THE POLITICAL PAGE
The christian faith
as a political, social and economic factor
in the USA and in Europe
1. President George W. Bush
The Inauguration of the 43rd president of the United States of America was celebrated with great and glamorous complexity on January 20 in Washington D.C. With his left hand placed on the Bible George W. Bush was re-elected on November 2, 2004 by a majority of 3.5 million votes. He took the oath of office for his second candidacy 2004 – 2008 on this day in the presence of the American people and the public world. This was preceded by a time of personal prayer and a short church service.
In his 15 minutes speech the president centred on the theme of “Freedom” – a word he used 27 times.
“We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world…So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” He says that each people should make their own way to ‘ attain their own freedom' even if it differs from the American style. He then continous: “Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world: All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you. ” Those statesmen living in prison or in exile will be called ‘ the future leaders of your free country'.
In her hearing of the application for the foreign secretary office Condolezza Rice, the foreign secretary of the United States, stated in the presence of the Committee on Foreign Relations the names of the nations which are referred to as ‘the outlaw regimes': Iran and North Korea which are presently working on a nuclear program as well as Cuba, Belarus, Zimbabwe and Burma.
Addressing the Allies Bush said: “We honor your friendship, we rely on your counsel, and we depend on your help. Division among free nations is a primary goal of freedoms enemies. The concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is a prelude to our enemies defeat”.
C. Rice added: “The central task of the foreign policy in the United States is the propagation of democracy and freedom”. „We cannot rest until every person living in a ‘fear society' has finally won the freedom”.
In his preliminary interview Bush already mentioned the political key activities of his second term of office:
a satisfactor outcome in both Iraq and Afghanistan
reconciliation between Israel and Palestine
promotion of freedom and democracy in the Middle East
war against terrorism
war against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
reformation of the National Insurance scheme
tax relief and tax abatement
2. “We honor your friendship, we rely on your counsel”. (Bush). - “Our relationship with the rest of the world has to be a dialogue and not a monologue" (Rice).
„Many thanks Mr. President, thank you Ms. Secretary for the words of inspiring courage spoken to us as Europeans, words which are refreshing the heavily- loaded and almost extinguished dialogue between us.
Thank you for calling us „friends“ again, because this is what we really are. Especially as we German have come to know your friendship after the Second World War, even though we were bitter enemies before. This should be kept alive in the „collective consciousness” of our people for ever.
Your willingness to support freedom and democracy in the world saved our capital and brought freedom to Berlin by means of the US-air force in 1948/1949.
How encouraging it was for us to hear your young president, John F. Kennedy saying this words at the Berlin Wall in 1963: „Ich bin ein Berliner!“ In the person of your father, George Bush sen., with his considerable contribution to the reunification of our nation you were also a ‘Berliner'. Mr. President we are deeply grateful to you and your nation for your friendship.
Since the break up of the Eastern Bloc the world and thus the relation on both sides of the Atlantic has changed. Europe and Germany, in particular, no longer need the American soldiers and weapons to protect them against the Eastern aggressors. Therefore, we enjoy the political independence, but on the other hand you also no longer need Europe and Germany as a primary protection barrier against a Russian attack – which is the reason for the detail of your troops.
Are we therefore no longer such close friends? Are friends, friends, only as long as they symbiotically depend on each other?
We are both very different. You were able to win the war on your own in Iraq but unable to win peace on your own in Iraq. We Europeans however, have recognised that all diplomacy degenerates into a cat-and-mouse game if no real case of emergency is to be found. Only the USA could announce such a case of emergency. Boldly you started the war against terrorism, but you realised that you copuldn't end the war without the help of other nations (“the rest of the world”). By the energy truss of our continents, namely the aptness of European diplomacy and the military potential of the USA we could achieve great things for the freedom and peace in the world.
Therefore, please try to understand the following questions: They are a European contribution in the dialogue regarding the affirmation you and the foreign secretary made. Friends are always friends when they ask helpful questions .
2.1 . Mrs. Minister there are six states you referred to as “ the outlaw regimes ”. I agree with you, but why don't you mention China where thousands of people and many christians suffer in prisons and labour camps because they have an other belief and a different opinion? Why don't you mention Russia where democratic structures are dominated by the State and where the war in Chechnya has been cruelly carriying on for several years now. Why has the Sudan disappeared from the list although the Darfur genocide is still going on. Is your campaign for freedom – which seems to be absolute – not strongly conditioned by your own political interests and considerations?
