THE POLITICAL PAGE
January / February 2007
Quo vadis, Germania?
Trends and Development in Germany
Which course will Germany take in the next few years? Which the developments will - often unnoticed - leave their mark on our life?
At the beginning of the New Year it is good to face these questions and try to discern what is happening in the deeper depth of our society under the surface waters of everyday life.
There are four words which have caught my attention and I'll consider them even though there are also many other ‘depth-terms' in our culture which are worth meditating upon.
1. Maximization - Minimization
We are living in a performance society. Its maxim is: higher – better – faster . This applies not only to sporting competitions but is also a ‘pressure' in the competition of everyday life. Whether at work or in marketing hype, you always have to be good – even your sex in bed. The economy has to grow, even if it is only a minimum growth in percentage points. The standard of living has to be maintained at least, or improved. The citizens' put pressure on policy, which in turn forces the policymakers into a game of hide-and-seek… until, with the Agenda 2010 and the Hartz-reforms, they were forced to admit their incompetence.
The high performance goes hand in hand with a demanding attitude. Every disappointment over ‘pre-election-handouts' leads to wild protestations since – apparently - everyone seems to have a legal claim to them: be it the gradual increase of pensions, the reduction of aviation fuel, tax-deductible commuting expenses for employees, the 13th month salary cheque or the holiday pay. Basically, Germans are open to reforms but preferably if they happen to others.
High performance and the demanding attitudes are both rooted in the ego of the heart: in self-affirmation and in the universal right to fortune. In both cases, the mankind is focused on itself. He loses his perspective; he becomes narrower and, finally, he ends up with burnout or a heart attack… which is, itself, partly a product of leisure-time stresses.
But alongside maximization and its consequences, minimization is a characteristic of our culture; we're all walking the long journey through the desert of minimization; the road towards the seemingly inevitable narrowing and impoverishment of life.
The maximization of profit calls for a radical minimization of costs. The minimization of cost, however, means the minimization of employee numbers; it means the sacrifice of trust and identity with the company and the destruction of the willingness to make sacrifices and invest in the creativity of the enterprise.
The population is aghast and politicians are admonish – profits of billions and thousands of redundancies are mentioned in the same breath. Where? At the shareholders' meetings. This is where the chiefs of chiefs are to be found; this where the value of the omnipotent Big Boss is determined. Shareholders want to see the maximization of their shares, rising gains through increasing profit; profits, which can best be achieved through dismissals; because, people are the highest cost factor - everywhere.
So, while some are discharged, others are worked to exhaustion to satisfy the shareholders appetites for profits and managements hunger for praise and glory. Maximization – Minimization; radically different but two sides of the same coin.
In this context, ‘globalization' is always claimed as the legal justification for these actions. While true in the area of production sector, it is questionable if used in the service sector.
‘Globalization' has become a mask for a merciless ‘Mammonization' with a consequent destruction of human lives – in Germany as in China and in any other place. The whole world is caught up in a war for economic growth against human dignity. Instead of proudly claiming the ‘social market economy' as a European achievement, we are exporting ‘pure primitive capitalism' at dumping-ground prices to an Eastern Asia with its child labour and starvation wages. May God have mercy on us at the judgement day. These issues are not only about us, they are also about those who are slaving hard to produce our global ‘bargains'.
Minimization of costs also means the minimization of time : from fixing a car to tending the sick – behind every job and every action the time-setters are at work. The weak perish; human beings fall by the wayside on the long march to ‘progress'.
We save time with new motorways, super-trains and cheap flights for everybody; we save time with e-mails and SMS… and all we have really gained is the feeling of time gained. In fact we have less quality time to relax and end up even more exhausted. We think we have gained the world, but somewhere along the way have lost our souls.
Minimization of costs , minimization of time , minimization of relationships and, through broken families, the minimization of children. Because even they come at too high a price!
Maximization is fuelled by feasibility mania, by the inspiration of the human ego. Minimization is the end product of this over-estimation of human beings; the minimization of its greatest asset: its inner life; its soul.
