Why shouldn't religion indulge in politics?

Football, climate, identity : Religion doesn't die, it just transforms

They arrange to go on a pilgrimage, take posters, flags and instruments with them, their clothes are uniform. They stream from all directions onto a large square, which for them is a sacred lawn. There they cheer their idols, take part in their fate, then tell each other their stories, and sing songs. The stories they tell are about happiness and suffering, pain and joy.

We're talking about normal football fans in the pre- and post-Corona period. The game is their worship, they are the church themselves. There are loyal fans and fanatical fans, many defy the adverse weather conditions, tolerate hardship and privation. They form an emotionally connected community whose members recognize and respect each other straight away. Their hearts burn for a common cause.

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Is there a piece of religiosity in football fan culture? The comparison may be limp, but it doesn't hobble. The soccer fan lacks reference to the transcendent, to beliefs and norms. His devotion is substantially different from that of a believer. But the practices are similar. They give those who practice them meaning, structure, support and orientation.

A non-denominational social space

For a long time it was thought that Christian religiosity in Germany was slowly disappearing, completely dissolving in an enlightened secularism. In 1950, more than 95 percent of Germans in East and West belonged to one of the two Christian denominations, were Protestant or Catholic. After reunification it was 72 percent, today it is 51 percent.

A study commissioned by the Christian churches predicts that remaining church memberships will halve by the year 2060. The numbers of baptisms, confirmations, communions, confirmations, church services and Christian weddings are also falling sharply. Theologians speak of an expansion of non-religious milieus and the unchecked expansion of a non-denominational social space.

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Obviously, religion is not simply disappearing, but is taking on, at least functionally, in new forms. In the rhetoric of climate protectors, for example, this can be illustrated by various thought patterns: Human beings are threatened by a tragedy of apocalyptic proportions through their own sinfulness. It forces him to repent. The preservation of creation becomes the highest maxim. Trading in emission certificates is reminiscent of trading in indulgences. Anyone who eats a low-meat, vegetarian or even vegan diet demonstrates their very personal willingness to repent, their purification, their willingness to do without.

When the apocalypse looms, action happens in panic mode

Mission and morality come to fruition in the climate protection movement. That certainly explains their rigor and uncompromising attitude. Every measure that is taken remains inadequate in view of the magnitude of the impending disaster. Because there is neither a plan B nor a second planet, all action must be ordered in panic mode. But politics consists in the art of transforming an "either-or" that only knows winners and losers into a "more-or-less".

The most recent form of religion-substituting "either-or" can be found in identity politics, which defines people and their views according to group affiliation. On the one hand there is the offender type of the old white man, who is, at least latently, an oppressor, colonialist, racist and patriarch. He basically defends his power and privileges and denies them to marginalized groups. On the other hand, there is also the old, white man, but this time as a victim type, because his language and norms, traditions and historical references are attacked and made contemptuous.

Both sides are irreconcilable. The intersection of their common communication space is small and is not shaped by arguments, but dominated by the question of who is speaking. Is it the victim or the perpetrator?

Rights can also be defined by particular interests

Identity politics originated in the USA. The term was originally a dirty word used by right-wing liberals who accused left-wing liberals of caring too much about questions of sexual and ethnic identity. The terms political correctness and cancel culture also go in this direction. However, at least since Donald Trump it has been shown that rights can hardly define themselves less intensively through particular interests in order to break the “power of the establishment”.

The USA is a strongly religious country. But there, too, ties to the church are waning, especially among white Protestants. Fifty years ago two-thirds of American adults felt attached to a Protestant church; today it is far less than half. The number of those who do not profess any religious faith, the so-called "Nones", is increasing rapidly. Fifty years ago seven percent of Americans described themselves as "nones"; today it is already 20 percent.

Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, operates a website called Religion and Politics. A study by the independent “Wheatley Institution” was then evaluated in mid-November 2020. Accordingly, Americans are becoming more secular, but also more religious. The contradiction resolves when the intensity of the religious ties is taken into account.

A kind of defiant cultural pride

Roughly speaking, the American population is divided into a third religious, a third moderately religious, and a third secular. While the number of seculars is increasing, on the one hand a migration from moderately religious to religious people can be observed and on the other hand a radicalization of the believers from religious to intensely religious or highly religious. As a result, this trend is intensifying political polarization.

Politics as a substitute for religion: Christian symbols were shown during the storming of the Capitol and in “lateral thinkers” demonstrations. However, it expresses less piety than Christian self-assertion. It's a kind of defiant cultural pride of nationalists who have hardly ever attended a church service.

Political debates in the USA are increasingly bearing the character of pseudo-religions, the “Economist” sums up. Their representatives are "self-righteous, moralistic, unforgiving". This applies to progressive utopians on the left as well as to white evangelicals on the right.

Whether monuments are to be demolished or streets renamed, the writing changed or “Indian chief” scandalized: In debates of this kind, the degree of serenity that a community needs to remain a community is often lacking. Neither the will to change nor the will to persevere should be absolutized in him. For what happens when that happens is taught by the history of religions.

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