Is God a Marxist

We need the big stories

Mr. Boer, how can one be a Christian and a Marxist, serve two "gods", the founder of a world religion and the philosophical beard from Trier?

For me it was and is compatible. But first you have to say that the beard is of course not a god. And Jesus was not a god either, but a man.

But you are right, many people, both Christians and Marxists, think that the Christian religion is about heaven, the hereafter, and Marx is about this world. But if you read the Bible the way I read it, then you realize that the Bible is all about this world, about "the world differently". And that's why it wasn't a problem for me to become a communist. The question for me was not whether I agreed with the party's ideology, Marxism-Leninism - by the way, neither was it for the party. It was about their politics. Like the Social Democrats, the Dutch Communist Party pursued reform policies. There is no other way of doing politics. But unlike social democracy, it was not reformist, but made it clear that society must be changed, that is, “shape the world differently”. That was crucial for me. That's why I decided in 1973 to become a member of the Dutch Communist Party.

Growing up in the GDR, I learned that one of the three components of Marxism is historical materialism. In my opinion, materialism and spirituality are irreconcilable opposites.

For me, historical materialism means that people “make their own history, but they do not make it of their own free will, not under circumstances of their own choosing, but under circumstances that are immediately found, given and handed down, as Marx did in the 18th century. Brumaire «wrote. This also applies to people of Christian faith; Christians are not above history. In the Bible the truth is not in the hereafter, but is to be sought exclusively in this world.

Has the Sermon on the Mount of Jesus already been the concept of a primordial communism, as one hears or reads at times?

Perhaps not the Sermon on the Mount. I am thinking more of a sentence from the story of the Apostles, where you can read: "Everyone had everything in common." That can be described as communism. The Sermon on the Mount is mostly understood as a very radical ethic. Too radical to be practical. I have a different opinion. I interpret it as a strategy of how to act in a situation of submission where you cannot make a revolution. For example, the famous sentence of Jesus: "If someone hits you on the right cheek, turn the left one too" (Matthew 5:39). That may sound very strange, but it is understandable in the historical context: If you were beaten at the time by a Roman soldier who represented the authorities, the occupying power, and then turned the other cheek, it was tantamount to a subversive provocation.

For six years you were pastor at the Dutch parish in Berlin, the capital of the GDR. In your new book, it seems to me that there is melancholy in your memories of that time. Do you mourn the small country between the Oder and Elbe? Did you love the GDR?

I would like to answer with the Federal President Gustav Heinemann: “Oh, I don't love any states, I love my wife; Done! «To that extent I didn't love the GDR, nor was it always amiable. But I liked her. The GDR that I knew was not that of the state and party leadership, it was the people who lived in it, the culture and literature, the music and the children's anthem by Bert Brecht and Hanns Eisler. These were the books and pieces by the great Anna Seghers, the creative dissatisfied Volker Braun and the illusion-free communist Heiner Müller. This GDR embodied a longing. For me it was an interesting experiment to build an egalitarian society. The defamation of the former GDR as an "unjust state" does her injustice.

How many sheep did you have in the Dutch community in East Berlin?

(Laughs.) How many "sheep"? First of all, I have to say something about the Dutch community: “Dutch” was primarily a cultural term. The Netherlands is shaped by Calvinism, in which the political Old Testament played an important role more than in Lutheranism and therefore the connection between faith and politics was and is a matter of course. My "sheep", as you say, were GDR citizens who had been damaged by the church and had finished with the Protestant or Roman Catholic Church. But they wanted to be a community for socialism. That's why I was happy to be a pastor there - until the fall of the Wall.

Calvin was quite a radical, dogmatic reformer.

That's right, and perhaps Calvinism has more in common with Marxism-Leninism than one might think. Unlike the Lutherans, the Calvinists are very rational.

One chapter in your book is called "The End of Real Socialism and the Apocalypse". Is the end of the world imminent because there is no longer "real socialism"?

No, I wouldn't want to say that. We do not have to decide the end of the story. But I do think that the end of the great narratives, both biblical and socialist, could herald an end. Because it can no longer be ruled out that we as humanity have got past the point where we can still repair the world. This fact, this truth cannot be suppressed. The possibility of the downfall of our civilization, yes, humanity, is real. We need the great narratives, those of the Bible and those of socialism, because we need a language that expresses what is in us against the fact that the end of the world should be a done deal.