This is where Jesus breaks in and calls out to this generation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and stressed by your work, and I will give you rest.” How will this happen? Jesus continues: “Learn from me: I am gentle and humble in heart.” Gentleness is a reflection of the relationship with others; humbleness reflects the value of the others. This is something Jesus never lost despite working from early morning to evening. Restlessness is at the heart of disorder. Jesus puts everything right again… but first things first. “Learn from me… and you will find rest”.
Top-manager Wendelin Wedeking puts it this way: “I am convinced that our economic system cannot exist without human requirements and ethical principles. The market economy needs the support of core values. ... Economy, therefore, is not only a mechanical exchange of goods and money but is always a social process too.' (Focus 51/06)
That does not mean splitting the uranium atom but splitting up society. Neither is it the splitting of society into political parties, because so long as they are fighting each other, they belong together. Neither is it the splitting of the society into different churches and denominations because despite their distinctions we can feel them drawing closer together - a unity achieved by God's Spirit to produce a larger and stronger ‘ecumenism of the heart' throughout the world.
‘Atomization of the society' means the increasing penetration of electronic media. Yesterday, mass media communications was brought to families sitting around their TV set. Today even that last point of fellowship in the family has been broken; everybody drifts off to his or her room seated in front of his PC… Why? In brief, to be left alone. There he sits and chats with the whole world, searches for programmes and surfs an ocean of possibilities and finds pleasure engrossed in pictures he would not dare to watch with his family. But nobody can see him here and finally, he gets his ultimate kick by playing a video game…before he turns off the light.
According to statistics, the time a husband talks with his wife and children each day is shrinking to almost zero.
The chats on the PC are spontaneous and very often deal with themes of everyday life and even the most intimate of subjects – no problem: anonymity is a good protection and opens the window the confessional. So effective family communication, which is being grumpily denied our spouses, is carried out here. Why? Because I can cut the connection with my PC chat-partner with a click of the mouse… which I certainly cannot do with my spouse! Here, I would need to make an effort; there, none at all. Thus the real relationship is being starved out by virtual competition.
And now we can take another step down the road with DVDs, computer games and pornography. The pathetic and fearful debate continues on this theme, to decide whether these pictures encourage people, especially youngsters, to copy what they see. The carnage in Erfurt and other places, after the terror attacks of young Muslims and right-wing extremists, which was repeatedly beamed in by video. Can we still say that our perceived reality does not correct the virtual world? Or is it the opposite, where the virtual world seams to be more real and vivid than our existing environment? The same is true for the dreadful and immeasurable extent of general consumption of child pornography by men, and the consequent destructive effect of these men roaming free in the seclusion of their families.
‘Atomization' means damaging the next generations by the manipulation of the electronic media on a much larger scale than ever before. Today, many already consider themselves to be electronic addicts, unable to cope without their ‘dope'.
Are these Media to be damned? Or banned? We are living in an electronic world; It's the way you deal with it makes the difference.
As the apostle Paul says (1 Cor 6:12): “Everything is permissible for me - but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me - but I will not be mastered by anything.” Therefore, the issue is not about Christian escape from reality but about a Christian ‘world conquest'. But there are limits. The one limit – and this is what he talks about at the end in order to avoid any misinterpretation – the one limit is ‘adultery', which in internet-speak is called 'pornography'. This is not allowed. The other limit is set by the question: Is it good? Is it good, that I am still sitting here and opening a new site, when I know my wife or children are waiting downstairs for me to come, to read a story etc. However, Paul points very clearly toward a third limit: “I will not be mastered by anything.” If my PC has become an addiction for me, I need counselling and a longer period of ‘fasting'. And if this is not possible, I need to set times and boundaries before turning on my PC. Thus, the apostle Paul teaches us the right way of dealing with the electronic media.
