It was a Protestant priest who recognized my youthful intolerance and sowed the necessary suspicion. Who today tells the “last generation” activists that their thoughts and actions are questionable?
When I was young I was very religious and around the age of fourteen I started discovering “John’s Revelation”. Yes, it came down on me like oil, I loved how an angry god blows his wrath upon a corrupt humanity. It is said that seven plagues came upon the whole earth, and was born of the wrath of God. I knew my fellow mortals deserved this, though they were hypocrites, none of them had assimilated true faith. However, to anticipate this, my fanaticism did not last long, rather collapsed, and how the change from fanatic to skeptic occurred is what I want to tell you about here.
Of course, a single point shift would never be justified, which is never possible, no matter what. In the past, it was like a fork in the road that changed direction, although sometimes you weren’t aware that you had already taken a different direction. I would like to briefly describe such a transit here. The pastor of our parish, of all people, has planted an iota of doubt in my head, and he has done so for good reason.
It concerns the “Revelation of John,” the last part of the New Testament. As I mentioned, I was excited about it, and since I was often at the rectory—the Reverend’s son was my age and my friend—I had detailed discussions with my father. In fact, the friend was often just an excuse to visit the pastor because I was always looking for an intense conversation with his parents. Of course, I was also a regular guest at the dining table. The household of a Protestant parish is something special, at least this family was.
Reading the constitution as an act of vandalism
However, for a better understanding, I must tell you more about this pastor. During his time in his former municipality, a place at the foot of the Aure Mountains, a new constitution was voted in the GDR. That was in 1968. He had acquired a few dozen copies of the old GDR constitution from 1949, parts of which can certainly still be described as liberal. Then he discussed it with his students in Christian teaching, that religious education was called in our country, which took place in the community center, as well as in the “youth community” and with other members of the community, and wanted to draw the people’s attention to what should be a referendum about to be held. As a realist, one thing was very clear to him: most people had neither read the old nor the new constitution, they voted faithfully and decided where they were told, not with conviction, of course, but so as not to offend. or attract attention.
But he went further and hung two self-written posters in the priest’s window, one of which read “Read the Constitution!” The other reads “Read the Bible!” , which prompted him to immediately visit from the authorities, most likely Stasi, who demanded that he remove the poster and urged people to read the constitution immediately. They had nothing against being asked to read the Bible.
It’s kind of funny that reading the constitution was already considered an act of subversive, and of course, when I get to this point, I have to think about our present day in Germany, how a fight broke out over the interpretation of our Basic Law, the key word: the Federal Constitutional Court. But I don’t want to go into this more now, everyone can decide. I couldn’t resist this little comparison with the present at this point.
of losing faith
But let’s go back to the Book of Revelation John, or the Apocalypse as it is also called the last book of the New Testament. I enthusiastically described my thoughts to my paternal friend, thus felt the shepherd, and then was somewhat surprised that he did not seem to share my enthusiasm for the apocalypse and the punishment of the living. He didn’t get into the confrontation right away, he was very clever about it, but he raised objections. For example, the fact that the author lived in exile and may no longer be completely sane. In addition, the text was included in the Bible very late and is still controversial.
My young man’s fanaticism did not go unnoticed, and this worries him. That’s how I interpret it today. So he sowed doubts, and had their effect, after being aroused by someone whom I respect and admire. In particular, his comments on ecclesiastical and non-ecclesiastical writings made me curious. From then on, it became clear to me – not immediately, but gradually – the longer I approached the subject: the Bible is not the word of God, but a purely man-made book. If you like, you can imagine the divine revelation in it, and perhaps it is obligatory for the believer.
By the way, just by the way, even Arti A well-made and interesting twelve-part documentary on the subject of the end of the world can be watched until May 2023. Just a note and a recommendation for those interested in the topic.
Back to my conversations with the pastor. Perhaps he wanted to stop me from becoming sectarian, picking out a few relevant sentences from a large and complex story and then raising them as the only truth above everything else. He could not foresee that doubts would creep into my faith as a whole. Nevertheless, I trust him that he counted it as collateral damage, my salvation was more important to him than faith, which also stood on my feet trembling like mine. But that’s exactly what happened in the following years, I completely lost faith. But this process took years and happened around the same time as puberty, two transformations that changed me.
Doubt enables me to transform
Today I ask myself whether this will also happen to me as a Catholic, because rituals and ceremonies play a much greater role than that of the Protestant Church, which is the spoken and translated word. Perhaps the rite would have caught me, and weave a protective cocoon around me, so to speak, under which, like a bug bug, my transformation would have taken place. Of course it’s just a guess, just an idea that you can’t get an answer for. Thought structures of this kind display only images and purely imaginary scenarios. So let’s stick to the facts, I advise myself, though not at all easy, this distinction between fantasy and reality, especially when fantasies are used to explain one’s being. Sometimes it seems to me that reality without imagination is impossible. That’s why I also ask dear readers to forgive me if I haven’t always been able to make that distinction and the two get mixed up.
Well, when my transformation was reasonably complete – at least that’s what I was thinking at the time – I didn’t know around the age of twenty that a mentally alert person could never complete his transformation, it just doesn’t happen so quickly after puberty, I wrote to a friend who was In prison for escaping the Republic: “It was a monument that I used as evidence, and it seemed to me perfect, untouchable. Now I’ve destroyed it, rubble lying around and I have no idea if I could use it to build a landmark again and when.”
For many years I believed that what started my conversion was the suspicion that my pastor friend had instilled in me. But maybe it would have happened this way because it’s just my nature. It should remain an unanswered question, at least until I am 100% clear about myself, and that will never happen.
Trapped in narcissistic overconfidence
But why do I write here at all about the religious intolerance that accompanied my youth? The reason is simple, I encounter it again every day when looking at the media. Young people cling to the streets because they are convinced that this is the only way to awaken a decadent humanity. Nature’s wrath threatens us, epidemics, diseases and disasters come upon us. We are the last generation that can still prevent this.
Admittedly, at first I laughed at these fanatics and sometimes said, “My dear, how stupid they are!” But then, perhaps because I tend to be a little self-reflective, I noticed that when I was younger I wasn’t that much different. “Narcissistic overconfidence is not uncommon in adolescence,” neurologists and psychiatrists online say. Symptoms are obvious. My paternal friend, the Reverend, recognized this and inoculated me with a sting of suspicion.
But who is doing that today with these young people who take themselves so seriously? Is there anyone who can sow in them doubt and doubt what they think and do? They’ve got a pat on all over the place that it’s not entirely legal to block traffic, but they’re doing it for a good reason, for the right thing! This only increases their narcissism.
Unfortunately, there is no satisfactory answer to my question as to who is capable of dealing with this doubt. Parents, teachers and the media? it’s improbably. This is how the truth should be in the not too distant future, and we will all pay dearly for this error, because these young people were not contradicted in time by people they trusted.
This text first appeared on the Quentin Quencher Sparkling Water blog.