Bon Jovi, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Hillary Clinton will appear at the $7.4 million bash recognizing the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down, but Berlin-based journalist Markus Spieker says that most Germans probably won't party. "Some Germans even lament the loss of the good old days during the Cold War, when everything seemed cozier and more obvious," Spieker said. "It's like the Israelites after the Exodus, taking the newfound freedom for granted." Similarly, he predicts nothing will change during the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's nailing of the 95 theses on the Wittenberg door in 2017. "When Jesus came into the world, there was no celebration, nothing was going on," said Spieker, who was a "pastor's kid" in West Germany 20 years ago and is now a journalist at a television station in Berlin. He spoke with online editor Sarah Pulliam Bailey at an ice cream shop next to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin about the church in Germany and why he thinks it's stagnant.
How is church life in Germany different than it is in the United States?
The Protestant state church is fairly dead. The percent of committed Christians in Germany is maybe at 3 or 4 percent. Eighty percent belong to a church nominally, Protestant or Catholic. A mere 0.5 percent belong to a free evangelical church. The percent of people believing in life after death is fewer than 50 percent. It's what a German philosopher, Ruediger Safranski, calls "cold religion," very left-brained, very cognitive, focused on rituals and membership but not on personal commitment. Sometimes the mainline bishops say we need to be more mission minded. But they don't put any money into it.
Is there something about German culture that keeps churches from growing?
Part of ...