The immigration of millions of Muslims to Germany since 1960, has made Islam the second religion of our country. According to statistics: (in thousands)
SPIEGEL spezial 9, 2006, S. 63
Europe and its member countries cannot avoid a confrontation with the Islam in the 21st century. Many different approaches have been tried up till now (see Political Page November/December 2006, chap. 2). But one thing we can say is that the encounter with the Islam will not go in a straight-line; Islam seems to have too many different streams or levels in Europe.
I want to differentiate between 4 levels; we have to react in four different ways.
1. Level: Muslims among us
Time can not be turned back. They are here, these 3.2 million Muslims. Germany has become a popular country to migrate to. Integration into our society has to happen. It has to happen through suitable laws from above, but even more from below in the daily relations between people. The Caritas in Mannheim has been successful. Every foreigner who has attended the German course there, has received a ‘godparent' who shows students how our society works, beginning with going shopping, to private talks and ending with visiting a church. In this way, lasting friendships are formed between them. We Germans also have to do something to have a successful integration policy.
Basically, the foreigners who immigrate into our country have the duty to adapt to our culture because this country and his longstanding history have marked our culture.
Recently, the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, gave this speech to the Muslims in Australia: “I am not against immigration, nor have I resentments against anybody coming to Australia in order to find a better life. Although, there are some things which people who recently immigrated into our country and even people who were borne here, need to understand: As Australians we have our own culture, our own society, our own language and our own lifestyle. We speak English, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Japanese or any other language. Therefore, if you want to become a member of our society: learn the language! - Most of the Australians believe in God. This is a fact because Christian men and women have founded this nation on Christian principles. If you feel hurt or offended by God, then I suggest you settle down in another country of this world, because God is part of our culture. - We will accept your beliefs… The only thing we are expecting of you is to accept our belief too and to live in harmony and peace together with us. We are very happy with our culture and have no intention to change anything. - This is our state, our country and our lifestyle and if you start to complain, I warmly recommend that you make use of another great Australian freedom - namely the right: to go!”
What a refreshing wind of national self-confidence! It must be fun to become a citizen, to be integrated and to be part of such a country. To which Germany do we want to invite our foreigners? Only a German who is proud to be a German can invite others to become German.
2. Level: Islamization
Here we have a well-directed campaign to force Europe under Islamic domination:
In a democratic way through more births than deaths.
In order to nominate the Federal Chancellor in 2020; to occupy the centre of power by a long march with small paces.
Through the banks who are already fighting competition demanding they be offered the possibility to make financial investments in conformity with Sharia law.
Through buying up the majority shareholding in our companies.
Through the establishment of mosques at the gates of our cities which are 100% subsidized by Arabia.
Through protests against Christian symbols (the cross) in schools and by pressure for Muslim symbols (the headscarf).
Through intimidation of the press through threats – going as far as death threats - against individuals and publishers who dare criticize the Islam.
A new association was founded by the well-known author, Udo Ulfkotte, after writing his book ‘Der Krieg in unseren Städten' (The War in our Cities) at the end of December. According to their own statements, the members of ‘Pax Europa' stand for the protection of the Judeo-Christian tradition of the European culture, and for the maintenance of our liberal-democratic processes. Ulfkotte says: “Muslims living in Europe have to adapt to our values and our legal system and not the other way round. We don't want the Islamitzation of Europe, but a European Islam.” Under the motto ‘For Europe – against Eurabia' the association wants to put pressure on politicians to take the worries of citizens more serious. The association, which appears on the internet as www.akte-islam.de , is very popular and receives dozens of new applications for membership each day.
It seems to be high time for a ‘non-governmental organisation' of this kind to be formed to marshal the citizens and put their opinions into practice through meaningful initiatives. They can do what politicians cannot do; their hands are bound by ‘political correctness'.
3. Level: Islamist Extremists
We don't have to say too much about this now, because acts of terrorism are an offence and are prosecuted as such here, as everywhere in the world.
The problem is posed by the question: When do we have enough circumstantial evidence to be able to go against it with legal means. Because we must never allow terror to force us, with our liberal democracy, away from the way of constitutional legitimacy. This danger is ever present – look at in the USA - and is being addressed repeatedly.
