For many years I have been dealing with topics such as bioethics, Protestant theology, liberation theology, secularization, culture and cultural heritage. It strikes me that in discussions about these topics the theological dimension is often not duly taken into account. Is there a forgetting of theological memory in the academic context? I also find that specifically in the Brazilian academic environment and in the perception of citizens in general there is a prejudice against theology. It is assumed that theology is an archaism that must be overcome. This perception is still present because theology is seen mainly from the perspective of positivist philosophy, Marxism and Foucault’s thought. Important contributions made by theology to the construction of society and Western culture are ignored. In the light of this situation, it may useful to raise some issues for discussion based on theoreticians of culture and ethics who will be presented in the following chapters. So my goal is to investigate topics such as culture and secularization, memory and cultural heritage, reconciliation in the context of politics, secularization and the modern state, the foundations of spiritual disposition in the context of the secularized state and the theological bases for the separation of church and state. I will also deal with a few aspects of the process of secularization of secularization, which is a postmodern cultural phenomenon. Thus, the purpose of this book is to examine the theoretical foundation of the immateriality of cultural heritage and theological aspects of modernity’s view on politics and culture. The focus is not on cultural heritage as such, but on the conceptions of culture, politics and ethics as well as the theological foundations present in contemporary culture. In this sense, the issue of memory is fundamental for a reflection on culture and society. I think that “although official documents speak about the immateriality of heritage, they do not mean the symbolic world produced by imagination and by the consciousness of an ‘I’. Rather, these documents refer to the heritage made of lime and concrete” (Westphal 2012, 64). Cathedrals, temples, cemeteries and monuments of all kinds are considered heritage, but often the theological aspects on the basis of which they were built go unrecognized. Therefore, the theological perspective as part of the immateriality of culture may elucidate the webs of values and belief systems that sustain a given culture in the context of a particular society and its view of politics. So what can theology tell us about culture and society as expressions of human life? I intend to examine the immateriality of culture and ethics in the light of theology. As a result of these reflections I will ask about the presence of Jewish-Christian soteriology – although in a secularized manner – within various approaches to memory, history, culture, society and politics. Besides, I will ask whether the idea of the death of God is also a form of profanation of culture and ethics.
I have tried to deal with theological topics in a dialog with thinkers who are not necessarily theologians. I hope readers will feel challenged by the reflections on the tradition of the Protestant thought in a context in which we forgot that we have forgotten God. I am aware that what I am proposing here are possibilities of interpretation and I do not claim to present final truths, also because to advocate universals has become impossible in postmodernity. What I propose is to raise questions and challenges that may promote dialog, discussion and reflection. All these topics require further elaboration, more precise distinctions and renewed discussions, i.e. more clarity and refinement. Unfortunately, I am not able to offer all this at the moment. So, I acknowledge the limitations of my approach and apologize to the readers in advance for them. I intend to discuss the topic of culture and theological webs of meaning. I am writing to readers of European tradition living in countries that are central in the present world scenario and I do so from a Latin American and particularly South Brazilian perspective. I am a Brazilian and descendant of Germans who settled in Southern Brazil between the 19th and the 20th centuries fleeing from wars, famine and cold in Germany. They went after the promise of a lost paradise, but on arriving encountered hostile conditions in the Brazilian wilderness. In that context, some webs of meaning (Weltanschauung and Lebensanschauung) were vital for their survival: schools, family relationships, Bible reading and the Lutheran church (Taylor and Sell, 2013).
In these introductory notes I would like to thank my colleague Prof. Dr. Ralf Koerrenz, coordinator of the Kolleg Globale Bildung of the Bildung und Kultur Institut at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, who encouraged me to publish this book in English. I thank the University of the Region of Joinville (Universidade da Região de Joinville [UNIVILLE]) in Joinville and the Lutheran School of Theology (Faculdade Luterana de Teologia [FLT]) in São Bento do Sul, state of Santa Catarina, for the financial support that made this publication possible. I also thank my colleagues, professors of the Cultural Heritage Program, for making available research results that helped me to publish this work. I thank Arlindo Ferretti Junior for his important help in the project’s logistics. I also thank my colleague and long-time acquaintance Luís Marcos Sander for his critical remarks and the accurate translation.
Last but not least I would like to thank my wife, Simony and my children Vivian, Felipe and Tiago.
I dedicate this work to my wife and life companion and to my children.
São Bento do Sul, Brazil, June 2019
Euler Renato Westphal