What can marketing learn from religion

Religious education from a biographical perspective - an opening of the fields of religious education

"It turns out [...]: if you want to talk about God, you obviously have to talk about yourself." (Bultmann, 1925, p. 28).


“The relationship between biography and religion […] urgently requires theological reflection from a religious pedagogical point of view. T he life story and the history of religious learning and education are in dialectical tension with the Christian faith. ”(Biehl, 1991, p. 224).

1 Lifelong religious learning of the subjects as a postulate - a diagnostic look at the discourse on religious education

With the conference theme “Religious Education - For a Lifetime! Religious education from a biographical perspective ”we seem to“ carry owls to Athens ”or - as they probably say here in Bamberg -“ pour water into the Regnitz ”. Nobody denies that religious learning should last lifelong and that this learning has to prove itself in one's own life story. Not the “whether”, but at most the “how” (to act) and the “what” (has to be done in research and teaching) are disputed. At least that is how it is from the perspective of the actors and from the point of view of religious education theory formation.

However, this does not yet mean that it has been decided whether the learning individuals themselves, for example the members of the Protestant Church, also consider such lifelong religious learning to be meaningful, strive for it or even realize it. A look at the participation statistics for evangelical adult education - a possible indicator of participation in formal religious education in the phase of life after compulsory schooling - is a source of skepticism: only around 3% of the events of the major adult education providers were for the topic of “religion - ethics” (including DEAE), of the 9.9 million "participation cases" recorded in 2015, less than 5%, i.e. less than 500,000, relate to the area of ​​"religion and ethics" (Horn, Lux & Ambos, 2017, p. 24 and 26). A look at empirical studies, for example on so-called education for the elderly or volunteering, however, indicates how diverse, often non-formal and informal ways people update their willingness and ability to learn (cf. e.g. Christian Mulia and Beate Hofmann in this issue.) Den One of the urgent concerns associated with the question of lifelong religious learning is to gain an insight into the spectrum and quality of the religious learning processes actually taking place, and thus to broaden the perspective of the theory of religious education.

But back to the religious pedagogical point of view: the postulate of lifelong religious learning converges at least three major lines of consensus in the current religious pedagogical discourse.

First: The more recent religious education agrees that teaching-learning processes have to take seriously the level of knowledge, skills and attitudes of the respective learners as the starting point of the didactically reflective approach. This starting point arises from certain collective circumstances - development-psychologically describable 'Kairos', style preferences, context, gender, etc. -, but also from the previous individual life and learning history (which, however, is surprisingly rarely discussed in theory-based publications). The reason for this is simply this: No learning process is conceivable bypassing the learner, so there can be no other starting point.
This idea guides the elementary education as well as the senior education, the confirmation work, as well as the formats of the “Ev. Women in Germany ”(EFiD. URL: www.evangelischefrauen-deutschland.de [last accessed: October 24, 2018].) Or the“ Men's Work of the EKD ”(EKD. URL: www.maenner-online.de [last accessed: October 24, 2018].) .2018].). In the field of religious didactics in schools, almost all recent approaches, whether "child and youth theology" or constructivist religious didactics, basically also "symbolization didactics" and "elementarization", work out appropriate arrangements.
For years, the keyword of student or subject orientation has asserted this point of view in theory formation - most recently in a particularly pointed way by Joachim Kunstmann: "[...] religious education is self-education", it says there. "It refers religious education consistently to the individual individuals" and their "[...] self-made symbolization of basic life experiences". “It would therefore be important to collect these experiences […], to communicate them and to give them a comprehensible and helpful interpretation” (Kunstmann, 2018, p. 17).

Second: Younger religious education also agrees that the religious learning process of the pupils or subjects does not or should not end with confirmation or graduation. At least since the publication of Karl Ernst Nipkow's program formula and his book of the same name “Education as Life Accompaniment and Renewal” more than 25 years ago, it can be clear to everyone that religious learning should be considered lifelong. However, it can also be clear to everyone that in view of the late modern upheavals in the conduct and interpretation of life, the idea of ​​a “total catechumenate”, i.e. an uninterrupted chain of religious educational offers from cradle to grave or from baptism to church burial, is no longer the guiding principle should be. In contrast, Nipkow wrote in the register of religious education and the ensemble of providers of religious education, in particular to take care of a “new beginning at every point in life and in every place” (Nipkow, 1990, p. 41).
For the idea of ​​such an “education as life accompaniment and renewal” one can rightly refer to the triad of Luther, Comenius, Schleiermacher, already tried by Nipkow with a programmatic intention, one can also refer to the paradigm of “lifelong learning” in the Developmental psychology (e.g. Schneider & Feldmann, 2018 or Feldmann, 2018), in educational science (Tippelt & Schmidt, Handbuch Bildungsforschung, 2018) and, last but not least, in European educational policy (Faure et al., 1972).

