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Germans re-elected Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday, keeping the Christian Democratic Union in power. But the name of her party might be confusing to some Americans: it's not a party limited to Christians and is not particularly devout. The party's documents say its "policies are based on the Christian view of Man and his responsibility before God," but it rarely articulates that basis in political debate.

If that name is confusing, however, consider the Evangelical Church in Germany (Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland), which is not a church—it's a federation of Lutheran, Reformed, and United churches—and is generally what in the U.S. would be considered a mainline denomination rather than an evangelical one. (As in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the use of evangelical is more a reference to the Reformation than more recent evangelical developments.)

German Christians who share American evangelical emphases—the authority of Scripture, a commitment to evangelism, and a focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus and the need for personal conversion—are increasingly wary of the word evangelical. Hermann Gröhe, a minister of state in Merkel's administration, explained why in an interview in his office on Monday.

What can German evangelicals teach American evangelicals about the interplay between faith and politics?

I don't know if there is a specific evangelical approach to politics in Germany today. For a long time, German evangelicals made the mistake of keeping a distance from politics. They believed that social and political activities were typical for a church dominated by liberal theology, so they thought purifying the gospel meant to stay away from public life. That is not typically ...

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October 2009

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