What does a broader society mean

What does "Christian" mean?

From Dr. Manfred Lütz

Everyone is talking about the “Christian image of man”, “Christian values” and the “Christian Occident”, but hardly anyone still knows what actually is Christian. Even Christians themselves are ashamed of their own history to be on the safe side - without knowing it. Crusades, Inquisitions, witch hunts, everyone has heard of the endless scandalous history of Christianity. And so one does not value Mother Teresa and Pope Francis because they are Christians, but even though they are Christians, one does not hold it against them, so to speak. If 2000 years of Christian history were actually a single fiasco, then a religion that believes in the incarnation, that is, in God's incarnation, has been hit at its core and definitely discredited. All the assurances by church representatives that everything will be done better now can only be countered by a clever atheist: Then let's wait 2000 years to see if it gets better now.

In recent years, international research has produced spectacular results on the history of Christianity, but these have not yet reached a broader public. Significantly, it was not theologians or church people who went to work, but secular scientists, historians, sociologists and others. In the best of an enlightening spirit, they destroyed long-believed myths and brought about findings that often sound downright unbelievable.

These findings meet a social debate, where one claims the term Christianity for oneself from the far left to the far right, but also in the broad middle. But the use of this term is now completely arbitrary. But there is a way to cancel this arbitrariness. And that is the actual history of the Christian religion, which cannot be interpreted arbitrarily. How did Christians actually understand their sacred texts for centuries, what practical consequences did they draw from them and, above all, with what results? Atheists must know this too if they want to understand Europe's spiritual sources.

The results of the research are striking: who knows that tolerance was a Christian invention. In classical Latin, tolerantia meant the carrying of loads, for example tree trunks. It was only the Christians who made it possible to endure people with a different opinion, which is why Jürgen Habermas counts Christianity to the “genealogy of human rights”. Who knows that in the entire first millennium, the Christians were the first great religion to not kill heretics, because Jesus had declared in the famous weed-wheat parable that one must not uproot the weeds, but that the last judgment must be left to God at the end of time. Compassion is a Christian invention. The heathen had no pity. The disabled were thought to have been beaten by the gods and the wrath of the heavenly ones was feared if they were helped. Gregor Gysi said in 2005 in the Protestant Academy in Tutzing that he was an atheist, but that he was afraid of a godless society because solidarity could be lost. After all, socialism is nothing more than secularized Christianity. A prophetic saying. Internationality is also a Christian invention. For the tribal religions only the member of one's own tribe was considered to be a person and one's own people as the only true one. Christians had to accept from the outset that all people and all peoples were equal before the one God. Therefore, it was Christianization, as the imperial theorists of Charlemagne emphasized, through which it was possible that the various Germanic peoples did not constantly hit each other's skulls. Anyone who claims today that nationalistic, ethnic thinking is compatible with the “Christian Occident” is not expressing a false opinion, but is simply lacking historical education.

You have to know all of this if you want to lead the coming debates on the foundations of our society. You also have to know the undesirable developments, the heretic killings after the year 1000, the Crusades. But here too you have to know the state of research and not just the propaganda of the totalitarian dictatorships of the 20th century. Because what survived Hitler and Honecker in the minds are almost exclusively the fairy tales that they brought into the world about Christianity.

Dr. Manfred Lütz is a theologian and specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapy as well as a bestselling author. On December 18, he was together with Kurt Cardinal Koch and Prof. Dr. Christoph Markschies visits the Evangelical Academy Tutzing. Topic of the panel discussion: "The future of Christianity". More information here.

This article appears as a guest column in the December issue of the newsletter of the Evangelical Academy Tutzing. If you would like to subscribe, please click here.


Picture: Dr. Manfred Lütz (Photo: Daniel Biskup)

Tags: Christianity, Manfred Lütz