian image of man into this discussion.We say clearly: Sunday is to be kept as a day of worship, leisure and reflection. “Without Sunday there are only working days” - this sentence, which we as the Evangelical Church advocated in a public campaign a few years ago, is still valid today. In these weeks we are relaunching the Sunday campaign: “Thank God, it's Sunday.” With this sentence we speak an even clearer language - and expressly point out to whom the “Lord's Day” is dedicated - or but should be dedicated. “You should sanctify the holiday.” The discussion about Sunday protection is about the preservation of an important social institution, about the cultural quality of coexistence, about the space for freedom of religion. It must be emphasized that undermining the Sunday protection, as Federal Constitutional Judge Udo di Fabio has made clear, in no way corresponds to the religious neutrality of the state. Rather, such behavior favors a religion-less, even atheistic attitude. That is precisely not an expression of religious neutrality, but of religious partisanship, even if with anti-religious intentions.

As a Protestant church, it was and is about sustainability and a Christian value that I consider to be an indispensable asset for the future of our society. We do not want to allow the human image in our society to be reduced to consumer size. Sunday is a symbol of the dignity and freedom that God deserves to be human and through which the image of man in our society is fundamentally shaped. I wish our society as a whole could greet Sunday with the words: "Thank God, it's Sunday!"


Finally, with the two key words of freedom and dignity, I want to indicate the horizon in which I would like to describe the importance of Christian values ​​for the future of society. But first I step back from the pressing social challenges and ask myself: What is actually the contribution of a Christian community that cannot be made by anyone else? What do Christians do that others couldn't do the same? If I ask like this, I come across the answer: The Christian community differs from all other communities in that it celebrates worship. Christians' way of life differs from the way other people shape their lives first and foremost in that they pray. Viewed from this perspective, the most important contribution made by Christian churches to the future of society is prayer.

The Christian churches are rediscovering their mission to create spaces for encounters with the sacred and occasions for reassurance in prayer. This is part of their mission in a society that has forgotten how to pray and has to learn it over and over again. Many are untrained in the language of prayer, which is so simple because it comes from the heart, and yet so difficult because prayer is founded on trust in God. Given prayers like the Psalms and the Lord's Prayer are of great help in pouring out one's heart to God. But the use of these forms also needs to be practiced and learned. Believers are challenged to become teachers of prayer.

The prayer knows about the limit that is set for all human action and willingness. At the same time, he knows that his life is based on conditions that it could not give itself, and that it therefore also points beyond the limits set for every human life. Prayer blames; it joins the task of taking responsibility for what happens around me.

This is the decisive background for the question of what the Reformation tradition brings to the shaping of our society. If you ask like this, you will certainly have to emphasize two things: the inviolability of human dignity and the Reformation discovery of freedom. Both lead the individual beyond themselves, connect them with the neighbor and with a larger whole, with God himself. Just as it is necessary today to raise awareness of the anchoring of the principle of human dignity in the Christian faith, it is also indicated today to bring up the idea of ​​freedom in its Reformation style.

Today it is a matter of recruiting people who are aware of their freedom to enter into bonds and recognize the meaning of their freedom in them. Today it is a matter of convincing people who are convinced of their maturity also in questions of faith that this maturity finds a root in the community of the church.

The special task of the Protestant church today is therefore to be a church of freedom. It offers people a home of faith who are called to give account of their faith for themselves and to live it in community with others out of responsible freedom.

But this also forces them to object wherever people are discriminated against, where their dignity is disregarded and their freedom is denied. As before, it is the repeatedly flaring up examples of anti-Semitism and racism, of inhuman hostility towards individual strangers or those perceived as alien, as well as against entire groups, that make our protest necessary.

But there are also other issues that are now moving on the horizon of freedom. The question of whether human self-determination also includes determining one's own death is a clear example of this. The voices are getting louder, demanding a right to medical assistance in suicide or even to homicide if requested by a doctor in certain situations. These are the modes of action that are often vaguely summarized under the term “active euthanasia”. Anyone who is aware that human freedom is given and finite freedom - that is, freedom that is not self-created and unlimited - will also adhere to the fact that human death retains something unavailable. We must wait for death, we must not bring it about. There is a time to die; therefore there is no obligation, not even a right to extend life at any cost. But death must not be brought about arbitrarily - not even through an advance directive that specifies the conditions for when the doctor is released from his duty of care for life. When it comes to the limits of human existence, to life and death, questions of value arise in a particularly fundamental way. Because such questions are increasingly being asked today, the turn towards a new awareness of values ​​is heralding. The end of arbitrariness is heralding. As Christians, we should use our voices courageously. She is needed.