Ralf Stüttgen reflects on some questions

August 24, 2013 at 2:29 am (Commentary)

Ralf Stuttgen

Ralf Stuttgen


Ralf Stüttgen was born in Berlin in 1939. He was educated at a Jesuit High School and in a  Divine Word Seminary. In 1967 he was ordained a priest. In 1968 he came to the East Sepik District of Papua New Guinea and worked as a missionary until the early seventies; subsequently leaving the priesthood and working in agriculture in PNG. He now lives in Wewak and deals in Sepik art. For many years his abiding interest has been about education and development in the Third World. It is his firm belief that without the delivery of quality education en masse countries will forever be stuck in a quagmire of underdevelopment and poverty. Good education and training are not only economic imperatives but are also the rights of all people. With these thoughts in mind, Ralf wants to awaken policy makers and politicians to positive action to facilitate the delivery of quality education to their people.


1. I’m not trying to give comprehensive definitions. For those we have theological dictionaries. I am only drawing attention to some aspects often neglected in religious teaching.

2. Do you believe in the Devil?

It depends on what you mean by the term.

(a) The Devil is not an anthropomorph character with horns and a horsefoot. Nor a dark shadow which can be photographed at certain times. It, for the want of a better term, cannot be seen, heard, smelled, nor imagined. It is a general concept, which can only be thought.

(b) The Devil is the nonsense, that is anything that does not make sense, or enough sense.  This is typical for any lie. The Devil is called the father of the lie. A lie usually contains some truth, in order to deceive. But not enough truth to be acted upon. A lie confuses and creates insecurity. Devil, from the Greek diabolos means the mixer, the confuser.

” Is he a fellow, who is trying to harm us?” somebody asked. No this sounds too anthropomorph. He is not a fellow. The Devil is a potential, a possibility. By making use of this possibility we ourselves cause harm by doing something that does not make enough sense. We have to use our heads; not just somehow, but to the fullest, using all our insight, considering all circumstances.

(3) What is Sin?

For some people sin is synonymous with sex. However, sex in itself is just as value-neutral as anything else. It depends on the circumstances. It may just make you happy, or maybe ruin somebody’s life.

Sin in the fuller meaning is a mistake. Any mistake in any field of life; interpersonal relations, health, economics, politics, environment, cooking, flying, whatever. A decision is a mistake, if the damage outweighs the gains; considering all parties involved.

Some examples: You are tired. But you haven’t read today’s newspaper yet. What is the bigger value? The sleep, or catching up with the latest developments?  A wrong decision in this matter would be a sin.

Somebody has money to spare, should it be invested in a bank term deposit or in real estate?  A wrong decision could well be a sin.

I ask you to disregard here the criteria of free will and sufficient insight – damage is damage! Ignorance does not protect you from punishment.

“Stupidity is the most common cause of death.”

We have much to learn in life and about life, but I believe that in the evolutionary process humanity is advancing. The insights of Moshe Feldenkrais inspire one to look forward to future human enlightenment.

“In spite of the apparent darkness of the human future, I believe we have not yet reached our Homo sapiens capacities for learning; it is still too early to condemn man on the strength of the small awareness he has acquired by chance and not by his outstanding ability to reduce great complexity to familiar simplicity – in other words, to learn. We have never yet really used our essential freedom of choice and we have barely learned to learn.”

(Moshe Feldenkrais, On the Primacy of Hearing, SOMATICS,, autumn 1976, p.21)

Dissidents, should they be wise?

Dissidents, human-rights activists, protesters, revolutionaries, freedom fighters, should not only be right, good, willing, intelligent, but also clever, wise. They should consider the most basic principle: Do it right equals success. Do it wrong equals failure.

Examples: Osama Bin Laden was right. He wanted Israel to treat the Palestinians in better ways. He objected to the West’s exploiting the oil-producing countries. What he did to achieve his aims was wrong. He opted for violence, achieved nothing, and destroyed himself and many others.

Gorbachev saw the problems of the Soviet Union. But he kept his mouth shut until he had risen to a position that allowed him to speak out. Even then he criticised in ways which did not alienate the other party members. They made him their spokesman.

Chinese dissidents protest in forms which are unacceptable to the government. With the result that they bring themselves and others into trouble, and help nobody.

Sometimes wisdom demands: “If you can’t beat them, join them.”

1 Comment

  1. A Stuttgen said,

    That’s my Opa!

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