One of the most curious observations of the Covid-19 period was the docility with which the Catholic Church accepted the ban on joint church services. The other religions in this country made much more of a fuss. Time to conclude that the Catholics are in need of a repositioning?
He invited me for a walk in the woods. He leads the way and keeps up a nice pace. Soon I am already out of breath.
‘Isn’t it beautiful here?’ he suddenly asks over his shoulder. Is he gloating over my suffering or does he mean it? ‘When I walk through the forest, I feel the presence of God,’ he says. ‘I have no need for a church. God is here!’
I look up to the sky and think: O Lord, if You are truly here, please let me out on this one. Meanwhile, he trots on and on: ‘The proof is here: the churches are emptying…. In the synagogues one often does not find the required number of faithful anymore to hold a service… God is not to be found there.’
‘You’re forgetting the mosques,’ I say. He stands completely still. I bump into him. ‘Excuse me,’ I say, ‘that wasn’t my intention.’
‘The mosques, yes, they are unfortunately filling up more and more,’ he snarls.
‘Oho,’ I pant, gasping for breath. ‘What’s the use of ‘unfortunately’ necessary for? They worship the same God in the mosques as they do in the churches and in the synagogues, don’t they?’
‘I don’t believe that,’ he says. ‘Otherwise the mosques wouldn’t be full…!’
‘… And the churches are emptying, you mean. Couldn’t it be that it is the same God, but that people are delivering His message in a different way at the mosques?’
‘God only has one message, right?’
‘Then why did He send His Son to earth to complete it, and why did He send His angel Gabriel to Muhammad with even more specifics?’
‘Not at all. I just notice that God is evolving over time, that he is positioning himself differently,’ I try.
‘Now you’re really joking!’
‘Okay. It was just a joke. But you have to admit that people don’t go to church to believe – They already believe. They go to church to find reassurance in their faith, to get confirmation.’
‘I don’t need affirmation like that,’ he says, seriously, pointing to the plants, and the animals that must be hidden somewhere between the plants. ‘My affirmation is right there.’ Then he points to his own head. ‘And here.’
‘That much is clear. You don’t need that affirmation. You are naturally confident enough.’
This makes him blush with pride, yet he wants to share his pride: “Then I am far from being the only one.
‘Of course. After all, that sense of self-confidence is also a social phenomenon. It turns with regularity into feelings of fear and then into more self-confidence again. In the 60s and 70s, when people found love and peace in their own inner being, the churches emptied. It was the time of subjective, individual and self-assured spirituality. One no longer needed the support of a Church.’
‘And the influx to the mosques? Are the Muslims so insecure that they do need this support then?’
‘They find that support, in the time of social uncertainty and fear, in fundamentalism. They find support in the certainty of the strict fundamental values of their faith. For this target group, Islam is a good product, if you ask me. And perfectly positioned.’
‘The Church, a product!? Positioning the Church? No, I didn’t ask you that. Then what do you want? For the Church to change its market strategy? Or maybe even its product?’
‘That’s what the Church of Rome is doing today, isn’t it? Surely this pope wants to bring renewal, to open up the Church, to improve its appearance…’ I suggest. ‘That’s product renewal.’
‘When you launch an updated product, you don’t go around whining about the fact that the old product was full of manufacturing defects for two thousand years!?’ he snickers.
‘So what do you want the pope to do? A product recall?
‘Product recall? It happens a lot these days. Remember the Coca Cola crisis or the Volkswagen software tampering?’
‘There’s not always something wrong with the product, is there? Sometimes there’s just something wrong in people’s heads.’
‘Perhaps that is also the case with the church-fleeing believers…’
He rubs his finger along his nose. ‘There you say. Maybe the Church of Rome needs to come and learn from the marketers first?’