Vast parts of the Christian Church in Germany are getting more involved in politics, taking on a role it had under the Third Reich, a top AfD politician has told clerics in response to their criticism of the right-wing party.
“We now know that the official Churches, whether Evangelical [Protestant] or Catholic, are politicized through and through,” Alice Weidel, Alternative for Germany Party (AfD) parliamentary group leader, told Focus magazine on Thursday.
“The separation of Church and State is no longer observed.” Apart from a “few exceptions,” the Church now has “the same inglorious role [it] played in the Third Reich,” she said.
Weidel’s harsh words came in response to comments by the Protestant Bishop Markus Droge, who questioned whether one “could credibly engage as a Christian in the AfD.”
“I cannot engage as a Christian in a party that dramatizes fears, sows distrust, and preaches exclusion,” he said.
Earlier, Chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference Cardinal Reinhard Marx also warned of “red lines” in politics that Christians cannot cross, such as “xenophobia, denigrating other religious communities, over-exalting one’s own nation, racism, anti-Semitism, and indifference to poverty in the world.”
Yet, Weidel claims the AfD is “the only Christian party that still exists,” dismissing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) as having lost its religious values. “The C in the CDU has been reduced to absurd,” she said, claiming there is “a very large and strong union of the faithful” in her party.
However, Weidel’s views don’t exactly match those of the AfD’s co-founder Alexander Gauland, who said last year that the AfD was “not a Christian party,” but rather “a German party that strives to realize German interests.”
Gauland and Weidel “need to come to an agreement about their diametrically opposed understanding of the party,” the former head of the AfD’s Christian group Anette Schultner told DW, adding that Weidel’s criticism of the Church was “grotesque.”
The party itself has repeatedly drawn accusations of having Nazi sympathies, given the inflammatory statements of some party members. The AfD, however, denies these claims, portraying themselves as “concerned citizens.” This year, the party entered the Bundestag for the first time in its history, securing 94 seats in the September general election.