Why has religion become so business

0. The concern: religion and belief in the market and media society


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I first came into contact with Hermann M. Stenger in 1994. It was about the preparations for his book "For a church that can be seen"(1), which I was in charge of from the publishing side at that time. While working together on this publication, which is made up of already published articles and new texts, I came to appreciate Hermann Stenger as a competent theologian, pastoral psychologist and, above all, as a sensitive person. He knows how to get involved with his counterpart without reservation, to feel the situation and to integrate the other's circumstances and motivations into the dialogue from his side. But he is also not afraid to bring up things that are unspoken "in the air" - to uncover what influences the encounter "under the palm of the hand" (and thus in the subliminal communication). For him, however, this is always done with the aim of enabling genuine communication and in the process of dialogue - which always includes learning with and from one another - to achieve the highest possible level of understanding.


As "metriopathy", as the ability to empathize(2), Hermann Stenger himself describes this basic pastoral competence, which is expressed again and again in his person and in his way of dealing with his fellow human beings. This attitude is particularly required in situations in which the weakness and temptation of life are shown - but in which the transformation of this "legacy" into valuable capital is possible. Hermann Stenger shows in his person that this pastoral competence - becomes it applied correctly - "'redemptive', ie releasing, redeeming, liberating"(3) can work. That is why he does not avoid making the message of the Gospel fruitful in the encounter and demanding in clear language that which serves man's life in all its dimensions - man's true incarnation through faith. He is aware that we have the "treasure [...] of the knowledge of the glory of God"(4) Carry in earthen vessels. To perceive that we humans need these vessels - how else should we carry the contents? -, but also to express their precious content - faith itself - and to avoid that we consider the vessels themselves to be essential, I have come to know and appreciate an empathic-open and at the same time critical-constructive attitude at Hermann Stenger.


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In view of the challenges of a (post-) modern North American and Western European society, which is primarily determined by the laws of the market economy and the media and therefore increasingly determines or occupies the various areas of life, this attitude of Hermann Stenger - the “metriopathy "and the critical-constructive dialogue - to apply to the new" signs of the times "(GS 4) and to make them fruitful for the future of people and faith. I take up the phenomenon of the "new religiosity"(5) on, which has gained in importance in recent years and is now increasingly discussed from the theological side. Today, in my impression, it is not so much the offers of non-Christian religions or fundamentalist groups or so-called sects that play the decisive role - without wanting to downplay the problems that are sometimes associated with them - but rather the "religious" presence in the various forms of one A society shaped by the market and the media, whose enormous impact should not be underestimated. Contrary to predictions to the contrary, religiosity did not become obsolete in the process of the Enlightenment and modern progress, but it is present today in an astonishingly persistent way - but now under new auspices.


This (post-) modern "market and media religiosity" and the question of a (pastoral) theological hermeneutics that are inspired by Hermann Stenger's concerns will be the subject of the following pages. I will draft the characteristics of one under the conditions the market and media society developed "religiosity" (1), classify this briefly in a larger horizon (2), develop the above Approach by Hermann Stenger - pointed to his remarks on the relationship between experience and faith (3) and try to draw (practical) theological conclusions for the relationship and dialogue between the church and the new “religiosity "to derive (4).


From numerous aspects with which the "market and media religiosity" could be described, I choose four perspectives that seem essential to me: structuring time (1.1), increasing everyday life (1.2), self-redemption (1.3) and experience of community (1.4 These characterizations should not be understood in isolation, but rather are interrelated - sometimes closely related.


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1.1 From Angelus to Tagesschau: The structuring of time


While in pre-industrial times experiencing the course of the day and year was determined by sunrise and sunset, the change of seasons and changes in nature - and the associated Christian rites and festivals - today, “television and its program structure serve one infinitely large number of people as the medium through which time is decisively structured - a function that has been understood religiously since the earliest times of mankind "(6). Even more than a few years ago, the television broadcasters take this function - which they probably do not understand religiously, but which they understand as essential - into account when designing their programs: fixed broadcasting slots for certain offers (e.g. for the various talk shows on weekday afternoons), characterization of certain Weekdays through constant themes (e.g. through the big game shows on Saturdays) or the setting of the seasons through appropriate offers (e.g. through vacation reports in summer).