Third: Finally, the consensus can also be marked as the insight that no place of learning in itself can stimulate or even guarantee this lifelong, subject-oriented process: not the school, but also not the parish, not the family and not even the media. Not even the public, which seems to have received the most attention recently (Grümme, 2018, cf. also Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. URL: www.rupre.uni-erlangen.org [Last accessed: October 24, 2018 ]), taken by itself, is sufficient to keep the individual in the dynamic that we call lifelong religious learning. Plurality and networking of the places of learning is therefore a third (consensual) key postulate of religious education - nourished from the insight that a place of learning is precisely defined by the fact that it is finite in terms of time and space, offers a “prepared environment” (Maria Montessori) and therefore specific , but does not offer all-encompassing learning opportunities (Grethlein, 1998). This learning location diversification (in connection with the life course orientation) is made strong both in community education and in religious education - the Halle colleague Michael Domsgen, for example, speaks pointedly of the need for a "systemic religious education" (Domsgen, 2009) - even if the nucleus of the systemic is different is located: While religious education is predominantly based on schools and religious instruction, i.e. to a certain extent from the line of sight of general and vocational schools encompassing general and vocational schools for up to 15 years, community education focuses on places of learning behind the sign of voluntariness and takes' Obligatory courses' such as religious instruction in schools only marginally in view.

This idea of ​​learning location diversification and networking has found its way into the "educational concepts" that have been developed by various regional churches over the last ten years, for example in Bavaria (2004 and 2016), Central Germany (2006), and Kurhessen-Waldeck with gratifying clarity and conciseness (2007), Baden (2008 and 2016), Berlin-Brandenburg-Schlesische Oberlausitz (2017) and the Rhineland (2017). The current Bavarian “educational concept”, for example, which has been singled out for the sake of the contextuality of our Bamberg conference, directed the “central plea” in 2016 to design “educational landscapes” (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria, 2016, p, 7).

Subject orientation, "education as a lifelong companion and renewal", learning location theory - this triad is part of the religious educational consensus of current religious education in German-speaking countries. Against this background, a look at the research and practical landscape of lifelong religious education should now take place.

2 Lifelong learning in religious education practice and research (theory) - a short SWOT analysis

In order to structure the considerations in the necessary brevity, a simple, but hopefully sufficiently clear form of the SWOT analysis has been chosen. The instrument comes from marketing and is described in relevant textbooks (see e.g. Kotler, Lane Keller & Opresnik, 2017, p. 55).

2.1 Strengths

  • De facto dense network of learning locations

First of all, it should be emphasized that in Germany there is a dense network of the most varied of formal learning locations with Protestant (or also Catholic) shared responsibility for education. This has developed in recourse to basic Reformation impulses and in the course of the last 200 years in interaction with contemporary social forms, media and paradigms - here we only need to recall the Luther dictum “Every Christian [has] enough life to learn and to practice at baptism "(Luther, 1529, p. 705, on this Schröder, 2017, as well as Schweitzer, 2017) and reminds of the awakening of the 19th century with regard to Sunday school, youth work and adult education, which are therefore remarkable because they were not institutionalized by the church, but represented “bottom-up” initiatives (Schröder, 2012, §7).

With this network, which extends from elementary level to senior education, the prerequisites and the infrastructure for a lifelong religious learning process are in principle given, even within the framework of formal learning arrangements. This network is even more densely woven if one includes the broad field of informal and non-formal religious learning, such as family and media religious socialization or the learning processes that result from the performance of church services or the use of the media.

"Informal learning" describes learning processes that take place in the mode of unintended and non-written actions, i.e. mainly through socialization. "Non-formal learning" refers to learning processes that result from planned activities which, however, are not geared towards teaching-learning impulses (European Center for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop), Terminology of European education and training policy, 2008, p. 134.)

