Leonhard Ragaz

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Leonhard Ragaz, 1914

Leonhard Ragaz (born July 28, 1868 in Tamins ; † December 6, 1945 in Zurich ) was an Evangelical Reformed theologian, pastor, professor of systematic and practical theology at the theological faculty of the University of Zurich and co-founder of the religious-social movement in the Switzerland . He was married to the women's rights activist and peace activist Clara Ragaz-Nadig .


Leonhard Ragaz grew up as the son of a small farmer family in the Graubünden community of Tamins. After studying theology in Basel , Jena and Berlin , he became a pastor in Flerden am Heinzenberg in 1890 . During his student days he joined the Swiss Zofingerverein . In 1893 he took up a position as a language and religion teacher in Chur and was elected parish priest there in 1895, and in 1902 he moved to Basel Minster as the second priest . This is where his first book was written, The Ethical Draft Thou Shalt!

In Basel, u. a. by reading the works of Hermann Kutter , the approach to the labor movement that was decisive for his later life . When the construction workers went on strike in 1903, Ragaz said in his famous masons' strike sermon in the cathedral pulpit: “If official Christianity wanted to watch coldly and uncomprehendingly the development of a new world that emerged from the heart of the Gospel, then the salt would be Earth got lazy! ”Since 1906 he and Kutter gathered like-minded people for annual religious-social conferences. In addition, from 1906, Ragaz published the magazine Neue Wege with Benedikt Hartmann (1873–1955) and Rudolf Liechtenhan (1875–1947) . Sheets out for religious work .

In 1908, he was appointed professor of systematic and practical theology at the theological faculty of the University of Zurich . Here he joined the Swiss Social Democratic Party in 1913 . In the First World War shattered by the Europe-wide outbreak of nationalism, he sat down for international cooperation of the Social Democrats and helped the Zimmerwald prepare 1915th During the Swiss general strike in 1918, Ragaz sided with the workers. When the soldiers guarded the university with their steel helmets and fixed bayonets, he protested: This site only needs to be protected because it has given the people stones instead of bread.

At the age of 53, Ragaz resigned from his chair because it had become impossible for him to train pastors for a bourgeois church. He moved with his family to the workers 'quarter in Zurich- Aussersihl , where until his death in 1945 he devoted himself to workers' education and the magazine Neue Wegen , which he co-founded , but above all to work for world peace in the International Union of Reconciliation . In 1935 he resigned from the Social Democratic Party when it gave up anti-militarism at the Lucerne Party Congress.

Content and appreciation

For the 60th birthday of Professor Leonhard Ragaz , Zurich 1928

The main concept for Ragaz's ethics was the kingdom of God . It is "not of this world" (John 18:36), but a promise for this world. We humans are called to prepare the way for him. Ragaz writes about this in his biblical work: “The coming of the kingdom is also a matter for people. It is prepared, it is offered, but it does not come unless there are people waiting for it, those who ask for it, who work, fight, and suffer for its coming. "

For Ragaz, the justice of the kingdom of God is called “cooperative character” based on the original community. Business subjects should become business citizens. Cooperative socialism is the alternative not only to the sole rule of capital, but also to the sole rule of a party. Ragaz even advocates the slogan: “As little state as possible! In all, as much free self-regulation of life as possible. ”There is no neoliberal ideology behind this , but the demand for cooperative and cooperative companies and enterprises.

He once recorded his thesis of the realization of the kingdom of God through socialism in the following words: “We are committed to a religious socialism, that is to say to a socialism that is expressed in the message of the kingdom of God, in sonship and brotherhood mutual responsibility (namely of the stronger for the weaker), the rejection of mammonism, the belief in the living God and Christ and his kingdom come and come is justified and rooted. "And further:" The kingdom of God of Jesus Christ ... includes the deepest and most complete socialism imaginable. We firmly defend this point against any contradiction. Most of the opposition is raised against him. "