“Finally, however, the evening finds its structure and its meaning through the big news broadcasts, which - deceptively similar to the old ritual of pausing to pray the Angelus or the evening prayer that summarizes the day - provide the basic information with which life can survive. "(7) The importance of this evening ritual, which in Germany manifests itself in the reception of the "Tagesschau" of the First German Television, can be gauged from the fact that the private television stations withdrew their attempt to bring their evening programs forward to 8 p.m. a few years ago:(8) Apparently, it is not really possible to counter this strong bond between people and a habit that serves more than just conveying messages. It may or may not be a coincidence: The fact that the redesign of the "Tagesschaustudios" can hardly be explained functionally, but that it now looks more like a modern, everyday choir room with an altar, could (subconsciously?) Be an expression of this foreign and self-image.


The implicit religious structure of their everyday life plays an important role, especially for older people, for whom the modern day-to-day organization is not available due to the demands of school, work or hobby.(9)


1.2 From "temples of consumption" and "happy ends": the enhancement of everyday life


The abolition of one's own life, which is experienced - at least implicitly - as limited, takes place in the market and media society under several definable, but nevertheless related, aspects. Television ritualises life experiences and activities in an exemplary way. It works with it


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- such as the possible relocation of the wedding ceremony to the registry office alone - it performs liturgical functions and, through the type of staging, contributes to the fact that the spectators know that they are involved in the ritualized events with their own experiences and performances. The entertainment program "Traumhochzeit", which has been successful for years, is just one of several possible examples of how television provides a kind of higher meaning and seemingly unbreakable promises through initiated rituals in the face of contingent human experiences. to close the gap in the creation of meaning that has arisen through the change in the way the meaning of Christian weddings is measured. "(10) For candidates, the viewers are the guarantors of their increased and thus "condemned to succeed" relationship. The viewers, conversely, receive a share in a life that finds "ultimate" meaning and highest perfection in love.


Another way of undoing the fragmentarity that determines the experience of human life is provided by TV series, series and multi-part series. By combining individual parts that are interrupted in various ways (by other programs, by their everyday life ...) into a meaningful whole in spite of everything, they convey the confidence that the "red thread" in their own life is not "It is the suggestive mediation of an ultimately indivisible and guaranteed wholeness of life that progresses from one to the other and connects everything, which here, as a kind of personal assertion of meaning, defines the religious in this segment of the medium of television."(11)


The experience of the acceleration of time increases in the (post-) modern age. The motto "time is money" is not only evident in innovations that provide an advantage - which may be necessary for survival in the market economy - but also in evaluating and replacing human labor. In addition to the above-mentioned structuring of time, the market and the media take over at the same time the release from time in order to free people from the compulsions of keeping pace and earning - from the "chronocracy"(12) - to break out. In increasingly perfectly designed "temples of consumption" and "shopping paradises", they create places where, in addition to business - but in his service - the apparently useless and deprived of acceleration take up more and more space. “To stroll around to look, to perceive the not-for-sale with pleasure and to look forward to moving in the midst of water cascades and flower formations - that means to forget the time, or more precisely: to experience and spend time in a different way. "(13)


The market and the media succeed - closely linked to what has just been said - the creation of a better world in which everyday worries and needs - which paradoxically are partly created by mechanisms of this very market economy -


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as well as borderline experiences are abolished and resolved. The wandering into the distance - medially conveyed via series such as "The Dream Ship" - finds its real expression in the high stylization of the holiday and its marketing by an industry that has meanwhile grown to unimaginable size. The religious significance that is addressed here "is articulated in the Breaking out into unknown distant places, in crossing the known and in experiencing the foreign, in actively sought fulfillment of the dream of a completely different world "(14). The longing for another world can also be spoken of when advertising today more and more often suggests to the interested party that buying a product or participating in an event is the gamble solution to all problems or / and the survey about the banal life is connected. It goes one step further if explicitly religious associations and symbols are used in the presentation of products. "Sacrality is staged in secularity in order to create difference and particularity and thus a new, higher community."(15) This mediation takes up - mostly under the commercial aspect of sales or audience ratings - people's longing for a transformation and enhancement of their lives and promises their fulfillment.