The “Evangelical Educational Reporting” currently being developed, orchestrated and responsible for the Comenius Institute, will have documented this network of formal religious learning processes in a dense manner in a few years (Comenius Institute, 2018).

A sideways glance at other national contexts shows that this network is not unique (think of Finland, for example), but also by no means a matter of course (think of France, for example) - in any case, the Protestant (partly) responsible education system is looking for it in Germany Density, size and professionalism are unparalleled.

  • Place of learning and curriculum vitae-oriented system of religious pedagogical theory

It already sounded at the beginning: The theory formation of religious education has adjusted to the scenario of lifelong religious learning with the inclusion of different places of learning. As is well known, for this reason among other things, in addition to religious education, which is traditionally focused on schools, community education has appeared since the 1970s (although the old-type catechetics also had a majority of learning locations in mind, albeit for different reasons). As is well known, the most recent textbooks and drafts of “Religious Education” integrate this idea - remember Christian Grethlein, who in 1998 elevated four learning locations “School - Community - Family - Media” to standard spaces of reflection (Grethlein, 1998, pp. 307-541) or Friedrich Schweitzer, who in 2006 decidedly negotiated the fields of action to be reflected in religious education “from a biographical perspective” (Schweitzer, 2006, pp. 197–261). With their different accents, these two textbooks make it clear that lifelong learning is to be defined in any case using the categories “time” and “space”.

Once again, an international sideways glance shows that hardly anywhere else is work being done in a similar way on the theoretical inclusion of different learning locations and biographical stations. In England or the USA, at any rate, there is nothing to do with it, and there is no mention of it in international manuals (Souza, Engebretson, Durka, McGrady & Jackson, 2006). And even in an interreligious comparison, the analogy can only seldom be recognized - most likely in the "International Handbook of Jewish Education", which appeared in 2011 and, in addition to articles on various learning locations, includes a contribution "Life Cycle Education" (Deitcher, 2011, p. 541–) 559).

  • CV-oriented research in related disciplines

Finally, it should be emphasized that religious education has benefited enormously from research in other disciplines, which is focused on the life cycle: We owe developmental psychology to unprecedented precision with ideas of developmental laws and processes - this, however, not in an individual-biographical interest, but in the interest of supra-individual structural moments (cf. Schweitzer 1987, 82016 and Schweitzer 2003). Sociological theories such as that of Andreas Reckwitz (Reckwitz, 2017) - he speaks of the necessity of a "curated life" in the sense of a life of which we must be curators - inspire the perceptions of the life course and its organizational principles. We will hear about the “national educational panel” as an educational scientific instrument and data source (cf. the contribution by Cordula Artelt and Annette Scheunpflug in this volume); In addition, however, educational biographical research has also been established (for example Fuchs-Heinritz, 42009, Krüger & Marotzki, 2006 and Nohl, von Rosenberg & Thomsen, 2015, as well as the journal "BIOS - Journal for Biography Research, Oral History and Life Course Analyzes", which has been published since 1988 appears and Koller, 2016).

By no means does all of these research and perspectives interested in life course include religion as an educational factor and object - on the contrary: the relevant research is just as multidimensional and multi-directional as the various learning processes in the course of an individual's life. Nevertheless, the methodological, content and knowledge-guiding potential of this research landscape is high and by no means exhausted for religious education.

2.2 Weaknesses

  • Hardly any continuous research specific to the learning location - apart from the school as a learning location

However: While in practice learning locations such as day care centers or the Ev. Family and adult education facilities, youth work and especially media phenomena play a role that cannot be overlooked, this is still not reflected in research in religious education.

