The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
The President of Austria says he has re-joined the Protestant Church. “Not just church members” should follow the values of the Sermon of the Mount.
The President of Austria, Alexander Van der Bellen, recently spoke about his understanding of the Christian faith.
The economy professor and spokesman of the Greens (a left-wing pro-environment party) surprised many as he explained that he had re-joined the Evangelical Church Austria, an institution he left in his youth.
“The message of the New Testament is very important”, Van der Bellen said in an interview with the chief editors of several Catholic magazines in Austria.
Van der Bellen said he is especially interested in the Sermon of the Mount and how the values expressed by Jesus Christ can be translated to today’s society.
He said “following” the values of the New Testament “in one way or another” would be good “not just for members of churches”, but for everyone else as well.
The head of the state underlined the positive influence of this Christian heritage. During the 2017 Protestant Reformation commemorations, the economy professor had praised the role of Christian churches in the refugee crisis. In this interview, he expressed his conviction that the system to receive asylum seekers should have “more quality”.
The advance of secularism in Europe will not lead to a disappearance of religion, he said. “There is a too big need for people to explain what life is, where life comes from and where we will go after death”, he said.
THE POSITIVE INFLUENCE OF CHURCHES
Asked about the relationship between church and state, Van der Bellen said: “In general, it is important that politics and religious communities continue to be in touch, and that churches and entities such as Caritas, Diakonie [the Catholic and Protestant social justice branches] express their opinions on social issues”.
He also praised the work of the Red Cross, adding that “I would not want to imagine Austria without the irreplaceable work” of such entitites.
The President also spoke about the #FridayForFuture initatives, through which young students demand politicians to prioritise the fight against climate change and the protection of the environment.
AUSTRIA, A TRADITIONALLY CATHOLIC COUNTRY
Historically, Roman Catholicism has been the majority faith in Austria.
Committed evangelical Christians are a small faith minority which can be found both in the mainline historic Evangelical Church Austria and in the free evangelical churches.