Steinmeier: Religion and reason Germany | DW

Again he warns religious actors to social commitment and public responsibility: “Charity is not only charitable,” emphasizes Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. “It can and must also have political consequences. It can and must also exist in the fight for justice, in the commitment to participation by the marginalized.”

The Head of State speaks at the opening of the General Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Karlsruhe. And he made it clear to the auditorium, church representatives from 120 countries, his fundamental conviction: being a Christian should not be limited to piety far from the world. Anyone who takes the message of Jesus seriously must act. He is concerned with reason and responsibility based on faith.

Steinmeier at the Catholic Day in Stuttgart in May 2022

Frank-Walter Steinmeier: The 66-year-old is Federal President – and a Reformed Christian, so he belongs to the Protestant Christians. In the year of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, 2017, he was elected head of state. Since then, he has addressed the churches, the Christians in the country, directly with appearances and speeches like hardly any Federal President before him.

This summer alone: ​​at the end of May he spoke in Stuttgart at the opening of the German Catholic Convention; the Reformed Christian Steinmeier encouraged the faithful, who were timid in the face of the ongoing church crisis, to have a say in public. In July he came to Paderborn as a keynote speaker at the Libori Festival, which was celebrated for the 500th time. A few days ago, as a friend, he paid tribute to the former Council President of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Wolfgang Huber, with a fundamental speech. And now Karlsruhe.

Religion on the subject of foreign policy

This event is also a little bit Karlsruhe. Because Steinmeier deliberately relied and continues to rely on the public presence of religion in a variety of ways, and he does not limit himself to the Christian religion. This commitment was even more important when he was chairman of the SPD parliamentary group (2009-2013) than it is today. As Foreign Minister (2013-2017), he anchored the topic of religion in the Federal Foreign Office and established the “Religion and Foreign Policy” department. If Steinmeier hadn’t become Federal President in 2017, he would have been President of the German Evangelical Church Congress in 2019 – that was already certain.

In 2019 he came to “Religions for Peace” in Lindau.

When the first conferences with high-ranking religious representatives from all over the world started at the Federal Foreign Office, Steinmeier’s successor Sigmar Gabriel acted as the host, who saw the importance of the topic and took up the tradition. With his successor Heiko Maas, on the other hand, the basic trait of indifference to the topic never gave way. Supported by the Federal Foreign Office, the interreligious world organization “Religions for Peace” has met several times since 2019 during Maas’ tenure in Lindau on Lake Constance. Maas never traveled to the event, nor did he ever send a meaningful greeting. Instead, the speaker at the start of 2019 was… Steinmeier.

Vatican | Pope Francis receives Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Steinmeier 2021 with Pope Francis

The travels of the Federal President go well with the many speeches. The Protestant, who is married to a Catholic, traveled twice, in October 2017 and in October 2021, to see Pope Francis in the Vatican.

The Importance of Public Religion

Steinmeier is not the type of preacher like his predecessors Johannes Rau and Gustav Heinemann, not the pastor of the Germans like the Lutheran Joachim Gauck, not the academic-theological explainer like Richard von Weizsäcker. He also occasionally plays each of these roles. But the “practicing Protestant,” as he once said, is concerned with the importance of public religion for society.

The speech that Steinmeier gave in October 2019 as a “Global Ethic Speech” in Tübingen seems like a summary of his position. First of all, he expressly greeted Hans Küng (1928-2021), who was already absent due to old age and illness. This is of “unheard-of historical urgency,” said Steinmeier. He paid tribute to the “culture-shaping effect” of religions, promoted their cooperation “from a global ethical point of view” and repeatedly came up with a coexistence of religion and reason. “Religion that defies reason can become blind to reality and be seduced into dogged dogmatism, with dire consequences – perhaps one of the most catastrophic threats to a common ethos.”

Russia Patriarch Cyril and Vladimir Putin

Close to the ruler in the Kremlin – the Russian Orthodoxy, here Patriarch Kirill

In his Karlsruhe speech, Steinmeier updated this warning using the example of Russian orthodoxy and its course since the Russian attack on Ukraine. Then Steinmeier almost got angry.

Steinmeier does not mention the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, by name. But it’s clear enough as it is. Those in charge of the Russian Orthodox Church are currently leading their believers down a “bad, even downright anti-religious and blasphemous, wrong path.” They “commoned themselves with the crimes of the war against Ukraine,” complained the Federal President, speaking of a “totalitarian ideology disguised as theology.” And there, too, he again mentions reason. No Christian who still has “his faith, reason and senses together” will “be able to recognize God’s will in them”.

Germany Karlsruhe | General Assembly of the World Council of Churches with Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Steinmeier in Karlsruhe with the heads of the WCC, General Secretary Ioan Sauca and the chair of the highest governing body, Agnes Abuom.

Steinmeier expressly calls on the World Assembly of Churches to contradict Russian orthodoxy in the dialogue with Moscow’s representatives in Karlsruhe. “Dialogue is not an end in itself. Dialogue must address injustice, must name victims as well as perpetrators – and their vicarious agents.” On the other hand, if a dialogue is “limited to pious wishes and remains vague, it becomes, at worst, a stage for justification and propaganda”. Before this election stands the WCC assembly. It sounds like a warning.

Quite similarly, but at the time even more reservedly, Steinmeier expressed his views on the wrong ways of religion in his speech at the Libori Festival in Paderborn last July: “There has never been a straight line from basic Christian beliefs to actual action. Time and again there have been terrible ones There have been aberrations and crimes and perversions of these good and wholesome origins.” European history always includes a necessary reconsideration of Europe’s good intellectual roots.


The article is in German

Tags: Steinmeier Religion reason Germany

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