In the free West, we walk a tightrope between freedom and security. On the one side there are the people who are warning against too much freedom (e.g. Günther Lachmann 'Tödliche Toleranz (Deadly tolerance): The Muslims and our open society') On the other side, politicians and the security forces is right when they point out that 100% security is not possible and so the restriction of civil rights are only worthwhile up to a certain point.
4. Level: Islam as a doctrine.
A thorough introduction to the rudiments of Islam has to be taught in all schools and placed in contrast to Christian beliefs through Christian religion teachers . To do this necessitates the depiction of the outworking of the individual beliefs in daily life. Thus, Christian students will probably become aware how deeply they and their culture are marked by Christianity.
In time, Islamic religious lessons will be normal in schools and the control of teaching content will be easy and possible.
The same is true for the training of Imams through Islamic theological faculties in universities. This is the simplest way to stop the import of hate-preaching Imams from Turkey who don't know anything about our country. Like the Evangelical and Catholic faculties in our universities, separate Shiite and Sunni faculties would be welcomed.
Thus, a debate would be initiated at an academic level in many places which would surely encourage Islam, i.e. the Imams, towards a stronger theological reflection than appears to have happened to date. Such a debate might well also help many Christian students of theology to a deeper identification with their own faith.
The Islam – A shock therapy for the West
Over and over since its appearance, Islam has forced the West, throughout its Christian history, to seek direction and responses. Would it be pushed towards military action, such as at the battle of Tours and Poitier in 732 A.C. against the Moor, or with the crusades? Would it move towards accepting the philosophical and theological advances made by the Arabs in the systems of higher learning? Or would it change the religious policy of the ruler, as it did in the Reformation era when the emperor needed the help of the Protestants in his war against the Turks.
This is how Islam has to be perceived today. After 300 years of peace, Islam is again challenging Europe – but this time not only Europe, as the ‘Christian Occident', but the whole ‘Christian world', whether in Europe or the USA or Australia. Again, Islam is challenging the nice idyll of a enlightened Christian monoculture, with a universal set of values. We have forgotten what a treasure we have in our possession. Our monoculture has become sated, humbled and dormant. Cultural boredom, however, is the breeding ground of decadence. And this is the picture, which the ‘West' boldly reflects on the outside.
The ‘East' is no longer a weak counterpart for the ‘West'; Islam has again become a challenge for the ‘West' after only one decade of triumphant absolute power (1989-2001). The West was confronted with Communism, which, as a political system, has its own religious-ideological background; now it is confronted with an offensive and clamouring religion with political ambitions as well .
In the past, all Islamic challenges to the Occident have always been military, and answered – successfully – in like manner. Despite Al-Quaida and 09/11, the present challenge is primarily a religious, a spiritual and historical challenge to a West - especially Europe - strongly marked by Christianity. Thus, the aim of the 'Islamization of Europe' is the establishment of ‘Eurabia', a continent with a new religious background, based on the requirements of the Koran and intended to bring all the people under Allah's domination.
It is hard for a secularized West to understand religion this way, a way that makes it more then a primary target for political action. But this really is the issue! People are becoming more and more aware of this truth. The present advance of Islam can, therefore, not be fought primarily with weapons, but only by religion, by faith. The West is being challenged and shaken to its religious roots. And this is good!
It is not certain now if this religious confrontation with the Islam will be waged as successfully as the military confrontations of past centuries. The question is whether the West will be able to expose its deepest religious convictions in biblical Christianity fast enough. With Christianity faced with scepticism and criticism, is Europe ready for a ‘love confrontation' in the spirit of Jesus? Is this the only thing that Muslims cannot overcome?
As a support for this encounter, we need to pass regulatory laws based on our basic law in order to have a well-organized encounter.
In this way, the Lord of history will use Islam to achieve something in the West which can not be achieved by anything else: a r estored consciousness of our Christian-Jewish cultural Identity.
