At the same time, however, is it also not the case that we are experiencing a new wave of change in the centuries-old alienation of man and moving toward a responsible, individual self-determination? Such a transformation has been long in the making, since the end of the Middle Ages. But only now is it coming to a head with such breadth and intensity.
Everywhere, authority and tradition have to justify themselves in the face of questions. Neither the Christian churches with their creeds and rules, nor the state with its constitutional institutions, such as parliaments, nor custom and morality (either as such, or in their relationship to the penal code or family law), nor the different social rules – especially in the areas of marriage and family, of property or work – are exempt from penetrating critical questions today. [ . . . ]
In this life of ours we remain directed toward the relative utopia of a better world, and sensibly this can be the only model for our action. [Applause] The secret of big and revolutionary actions also consists in discovering the tiny step that is simultaneously a strategic step, insofar as it entails additional steps in the direction of a better reality. Therefore it does not help to sneer at the imperfection of today’s reality or to preach absolutes as a daily agenda. Let us, instead, change conditions step by step through criticism and cooperation!
I understand the indignation about the sluggishness of human society, which also extends deep into the churches. All my life I have been an impatient person myself. I still am. This may, incidentally, be one of the reasons that I have a tendency toward unpunctuality and am fond of showing up at appointments too early. [Laughter] Because of my own impatience, I even understand the radical groups of restless youth. But, speaking out of my own impatience, they are just the ones I can call upon to reinforce those who have already lined up ahead of them to undertake the long march of reforms, and who are resolved to keep it going. [Applause]
Some groups of young people, for example, have come up with the idea of using conscientious objection as a special means to rattle the Bundeswehr. Everyone knows that, over the last several years (up to and including my time as Federal Justice Minister, in church discussions, as well as here in the Bundestag), I have supported a fair and practical arrangement for conscientious objection on the grounds of religion or conscience. Therefore, I deplore it when this right is abused. [Applause] Every frivolous treatment of the elementary freedoms of our order should be renounced by those very opposition groups who, after all, want to (and should) partake in the protection of these freedoms. [Applause] [ . . . ]