In a recently published literature report for the “Theologische Rundschau”, I summarize the situation as follows: “Among the learning location-related publications, the school-related discourse still dominates [...]. A look at other learning locations - the importance of which is in principle agreed upon - results in an ambivalent picture: In particular, elementary education and confirmation work were examined in large-scale, empirical studies of previously unknown quality [Ilg, Schweitzer & Schreiner, from 2009 and Edelbrock et al. , 2010-2015], but these flagship projects are not supported by a broad discourse on religious education.Rather, religious components of elementary education are discussed either in the context of the educational debate or in the medium of reflection on practice (and thus remain below the radar of academic-religious-pedagogical theory formation). Confirmation work is also primarily processed in the mode of reflection on practice (in the context of advanced training courses or in the medium of publications such as "KU Praxis"). Other fields of what is commonly assigned to community education are still rarely considered in research and theory formation. This applies above all to 'family', youth work, 'adult and senior education', but by and large also to the media. Individual religious educators work on these areas, textbooks usually assign them a place, desiderata are marked, but a continuous stream of disciplinary attention and discussion is still missing ... ”(Schröder, 2017, pp. 343-375; cf. Schröder , 2018, pp. 25-91). In view of the demographic shifts in our country, this is a serious mistake when it comes to adult and senior education, for example.
There is even more a lack of studies of non-formal and informal learning locations - a look at individual learning arrangements and groups of people does, however, show a remarkable complexity of the relevant phenomena and insights (cf. the contributions by Christian Mulia and Beate Hofmann in this volume), which However, they are by no means solely or primarily due to research on religion or community education, but rather go back to contributions from various disciplines, from educational biographical research to sociology.

  • Hardly any reconstructions of religious education in life history (educational biographies), but dominance of the actor's perspective

In addition to that strange imbalance in research and discourse, the research that Henrik Simojoki rightly called “sectoral” in his conference exposé, fortunately occasionally sheds light on the so-called “transitions”, most recently from confirmation to youth work (Schweitzer et al., 2018 and Ilg, Pohlers, Gräbs Santiago, Schweitzer, 2018), however, that the individual biographical context in which these learning locations influence and the lifestyle perspective of these individuals hardly ever come into view, let alone specifically investigated.

How else can it be explained that there is no longitudinal data collection on the development of religious learning and religiosity that would be comparable to the "National Educational Panel Study (NEPS)" - now based here in Bamberg - and provide insights into the biographical course of religious educational processes? (URL: www.neps-data.de [last accessed: October 24, 2018]; Blossfeld et al., 2011) Certainly there are individual investigations (more recently, for example, Benthaus-Apel et al., 2017, Klein, 2009, Szagun, 2006, 2014 and 2018, or Trabandt, 2010), which try to collect at least medium-term developments in the lives of individuals as examples or even reconstruct religious developments in the history of their lives, but such analyzes have rarely come into the focus of the specialist community's attention.

No less astonishing than this lack of insight into the life history and the long-term development of religious education is the complementary finding that biographical research on religion teachers is still largely lacking - in addition to research on the religious learning and life path of other multipliers such as educators and adult educators or volunteer actors such as helpers in children's worship work and leaders in women's and men's work. However, among the large surveys of religion teachers in the recent past, at least some (e.g. Feige & Dressler, 2000) included questions about the career path and the genesis of professional self-image.

Even with a view to academic religious educators, we would - if we disregard the genre of work biography, which usually turns to deceased colleagues (Simojoki, 2008 or Schröder, 2018) - blank, if the "long-term Company ”called“ Life Path and Religious Education. Religious Education as an Autobiography ”(Lachmann, Rupp & Schwarz, 1989-2015) that was initiated here in Bamberg (and especially Würzburg) would not exist.

In other words, religious education - like its predecessor, catechetics - traditionally does not serve the biographical perspective, neither that of the learners nor that of the teachers. In addition, it hardly asks about post-adolescent educational processes, least of all about non-formal and informal ones, which - probably very important for individuals - take place in connection with marriage, starting a family, midlife crisis or even old age. Rather, it largely adopts the actor's perspective in the sense that it collects or researches the knowledge that teachers should have in order to determine the starting point of a group of learners at time X as appropriately as possible; to a certain extent it succumbs to the rules of its professionalization.

In this respect one can speak of a peculiar shortening of the interest in the learner. To put it bluntly, they come into focus only as far as is necessary for the development of content, for the conceptualization of the lesson, for the recording of the initial learning situation in the setting of a specific school or community learning arrangement.

It is obvious that this perspective threatens to overlook the enormous dynamics and tensions within modern life courses, even if they are described plausibly here and there, e.g. in the educational concept of the Bavarian regional church just mentioned. There is talk of the "tension between biographical destructuring and the necessary target group orientation" and the "tension between virtualization and corporeality". The following are also mentioned: "Tension between subject orientation and the resistance of the gospel", "Tension between maturity as an educational goal and church bond in discourse" and "Tension between religious privatization and Christianity's claim to publicity (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria, 2016, Pp. 15-20). Not seeing such tensions and the perspective of individuals clearly weakens the adaptivity of teaching-learning processes and the fit of theoretical elements.