2.2. You declared „freedom“ as the guiding theme of US foreign policy. Mrs. Minister you mention “Democracy and Freedom” in the same breath like synonyms. Is this true? Is freedom equal to democracy? Aren't there many forms and nuances of freedom?
2.3. At the introduction of Democracy in Post-war Germany the Americans could tie in with the democratic traditions of the Weimar Republic and the traditions of the 19th century; this is why it was successful. Your aim Mr. President, „the promotion of freedom and democracy in the Middle East” cannot tie in with such traditions in the Arabic world. For a long time this countries have been governed by the tribe sheikhs and religious authorities (the Mullahs). Through the implementation of western democracy a second level of competence is created. As far as Afghanistan and even more so Iraq is concerned, it is obvious that this second level of competence compared to the first level is completely helpless and thus depending on help from abroad. What about reflecting on a new campaign for democracy in the world? I like your wording when you said:” free nations should ‘promote democracy'”. Whether they are to lead war-like operations or not remains to be judged by the after-effects.
2.4. Mrs. Minister you said: „We cannot rest until every person living in a ‘fear society' has finally won its freedom ”. The necessity in your wording is evocative of Jesus' call to mission: “Go to the end of the earth and make disciples of all nations.” This message of love through the redemption of Jesus is to be passed on. The message you want to pass on – with the same ‘mission zeal!' is a political redemption given by America.
Aren't you as Americans in danger of mixing this two messages including the premise: “All power is given unto me?" - To whom? The Messiah has reserved the creation of a realm of freedom as a form of government and authority to himself. Anyone who wants to create such a realm of its own will fail, however, this shouldn't hinder us from aiming at it; but in the humility of humanity, not in place of God. Is the most powerful man inthe world able to think in this dimensions? If so, this would confer new brilliance and authenticity to your actions. Especially as Bush is a praying man who wants to obey God, God will speak to him.
2.5. Mr. President in your list of focal points I miss the perception of your responsibility regarding the high energy consumption in the USA and the conscious limitation of fugitive emissions. You as a Christian why don't you take responsibility for the creation and as a statesman why don't you take responsibility for the next generations? Please, enrol in the Kyoto-Protocol just as Russia has done! Strategically this question should be of more importance for world than the introduction of democracy in Burma and Zimbabwe.
Mr. President, we see your genuine and good intentions and we honour you in your office which was given to you from God. We are pleased to know that a praying man is the spearhead of America, the worlds power. We will support you in prayer, and pray that God will give you good ideas and grace in the implementation of your office.
May the relationship between you and your international partners (please don't call them ‘the rest of the world') be pillared by respect, genuine listening and reflection on both sides. This would be a ‚Dialogue' rather than a ‚Monologue'.
3. The christian faith in the USA and in Europe – a comparison
The politicians level
To confess „God“ or even to avow oneself as a Christian being a top politician in Germany or Europe was beyond „political correctness“ up to now. Even recently, Johannes Rau the former Federal President, known for being a born-again believer, did not have the heart to mention God or Jesus in his Christmas Speech.
Therefore a taboo was infringed when the new Federal President, Horst Köhler, closed his Inaugural Speech with the following words: “God bless our country!” Since then he repeatedly spoke about his belief in God and that he and his wife, for instance, are praying for the victims of the flood disaster. He always speaks very calmly and genuinely, never pretending or being ‚pushy' about his faith. This is what he is, how he lives and how he speaks. Horst Köhler has always been an inspirer and a forerunner. On political level he seams to have opened an invisible door through his speaking about God. May the other politicians too, enter this door and confess their belief in God.
George W. Bush is different. In many interviews before his inauguration he publicly outlined the importance of his faith in both his own private life and political work. He said that he strongly believes in God and that he is strengthened through reading the Bible and praying daily as well as through other peoples prayers. „I cannot see how somebody can be a president without having a relation with God”, he said. He also says that it is the duty of the president to protect the people's right to practise their belief, and respectively their right not to practise it if they so desire. However, he doesn't mention God in his inaugural speech (as far as I remember from the text). Red.). Anyhow, the overemphasis of freedom which is „preached“ with religious pathos and missionary zeal is more obvious. Maybe, Bush sees in this on the one hand, a synonym for God (“Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom") and for democracy on the other hand?
