Are free market fundamentalists really that conservative?

Evangelical Christians - conservative to radical

Protestant? Evangelical? Evangelical?

The number and range of evangelical currents in Germany is difficult to understand. The associated terminology is sometimes not easy to tell apart.

When the term "evangelical" is used, the whole range of conservative, biblical movements is usually meant. "Evangelical" is not the same as "evangelical". That is the self-designation of the German Protestant churches.

Both adjectives are derived from the gospel, the basic message of the New Testament. They have their origins in the Reformation of the 16th century.

However, evangelicals in Germany are only one movement in the otherwise "quite liberal German Protestantism / Lutheranism", writes the sociologist of religion Gerald Willms in his book "The wonderful world of sects". But with more than a million followers, they are quite a relevant size.

A large number of churches, organizations and currents adorn themselves with the conservative label "evangelical". Parts of the Protestant regional churches are just as much a part of it as free church movements or Pentecostal churches.

Evangelicalism goes back to anti-modern currents at the end of the 19th century. In a time of stark social change, their representatives promised the believers orientation through a dogmatic interpretation of the Bible.

Evangelicalism was particularly successful in the United States. In its tradition stands the fundamental Christian right as well as the currently most successful Christian church family, the Pentecostal movement. In Brazil, the most Catholic of all countries, the Pentecostal churches have more than 40 million followers. And the US association "Assemblies of God", according to its website, represents over 64 million believers worldwide.

Pentecostals and Charismatics

As the name Pentecostal Movement suggests, it alludes to the festival of Pentecost, during which the Holy Spirit is said to have descended on the apostles and disciples and filled them with charisms, miraculous gifts. This includes casting out demons, healing through the laying on of hands or speaking in tongues. This is an incomprehensible mix of sounds and scraps of words that are supposed to show the presence of the Holy Spirit and thus the believer's personal connection with Jesus.

According to the sociologist of religion Gerald Willms, apocalyptic traits of early Christianity emerged again in the movements. "Almost all Pentecostals believe in the imminent apocalypse and the omnipresence of Satan in the world."

In the 1960s, the related "charismatic movement" emerged in the USA from the Pentecostal movement. For her, speaking in tongues plays a less important role. And it recruited its followers not only from evangelical Protestants, but from all Christian denominations. Christoph Grotepass from the Sekten-Info NRW association has recently observed "a wave of charismatic movements that spill over to us from the USA".

Together with Pentecostals, the charismatics ensure that their services have a "happening character", according to Grotepass. "And they equate the spirit of God with the joyful experience in worship."

In the documentation "Mission under the false flag - Radical Christians in Germany", churches and groups such as the Tübingen Offensive City Mission (TOS) municipality of Tübingen, the Gospel Forum Stuttgart or the Free Christian Youth Community in Lüdenscheid, Westphalia, are counted among these movements.

Evangelical directions

Some experts see the charismatic movement as a separate church family, others as a current of evangelicalism.

In addition to the evangelical charismatics, one can distinguish two further directions in Germany: first, the confessional evangelicals. "In terms of belief, it is very similar to the charismatic movement, but without focusing on the Holy Spirit," says Christoph Grotepass from Sekten-Info NRW.

Second, there are the evangelicals in the Pietist tradition who want to reflect on the values ​​of the Reformation. This includes, for example, the Mennonite group with 40,000 followers, many of them Russian-German emigrants. However, the currents increasingly mixed, according to Christoph Grotepass.

Social Commitment

The followers make up about one to three percent of the population in Germany. Despite this small number, "the social influence of Evangelicals should not be underestimated, as they are many times superior to the average Lutherans in terms of social engagement," writes the sociologist of religion Gerald Willms.

They regularly attended church services, got involved socially with numerous aid and missionary organizations, offered young people and children events and mission trips, rock concerts and summer camps, got involved in political parties, in business and in associations.

With regard to the sect cliché, this could be called "infiltration of society", says Willms. It is difficult to distinguish between moderate and strict evangelicals. However, he clearly sees the latter in the minority.

The Evangelical Central Office for Weltanschauung issues particularly opposes the idea that "evangelicals are generally equated with Christian fundamentalists". Churches that oppose homosexuality and feminism and practice exorcistic practices occur only sporadically, it says on the website.

True belief - a patchwork quilt

However, the isolated cases are increasing at the Sekten-Info NRW advice and information center. Uta Bange sees fundamental, Christian event groups as part of the spiritual market, "where the point is to experience and to become rich and happy". This is successful with many young people and young families who are no longer reached by the regional churches. There is closer cohesion, stricter rules and a clear connection as a family replacement.

"Small communities spring up like mushrooms," says Christoph Grotepass. Believers joined charismatic leaders, then switched again. "It's a patchwork quilt."

Many movements also disappear again. They often break when the question of who is right with his conviction: the conviction of really true faith.