The victory of good over evil - which can strengthen hope in the ultimately good sense of the world - is evident in the "happy ends" of numerous feature films and series. This religious function becomes particularly tangible in the genre of crime films, which has developed in recent years "To hope for final justice in the world, to rely on the overthrow of evil and to secure the wages and rights of the good - that remains the urgent longing and the secret wish of every human being."(16) It has a religious content when in the crime film - but also in the plot scheme of numerous other feature films - the good prevails over all the tricks and evasions of evil and - despite the often hopeless starting position - helps the just cause to victory.


1.3 "What helps me is true": Self-redemption


The principle of selection, which manifests itself in conscious decisions, but more often in unconscious actions and attitudes, is one of the unspoken rules of modern religiosity. The main criterion for the choice is personal feeling. "The new religious fashions and their followers are not based on dogmatic or religious studies knowledge: It is not about the question of what is true, but about what helps subjectively."(17) Liberation from the constraints of society and one's own experience of contingency occurs through personal choice, one's own compilation of "redemption strategies" and through their active implementation or application.


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The way to a successful, meaningful life is - so the market suggests - often relatively easy. "The ten steps to success", "A happy person in thirty days", these are the promising offers on the publication and seminar market. Buying a book or attending an evening event - but not infrequently also the time-consuming and costly training with a "guarantee of success" - seem to make it possible to free yourself from the fragmentation and limitation of your own life.


Through television, the possibility of self-redemption through participation in another, better world reaches a new dimension. In the truest sense of the word "at the push of a button" it is possible here - to some extent - for which religions or therapy scene require complex techniques or lifelong "achievements". The probably "inevitable" development of broadcast times, which have now largely been extended to 24 hours, as well as the variety of programs hardly limit the fulfillment of the spontaneous desire to participate in another, often better world.


1.4 From real life to the "virtual community": The experience of community


An important religious function must not be forgotten here: that of community building. The colloquial talk of the "television community" already shows that one can find something in the "market and media religion" from this perspective. One should think, for example, of the community-promoting effect emanating from programs around which fan clubs and other groups of like-minded people "gather".


Last but not least, this is where the Internet comes into view, which - if one believes the corresponding forecasts - will determine people's lives like no other means of communication in the future. The virtual community or the global village shows previously unknown ways of interacting with other participants anywhere in the world - the globe literally becomes a "global village". "The Internet opens up a new world for the individual, and he becomes part of a new communication community, a worldwide community of people who belong to an electronic system of regulated common forms of communication. "(18) If the appropriate equipment is available, the Internet can easily connect people across borders, oceans, nationalities and religions in new forms of community. Knowledge and information are becoming accessible in a new and comprehensive way - if you add the modern achievements of mobile communication - from almost every point in the world. Isn't that also the fulfillment of a deeply religious vision?


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Most of the functions of the "new religiosity" just mentioned are not new and - partly in a shortened understanding of the Christian message - have played their role in past centuries. In contrast to the earlier society, which was mainly shaped by the Christian worldview, they are today no longer integrated into the ecclesiastical practice.They no longer support the message of the Bible and Christianity or at least the conception of the world and human beings that emanates from them - they are no longer anchored in an institution - but serve the individual, private and thus freely selectable insurance of each individual. "The religious field, which was once dominated by a monopoly provider, is changing into a structure in which individuals can put together their own religion"(19) (see also 1.3). The surge in individualization, which is one of the typical characteristics of modernity, finds its consequence here in the religious behavior and attitude of people. With the "choice religiosity" there is consequently a "tendency towards the sacralization of subjectivity and of group references as typical places of socially invisible religiosity"(20) hand in hand.