But is the affirmative answer to this question not a far too simple American answer? America is, “the nation with the soul of a church” (G. K. Chesterton).
The Peoples Level
A Chersterton quote in additio: „America is the only country ever founded on a creed“ (at the creation of the country of Israel in 1948). So it was clear that all the evangelical Protestants would support this presidential candidate who very precisely was not only emphatic on their disagreement with homosexual partnership and abortion issues, but also would represent their own way of life. They helped him to win the election.
What is the conclusion of this?
4. Does Faith Lead to Success?
Under this headline, the „Wirtschaftwoche“ no. 52, 2004 published a very interesting article comparing differences between the USA and Europe. The comparison was referring to the role religion, as true godliness and the evangelical spirituality played in the life of individuals and in society.
Europe and the USA have the same spiritual roots and therefore their values are marked by Christianity. Nevertheless, both of them have made their mark on world policy over the last few centuries and have successfully protected freedom and democracy against fascism and communism. But it is obvious that both blocs are breaking up and that the lack of understanding of the others reaction, is increasing. And in the middle oft his increasing alienation the dis-similarities between them are becoming more and more obvious: there is a different understanding of the Christian faith.
The USA is a profoundly religious country. Glamour, hectic lifestyles, outstanding scientific achievements and Coca-Cola are taking our attention away from it. But the soul of this country which is marked by its founders, the "Pilgrim's Fathers" of the 17th century, is a Protestant and Religious soul.
According to surveys 43 per cent of Americans attend church meetings at least once a week. According to the same survey! - 10 per cent (of Lutherans and Catholics) attend church meetings in Germany and only 2 per cent in Great Britain.
On 2nd November the electoral winning vote was made by the churchgoing community. 2/3 of the people attending church meetings voted for Bush and only 1/3 for Kerry. The evangelicals represent a quarter of the electorate and are very active in their belief.
From a religious point of view observers say that this election is no punctiform event but a trend.
Explanation: Unlike in Europe, the political process in the USA is running the other way round: if secularisation is on the increase in Europe, it is on the decrease in the USA; we can almost speak about a “de-secularisation”. Therefore, in some states, the evangelicals are just about to replace the evolution theory with creationism in schools.
It is self-evident that a decisive christian belief goes hand in hand with a definite Christian ideal of life; the medias call this “conservative". 58 per cent of Americans approve that faith in God is essential in order to be a morally good person, compared to only 33 per cent of Germans, 27 per cent of Italians and 13 per cent of the French.
„ Shouldn't homosexuality be accepted by the society?”, was approved by 42 per cent of Americans, 21 per cent of the French, 20 per cent of Italians and only 15 per cent of Germans.
„Should the husband be the main provider for his family?” was approved by 37 per cent of Americans compared to 18 per cent of Germans and only 13 per cent of the French who consented to this question. The Europeans almost exclusively approve that both partners in marriage should share the earning of money, and the childcare.
„Very proud of their country" are 80 per cent of Americans, 50 per cent of British, 35 per cent of Italians but only 18 per cent of Germans.
It is very obvious that Christian belief, the sense of family and patriotism are closely linked together – but unfortunately this is on the decrease in Europe.
The consequence of the authentic Christian belief gains new relevance regarding the question about the number of children in the population. Americans who regularly attend church have definitely more children. Despite the average cost of 200,000 $ needed to rear each child, Americans know that “children are a gift of the Lord”.
In the states where the majority voted for Bush the birth rate is about 12 per cent higher than in the Kerry-vote states.
This conscious faith attitude is thus the reason why the USA with 2.1 children per woman will not undergo a demographic kink; neither will the society grow old - not even slightly. Whereas in Germany with a birth rate of 1.4 children per woman the average age will rise to 53 years old during the next 40 – 50 years.
The consequences for the welfare system are obvious; likewise, the consequences for the economy. The number of consumers and thus the number of jobs in the USA remains constant respectively,and, is on the increase; but not in Europe! Today both national economies are equal in strength. In about 50 years the American economy will have outrun the European economy by 100 per cent. Then, American will be stronger by about 100 million dollars than it is now and Europe will be weaker by 50 million dollars.
