Saturday, 27 December 2008

Unedifying church campaign

One constant in Germany is that on the afternoon and evening of December 24th Protestants go to church - to get their yearly fix of some well-known Christmas carols. In some places people actually have to queue to get in.
This year in Berlin the Protestant and Catholic churches unashamedly used the Christmas influx to encourage people to sign a petition asking for a referendum on the right to choose freely between the teaching of ethics or of religion in Berlin-Brandenburg schools. In several places we got given the Christmas card pictured here with the call for a free vote in the star above the manger. I'm not very impressed but then that's probably because I've become infected by France's "Laicité".
If there is a referendum and if (very big if) it got through then Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims would all be able to choose religious education or ethics as a regular school subject. Interestingly this tolerant attitude towards religious education also being open to Muslims is not so evident in German states where churches already have the right to teach children in state schools and education facilities - although one excuse that is given for this is that many Islamic congregations are not organised in asociations.
For me the real problem is that the church relies on the right to teach children and young people in schools - and gets state money to do this - and this keeps the numbers of young people asking for confirmation artificially high. This teaching has something to do with faith but less to do with a community of faith. Meanwhile at one of the Christmas eve services we attended the children who were playing around at the front of the church were more or less sent out by the preacher. Perhaps it's about time to learn to connect with young people and children rather than make out the church is some poor victim in this situation in Berlin.