The large number of religious attitudes today corresponds to a multitude of - explicit and implicit - religious offers, which are only in some cases within the boundaries of institutionalized religion - but also pluralized there! - move. “This turns the actors into providers of symbols, rituals and lifestyles in a market that structurally offers decision-making options for private demand interests. The logic of the market thus becomes the new power to limit the religious. It creates the new plurality of the religious, but also tends to limit it according to market criteria. "(21) This means that this new "dispersion of the religious" (Michael Ebertz) in all possible areas - but especially in the advertising and media industry - is not free from constraints and dependencies (see also 4.2).


In several steps, Hermann Stenger developed the “Religious Experience of Being and Revelation-Bound Experience of Faith. To distinguish the Christian "are summarized, his understanding of the relationship between religion and belief.(22) He advocates "religious belief"(23)who consciously focuses on the God of revelation, but initially in the religious one


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Human nature can (and should) take its starting point. This "religious belief" acknowledges that "the content of preaching and teaching, liturgical acts and forms of piety that are assigned to the realm of Christian faith can initially be experienced in a natural-religious way corresponds to the mystery of the Incarnation. "(24) There can be no isolated faith, separate from the human prerequisites, because: "Faith has to hear, see, be lived, in short, 'perceive' as a prerequisite so that the individual can decide for it."(25) Nevertheless, the difference between this "natural religiosity" and "graceful faith" must be taken seriously; in addition to religious experience, personal and determined acceptance of revelation is required. "Full of mature faith requires the intervening of a decision: a conscious consent to the history of salvation and its consequences."(26)


In addition to or in the Incarnation (4.1) explicitly mentioned by Hermann Stenger, the Cross (4.2) and Resurrection (4.3) - they "challenge" the conscious decision of faith - are the two further centers of the one Christian history of salvation, from which - So the Stenger's approach continued here - develop (practical) theological premises for dealing with the "new religiosity" of the market and media society.


4.1 Incarnation: Entering into this world


The mystery of God's incarnation in the person of Jesus of Nazareth marks his persistent and deep involvement in the human world in all its dimensions. The Christian God does not direct the world from outside in the sense of a natural supernatural paradigm or "withdraws" from his creation in the deist manner after the founding act. The God of Jesus of Nazareth is a God of history who enters the world of People incarnated so that history and the "signs of the times" become permeable for himself.


Formally, this not only means that the Christian faith can be discovered and strengthened through experience - this possibility must also be kept in mind despite all possible discrepancies to "market and media religiosity" - but


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also demand that church and theology must "become the world", "come into the world" again and again. This constant "inculturation task" cannot be overestimated in a way of thinking within the church that is still very much attached to traditional Christian or denominational society. It may sound banal, but the biblical evidence of the relatively short period of activity compared to his lifetime Jesus can exhort not to move from seeing and hearing to preaching too quickly, but even when preaching - in its numerous forms - takes place, it must be deeply committed to the dialogical mystery of the incarnation.


The church - made up of people - stands itself in its respective time, it is deeply intertwined with it. From this point of view alone, she cannot abandon herself from her social and cultural environment - and possibly build a church-enclosed "counterworld". "Joy and hope, sadness and fear of people today, especially of the poor and afflicted Art, are also joy and hope, sorrow and fear of the disciples of Christ. And there is nothing truly human that does not find an echo in their hearts ", writes the Second Vatican Council (GS 1). This vision can only become reality if the church and theology are not hastily at hand with answers and beliefs, but become more and more listeners and learners themselves. You can then discover which basic hopes and longings of people are hidden in the manifestations of "market and media religiosity".


