Rembrandt Clancy has translated the following article by a German theologian on the political and religious implications of the recent German general election.
Voter Reaction and the Will to Restoration
About the Author
Rev. Prof. Wolfgang Ockenfels was born in Bad Honnef am Rhein in 1947. Having entered the Dominican Order in 1967, he studied philosophy and Theology and was ordained in 1973. From 1974 to 1978 he read Social Ethics and Economics in Freiburg, Switzerland. His doctoral thesis was on the theme of Unions and the State. He completed his Habilitation in the field of Christian Social Doctrine at the University of Augsburg on the subject of faith and politics. Prof. Ockenfels has published a very long list of monographs, articles and contributions. Since 1985 he has been Chief Editor of Die Neue Ordnung, a Christian journal founded in 1946 by opponents of National Socialism.
The original source appeared as an editorial in Die Neue Ordnung, Nr. 5/2017
by Wolfgang Ockenfels
Translation by Rembrandt Clancy
The blow has hit home, leaving behind a state of bewilderment also including both churches. After their electoral success, the AfD [Alternative für Deutschland] enters the German Bundestag as the third strongest political force.  The fact that they have been attacked since their founding as a stronghold of sinister reaction and as a conveyor belt of dangerous restoration has been quite understandable on grounds related to the financial calculus of the state-supporting and state-supported political parties and churches; for the “old parties”, their foundations and NGOs are threatened with the considerable loss of mandates and subsidies. The stricken C-parties [the CDU/CSU] are asking themselves: how is it that despite electoral assistance from the churches, almost a million of their former voters are deserting to the AfD? Hundreds of thousands walked out on the SPD [Social Democratic Party of Germany] and other parties in order to choose, out of protest, an alternative as corrective, not as an alternative to the democratic parliamentary system. Instead they are choosing a system-compatible opposition for correcting a politics which many democrats are assessing as ruinous.
The voters have reacted, and what they wish is restoration; which is to say, the re-establishment of law and order, of statute and law, not only with regard to the chaotic asylum policy, but also in respect of a Euro — and European policy-making which threatens to spin out of control, and that is not to mention the socially “disconnected” original inhabitants, who are experiencing themselves as victims of a totalitarian globalisation. Such inclinations are normally called “conservative”, perhaps “patriotic” or even “national”. All the malicious caricatures and defamatory attacks against the AfD for being nationalistic, radically right-wing, right-wing extremist, violence prone, undemocratic, völkisch, racist, and even Nazi can be forgotten if only one casts a fleeting glance at their programme and acquaints himself, in person, with their leading representatives, rather than fixing on some individual expressions of opinion, spontaneously uttered in an unenlightened manner. These opinions are worked up in a corresponding way. Publicly decisive in such cases is often a merely cultivated prejudice and aptitude for causing scandal, without doubt through the still dominant left-liberal media. They, however, are becoming increasingly relativised by the availability of digital offerings. The Internet counteracts the totalitarian standardisation of religion and politics, so long as it is not hindered by censorship.
Anyone unable to react in a measured way to aggressive trigger-stimuli and provocative actions ought to withdraw from politics, and also from Church leadership; for the ability to react rapidly and yet reflectively in both the worldly and religious spheres decides the much vaunted “viability of the future”. This latter expression has been conjured with solemn emotion by the political parties — hitherto supported the state — as well as by the ecclesiastical authorities in their shared ‘rhetoric of emergence into a new era’ [Aufbruchsrhetorik], a progress more likely indicating an abysmal future where the elementary difference between the concrete political expectation and the hope of faith will become completely blurred.
This process-based thinking can no longer make distinctions and define clear objectives. For us, that leads to a complete inversion of politics and religion, such that the eschatological promise of a divine harmonisation of all worldly contradictions appears all of a sudden as a politico-economically feasible project.
In the Kingdom of God it is not a matter of ethnic, sexual, cultural and economic differences, but of the will of God. And He makes himself apparent even now in His Ten Commandments, no matter how these are altered and completely bent in another direction through the theological art of interpretation.
Who knows how God incarnate will judge? Surely not the German Bishops’ Conference! In any case, “on earth as it is in heaven” does not mean the anticipation of the divine will in history, which is inaccessible to us; rather it means no less than the fulfilment of the divine will in His law, which shines forth in the Ten Commandments. Therein — as also in the promises of the New Testament — one fails to find the commandment ‘Thou shalt accept all who pass themselves off as refugees and give them state subsidies’. Nothing of the sort could turn out to be affordable either for the Church or for the state. But what about the observance of the commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill’, which of course applies also to the unborn? Of these, there are in Germany roughly just as many millions of persons “slain illegally but without prosecution” as we “import” today actually as Muslims, who are throwing our entire legal order into confusion.
The future envisioned by the progressives includes, among other things, the disadvantage (or the advantage) that it does not yet exist. And hopefully it will also never become reality. Therefore, let us remain modest. Let us remain just as we are. Let us remain not only with what differentiates and separates in politics and religion, but also with what binds them, for this is the principle of continuity and reliability which Pope Benedict XVI, more than anyone, elucidated. It is that principle which determines whether people such as ourselves approve or reject not only religious positions, but also political ones. Above all, however, this principle affects not only our reaction, but above all a restoration of political and religious principles.
Whether the churches are state-supporting or whether they intend to be in accord with the interests of the C-parties, they are properly speaking national churches [Volkskirchen] and like national parties [Volksparteien] are supposed to be there for the people, for the “ordinary people”, for the “disconnected”, for the “victims” of the modern age and globalisation. However, since the abolition in this country of Catholic social teaching and its movements,  that has long since ceased to be the case. According to a recent survey conducted by the Allensbach [Institute for Public Opinion Research], only 36 percent of Germans have confidence in the churches; by contrast, up to 76 percent trust the police. What are we to make of that? The traditional national churches and national parties are disappearing, because they are no longer able to understand the people. It is the ordinary people who are now making their presence felt politically and religiously, even though the political and theological elites do not take them seriously.
|1.||“both churches” refers to the two largest churches in Germany, the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD).|
|2.||AfD (Alternative für Deutschland): The surprising showing of this anti-mass immigration party in the recent 2017 election is underscored by the fact that it was founded only in 2013 and has seriously opposed mass immigration for only the last two and a half years. With the latest federal election, the AfD enters the Bundestag for the very first time, breaking the exclusive dominance of the left-wing parties (uniparties) to become the third largest party in the federal parliament. The AfD enjoys its strongest support in the former East German states where it holds second place.|
|3.||The CDU (Christian Democratic Union) is still the largest single federal party in the German federal parliament. The CSU (Christian Social Union) is electorally restricted to Bavaria and is the sister party of the more broadly-based CDU. The two parties are often mentioned together as the ‘Union Parties’ or the CDU/CSU-Fraktion, for historically they have shared similar political goals.|
|4.||völkisch: this adjective is a reference to the racial ideology of National Socialism, where a Volk, an ethnicity or a people were understood as a putative race or as part of a race.|
|5.||“on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10): This is the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer, the full line reading: “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.|
|6.||Volkskirchen (national churches): In the socio-political sense used here, the Volkskirche is a national church only in the sense of having a ‘nation-wide’ membership representing all societal groups. The term also implies a large following, at least in principle.|
|7.||Catholic social teaching: Central to the traditional Catholic Church’s social doctrine is the principle of subsidiarity; namely, that government’s function should be ‘subsidiary’. Therefore, as an expression of limited government, subsidiarity holds that no function should be performed by a higher level of government if it can be undertaken independently at the local level. In the context of this editorial, subsidiarity contrasts with the Socialism of the old-parties and with globalisation.|