Hardly a Christian Nation
During a lay-over at the Frankfurt Airport yesterday I noted, with amusement, an article in the Frankfurter Rundschau with the following title, “Nein zu Islam-Feiertag.” It seems that Green Party leader Hans-Christian Stroebele has been seeking to introduce an annual Islamic holiday in Germany – a day-off that would occur at the end of Ramadan. All well and good, you say? Hardly.
A firestorm of protest has ensued, with the opposition led by Otto Schily, Germany’s Ministry of the Interior. Schily argued, cogently in my opinion, that Germans need to work more, not fewer days. Then CDU leader Angela Merkel chimed in. “Germany is a country with Christian-Western roots,” she said.
It was this latter quote that had me shaking my head. Interesting, isn’t it, how German politicians can tout their “Christian” heritage when it suits their economic/political purposes. In all actually, Deutschland is no more a Christian nation than was the Holy Roman Empire (which, of course, was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire).
Nowhere is this situation of “expedient Christianity” more intense and urgent than right here in the United States. For it is here, more so than in Germany, that the churches are being drawn into a struggle with a government committed to the disenfranchisement and oppression of those who truly believe in their “Christian-Western roots” in the name of the politics of statism – and often in the name of a biblical insistence upon obedience to constituted authorities. A cacophony of ideological pragmatism has distorted our ability to see the situation clearly, however.
The general election on November 2 is a high-profile microcosm of this problem. As I see it, the burning question facing American evangelicals is whether they have fully faced the consequences of their call for Christian action against a state that has lost its moral legitimacy. For the past two years I have argued that not only must the existing order change, but also that any attempt by the church to defend the cult of Americanism is heresy.
Nevertheless, most of our churches have made no serious attempt to move beyond rhetoric. We have become so preoccupied with our own internal affairs that we have neglected our prophetic task in relation to the state. In such a situation the church needs prophets – men who will remind the church of its obligation to address the violation of biblical principles by our civil magistrates. It is part of the church’s office of guardianship that she shall call sin by its name and that she shall warn men against it, for “righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is perdition for the people” (Prov. 14:34). Our aim should not be that government pursues Christian policies, but that it should be true government in accordance with its own special task as defined by Scripture. The church must therefore always oppose this encroachment of the state precisely because of its better knowledge of the state and of the limitations of it actions. Indeed, to be silent in the face of tyranny is complicity in the tyranny.
We mock the Gospel of Jesus Christ when we forget that uncompromising obedience to God alone is the essence of true faith. The earliest Christians were quite unreasonable (by today’s standards) in refusing to conform to the demands of the civil authorities. They held to a higher law, a law that demanded, not compromise (as in the case of those who recently voted to reelect a man who believes Muslims and Christians pray to the same God), but obedience to the Triune God. In essence, what November 2 proved (in case anybody really doubted it) was that America, like modern-day Germany, is a country that cares little about its “Christian-Western roots.” Once again, in the age-old struggle between God and Mammon, Caesar has trumped Christ, and we have no one to blame but ourselves.
That’s why, in the end, it makes little difference whether Germans, or Americans for that matter, have Islamic holidays. The truth of the matter is that neither Germany nor America is a Christian nation. But what is saddest of all is that those who have remained faithful to the prophetic tradition of the church – men like Michael Peroutka and Chuck Baldwin – have been dismissed as political extremists by those who have deviated from this tradition.
November 20, 2004
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.