But one thing remains to be emphasized: Nobody can realize such an "incarnational" attitude out of himself. Ultimately, it is the Spirit of God who gives Christians in their church this openness and acceptance Church that addresses a specific historical situation does not fall from heaven, it cannot be ordained and planned by the official church, but is created anew by listening to what the Spirit says to the congregations (Rev. 2:29) makes the church credible again. "(27)


4.2 Cross: against exclusion of any kind


The "transition" from religion to faith manifests itself in the conscious and consistent decision in terms of content. From the Christian perspective, this calls for the confession of a God who is in a special way for the poor (eg Mk 1.40-45) and for the Edge turns to the oppressed (e.g. Mk 2,13-17), who takes seriously with his commitment to the disenfranchised up to his own death on the cross.Because Jesus proclaims a God who accepts his creatures without advance payment, he turns to the marginalized of all kinds to. "He just blew up


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the limits and showed that his God unconditionally turns to everyone. "(28) In the last days of his life, Jesus did not take back a word of his message, but instead risked the annihilating judgment of the established and powerful in clinging to a God who loves all people without preconditions. He does not negate the role of the victim, he himself becomes a victim, but he transforms it - in its failure - through his pro-existence. “He does in his death what he has done all his life. He breaks through the border with his opponent, he approaches the people who now meet and reject him, who exclude him, and suffer the death inflicted on him in a spirit of unconditional forgiveness. "(29) He is free for the God of limitless acceptance and breaks the perpetual victim-perpetrator cycle of life, which only frees victims from being victims in the role of new perpetrators.


When dealing with "market and media religiosity" in a constructive and critical manner, the question must be asked whether it creates all kinds of exclusions - through itself or through the world and human image it conveys. The question must be whether the poor, Old, sick, disabled or other people and groups fall by the wayside - or whether their "integration" serves the "humane" self-assurance of an (at least partially) inhumane system. It is critical to ask what degree of commitment the media and virtual community has, whether it allows real confrontation with others - with their unpredictable and difficult sides. Christians must ask the question whether prestige, achievement or purchasing power can be the sole and absolute criteria for general interest and membership in groups or circles should critically inquire whether the market and media religious community is only formed from those people who are actively Advance payment and due to external characteristics (such as B. Branded clothing, practicing a sport, adapting to new conventions). Last but not least, it has to be clarified whether a market and media religiosity succeeds in breaking the human vicious circle that repeatedly turns victims into perpetrators or victims again.


4.3 Resurrection: The Gifted Perfection


Faith calls for action, but in the end it also remains an agreed fulfillment. Against the trends of "self-redemption" and the imagination of the "feasible", the Christian message maintains the hope for the gifted perfection of man and the world. It does not gloss over the mechanisms of exclusion and sacrifice, but proclaims - especially in view of this terrifying situation - a God who unconditionally gets involved with people and their world. Believing in the redemption from the constraints of being ostracized - already anticipated in the proexistence of Jesus on the cross and confirmed in the resurrection -


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Densification and exclusion can achieve real liberation, but also - and not least - can be given by God. Self-redemption of the victim-perpetrator at the expense of others gives way to pro-existence from the power of belief in the unearned, loving God. This does not carry failure, inadequacy and guilt, but gives new life and perfection precisely in and through this situation. Christians celebrate this mystery in the Eucharist. “The liturgical game is therefore neither a ritual imitation of the individual events in the life of Jesus on the part of people, nor a typical representation of the drama of salvation history. Ultimately, the game lives from the power of God who identifies himself with human beings, who connects himself with all in the Incarnation, suffers their refusal and rejection in the Passion and, as a resurrected One, brings about reconciliation through death. "(30)


From this point of view of the gift of salvation, modern "market and media religiosity" need not be a dead end leading away from faith. Rather, it brings to bear the hopes of people, but also the mechanisms of exclusion and sacrifice of human coexistence loving God, who awakens Jesus of Nazareth from death, is able to transform and fulfill these aporias and longings - especially in and through the situation and mechanisms of "market and media religiosity". The step from "natural religiosity" to "graceful." Faith ", which Hermann Stenger names (see 3), which he demands with all - and precisely because of his - empathy, enables the metamorphosis of burdensome sacrifice to liberating preexistence in God's unconditional love for people.


The pastoral task that follows from what has just been said is not easy. With the acceleration to which the "market and media society" is exposed, timely perception and analysis requires great efforts. Likewise, the professionalism with which the market and media conceal their victims and fascinate people should not be underestimated.