  • Hardly any bridges are built between formal, non-formal and informal learning locations and between the disciplines “responsible” for them

Networking is postulated in theory and the creation of interrelated educational landscapes is required, but bridging the gap between formal, non-formal and informal learning locations does not only cause difficulties in practice; In theory, too, bridging the gap between the approaches related to the various learning locations is rarely successful - especially when it comes to non-formal learning locations such as the media.

Examples such as the publications on so-called “school pastoral care” show, however, that building bridges like this is possible and fruitful; In this field, teaching on the one hand and pastoral care, worship and youth work on the other hand are practically and theoretically related to each other (Schröder, 2012, § 49 and Lienau, 2017).

2.3 Opportunities / Chances

When so many complaints are made about deficiencies and gaps in research in religious education, then the elimination of these deficiencies and the filling of these gaps must promise opportunities. In my opinion, this is indeed the case - and I want to outline some of these opportunities, because from my point of view such opportunities also mark the knowledge-guiding interest, which in general leads to the emphatic question of lifelong learning and a biographical perspective:

  • Understanding the logic of participation and appropriation

If it is taken seriously that education (in contrast to teaching, upbringing and socialization) essentially or primarily describes an intrinsically motivated process of self-education, then life-course-related - or in a specific sense: biographical - research promises insights into the question of why people actually relate to religious ones Learning processes are interested in which participation and appropriation logic they follow and, last but not least, which objectives they themselves associate with it.

The latter, the target horizon of the programmatically required lifelong religious educational process, is hardly described in religious education in any other way than with abstract categories such as that of “becoming a subject” - but it is unlikely that the potential subjects themselves would see and name this themselves (and they sharing an implicitly 'educated bourgeois' ideal of the religiously educated with elaborate aesthetic and social ambitions).

Konstanze Kemnitzer recently presented mental relaxation exercises on this question in her Neuendettelsau habilitation thesis "Faith Life Course Imaginations" - admittedly from a very specific point of view: based on the question of which images are actually called up in order to "imagine" one's own life course or that of others (" 'Imagination' is the key term of the present work. ”There it also says:“ The new word 'Faith Life Course' describes the anthropological phenomenon that human life and faith are interwoven ”(Kemnitzer, 2013, p. 21) "Everyday practical" imaginations are examined, such as those found in individual birthday poems that are published on the Internet (Kemnitzer, 2013, pp. 155-200). In addition, she has "scientific" CV imaginations, such as those found in developmental psychology (Ibid., Pp. 47-154) and “artistic” imaginations, such as those found in Buchi Illustrations or sculptures of medieval provenance reflect (Ibid., pp. 201-242). As a result, it goes without saying that one picture of the life of faith cannot be made out - on the contrary: “Treasure chambers” full of imaginations of the life of faith open up, the imagery of which, however, can be typified (Kemnitzer, 2013, p.243). What can and should one do with this panopticon? “Every model of the life of faith trains sensitivity and initiates new impulses. […] Virtuoso is [sc. the religious pedagogical actor] who 'masters' this keyboard, i.e. is able to contribute different sounds - in pastoral situations, in pedagogical discourses, in the manifold events of Christian belief. The ideas are reflective to 'inhabit' and 'let go' again. "(Kemnitzer, 2013, p. 246)

If one uses the metaphor of the "image" at this point, the suspicion is subverted from the outset that it is about the generation of uniform, possibly denominational-culturally standardized guiding principles of a good life, that it is about individual eschatology as a dogmatic topos or normative ascetics or ethics. It is indeed about all these theological topics, but it is not about their normative and singular solution, but about their becoming fruitful in the biography (i.e. in the reflection on their own curriculum vitae) of people who are in religious Enter educational processes. It is about “opening up the Christian religion as a source for offers of the conduct of life [and interpretation]” - here “the development of a variety of options is of great importance. Because when it comes to lifestyle offers, the church is not the guardian of the singular, but of the plurality ”(Schröder, 2014, pp. 110–121).

