Every epoch in history has its struggles and crises. When the continent of Europe failed to recognize the season through which it was progressing, it always ended up in violence and wars. The violence and wars of the French revolution and Napoleonic era were the result of the failings of the power structure at that time. Those in power failed to design a social, political and ideological structure to fulfill that society’s needs. An old-fashioned, outgrown structure of the society increased the problems and made the leaders blind to the realities of their time. The same thing happened in the years preceding the war of 1914. The nations of Europe were drawn into the vortex of death, purely because of the pride and blindness of their leaders. Of all the wars, the First World War, certainly was totally based on stupidity. There was no real reason for it, except the pride of the men in power. Sadly enough, the key person that was the carrier of a vision for a more modern Europe was the very person that was killed in Sarajevo, sparking the war.
Europe today is again in a critical phase echoing the situation faced before the past great tragedies of war. Politically and socially there is a huge shift going on that will demand much from the continent’s leading politicians, but as always, the solutions presented are made to solve the problems of yesterday, and not the big challenges of tomorrow.
So, what are the increasingly major problems these days? There are several layers of problems. First, we have the obvious one which is the huge social experiment of massive immigrations into all of western Europe. In the suburbs of the big cities of Europe, millions of people are living together. The majority of these are first or second generation immigrants.
I can never forget the tears of a girl sitting in a chair in my office in a school in Sweden. She was shaking out of fear. She was a Kurd from Turkey. She had read a poem which she had written in Kurdish, her mother language, on the local radio station. The reaction from the Turks in her neighborhood was strong. She received threats by the Turks, and feared for her life and that of her family as well.
The immigrants coming from all parts of the world bring their problems with them, right into the suburbs of Europe. The hatred between Shia and Sunni, Turks and Kurds, Serbians and Albanians and other nationality groups is a new challenge added to the already nationalistic and ethnically divided Europe.
The answer to these enormous problems are impossible to be found through politics and governmental regulations. The only thing that can take hatred away from people is a change of their minds and heart. The only one that can effectively make that change is Christ. That’s why we as a church need to emphasize and focus our work in the suburbs of Europe. And we need to do it now, before the cup of hatred and anger reach an unstoppable level.
The second huge challenge is the decrease of democracy. The most visible sign of that is the rise of corruption in all of Europe. Corruption in all levels of society has been increasing in the last 30 years. The big financial crisis in Europe is a fruit of a total lack of democracy in southern Europe. A culture of bribe, misuse of governmental money and the lack of moral dignity in leadership, has brought half of the continent into financial ruin. The failure to fight against mafia structures and the criminal use of tax money have destroyed financial ethics in the nations. Corruption is a sign of moral collapse in a nation and is democracy’s biggest enemy. Eventually, it will end in financial collapse.
A friend of mine was shocked when her sister brought her new boyfriend from Greece to meet her family. Proudly he told his new Austrian family that they are still receiving money from their dead grandma’s pension. Instead of being ashamed of his family’s moral status, he considered it as a smart move. Stealing had obviously become a part of his family’s culture and made them blind to the fact that it was wrong and were incapable of being ashamed about it. The sad fact about a huge part of Europe is that stealing has become the culture in all levels of society, and the worst criminals are hiding in the corridors of politics, financial institutions and governmental institutions. The root of the financial crises in all of Europe is found in the lack of moral dignity by those people that are in control.
Regulations of the financial market, by openness of transactions and decisions, could prevent a lot of this corruption. However, it will still not change anything if those in power have no personal conviction that stealing is sin. Only a changed heart can turn a thief into a giver.
A change of mind is desperately needed before the entire continent becomes totally rotten. Only Christ is able to make that change. We need to see the body of Christ actively preach the message of sin and salvation in a more radical and direct way.
One hundred thirty years ago, Nietsche said that with the collapse of Christianity in Europe, we will also eventually see the collapse of Christian morality. The atheists of his time did not believe him. They thought that the ethics of Christianity would survive the destruction of the dogmatic worldview of the Bible as truth.
The first fruits of the death of Christianity in Europe were the totalitarian secular political movements of fascism and socialism. These two movements are based on the Darwinistic worldview. With their scientific arguments, they murdered millions during the first part of the 20th century. It was the lack of Christian values that made it possible for both of these movements to succeed.
With the huge challenges of today, Europe is following the same path.
As Christians, we have been more occupied with sexual and cultural questions as a threat to Christianity than the threat that corruption and racism is to Europe. We have protested against rock music, but failed to protest about the growth of the mafia. If we would have spent just as much time to preach against corruption issues as we have done about cultural issues, things would look different today.
It is now 100 years since Max Weber wrote his book about how the protestant ethic brought wealth into Europe. It is imperative that the churches in Europe realize that they have a responsibility through preaching to lift up the issues that are the real threat to our nations. If we fail to point out and raise up a true Christian standard in the world, we will not succeed and the Europe we hand over to our grandchildren will be a terrible, cold-hearted place to live.
Christ is still the answer for Europe, my friends. But are we preaching all of him?
The democracy in Europe, the best of our culture, is all a fruit of protestant churches. It all started with the fight for religious freedom in the renaissance. John Hus, was the beginning point of this fight. He was a man that was burned alive for his fight for religious freedom. It was Christians that fought this fight through the coming centuries. Christians were killed for their struggle for democracy all the way up to modern times. It was Christians that brought modern health and school systems. Preachers started the first schools. Christian doctors and nurses created the modern health system with Florence Nightingale as the most famous of them. It was Christians that fought against slavery, and succeeded. William Wilberforce is the great hero of that fight. I could continue to mention how Christians brought modern science, how Christians made people free from financial bondage and how Christians were the key behind modern constitutions and human rights.
We used to be the very movement that shaped the continent for the good. In a time like this, it is urgent that we once again rise up and preach a Christian image for the future of Europe. Christ has changed nations before. I am more than convinced that he will do it again.