To attempt to generalize about the religious and spiritual scene in a land as dynamic and diverse as present-day Germany is to invite the criticism of being superficial. The most that one can hope to do is to report what he himself has felt and observed, and to recognize continually that he sees in part and reports in part. A number of elements of significance have come to the attention of this writer during the past summer, spent in the German Federal Republic and in West Berlin.

It is noticeable, first, that the question of church and slate is by no means resolved in West Germany. The problem assumed prominence again this year in relation to the Roman Catholic Church, which has no national school system as such in the Federal Republic. The courts have ruled that education is a province of the Länder or states, and thus the Roman hierarchy is compelled to deal directly with each state in educational matters.

This year, the matter has reached what seems to be a critical stage with the preparation of a draft concordat between the Holy See and the state of Lower Saxony. The aim of the concordat is to increase the amount of Catholic religious training in the public schools. Lower Saxony is approximately 80 per cent Protestant, and thus the members of the predominantly non-Catholic state teachers’ association are disturbed. Some have said they will refuse to teach any classes in religion if the concordat is ratified. At present, the attempt is being made to prove the proposed draft unconstitutional.

What is significant in the entire affair is that the national Christian Democratic party, which is largely Catholic-based, opposes the concordat—for political reasons. Chancellor Ludwig Erhard seems to fear that its ratification will confirm some of the concern of anti-clericals and swing their votes to the Socialist party in the forthcoming national elections.

The problem is a thorny one, especially since the basic relations between the West German government and the Vatican are governed by pacts negotiated with the Hitler government. It would seem that both West Germany and Italy could afford to insist upon a renegotiation of their respective agreements made with the Holy See during the days of the Rome-Berlin Axis. Rome may, of course, feel that she could not hope in this decade to secure such favorable terms as she secured in the late twenties and early thirties.

To the outsider, it seems ironical that Germany, with her proud Christian heritage, should today be regarded with special interest by non-Christian religions. Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims seem to consider West Germany their primary missionary territory in Europe.

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Laborers are brought into the country from Muslim lands, notably Iran and Turkey, and there are now some 120,000 Muslims employed in Germany, with another 10,000 in the Federal Republic as university students. At least eight mosques operate in the land; and their services are attended, not only by foreign students and Muslim laborers, but also by Germans, who seem to be seeking for something not found in their own religious institutions. The most successful center of Muslim worship is in the town of Schwetzingen, and services are also held regularly in Frankfurt-am-Main and Nürnberg.

Buddhists from both Ceylon and Tibet are also active in Germany. There is a well-staffed Buddhist mission for Germany that claims 3,000 members among the German population. This figure does not tell the entire story, for there seems to be a wide interest in the investigation of Buddhism as a religious option within German intellectual circles. To many, this seems to be “the thing” for the fashionable intellectual to pursue.

This same interest in the exotic quality of Oriental thought is inclining some German intellectuals toward the more sophisticated varieties of Hindu thought. There are said to be nine schools of Yoga in the country. These use the cultivation of the cultic physical exercises as a means to introduce students to the beliefs of speculative Brahmanism. Emphasis is laid upon the technique of interweaving Indian religious thought with the psychology of the West. What is significant in all this is that there is a spiritual hunger and spiritual quest which German Christianity is not satisfying. Adherents of missionary movements from the East capitalize upon this.

Another factor noticeable in the mentality of many West Germans is spiritual neutralism. This writer and his wife had an earnest conversation with a well-educated young man who had very recently been married. When asked whether the wedding was solemnized in the Church, he replied matter-of-factly but firmly that it was not. He emphasized that he was neither for nor against the Church, but that to him it was essential to regard such matters in total and detached objectivity. Neutrality toward faith was to him a sort of a dogma.

When questioned a bit further about what filled the frame of his life, he made it perfectly clear that getting and furnishing an apartment and maintaining a comfortable manner of life were to him the essence of living. He revealed no antipathy to faith, Christian or other; to him, faith was simply redundant, the Church irrelevant.

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Informed Christians feel that this attitude is widespread in the Federal Republic. It is, viewed from one angle, more difficult than avowed atheism. Although a short conversation with this man did not disclose all the ingredients of such a way of thinking, one thing seemed clear. The mood of detachment and non-involvement was mingled thoroughly with materialism. The young man’s values were exclusively material.

A final observation has to do with the current theological mood. Any attempt to generalize in this area involves the peril of oversimplification. But certain trends seem evident. First, the supreme reign of Rudolf Bultmann in German theological matters is drawing to a close. No longer can a frown or a negative comment from this theologian condemn the opinion of another capable thinker to oblivion or outer darkness. True, the tendency to form “schools” and the mechanics of filling professorships in German universities do serve to give abnormal power to strong personalities. But the dogmatic “quest for the existential Jesus” is no longer regarded as above criticism.

Again, there seems to be emerging a renewed emphasis upon the historical element in revelation. This may be an outgrowth of the stressing of Heilsgeschichte (salvation-history) by Oscar Cullmann and others. Thus, there seems to be a discernible trend toward acceptance of a possible continuity between the events described in the biblical revelation and the events of general history. It is too early to predict Whether or not this will finally bring to an end the mania for demythologizing in Continental theology. The trend may be the harbinger of a day in which first-line theologians will at least entertain the possibility of some factual validity and some propositional accuracy in the historic written Revelation.

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