“Laugh or despair? Laughter is healthier!”

He is a doctor, cabaret artist and now also a TV presenter. At the Ecumenical Church Congress in Munich, Eckart von Hirschhausen also tried something new – his first Bible study. In an interview with the Catholic News Agency (KNA), he then spoke about ecumenism, humor, do-gooders and the church crisis.

CBA: Mr. von Hirschhausen, what prompted you to join us here at the Kirchentag?
Hirschhausen: In my pursuit of happiness, I have repeatedly come across things that are actually ancient knowledge. Today, modern devices can be used to prove that people are happier when they are committed to others. It can be proven that we have compassion and that we therefore automatically feel better when others around us are doing well than when they drag us down. And at the end of the day, a lot of these practical recipes for happiness are already found in many spiritual teachings, including the Bible. And I always try to bridge the gap between medicine and everyday life – and here between medicine, spirituality and lived faith. That was precisely the challenge for me: It's not about making a perfect interpretation of the Bible, but about showing that these old stories still trigger thought processes in us.
CBA: For example?
Hirschhausen: What does the deluge stand for? Isn't the deluge of today the flood of e-mails in which I drown every day? Is our longing for connection really achieved with wifi? Is our longing for belonging with a virtual circle of friends of 300 people on Facebook really what makes us happy? The answer is always very clear: No. But we keep falling for it.
CBA: "So that you may have hope" is the motto of this Kirchentag. What is your hope that you associate with this?
Hirschhausen: My hope is that we will infect each other. We are just learning in medicine to see how important positive emotions are to physical health. The most expensive illnesses are depression, back pain, obesity – all of which have one core ie, namely: How do I deal with myself?? Like me or not? Do I accept my body? Punishing me? Do I enjoy movement or do I sit around? Do I eat what I eat? Am I alone? And the hope that I have, and that I am also trying to convey here, is that happiness is possible! Community is possible! And you don't have to wait for luck to strike you. Become active! And the easiest way to become happy is to surround yourself with people who believe in something positive.
CBA: Why is it so difficult?
Hirschhausen: Germany is full of cynics. Whenever you do something, there are people who know how you could have done it better. And the alternative is that nothing happens at all. And I'm allergic to the word "do-gooder," which is always associated with church congresses, because…: What does that mean? Of course there are things that are well meant and there are others that are well done. I already understand the irony in this word. But to always dismiss per se people who still have ideals as naive, I find totally naive. That is cynical, these are people who actually no longer believe in anything and have already given up on themselves…
CBA: …Which, however, meets a certain basic attitude in society.
Hirschhausen: The role of the media is often just that: to spread the word about all the bad things that are happening: Who all is stupid and who has committed a crime. Who ran the red light? Who has cheated…? But at the same time, the fact that people are doing great things at any given moment, that they are working for others, caring for others, rising above themselves – all of this takes place too little in the media. And I am accused that my cabaret hurts no one. But then I say, but why does it have to hurt? Who ever said that ranting at Angela Merkel or Guido Westerwelle would make politics better?? So, if every person walks out of here and literally had a little laugh, a little moment of realization, a little moment of happiness, then here in a hall like this are 3.000 moments of happiness. That's the reason why I'm here.
CBA: There is now a lot of talk about the church crisis. Can humor help the church get out of these difficult times, out of this crisis?
Hirschhausen: I actually believe that the way out of the church crisis is not to take oneself so seriously. So the demands on church management personnel are inhumane in the truest sense of the word. I am a Protestant. I would have liked it if Ms. Kabmann had stayed in office a little longer. But I also understand their reaction and have respect for it. I do not understand why some Catholics find it so difficult to admit the errors in their own ranks. At the same time, I want to make it clear: pedophilia as a sexual inclination is not a consequence of celibacy, as is sometimes rumored. But it is important to be awake and very quickly investigate any suspicion. And to do so publicly, because only in this way can the church regain credibility. Humor is of course impossible with something as difficult as abuse. But in the end, humor is the admission of our fallibility. Neither am I perfect, nor is the world perfect.
CBA: Finally, the "Gretchen question": How do you yourself feel about faith, religion and ecumenism??
Hirschhausen: I am a Protestant. And Jurgen Becker sings this beautiful song, "I'm so glad I'm not Protestant". I think at the moment it's rather the other way around. But this is also why ecumenism is a serious concern for me, because I believe that the Christians who still exist should not fight each other. And what I also believe: Today many spiritual needs end up with medicine. Doctors are confronted with questions about grace, about redemption, about salvation. People run to the gym with the same posture that heretics used to slap their backs with – only the equipment has become more ergonomic. And that is why I believe that from a medical point of view there are many messages from the Bible to be rediscovered and to see what is healthy for body and soul in the truest sense of the word. Interview: Gottfried Bohl

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