In order for it to be successful, pastoral care is required that truly "mystagogically" perceives God's work in the "market and media religiosity" and takes it seriously, but at the same time is able to convey the "added value" of the Christian message in a "redemptive" way.


Hermann Stenger embodies this attitude in his person and in his theology. We can also benefit from him in this challenging present-day situation


learn a lot.




1. Hermann Stenger, For a church that can be proud of, Innsbruck 1995.


2. Cf. ibid. 159.


3. Ibid.


4. Ibid. 160.


5. I do not want to discuss the question of the definition of religion here. I therefore limit myself to speaking of "religious functions" and "religiosity".


6. Arno Schilson, media religion. On the religious signature of the present, Tübingen 1997, 98.


7. Ibid.


8. See Beate Gilles, The Liturgy of Television, in: Eckhard Bieger / Wolfgang Fischer / Claudia Höller / Beate Gilles / Sabine Müller / Beate Traum-Peters (eds.), Enhancing everyday life. How viewers connect television with life, Cologne 1997, 106-119: 106, note 2.


9. Cf. Eckhard Bieger, The older the more, in: Ders. Et al. (Ed.), Enhancing everyday life (see note 8), 102-104: 103.


10. Wolfgang Fischer, Why does the RTL show "Traumhochzeit" work as a civil religious liturgy ?, in: E. Bieger et al. (Ed.), Enhancing everyday life (see note 8), 120-135: 123.


11. A. Schilson, Medienreligion (see note 6), 96.


12. See Hans-Joachim Höhn, Gegen-Mythen. Religious Productive Tendencies of the Present (QD154), Freiburg i. Br. 1994, 59.


13. A. Schilson, Medienreligion (see note 6), 50.


14. Ibid. 70.


15. Michael Nüchtern, The (un) secret longing for the religious, Stuttgart 1998, 58.


16. A. Schilson, Medienreligion (see note 6), 95.


17. Christian Friesl / Regina Polak, The compulsion to reform. Change of shape of the church from a Catholic point of view, in: Klaus Hofmeister / Lothar Bauerochse (eds.), The future of religion. Securing evidence on the threshold of the 21st century, Würzburg 1999, 73-84: 76f.


18. Jens Runkehl / Peter Schlobinski / Torsten Siever, Language and Communication on the Internet. Overview and analyzes, Opladen 1998, 206.


19. Karl Gabriel, Forms of today's religiosity in the upheaval of modernity, in: Heinrich Schmidinger (ed.), Religiosität am Ende der Moderne. Crisis or departure? (Salzburg University Weeks 1999), Innsbruck 1999, 193-227: 205.


20. Karl Gabriel, Society in Transition - Change in the Religious, in: Hans-Joachim Höhn (ed.), Crisis of Immanence. Religion at the borders of modernity, Frankfurt a. M. 1996, 31-49: 40.


21. Ibid. 41.


22. See Hermann Stenger, Realization of Life through the Power of Faith. Pastoral psychological and spiritual texts, Freiburg i. Br. 21989, 22-36 (first edition published under the title: Realization under the eyes of God. Psyche und Gnade, Salzburg 1985).


23. See ibid. 24f.


24. Ibid. (It is not emphasized in the original).


25. Ibid. 25th


26. Ibid.


27. Franz Weber, When the church people make history. Encouraging basic experiences from Latin America, in: Ders. (Ed.), Fresh Wind from the South. Impulses from the base communities, Innsbruck 1998, 15-31: 29.


28. Józef Niewiadomski, The Message of Freedom, in: Eugen Biser / Ferdinand Hahn / Michael Langer (eds.), The Faith of Christians I. An ecumenical manual, Munich / Stuttgart 1999, 637-655: 648.


29. Ibid., 652.


30. Józef Niewiadomski, Contours of a Theology of the Eucharist, in: Matthias Scharer / Józef Niewiadomski, Fascinating Secret. New Approaches to the Eucharist in Family, School and Congregation, Innsbruck / Mainz 1999, 105.