The media is an indicator of trends in our society. Its success in detecting these trends is measured in sales figures and audience ratings. And it has a good nose for it.
Thus it is interesting to see the media reporting church events and Christian themes more positively. In the past, such reporting was only possible if well oiled with a critical and smug undertones. Today, the reports are objective, well investigated and large daily papers like the F.A.Z. no longer fight shy of publishing articles with a deeply religious flavour on their front pages. And I'm talking about articles which would only have been found in church papers before. As religion leaves its church buildings it is becoming a matter of public interest again. Or should I say, religion is being called out of its 'church's corners' and is not only being met with open and tolerant goodwill but with interested attention. It is meeting a need. This is as true for talks between private individuals as it is for the politicians. The Christian faith is being challenged to step out of its private niche and to start to counsel our political and economy decision-makers.
Altogether, we can feel that people are searching for something durable. And this has been increasing significantly. According to the Shell study, carried out in 2002 among 12-15 years old teenagers, for 61%, ‘faith' is in top-position in their scale of values, alongside ‘independence'. On the question of whether God exists or not, the number of those believing in God increased between 1990 and 1999 from 25% to 38% in the West of Germany and, in the East, from 14% to approx. 20%.
And this interest, the so called ‘comeback of religion', continues to accelerate. The church finds it hard to catch up with it, even though Bishop's Huber statements are noted with attention. The Catholic Church, with its Popes, Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI, caught the world's attention for the Christian faith and is strengthening it. Above all, it becomes obvious that the new churches are the winners in this new development in the hearts of the people; they have more people-friendly forms of divine service and church structures which make it easy for people to join.
The world's power, Religion
The above developments are not only happening in Germany but in the whole world. Yes, in this context, Europe is again trailing. In the USA, the comeback of religion in public life has become very obvious. Politically it is an advantage for a presidential candidate to be a ‘born-again Christian'. After the fall of Communism, the Orthodox Church in Russia has managed to respond effectively to the longing for religion among Russian people. And interviews with individuals showed that the World Youth Congress, with its millions of young people and its enthusiastic ‘Benedetto-calls', was more than just an event. The conscious turning towards faith in Christ had become obvious.
In the last two decades, Muslims the whole over have also experienced a return to religion. The starting gun was the 1978/1979 revolution in Iran with Ayatollah Khomeini, and it has been growing since then – a well known phenomenon.
Also China experiences a powerful breakthrough of religion which has been noticed by the regime. The Falun Gong were beaten by police during their public exercises. Regarding Christians, the F.A.Z. (30.12.06) has already asked: “Will the People's Republic of China become a Christian country?” and noted that “Protestant house churches enjoy great popularity. The government is concerned about the development”.
Reasons and backgrounds
The first reason for these developments, is the increasing knowledge that the humanist, intellectual and rational advances of the past few centuries has no answer to the most basic and important questions about human existence. Doubting everything (Descartes), was made a matter of intellectual principle, especially doubting God's existence; the philosophically substantiated death of God (Nietzsche) and the elevation of humans as super-men (Zarathustra) culminated with their horrific political consequence in the racial hatred of the National Socialism. It collapsed, as did the attempt to answer the question of the meaning of life, and the claim that religion is a substitute. The consequence was Nihilism. The same thing happened with the collapse of the other largest substitute-religion of the 20 th century - Communism. The people of the 21st century felt an emptiness, resulting from the emptiness of substitute-religions and they are now searching for a meaning to life again. And people can only receive this ‘infilling' from outside – from God. And this is something that cannot be grasp by the mind, only by faith.
A second reason for the search of people today, is the continuously growth of our horizons, and the growing concensus that we inhabit a world where everything is interlinked with a complexity that defies our understanding. We perceive that not even those in charge ‘up there' know what to do. The feeling of insecurity, the feeling of being lost in a cosmos without moral support and direction, forces people to search for something to give them the support and sense of purpose they need. This search is all about security; about God.
