When my family and I arrived in this city this summer, we knew that more than 60 percent of Berliners identified as nonreligious, so it was no surprise to hear these words.
The context of this statement, however, was surprising. We had been having a good conversation with Anita (name changed) about topics ranging from apartments to Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Wondering why she knew so much about Christianity, I asked and learned that Anita had spent seven years studying theology at the university level (including both Greek and Hebrew).
I thought to myself, “Wow, she has more theological training than 95 percent of the American pastors I know!”
Anita explained that she had always been interested in theology and that her mother thought it would be a good course of study for her.
Then she made that short statement that is so descriptive of Berlin, “It’s not that I am religious or believe in God or anything!”
After seven years of intensive study, there was plenty of knowledge, but no faith, no belief and no relationship with the God who created Anita in His image. It was difficult to grasp.
Since our arrival, we’ve had enjoyable and enlightening conversations with a number of Berliners – Muslims fleeing violence in their homeland, good-willed secular humanists, young people just wanting to have a good time and travel, families moving here from all parts of the planet – and Anita.
Each one of these individuals is a portrait in the incredibly diverse gallery called Berlin – portraits that we want to see, understand and love as we begin to make this place our home.