Exploring religious learning as a long-term process promises new insights into the effects of these processes. Without a doubt, one of the great gaps in religious pedagogical knowledge is that we can hardly name the effect of classroom interventions, let alone the results of medium-term learning processes such as religious instruction in lower secondary education or a sequence of events in adult education - although fortunately the confirmation work studies (confirmation work research and design, 2009–2018) and individual studies such as the one on the effects of religious instruction (Ritzer, 2010) and on the benefits of faith courses (Hofmann, 2013) meanwhile shed light in the dark.

With regard to longer-term effects, we cannot provide any information at all, even if, for example, the EKD's church membership studies can in some respects also be read as an impact study - admittedly as an account of the effect of all religious or church influences, not just the educational ones.

The picture that emerges there, however, shows the urgency of impact research: the member churches of the EKD have lost 3.3 million members within the last ten years (2007: 24.8 million, 2017: 21.5 million - Church Office of the EKD, 2008 and Church Office of the EKD, 2018, p. 8), which roughly corresponds to the population of Berlin. Without wanting to assert linear causal relationships, one can say that the conventional formats of church activity, including educational activity, could not prevent this constant bloodletting by leaving and the persistently high willingness to leave especially young members. In addition, although educational work is hardly an issue in SMEs, the members, where it comes into focus, describe the effect of religious instruction as rather weak or ambivalent (Schröder et al., 2017, p. 10).

Dedicated life-course research could help us to better understand where religious education leads in the lives of individuals: What experiences and knowledge does it develop? Which plausibilities does it promote, which cognitive dissonances is it unable to overcome? What patterns of lifestyle and interpretation does it stimulate? And where can starting points be identified for that “ever new beginning” that Karl Ernst Nipkow postulated as early as 1990?

  • Mindfulness for origins, social situations and lifestyles

The largely fading out of the biographical tension arc in religious and community pedagogy should ultimately be the reason why it is largely difficult to include the previous history of the learners, with sensitivity to social situations and socially effective factors such as family, media or the public - although the connection between origin and education, which the OECD has recently underlined again (OECD, 2018), can also be assumed to be effective for religious education processes. Life-course-related research would bring us closer to social situations and their meaning - until then, individual studies such as the one in Dörthe Vieregges must act as placeholders for this question (Vieregge, 2013), even if the discourse on inclusion (Schweiker, 2017) and "educational justice" ( Grümme, 2014.) has unquestionably opened windows in this direction of view.

2.4 Risks / Threats

  • Failure to recognize the limits or the delimitation of actions reflected in religious education

In 1990 Karl Ernst Nipkow turned against the repristination of the idea of ​​the “general catechumenate” - nevertheless it is difficult to avoid such an impression in religious-pedagogical modeling of lifelong learning, since one is trying to smooth the so-called transitions between different formal learning locations and make them as complex as possible Network to design an “educational landscape” (Bavaria) or even an “overall educational plan” (Baden).

In view of this, objections of principle must be remembered. Friedrich Schleiermacher already warned that educational action is characterized by working towards one's own end (Schleiermacher, 1826/2000, p. 16); Not enough with that, the Luthers, Martin and Henning, each inscribed in their own way, that religious education cannot and should not aim at a state of perfection, but must be pursued in the awareness of the unsolved or the irrevocable fragmentarity of identity and subjectivity (see here only Schröder, 2014, and Luther, 1992). In light of this, life-course-oriented religious education must be careful not to confuse the vision of “lifelong [religious] learning” with people remaining in formal arrangements of religious education or even with lifelong dependence on dealing with religious experts. In other words: the figure of the “priesthood of all baptized” urges religious education, but also urges the end of teaching and education.

  • Failure to recognize the transformative claim of religious learning

Complementary to the risk of paternalization just mentioned is the risk of affirmation - the primarily empirical reconstruction of religious learning processes anchored in the history of life runs the risk of mistaking them for what is required. In contrast, it should be remembered that religious learning processes want and should change people - broaden their horizons and shed a different light on their conduct and interpretation of life. Religious education stands - to put it with Dorothee Sölle - for the "right to become someone else" (Sölle, 1971) and it serves to enable the realization of this right (on this Schröder 2012, p. 227 and § 14; see also Koller, 2012).

