How has the Christian Church gained influence

Faith and Religion: Faith Today & Tomorrow

Faith still determines the life of most people on earth. What follows from this in the age of globalization? The triumph of fundamentalism? A "clash of civilizations"? The renewal of the churches? A diagnosis of the times by the theologian Friedrich Wilhelm Graf

1. The present modern is not an ungodly time. Rather, it is strongly shaped by the attractiveness of religious belief.

In the 20th century, many sociologists advocated the "secularization thesis": that in modern societies religious belief is becoming weaker and weaker, losing its cultural and political weight, is secularizing, that is, secular. But religion has never disappeared - it has gained new cultural significance over the past three decades. Certainly, in Europe in particular we know atheists, agnostics and non-believers who can no longer gain anything from the traditional ecclesiastical symbolic languages ​​and rites. But outside of our continent, religion has lost none of its power of fascination. The vast majority of people currently living lead their lives in deep piety - the present is a highly productive time of faith, determined by rapid religious change, diverse missionary movements and religious conflicts. There is no reason to doubt that it will continue to do so in the future. For demographic reasons alone, religion will continue to gain in importance: the particularly pious father more children than others in all parts of the world and in all religions.

2. New forms of Christianity are growing at least as fast as Islam - and they are missioning more aggressively.

A century ago there were an estimated ten million Christians and three and a half times as many Muslims in Africa. Today there are 330 million Muslims and 350 million Christians there - mainly south of the Sahara. But Christianity has also proselytized more successfully than Islam in Latin America and many Asian countries. Whereas in 1945 the number of Christians in North and South Korea was only 300,000 baptized, in the southern part of the country it increased to eleven million today as a result of the mission. There are now believed to be more than 100 million Christians in China. The Christians who are most successful in missionary terms today are the representatives of the Pentecostal churches, who cultivate a radical, pious form of life and faith, which emerged around 1900 from Reformed Protestantism. Pentecostal churches preach the ecstatic approach to God. In 1970, just six percent of all Christians were organized in them - today, according to some estimates, it is a good 25 percent. Most of the 500 million Pentecostals live in countries in the southern hemisphere. They help to ensure that Christianity, which was once concentrated in Europe and North America, becomes a particularly successful religion in the southern hemisphere.

3. Religion gains new meaning through migration.

People have always left their homeland. However, never before has there been as many migrants as there are today: around 200 million people live permanently in a foreign country. Migration strengthens religion, is a doctrine of religion researchers. Because emigration is extremely risky, you set off into an uncertain future - and cling to your God on difficult hiking trails. He creates identity in new, often hostile environments.

Quite a few people only become pious through migration: religion enables them to cultivate a bond with their homeland and thus ensure continuity in their life history. One can study this well with the example of the USA, the immigration country par excellence. Religious institutions there have always helped newcomers to find their way into society. This creates close emotional contact with these parishes and synagogues.

And this is how some researchers explain the fact that religion plays a particularly large role in the USA, with the interplay between migration and religiously organized integration. It is possible that European societies are yet to be “Americanized” in this regard.

4. In global capitalism, God, the gods and faith must be marketed.

Around 1970 economists began to interpret religious processes of change economically. They developed a new discipline: the economics of religion. We now speak of religious markets in which competing actors seek to sell their healing products and ideas of salvation to consumers who seek meaning. Religious markets function in close interaction between supply and demand.

It is true that in Europe the monopolists, the large Christian churches, are privileged in many ways by state constitutional law on religion - in Asian countries, however, and above all in the USA, the religious markets are largely open. Only those suppliers who are able to successfully sell their sensory goods can survive here - for example the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. This “mega-church” has almost 40,000 worshipers every week and has set up its own communities for children, young people, students, single parents, men, Latinos and older single people. In addition, all kinds of psychological groups are offered, including a “financial ministry”, in order to be able to learn investment strategies while being tied to God.

In this way, there is permanent outbidding competition: All religious providers must constantly ensure that they provide religious services that are particularly customer-oriented, convincing and inspiring. Supply creates demand, competition stimulates business - including the business of faith.

5. “Hard” forms of belief are more successful than soft, liberal ones in religious markets.

More and more people take their faith so seriously that they try to live their life in all its facets strictly according to the will of their God. God's law should become the determining norm of society: in this, strictly orthodox Jews agree with American evangelicals and radical anti-Western Islamists. Like it or not - the strictly binding beliefs have been growing particularly quickly for about 30 years.

The triumphant advance of diverse fundamentalisms can be explained by the pluralistic signature of modernity: the diversity of ways of life has a relativizing effect and creates confusion. Fundamentalisms, on the other hand, promote new certainty. They demand a lot from the pious, but they also offer a lot: strong convictions, stable worldviews, dense emotional community with like-minded people, networks of lived solidarity and charity.