But it is also a fact that in our current situation, socialism as a practicable, practicable perspective does not exist for the time being.

You mean socialism is done with?

For the time being, the "forerunner" is over. Because we don't know what's going to happen. We cannot, we must not come to terms with the antisociality of today's world. We must not give up hope that a time will come when human rights will be fought for. What we and what your newspaper, the »new Germany«, could and should do is: to pass on a tradition that must not be lost or forgotten. And we have to keep the big perspectives in mind. In Germany there is still a party, DIE LINKE, that tries to do that. We haven't had such a left since the reactionary turn of 1989. It is of course difficult to maintain the perspective of radical change and - I do not mean that negatively - to combine it with realpolitik. That this is a difficult undertaking can also be seen at LINKEN in Germany.

Your new book is called "Theopolitical Existence". What is meant by this? A link between theology and politics?

This term is an allusion to a very famous brochure by Karl Barth, written at a time when fascism was coming to power in Germany. Her title: "Theological Existence Today". It was a resistance letter. The evangelical-reformed Swiss theologian, who is also referred to as the "church father of the 20th century", wanted to mobilize the church against the Nazi dictatorship. The great Jewish thinker Martin Buber also spoke explicitly of "theopolitics". The suggestion that my book should also be titled "Theopolitical Existence" came from my friend Thomas Klein, who compiled the book. And, yes, for me theology is unthinkable without politics.

In the 2000-year history of the Catholic Church, but also in the half-millennium of Protestantism, politics has often been very militant and aggressive in the name of the cross. Not only in terms of calls for crusades to the Holy Land, inquisition, and excommunication of critical spirits, the Church also blessed two world wars in the 20th century.

That's true. The history of the church is a crime story. In this respect it is in no way inferior to the criminal history of communism. But as in communism, there have always been opposing forces in Christianity. Both stories are also heretics. Religion, like politics, is a battleground. The battle is waged over what is right. I don't want to leave the answer to that to a conservative church.

We are seeing an increase in right-wing populism and extremism. You mentioned Karl Barth's call to resist fascism. How is resistance to be offered today?Talking to the right doesn't seem to work; they do not allow themselves to be talked about.

The problem that manifests itself in right-wing populism or even right-wing extremism and which, for example, produced the alleged alternative for Germany, is that a large part of the population has been ignored and abandoned by politics. Social democracy is largely to blame for this, which is why it is not by chance that it has become a minority in various countries. Left politics must draw a red line against racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-Islamism and take the social problems of the people seriously, both the indigenous population and the migrants. It must not be that the victims of the system are played off against each other.

Even members of the lower classes are doing better in European countries than the millions of people suffering from hunger and war in the south, from whom they feel threatened by migration.

Unfortunately, society's victims are not always nice, noble people. They can be very hateful - incited, seduced, misled by populists. But there is no other solution than a humane solution for the migration problem, connected with the solution of the social question. In the Netherlands, in Germany and elsewhere.

All social problems could be solved if one were to tax big capital. And cut arms spending instead of increasing it ...

Yes of course. Another policy is needed! But all parties critical of the system are not necessarily very small - for example in France the Parti de Gauche, Jean-Luc Mélenchon's left-wing party - they are in the minority. The last word of the story has not yet been spoken!

You were a member of the Christian Peace Conference, which built bridges in times of East-West confrontation, wanted to work for relaxation and peace and has done so. Shouldn't there be another comparable institution, when the Christian peace commandment is blatantly violated by rulers of the Christian-Western world?

Yes, what do you not need ?! It is a paradox that there is no large, powerful peace movement at a time when there is strong arming for war again. I don't really care whether a Christian or a non-Christian. Our problem is that the opposing forces seem to be very weak at the moment.

How can one strengthen the opposing forces, how can they strengthen themselves?

By offering attractive and workable policies and by appealing to the minds and hearts of the people.

Are you still a communist?

Yes - a non-party communist, which is actually a contradiction in terms. But the world is, after all, full of contradictions.

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