  • Misjudgment of the social embedding and orientation of religious learning

Another risk seems to be more abstract: even though formal religious learning processes are unquestionably organized as social processes, and whether they really want to promote social learning, ethical reflection and the communication of the gospel, they mostly focus on the individual learner - and first right to the individual lecturer. The social embedding of religious teaching-learning processes and their communicative outcome come off badly - in line with Dietrich Rössler's dictum: "The ultimate intention of all actions in the name of Christianity is for the individual" (Rössler, 1986, p. 63). Life history research, especially taking a biographical perspective, threatens to intensify this, but can also promote the perception of contexts and factors

3 Lifelong Learning and the Biographical Perspective of Religious Education - One Inquiry

As pleasing as the broad consensus described at the beginning (1.) and as the research situation on lifelong religious learning is in need of development (2.), the question remains: does such life-course-oriented research sufficiently bring out what is called a "biographical perspective" in religious education could? I do not mean.

Because a biographical perspective requires more than just this, to design and implement religious learning processes in a learner-oriented, lifelong and learning location-diversified manner, to reconstruct them empirically and to conceptualize them. All of this is important, yes, downright indispensable, but all in all it remains without regulative power. This is only condensed into the biographical perspective on religious education when

  • when a religious learning process enables the individual to describe their life, its stages, errors and successes, as their life (or - more precisely - to reconstruct), i.e. as something in which - at least for the person concerned, but derived from it also for others - individuality or identity or meaningfulness becomes recognizable,

  • if a theological moment becomes explicitly or at least implicitly recognizable in this retrospective biography, formulated traditionally: if God emerges as a topic or horizon, author or at least listener of my life story (Sparn 1990 and Hilpert & Levin, 2012),

  • if lifelong religious learning is not based on cognition or the acquisition of skills, etc. remains limited and does not amount to the mere affirmation of what I could learn without religion, but rather stimulates the future of the “art of living” (Bubmann & Sill, 2008), the identity-related and attitudinal horizon of the person “gestalt” (Schröder, 2002 , Pp. 169–197) and “Lebensform” (Grethlein, 2018). and insofar as life-promoting decisions of this person are made possible or visible.

To quote Sören Kierkegaard's well-known dictum: A biographical perspective is only rightly used in the process of religious education and in religious-pedagogical theory formation if religious teaching-learning processes and their conceptualization contribute (enable and encourage) to perceive life as meaningful, to live it forwards (justified or consciously), but to understand it backwards (meaningful and identity-assuring) (Kierkegaard, 1923, p. 203).

With this I take up the distinction between biography on the one hand and (socially prefigured) curriculum vitae and (developmental psychologically describable) life-span-development on the other - a distinction that has long been found in sociology and psychology (Böhnisch, 2018 and Wahl & Kruse 2014) and not least in literature or history (Klein, 2009 and Fetz & Hemecker, 2011).

Such a biography is not alien to theology, on the contrary: it shows an impressive history of development and problems.
Biographies are already prefigured in the New Testament Gospels and Letters and have been practiced since the early Church - in particular, the lives of saints exemplify what should be readable in all members of the community of saints: the incarnation of what is believed, the expression of something that can be identified as Christian Lifestyle (Gemeinhardt, 2014 and Heffernan, 1988).

Under modern conditions, biographies were and are mainly pursued in church history, with a view to the heroes of the respective discipline, however, also in exegesis and systematics - just think of Wilhelm Dilthey's "Life of Schleiermacher" (Dilthey, 1768-1802, 1803-1807 1970 & 1966) and Konrad Hammann's "Rudolf Bultmann - a biography" (Hammann, 2012). In addition, the theological quality of life histories and the theologicity of biographies are repeatedly the subject of theological reflection - just think of the Reformation and its discovery of the individual, of pietism or revival movements and their piety for conversion, but not least of all varieties of subjectivity. theoretical theology in the wake of Schleiermacher: theology cannot be thought of otherwise than as an explication of “the Christian pious states of mind” (Schleiermacher, 1830/1960, §15).

In the field of practical theology, the orientation towards the individual has had paradigmatic rank since Schleiermacher, emphasized by Dietrich Rössler's cartography of the subject (Rössler 1986, 63; most recently Kumlehn, 2017). “Biography work”, that is, the guided effort to meaningfully come to terms with the course of life and life experiences, including the breakpoints perceived as crisis-ridden, has found its place particularly in pastoral care and casualty theory; Accordingly, it is also poimenics that provides relevant conceptual considerations for working on life stories - only the contributions by Henning Luther, Albrecht and Elisabeth Grözinger and Wolfgang Drechsel (Luther, 1992, especially pp. 62-180, from the more recent theoretical history) are mentioned here. on this, Fechtner / Mulia, 2014; Grözinger / Luther, 1987; Grözinger, 1986, and Drechsel, 2002; on the practice of biography work, see Ruhe, 52012 and Ruhe, 2014).

