From the news:
German Chancellor, Angela Merkel recently claimed that Christianity is “the most persecuted religion worldwide”. Merkel’s comments came at a meeting of the German Protestant Church late Monday in which she emphasized Germany’s needed to protect Christian minorities as part of its foreign policy. Merkel, you will recall, is the daughter of a pastor. She also spoke out against strict separation of church and state and said Europe was built on Christian foundations.
No one inside the Church would disagree with Merkel's statement. Christianity has suddenly become the scape goat for nearly every wrong in society and the world. All the mountains of good done for the cause of the poor, the care of the sick, the education of all, the aid in natural disaster, the arts and music, the status of women, the advocacy of the poor and oppressed, and the protection of life have gone unnoticed, disregarded, or intentionally ignored. Instead, every fault or failing of religious people or their leaders has colored every fact, every truth, and every conversation in the public square -- and not only in the West.
All this and Christians are the dominant religious group in the world. All this and a whole heritage and legacy of culture and civilization owe much to Christianity. All this at a time when terrorists threaten the world over with an extreme violence generally in the name of one religion and that not Christian. How did we lose the public relations war so quickly and effectively? We are not talking about controlling politics or culture here. We are talking about the way the world, especially the media, view Christianity.
Someone once said to me that Christianity is far more pervasive in America but its soul is far more deeply entrenched in European history and culture than in the USA. On the surface, it seems, most Americans claim to be Christian. In the reality of it all, we seem to have lost our full confidence in our God, in His book, and in His Church. We are more tentative than ever before. On the other hand, Christianity looks almost dead in Europe -- at least gauged by attendance at worship -- while it is more deeply embedded within the fabric of their history and identity than here. I am still mulling this point over and am not sure that I agree but it is something to think about. To put it in practical terms, Christianity in America is like the Platte River in Nebraska -- a mile wide but only a foot deep. Christianity in Europe is like a river that runs very deep but is not very wide at all. What do you think?
Anyway, I applaud Merkel for saying out loud what many of us have been thinking for a long time. It seems proven by the fact that we can mock and tolerate few groups without being attacked -- few groups except, of course, Christians. We can openly mock, lie, and distort their people and positions all over the media without fear of repercussion. When that becomes the case, a cause is in trouble. The problem, however, is that we Christians have allowed this. It is not so much that others have taken up the cause against us -- folks who in the past were our allies if not one of us entirely. Rather, it is that we have allowed the media and the secular culture to make it seem that we are not who we say we are, that we are sinister and evil folks who promote and narrow and divisive truth designed to elevate the few at the expense of the many. Anyone who knows the Gospels will know that this is not the faith of Jesus. But perhaps we have allowed it to come the predominant image of Christian faith and teaching. That is as much our own fault as it is the fault of our enemies and the enemies of the Gospel.
Now, don't get me wrong -- I am not suggesting that this is merely a PR war or that we need to do all we can to get back in the good graces of the media. I am saying that no election or political movement is needed or should be used to promote our cause. We need to speak through our works as well as our words so that the Gospel of Christ and Him crucified is clearly spoken. We do not need to accommodate culture or adjust to fit the positions prevailing in the public mood. We need to be authentic and passionate in lips and lives that witness the truth of Him who is the way, the truth, and the life. Nothing else can stem the tide....
My limited observations have been that living Christianity in Europe is almost impossible to find. I did see vast evidence of what once was there, but it was all ruins or empty buildings. I attended Drie Konigs Kirke in Saxenhausen (spelling may be off, it has been a long time), across the river from Mainz, and there were about a dozen in attendance in a building that could easily hold 500.
Africa will have to send missionaries to Europe to re-evangelize Europe.
Traveling got several weeks in NE Germany in the summer of 2011, we worshipped in various churches. No, they were not full, but there was always a significant congregation. In a small neighborhood church in Hamburg there were about 35 or 40 in attendance -- what you might also find in many older neighborhood churches in this country -- although this church probably served a parish of several thousand. At the Kaiser Wilhelm Church in Berlin there was a sizable crowd, although I suspect many of them were visitors like us. Somehow, though, I do suspect that there is still real faith among many, but real agnosticism too. It is just different than America and hard to explain -- but surely not as clear-cut as we pious Americans sometimes assume.
1. What passes as the "church" in America is in no way equal to the Church.
2. I am not travelled in Europe. However, the European Christians with whom I have had contact are far deeper.
3. The church in America knows no history but the foundations of their own particular denomination (generally).
4. The same principle from Proverbs about training children could possibly apply to cultures.
5. The fullness or emptiness of a church building in no way indicates the depth of the spirituality of it's congregants.
The history we do not know cannot affect us at all.
You wrote: "To put it in practical terms, Christianity in America is like the Platte River in Nebraska -- a mile wide but only a foot deep. Christianity in Europe is like a river that runs very deep but is not very wide at all."
Wasn't it Chris Rosborough who said that Evangelicalism is a mile wide and 1/4 inch deep? Regrettably, the non-denominational seeker-churches form a lasting negative impression of Christianity in the public mind. In the USA, the Evangelical landscape is dominated by snake oil salesmen.
Sadly, whenever most non-Lutherans think about the LCMS, they automatically think that the LCMS is either a branch of the ELCA, or it is a damaged variant of Roman Catholicism.
Europeans enjoy a much higher living standard than in the USA. The people are not as quick to turn to God when things go badly for them. Church workers were traditionally paid by the government, but I understand this is becoming less the case. Apathy dominates. Perhaps the threat of Islam will wake them all up.
Luke 6:22 "Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
Why do I not see all that much jumping?
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart
Was this a complaint or was this merely the happy acknowledgement of that which Christians have known for sometime... far from being a majority which can throw its weight around, orthodox Christianity is daily being persecuted, pressured, and put down by the world around us. We rejoice not in the persecution itself but in the reward for enduring it. Such reward and, in part the rejoicing, awaits the coming of Christ and the new kingdom.
Jesus does not say the persecution is good but that the reward is greater than the cost of discipleship and faithfulness. We anticipate the day when we shall jump for joy and in the midst of our tests and trials we are found faithful. We jump up and down when finally we hear the words now promised: Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of Your Master.
Self-persecuted? To the point where they can say that such comes from without?
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