FREEDOM OF THOUGHT
My friend Arnold is back from his Colorado vacation and gave me a call to see if we could meet for coffee, so we arranged a time.
“So did you have a good trip?” I asked.
“Sure did,” he said. “And it was great spending some time with our old friends Gerald and Hilde.” He showed me several photos of the four of them hiking in the woods and eating out in several restaurants. There were also a couple pictures of him and Gerald on their days out fishing.
“Is he a good fisherman?” I asked.
“Better than I am. He caught more trout than I did, even though I had the biggest one – that beautiful cutthroat trout I emailed you about” -- and showed me a picture of that one.
“You said you were old Army buddies. How did he meet his wife Hilde?”
“When we were stationed in Heidelberg, she was studying at Heidelberg University, and they met at a party thrown by the German-American Friendship Club there.”
“Is she from Heidelberg?” I asked.
“No. She’s from Hanover, where her father was a pastor. She went to Heidelberg to get her PhD in political science, and had a great academic career, finally winding up at the University of Frankfurt. They got married in her father’s church in Hanover and Gerald decided to stay in Germany in order to allow Hilde to pursue her academic career. After he left the Army he got a civilian job at the Ramstein Air Force base just outside of Frankfurt. They did very well, because they have a nice large apartment in Frankfurt, and they love it there.”
“Have you visited them there?”
“Oh yes, several times. They also took Irma and me to church. Didn’t understand a thing, but the music was great.”
“So they had more luck than I’ve had, trying to get you into church.”
“That’s what I need to ask you about. You see, she refers to themselves as “evangelisch,” so I thought that meant “evangelical.” So we didn’t talk that much about religion, but when we did I got really confused.”
“How so?” I asked.
“Well, I was just confused about what she believed. She said she believed in women’s rights, including the right to choose, you know, about reproductive rights, and evangelicals aren’t supposed to believe in that. I went down the list of things I thought evangelicals believed. Climate change – she believed in that. Keeping immigrants out of the country – she rejected that. Building a border wall – she thought that was unchristian. Gay rights – she was supportive of LGBT issues, even same-sex marriage. Pro-Israel – she was for that, but not at the expense of Palestinian rights, and definitely spoke against the settlements that encroached on Palestinian territory. And she chided our country for its lax gun laws. She even knew about DACA – and thought that it is awful to want to deport children who were brought to America by undocumented parents. All that didn’t sound very “evangelisch” to me.
“I hope she told you that “evangelisch” was not the equivalent of “evangelical” in our country,” I said.
“She tried to, but that’s what I want ask you about.”
“In Germany the word “evangelisch” means Protestant, in distinction from Roman Catholic. It has nothing to do with “evangelicals” in this country. If she’s from Hanover, that’s Lutheran territory, and Martin Luther didn’t want his followers to use his name to define themselves, so they used the term “evangelisch,” to indicate more emphasis on the freedom of the gospel than on laws in the church.”
“So how do evangelicals in this country get off using that term of themselves?” Arnold asked. “With all they stand for it sounds like they’re more into law than gospel.”
“You could say that,” I said. “But there are progressive evangelicals too, so it’s hard to generalize.”
“That’s what makes religion so confusing.”
“Come on, Arnold, even among us church people it takes a little freedom of thought and not be confined to a rigid dogmatism.”
“That’s what Hilde said too.”
“So how’s Irma?” I asked.
“Oh, she’s bummed that this latest terrible hurricane has her name.”
“So does she believe in climate change?”
“Now she does.”