At the same time, Ragaz warned of what he saw as the wrong currents that had developed under the code name of socialism. For example, he distanced himself from Marxism : "We anticipate that we have never been Marxists" and explained: "We have fought Marxism ... with increasing force, namely everything that it contains in terms of belief in violence, but also its entire wrong worldview and outlook on life. ”But at the same time he did not misunderstand the importance of Marxism as such and could not make friends with the general aversion of Marxism:“ But if we reject Marxism in this way, we are still far from it Meaning to do as is customary today. This fight today is mostly based on a complete ignorance of what Marxism is, and on a highly unjust misconception of the truth and greatness that lies in it. It is simply a fact that this much-maligned Marxism has shaken our world like nothing else. "What Ragaz saw negatively about Marxism was that, in his opinion, it was an outgrowth of the same system that produced Prussian state absolutism and militarism:" For It is characteristic of all of these systems that they disregard the individual conscience which rebels against society. ... They are authoritarian systems that consequently incline towards centralism and imperialism and use violence as a means to achieve their goals. This way of thinking also forms the soul of Marxism. ”He saw Leninism as a one-sided increase in Marxist thoughts and had warned against Lenin as early as 1919 :“ His socialism is thoroughly militarism, completely geared towards struggle and violence, without any human leniency and width. He is the greatest representative of hate socialism. That is why he is not the guide into a new world, as many blind people adore him, but the way to a new catastrophe. "

Ragaz saw the degeneracy of the socialist movements in a lack of faith in the spirit, from which social democracy was not excluded; for “the whole materialism on which social democracy had built its system of socialism, and which increasingly lost its original deeper meaning, was just not suitable for supporting spiritual belief and spiritual ideals. So all the corruption and catastrophe we have gotten into is just proof that something was wrong in the foundations of social democracy up to now. "

But in spite of all the currents that went against his feelings and invoked socialism, Ragaz recognized a historical necessity in this: “The thrust of socialism has tremendously shaken up a world rotting from a false culture. He brought back to mind the forgotten truth of the kingdom of God: that people should count and not money; that we are responsible for one another; that political and economic life should not be subjected to rape and exploitation, but should become mutual aid. ... It means a reaction of the sense of community and the community order to the egoism and atomism of capitalist society. ”With resolute conviction he defended his thesis of true socialism:“ And if all existing socialist programs were wrong and all socialist parties collapsed, we would now that we have seen this truth once, nevertheless and even more so in the name of God and Jesus Christ proclaim socialism. "

Ragaz's work is no less than socialism for peace. Anti-militarism is the consequence of "reverence for the dignity and holiness of man and the belief in a realm of justice and humanity to which peace belongs". Ragaz addressed his comrades with the following words: When capitalism combines with violence, this corresponds to its nature, but when socialism does it, it is an apostasy from itself; it is infidelity and infidelity is self-dissolution. Socialist mortar that is mixed with force does not hold up well. "

Ragaz's biblical work is also regarded as a pioneering act on the way to an ecological theology: "Whoever believes in the resurrection of Christ rightly believes in the resurrection of all creation ... including the resurrection of nature". Here nature receives "its own value and its own right". People should treat it in partnership and not exploit or even destroy it. Destructive is a technology that does not serve people, but profit maximization. Ragaz criticizes capitalism for saying that “no landscape is too beautiful for it to be distorted by technology, no mountain valley with its history is too sacred to be drowned in a reservoir if it serves or does profit seems to serve ”.

The downfall of “real existing socialism” did not refute the socialism represented by Ragaz. This waits unpaid for his hour as a religious socialism that emerges from the spirituality of the kingdom of God. Or as Ragaz says: "There has to be more than socialism for socialism to be."

Like hardly any other theologian of the 20th century, Leonhard Ragaz struggled with Bible in hand for the meaning of world historical events. In the middle of the Second World War he wrote his most important work The Bible - An Interpretation . In a time of greatest struggle, Ragaz drew consolation and hope from the text: The triumph of Nazi rule could not last. “God does not tolerate such greatness.” These seven volumes from prehistory to John are still up-to-date today . Its central theme is the "message of the kingdom of God and his righteousness for the earth". With this standard, Ragaz took sides for the victims of injustice and violence, but also for the endangered creation. The Heidelberg Protestant theologian and deaconry scholar Theodor Strohm was one of Ragaz's pupils .

