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A crisis of moral authority:

“Kirchendämmerung. Wie die Kirchen unser Vertrauen verspielen”

Munich, 04/01/2011

Amid the sentimental verbiage, disregard for secular prerogatives and high-handed appeals to moral superiority, Friedrich Wilhelm Graf sorely misses a sense of spiritual intensity in the Churches of today. His new book, entitled “Kirchendämmerung. Wie die Kirchen unser Vertrauen verspielen”, amounts to a polemical diagnosis of what is wrong with the Protestant confessions in Germany. The book brings together essays and critical analyses that Graf, a professor of Protestant Theology at LMU, has contributed to various publications, including the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, over the past several years. He frames his appraisal in terms of “seven vices” which he regards as the basic reasons for the contemporary crisis of the Christian churches. Graf is at pains to point out that these should on no account be conflated with the Seven Deadly Sins. Instead, he explicitly contrasts his catalog of failings with the Seven Cardinal Virtues of the humanist and Christian traditions of Late Antiquity. In his view, retreat into dogmatic jargon and an inability to communicate threaten to take the place of rational and considered discussion, fortitude is giving way to a shallow-minded disdain for learning, and concern for justice is being crowded out by sanctimonious moralizing. He also deplores a lack of moderation in the propensity of church dignitaries to arrogate to themselves a right to challenge political decisions taken by legally constituted institutions, which betrays a dubious grasp of democratic principles. Finally, he laments what he sees as a devaluation of the central Christian virtues, faith, hope and charity, which are in danger of being supplanted by self-righteousness, a refusal to face up to the future, and social paternalism. Graf sees his critique as anchored within the critical tradition of Protestantism. “Further erosion of the moral authority of religious institutions would inflict inestimable damage on our society,” he writes. “The price to be paid is likely to be very much higher than most people assume. And that is why it is high time for a reasoned political debate on the mission and the present state of the Churches. What is at stake is too important to be left to their own, quite literally 'eccentric', elites.” (suwe/PH)


"Kirchendämmerung. Wie die Kirchen unser Vertrauen verspielen"
Friedrich Wilhelm Graf,
C. H. Beck Verlag, pp 191
Published on 18 February 2011
ISBN-13: 978-3406613791

Professor Friedrich Wilhelm Graf
Faculty of Protestant Theology, LMU Munich
Phone: +49 (0) 89 / 2180 – 3573

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