For our religious-educational considerations, two things seem to be of interest to me - on the one hand, that the pastor here cum grano salis is assigned the role of the maid or the midwife, who help the seekers of pastoral care to end their lives (better ) learn to interpret and lead; on the other hand, despite all the desired symmetry of communication, the indispensability of a factual "extra nos" is maintained - "in pastoral care oriented towards life history [...] God comes into play as the one who questions or demands, liberates or justifies" ( Ziemer, 2005, p. 305). In other words: Pastoral care helps in a peculiar dialectic that defines its proprium so that people can 'take their life in hand' and 'give it out of hand'.

In addition, a concept of practical theology as a whole should be recalled at this point, which writes the reflection on "religion as a meaning of life history" as a key task in the family book and makes use of all fields of action, preferably worship and casualies, pastoral care and education : Wilhelm Gräb's approach (Gräb, 2016 & 2018).

In many ways it goes beyond what has been said so far - I single out a point that underlines the epoch-making indispensability of a “biographical perspective” with a detailed quote: “On the soft surface of the still hard processes one through the scientific-technical and Societal dynamics driven by economic factors [...], individuals see themselves confronted with the requirement of a meaningful context of interpretation of their life story and also with the work they have to do on their life plan. The imperative is felt to have to win a life of one's own, to develop one's own life-history identity. But at the same time the experience must be made that only partial aspects of one's own life are addressed, the functions […] that have to be fulfilled, the roles that have to be played: as consumers, voters, patients, students [ sc. Doctoral candidates and professors; …], Daughters, fathers, mothers, churchgoers, drivers. Changing roles and demands with very different, often contradicting behavioral logics. What threatens to explode in these changing role requirements is the unity and wholeness of individual life, the experience of being your own person. This experience is just not the given. Rather, it describes the void that is filled with the cryptic wish [...] to orientate oneself on a highest good, from which one can find oneself in an integrative, individual meaningful assertion of meaning ”(Gräb, 1998, p. 31 ). According to Gräb, it is the task of theology to determine “what is essential in Christianity, in its religious content, today for individuals who strive for their identity, for the sources of their self” (Gräb, 1998, p. 33 )

Much could be said about Gräb’s program - I would like to make three points freely in connection with his considerations:

It is the biographical perspective that urges religious education not to deal with empirical research alone with a view to lifelong learning processes, but also to make a decidedly theological dimension of reflection fruitful. Religious education that is conducive to biography will have to empirically reconstruct life courses and their interpretation by individuals, but need not less, but more theological-hermeneutic competence for the interpretation and action-oriented reflection of this.

It is the current social constellations of life that give rise to what can be called a “biographical imperative” following Wilhelm Gräb. Andreas Reckwitz ‘the time diagnosis already mentioned shows it. In this respect, there is hardly an alternative to a life-course-oriented, biography-promoting religious education.
In addition, Christianity has an essential affinity for this type of biography. In any case, the Basel religious historian Helmut Zander has recently argued with a view to European religious history: Christianity was the religion, according to its theological idea “belonging to a religious tradition (later: religion) [...] was no longer based on birth, but rather through a free choice [sc. in the résumé] [sc. should], and this decision should also be exclusive, i.e. not contain any hybrid, syncretistic, multipolar religious practices. ”(Zander, 2016, p. 3).

Religious education and religious-pedagogical theory formation (in evangelical responsibility) each have the task at their level of supporting the individual in developing an interpretation and modeling of their conduct of life that can be addressed as Christian. This program ties in with the current requirements of the “Society of Singularities” (Andreas Reckwitz) as well as with fundamental impulses of the Christian religion (Helmut Zandel). A dictum of Ignatius of Antioch from the 2nd century reminds us that this now more than necessary basic sense of religious education work has always been inherent in the teaching-learning impulse that is inherent in Christianity: “Let us learn [...] according to Christianity to live ”(Ignatius, Letter to the Magnesians 10.1, quoted in Schröder, 2012, p. 37).


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Prof. Dr. Bernd Schröder, professor for practical theology with a focus on religious education at the theological faculty of the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen