Religiöse Kulturen im Europa des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts




Dissertationsprojekt: The Church As A Non-familial Political Body

In my dissertation I want to facilitate a conversation between primarily two thinkers, Hannah Arendt, a political theorist, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a theologian. This dialogue I would like to complement with a non-western distinct voice of a Romanian theologian Dumitru Staniloae with his theology of the world, since a holistic concept of the world is missing in the work of both Arendt and Bonhoeffer. Based on this conversation I would like to challenge a widespread image of the church as a family and instead propose to understand it as an intrinsically political community in the sense of a place free for action.

Bonhoeffer argues that Christians should see the world as a place of ethical action in which disciples follow Jesus’ example, while Christ is existing as church-community. God’s love of the world expressed in the Incarnation also encompasses political action. I believe that Arendt´s understanding of action as a fundamentally political and communal aspect of the human condition can inform and extend Bonhoeffer’s theological and ethical reflection. According to her, action is the condition of all political life and the political realm itself rises directly out of acting together. And, in her words, the only activity Jesus of Nazareth recommends in his preaching is action. Yet, in her analysis, a family analogy was applied to the Christian community early on, to define her non-public, non-political and even anti-political character. However, the household was not a space of freedom, because it was ruled by its head and so violence and force were allowed and even justified. It was only in the polis where people were free and equal to act and persuasion was the only instrument used. Therefore, what I mean is can the talk about church/congregation being a family, a home that can even be considered the ideal of a true Christian community, remain relevant and helpful? Rather, I would like to suggest, the church is inherently a community of political action, where freedom, public space and differences are parts of its reality.