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....