In this way they clutch at any ideological straw on offer. However, in these times of hardship, people are also searching for the old models of trust again. This is the chance of the Churches. Blessed are those who are ready to go to such an inviting church. Blessed is the Church that has learnt to address people's needs, to offer personal and friendly relationships and have a ‘guest room' included in their Church programme.
In his lecture in Regensburg, Benedict XVI talked a lot about reason and about reconciling reason and faith. God is a ‘reasonable' God. Thus, he showed people the way back, and forward, into Christian belief. People are looking for this reason and they also don't want to lose it. Thus, the Pope paved a philosophically sound way towards Christian belief through a kind of spiritual accommodation with the rationalism of the West.
Are we on the threshold of the moment which G od spoke of when He said: “I will pour out my spirit on all people…” (Joel 2,28)? A worldwide outpouring of the Holy Spirit; a revival that is not confined to Churches and believers; a moment when people everywhere will be seeking salvation before the “the coming of the dreadful day of the Lord”. People, the whole world over, suspect that things are getting more tense globally, and are hoping that there may be a global and a personal escape; a universal salvation. And this is where the prophet offers comfort: “It will happen: Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” This is the eternal gospel of Jesus: It has to be passed on.
To these people.
This “Political Page“ is a collecting point for many prayer requests, for thanksgiving and intercession. On rereading this issue, please mark the points which spontaneously motivate you to pray. For me it is important to:
A good help in prayer is also the new verse for this year from Isaiah 43,19.
Fischer Weltalmanach 2006. Zahlen-Daten-Fakten.
Günther Lachmann, Tödliche Toleranz. (i.e. ‘deadly tolerance'). The Muslims and our open society' Piper Verlag, Munich 2nd edition 2005.
Wolfram Weimer, CREDO. Warum die Rückkehr der Religion gut ist. (i.e. Why the comeback of religion is good). Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt. Munich 1st edition. 2006
Christliches Medienmagazin ‚pro' no. 5, 2006
SPIEGEL spezial no.. 9, 2006. Weltmacht RELIGION Wie der Glaube Politik und Gesellschaft beeinflusst. (i.e. World power – RELIGION – How faith influences the policy and society).
FOCUS 51,2006. ‚Meine Werte' Zwischen Freiheit, Familie und Respekt – was uns wirklich wichtig ist. (i.e. My Values between freedom, family and respect - what is really important to us).
FOCUS 52, 2006. Was nützt Religion – (i.e. Which is the advantage of religion). Wissenschaftler erforschen den Sinn des Glaubens. (i.e. Scientists search for the sense of faith).
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 30.12.2006.
I am looking for…
On 1 st January Angela Merkel took over the Council Presidency of the EU. Many things are expected of her and she needs favour with God and the people. ‘Favour' - these are open doors among her Council colleagues, in the Commission and in the Parliament in Strasbourg where she will present here programme on 17 th January. She considers the revitalisation of the constitutional process to be the most important point. This includes – according to what she has said – the mention of the Christian heritage in Europe in the constitution.
To implement this in the council will be possible if President Chirac withdraws from office; this will take place in May. The Commission president, Mr. Barroso, is anyhow for that. The strongest resistance will come from the Liberals, ‘freethinker' and socialist in the Parliament. Therefore, it is a strategically task to pray for the deputies of the Parliament by name… and there are 732 Members of the EP at present.
So, I want the readers of the 'Political Page' to step into the breach. They are people who are truly interested, a spiritual front-line unit, a Gideon's army, called to pray regularly for one deputy for half a year. I am very aware that things will be decided finally only after the German Council Presidency – but the course will be set this year. And pray also for the Heads of Government in the Council.
If you want to participate, please call and register: Karl-Heinz Fischer, Auf Hart 60, 71706 Markgröningen, Tel: 0711-4482; mail: firstname.lastname@example.org , who is the coordinator and will tell you the name of your MEP for prayer. If you already have someone in mind, please let him know.
Many thanks for answering my request for donations!!! Encouraged, I now trust your commitment will also be quick regarding this issue.