Works (selection)

  • You shall. Basics of a moral worldview , Waetzel, Freiburg im Breisgau 1904
  • Your kingdom come. Sermons , Helbing & Lichtenhahn, Basel 1909
  • Philosophy of Religion , 2 volumes, Zurich 1909
  • The new Switzerland. A program for Swiss people and those who want to become one ,
  • World empire, religion and rule of God , 2 volumes, Rotapfel, Zurich / Leipzig 1922
  • The fight for the kingdom of God in Blumhardt, father and son - and on! , Rotapfel, Zurich / Leipzig 1922
  • From Christ to Marx - from Marx to Christ. A contribution , Harder, Wernigerode 1929
  • The kingdom and the discipleship. Devotions , Herbert Lang, Bern 1937
  • Thoughts. Forty years of intellectual struggle . Chosen by friends, Herbert Lang, Bern 1938
  • The message of the kingdom of God. A catechism for adults , Herbert Lang, Bern 1942
  • The parables of Jesus , Herbert Lang, Bern 1944
  • The Sermon on the Mount of Jesus , Herbert Lang, Bern 1945
  • The story of the cause of Christ. An attempt , Herbert Lang, Bern 1945
  • The Bible. One interpretation , 7 volumes, Diana, Zurich 1947–50
  • My way. An autobiography , 2 volumes, Diana, Zurich 1952
  • Interventions in current affairs. Kingdom of God and Politics. Texts from 1900 to 1945 , ed. Ruedi Brassel and Willy Spieler , Exodus, Luzern 1995, ISBN 978-3-905575-56-9 .
  • Leonhard Ragaz in his letters , ed. v. Christine Ragaz et al., EVZ (Volume 1) and TVZ:


  • Robert Barth: Leonhard Ragaz (1868-1945) . In: Lienemann, Wolfgang; Mathwig, Frank (ed.) Swiss ethicist in the 20th century. The contribution of theological thinkers . Zurich 2005. pp. 9–31.
  • Manfred Böhm: God's Kingdom and Change in Society. Traditions of a liberating theology in the late work of Leonhard Ragaz. Ed. Liberación, Münster 1988.
  • Ruedi Brassel-Moser : Ragaz, Leonhard. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  • Eduard Buess, Markus Mattmüller : Prophetic Socialism. Blumhardt - Ragaz - Barth. Exodus, Friborg 1986.
  • Ruedi Epple, Lenohard Ragaz, the "garden courtyard" in Zurich and the crisis of masculinity , in: Work - Movement - History , Issue 2017 / III, pp. 35–54.
  • Silvia Herkenrath: Politics and the Kingdom of God. Commentaries on world politics in the years 1918–1945 by Leonhard Ragaz. TVZ, Zurich 1977.
  • Hans Ulrich Jäger: Ethics and eschatology with Leonhard Ragaz. Attempt to present the basic structures and internal systematics of Leonhard Ragaz's theological thinking with special consideration of his lecture manuscripts. TVZ, Zurich 1971.
  • Traugott JähnichenRagaz, Leonhard. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 7, Bautz, Herzberg 1994, ISBN 3-88309-048-4 , Sp. 1251-1255.
  • Karl Hans Kern: Leonhard Ragaz - Still believe. Pahl-Rugenstein, 1996, ISBN 978-3-89144-215-9 .
  • Hee-Eun Kim: The relationship between Christianity and Marxism-Leninism in Leonhard Ragaz's meaning for Minjung theology. Haag + Herchen, Hanau 1991, ISBN 978-3-89228-731-5 .
  • Wilfried Köpke : «We are waiting for a new heaven and a new earth» Historical theological principles in the work of the crisis by Leonhard Ragaz. Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-638-71704-5 .
  • Walter Lietha (Ed.): Leonhard Ragaz in profile. Thoughts - biographical issues - life testimonies. Calven, Chur 1995, ISBN 978-3-905261-05-9 .
  • Walter Lietha:  Ragaz, Leonhard. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 21, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-428-11202-4 , p. 110 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Andreas Lindt : Leonhard Ragaz. A Study of the History and Theology of Religious Socialism. Evangelischer Verlag, Zollikon 1957.
  • Markus Mattmüller : Leonhard Ragaz and religious socialism. A biography, 2 volumes. EVZ, Zollikon / Zurich 1957/1968 (also dissertation at the University of Basel 1957).
  • Markus Mattmüller: Leonhard Ragaz . In: Gestalten der Kirchengeschichte 10/1 (The Latest Time III), ed. v. Martin Greschat . Stuttgart u. a. 1985, 139-149.
  • Christian Münch: Leonhard Ragaz (1868-1945) . In: Hofheinz, Marco; van Oorschot, Frederike (ed.) Christian-theological pacifism in the 20th century (= Studies on Peace Ethics 56). Münster 2016. pp. 47–68.
  • Rostig, Dittmar: Sermon on the Mount and Politics. On the structure and function of the kingdom of God with Leonhard Ragaz. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main / Bern 1991.
  • Jang-Hyun Ryoo: Kingdom of God and His Justice for the Earth. Leonhard Ragaz's understanding of the kingdom of God and socialism in its meaning for the Christian-socialist movement in South Korea. Diss. Berlin 1997.
  • Martin Johann Stähli: Kingdom of God and Revolution. Christian theory and practice for the world's poor. The theology of religious socialism with Leonhard Ragaz and the theology of the revolution in Latin America. (= Theological Research 57.) Reich. Hamburg-Bergstedt 1976.
  • Ulrich von den Steinen: Agitation for the Kingdom of God. A contribution to the religious-social preaching practice and homiletic theory with Leonhard Ragaz. (= Contributions to Protestant Theology 77.) Kaiser, Munich 1977.
  • Wieland Zademach (ed.): Kingdom of God for this world - theology against the grain. Legacy of the fathers (L. Ragaz / M. Buber / H. J. Iwand / J. L. Hromadka / H. Gollwitzer / P. Teilhard de Chardin ). Order for today - hope for tomorrow. Spenner, Waltrop 2001, ISBN 978-3-933688-65-1 .

Individual evidence

  1. Paul Ehinger: Liberal Movement and Hort of Tradition. 175 years of the Swiss Zofinger Association . In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung , June 17, 1994, p. 15.
  2. ^ Arnold Pfeiffer (Ed.): Religious Socialists . Walter Verlag, Otten 1976, p. 193, ISBN 3-530-16786-X
  3. ^ Arnold Pfeiffer (Ed.): Religious Socialists . Walter Verlag, Otten 1976, p. 164
  4. ^ Arnold Pfeiffer (Ed.): Religious Socialists . Walter Verlag, Otten 1976, p. 193
  5. ^ Arnold Pfeiffer (Ed.): Religious Socialists . Walter Verlag, Otten 1976, p. 194
  6. ^ Arnold Pfeiffer (Ed.): Religious Socialists . Walter Verlag, Otten 1976, p. 57
  7. ^ Arnold Pfeiffer (Ed.): Religious Socialists . Walter Verlag, Otten 1976, p. 57f
  8. ^ Arnold Pfeiffer (Ed.): Religious Socialists . Walter Verlag, Otten 1976, p. 174
  9. ^ Arnold Pfeiffer (Ed.): Religious Socialists . Walter Verlag, Otten 1976, p. 182f
  10. ^ Arnold Pfeiffer (Ed.): Religious Socialists . Walter Verlag, Otten 1976, p. 191
  11. ^ Leonhard Ragaz: Interventions in current events: Kingdom of God and politics. Texts from 1900 to 1945 . Genossenschaft Edition Exodus, Lucerne 1995, p. 97
  12. ^ Rhein-Neckar-Wiki: Theodor Strohm

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