Also, economy dynamics go hand in hand with faith. Whoever believes, wants to demonstrate his faith in the way he works. “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God and not for people”, says the Bible. Thus a christian develops „growth-friendly“ characteristics in the economic process; things such as honesty, reliability, resilience, diligence and sense-making economy regarding the companies ownership. Thus,success can be adopted as a blessing of God and it is worth its while aiming at it.
According to a Harvard-study carried out in 59 countries, this general observance is reinforced through the widespread doctrine of the reformer John Clavin, which was adopted by many of the Pilgrim Fathers in the USA. This doctrine is about hard work, the consumption of only necessary things, no luxury etc.; things which all together of course lead to prosperity – for Calvin this was one sign of heavenly predestination.
In many places this mental attitude is still alive in the USA, whereas in Europe due to secularisation and the development of a welfare state this attitude disappeared with time.
According to OECD, Americans and Europeans worked 1900 hours a year in 1970. Today Americans work 1800 hours, but the Germans and French work approx. 1450 hours. The consequences for the Europeans are foreseeable.
All churches in the USA are self-supporting churches, i. e. they don't receive any state benefits. They are completely dependant on the donations of their members. In a way this means that on the one hand, the churches and their leaders are under a pressure of competition to build attractive church buildings and on the other hand, members are treated and courted like customers. 1/7 of the „customers“ are changing church every year ("Church Shopping").
In the USA the Evangelical Churches always stood up for the rights of politically repressed people. The freedom from slavery in the 19th century and the civil-rights movement in the 20th century, were basically headed by christian believers.
Therefore, the separation of church and state in the USA has a completely different meaning now than it did in the old world - the Pilgrim Fathers fled in order to obtain freedom for their belief through this separation; the consequence was a blossoming of different churches. On the old continent the church was a part of the hated absolutist Prince's apparatus, and was an instrument used to control the population. Not only did the French Revolution strike a blow against the King and the aristocracy but also against the church; monasteries were burning just as palaces were burning. The separation of church and state in Europe was an act of heatred and rejection and it has remained unchanged in France till today.
Thus, the development of religious life in the USA and Europe becomes comprehensible. Until now, France is still insisting on its former regulations, and has thus a negative impact on the direction of the European Union regarding the question about God in the constitution.
5. Europe at the Cross-roads
The European Christianity is now marked by:
Secularisation, which means a depletion in the inclusion of God and Godly priciples in life;
Hedonism, i. e. principle of living for pleasure;
Individualism, i. e. “I can be a christian without going to church“.
Belief in God was replaced by a ‚circling around' of the human being as the centre of all attention. Philosophically this led to a humanistic anthropology, to a normatively-intolerant tolerance in the society and politically to an all providing welfare state.
Compared to America, the power of God which is released through the faith of his believers can hardly be perceived. The study reveals the close but authentic relation between Christian belief, and all the contemporary and up-and-coming problems Europe is exposed to. If additional proof is needed – here it is: Europe has only one chance left: To turn back to the living God of the Bible. He can save us. But we must come to him and allow him to change our lives.
The grave-diggers of the Islam are already knocking at our door. Will Europe be a part of the North-African and Turkish Islam at the end of the 21st century? Or will God revive the church again through repentance and supplication so that it will have an impact on the parliament and the mosques?
Let us pray.
„Yes, Lord I have put my hope in you: Eternally, I will not be ashamed”.
1 . Whoever wants to pluck up courage has to look upon God first.
2 . America and Europe need each other. First of all regarding the appreciation, thankfulness and love. And afterwards regarding the reciprocal intercession. Our intercession prayers for America should include:
3 . We can only interced for America, but for Europe and Germany, in particular, we first of all can and need to repent (we do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy - Daniel 9,19):
4 . Intercession and prayer for Germany and Europe:
5 . „We withdraw Europe from this spirit of the French Revolution. We want to “give Europe a christian soul". Each one should consider the form of prayer which seems to be the most appropriate for themselves in this comprehensive matters.
Sources: DIE ZEIT Nr. 4, 20.01.2005; FAZ Nr. 17, 21.01.2005; Stuttgarter Zeitung Nr. 16, 21.01.2005; Süddeutsche Zeitung Nr.19.01.2005; Hamburger Abendblatt 21.01.2005; Wirtschaftswoche 52, 16.12.2004