6. The religious cultures of the 21st century live in permanent interaction. That leads to conflict.

When a worldwide television audience shares in the death of a charismatic Pope; when the Dalai Lama jets around the globe from appointment to appointment; when Muslim women make their religious identity visible by wearing headscarves in public - then it is mostly about showing differences, showing media presence. The same applies to the world of religions: more diversity generally means more conflict.

The political scientist Samuel Huntington has therefore predicted a "clash of civilizations". But the thesis of the global “clash of cultures” between “Islam” and “the West” overestimates the inner cohesion of societies. Much more important, especially in Europe, are the normative conflicts within these societies - for example in questions of biopolitics or the legal status of homosexual partnerships. What some worship as sacred “values”, others despise as traditional garbage. So we are constantly experiencing "everyday" cultural battles over the rules of living together, and everything speaks for the fact that the religious dispute over the principles of good living will intensify in the 21st century.

7. The Christianity, the Islam or the There is no such thing as Buddhism.

More than three million Muslims live in Germany, mainly Turks. Most of them are not very pious and see themselves as secular Turks rather than devout Muslims. But because they are constantly perceived as Muslims, many of them develop a self-image with a stronger Muslim emphasis. The situation in France is completely different: Most Muslims there come from Morocco, Algeria and some countries south of the Sahara, and conflicts over integration tend to be sparked by the colonial wars. The colonial past is also present in the Muslim worlds of life in Great Britain and the Netherlands. Such causes must be recognized, stereotypes such as “European Islam” must be avoided, and opportunities for education and advancement must be opened up. It depends on the non-Muslims whether the increasing presence of Muslims in Europe becomes a success story.

8. Europe becomes the continent of immigration for Muslims. But the Islamic worlds in Europe are colorful and diverse.

More than three million Muslims live in Germany, mainly Turks. Most of them are not very pious and see themselves as secular Turks rather than devout Muslims. But because they are constantly perceived as Muslims, many of them develop a self-image with a stronger Muslim emphasis. The situation in France is completely different: Most Muslims there come from Morocco, Algeria and some countries south of the Sahara, and conflicts of integration tend to be sparked by the colonial wars. Also in the UK and

In the Netherlands, the colonial past is present in the Muslim worlds. Such causes must be recognized, stereotypes such as “European Islam” must be avoided, and opportunities for education and advancement must be opened up. It depends on the non-Muslims whether the increasing presence of Muslims in Europe becomes a success story.

9. Many seekers of faith link elements of different religious traditions with one another.

In democratically constituted nations that recognize religious freedom as a pre-state basic right, everyone can be saved according to his or her religious form. As a craftsman of meaning, modern man builds his own private world of faith, for example combining old Christian ideas with symbols and cultic practices of other religions. Organizes yoga evenings in the Catholic parish hall or develops the willingness in interreligious dialogue groups to combine different things into a new, humanistic belief. Scientists call this combination of heterogeneous elements of meaning "bricolage" (French for "handicraft work"). Everything - political, art, sex - can be religiously charged. Some preach health as the highest value and see organic muesli as a sacred food, like a communion. And when Hamburg football fans are buried in a coffin with a club emblem in the club's own cemetery by a pastor who wears a club scarf instead of a liturgical stole, football has also become religiously unconditional. One of the reasons why this “bricolage” is becoming a mass phenomenon is that more and more people are making long-distance trips and perceiving foreign religious cultures with their own eyes. This new religious individualization also indirectly promotes hard, "fundamentalist" forms of belief: the more colorful, diverse, and confusing religious markets become, the more attractive are the beliefs that offer many people, clear, reliable authorities and protective bonds.

10. German Christians live at a deliberate distance from the churches - and are still more religious than many think.

Many conservative cultural critics complain that Europe is an ungodly, deeply secular island in a religious world. Whatever the measurement, the two large Christian churches are still the most powerful organizations in German society. Its social holdings Caritas and Diakonie each employ more than 400,000 people - they are the largest employer in the country after the state.

More people attend church services on weekends than in the Bundesliga stadiums, and in surveys 70 percent of those questioned describe themselves as religious. Consequently, the simple diagnosis of “secularization” does not apply. How can one interpret the remarkable strength of Christianity?

Some experts speak of “believing without belonging”. Accordingly, people believe (for example in a meaning in life), but do not take part in church life. Others speak of “vicarious institutions”: churches as crisis managers for emergencies in life and major crises in the community. In any case, the Christian churches will remain the most important religious actors in Europe in the coming decades, despite some very poor religious performance and the decline in persuasiveness of their full-time staff.

Because they manage a fascinating treasure: an ancient religious symbolic capital that still yields strong returns.

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