Dienstag, 21. April 2015

R is for religion

panorama of Zürich taken by me 2014
When I was fixing to move to Switzerland, there was a delay with my visa and I almost didn't make it. I phoned the Swiss consulate, but was met with an outgoing message that told me that due to Pentecost, the offices would be closed that Monday. I believe that I was meant to leave that Wednesday. I was gobsmacked. Why on earth a consulate building would be closed for Pentecost? But it turns out that it's a bank holiday in many western European countries, as well as Senegal, Benin and Togo.
The reformation in Switzerland was later than and more intense than Martin Luther's in Germany. Switzerland's reformer, Ulrich Zwingli, disagreed with Luther about the consecration of the eucharist. He was installed at Grossmunster church in Zürich. In Neuchatel, there was Guillame Farel, who met our third reformer, John Calvin in Geneva as the latter was headed to Strassburg. If you'll notice, 2 of these three were from the north and west of the country. It was the city-folk in the north west who seemed primed for reform. The country folk in the middle and the Italy-neighboring south held fast to Catholicism and damn if they didn't have more fun than their Calvinist neighbors. (Calvinism is marked by austerity and referred to by that name by Lutherans. They would simply call it reformed christianity or protestantism.)
Then there was a big Catholic-Separatist Civil war in 1847 and now we have consociationalism. In 1980, there was an initiative for the separation of church and state, but it failed. It failed! This is ridiculous to me because since then, church attendance has declined considerably.
Like in the US, churches don't have to pay tax, but citizens and residents of Switzerland, when they register (because as I said in the G post, we're all registered) they can choose to claim a confession and will then pay their tithe - or tax by another name - which sustains the institutions.
So, some cantons are catholic and some are protestant. The only effect from this that I know is the volume of the bells and the number of weekdays that banks are closed in honor of one holiday or another. Though I do know a certain 90 year old who felt the sting of being a calvinist in a catholic canton. Her parents impressed upon her how important it was that she be an especially good girl, because they would be scrutinized as an outsider. She remembers being a 3 years old girl, newly out of diapers and paddling naked in the shallows of the lake that bordered her family's garden. She was spotted and her parents were criticized for her nudity. She  so clearly remembers the feeling of being other, but so does her son, who is 30 years younger.

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