For Christians raised in church traditions that rarely if ever ‘did politics’, like myself, the recent emergence of politicians claiming to defend Christianity can be very confusing.
With few instruments of discernment in our toolbox, we are easily tempted to become ‘one-issue’ voters without understanding the bigger picture.
Recently I was sent a link to an article in the American Capstone Report, declaring the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, to be ‘the world’s most powerful Calvinist’ fighting a noble crusade to rescue Europe and Christianity: ‘Not since the Calvinist William of Orange united a diverse coalition to save the liberties of Europe from the overreaching aggression of Louis XIV has a Calvinist politician attempted to shape the world order like Viktor Orbán’.
With a large photo of Orbán on his knees praying with the severely handicapped Australian evangelist, Nick Vujicic, the article praised the PM for his battle to ‘create a world safe for Christians’.
Another report extolling Orbán’s efforts was sent to me with the comment: ‘If only we had more wonderful Christian leaders in Europe like this man!’
Orbán posted the above photo on his Facebook page, reading the best-seller ‘The strange death of Europe’, by Douglas Murray, who argues that immigration and the loss of traditional belief is destroying the Europe we know, themes the PM himself promotes.
‘Our calling is to protect the ways of life that have their roots in Christianity,’ the Capstone article quotes the Hungarian leader. ‘We defend human dignity, we defend families, we defend the nation, and we defend our faith communities.’
Wow, that sounds great!
On the surface of it, Orbán seems to be a genuine believer deeply concerned to spread the gospel of Jesus in the face of almost overwhelming secularist opposition. In an interview last year with the French-Algerian Jewish author and activist Bernard-Henri Lévy, Orbán claimed to be ‘the most Christian, and thus the most European, of Europeans. Europe’s DNA is me. I am its guardian.’
Like American and British believers concerning their respective leaders, my Christian friends in Hungary are polarised in their views on Orbán, even within their own families. Some are comforted by talk of defending Hungary’s thousand-year-old Christian tradition against the Muslim hordes trying infiltrate their land once more.
Others however ask more discerningly: how can this Christian rhetoric be reconciled with a growing authoritarianism and illiberalism, the stifling of the free press and free speech, curtailing of the independence of the courts, the promotion of ‘demotatorship’ (democratic dictatorship), demonisation of refugees, imprisonment for human trafficking of individuals aiding asylum seekers, arrest of the homeless, and control of church registration according to political acquiescence?
Orbán’s Fidesz party was founded in 1988 when communism was falling apart, as a young, alternative, liberal party (Fiatal Demokraták Szövetsége – Federation of Young Democrats) with an anti-clerical political stance. Over the years, it moved further to the right, embracing a strong ‘national Christian’ political identity.
Once in power with a large majority in 2011, a new Fundamental Law was voted in (by Fidesz MP’s only) defining Hungary as a ‘Christian nation’, and a major task of the state as protecting the Christian culture of Hungary. The preamble reads: ‘We recognise the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood’. Christian culture, Orbán claims, is the unifying force of the nation; ‘that’s why we declare that Hungary will either be Christian or not at all.’
So, what’s wrong with that? Well, despite the Capstone Report claim, Hungarians are not very religious. Only one in eight Hungarians and one in five Fidesz voters are church attenders.
What then is this Christianity Orbán claims to be defending? Does it have biblical content? Does it preach love for one’s neighbours – and enemies? Is it concerned for forgiveness and reconciliation between peoples? Is it a message of love for all humankind? Is it concerned for God’s kingdom to spread among all peoples, for the love of Jesus to be demonstrated to the poor, the outcast and the marginalised?
Or is it not a highly nationalistic civil-religion exalting the nation as a sacred entity? Is it not a religion of cultural identity, rather than personal faith in Christ in whom there is neither Jew nor Gentile, Hungarian nor Syrian?
Orbán told the European Parliament in 2015 he wished to keep Europe for the Europeans, and Hungary for the Hungarians, goals which he believed to be in harmony with the intentions of the founders of the European Union.
No, Mr Orbán, Robert Schuman would be appalled by your brazen ethno-centric nationalism, your lack of solidarity with humanity, your selective promotion of human rights only for Hungarians, your non-democratic leadership, and your pretence to defend human dignity when you deny essentials of life to sojourners.
This is not biblical Christianity. It is ‘another gospel’.
Till next week,
We seem to be entering an age where “you are in or you are out”. I keep reminding my Christian friends here in the USA that when we talk “freedom of religion” we mean freedom for all to worship as they see fit. Even freedom of speech feels dangerous to us but it is those freedoms that God gave us. My thought is “if we do not go, God will bring them to us to share His love, redeption and freedom”. Why waste an opportunity of making disciples. This is the message of the cross. If you want a Christian community without working out the gospel, my suggestion would be to head for the mountains and build a reclusive monestary. For me, “thy Kingdom come thy will be done (here and now) on earth as it is in heaven” is a directive to be active in communties that will learn to follow Jesus and pray His prayer while we respect their culture.
I totally agree Jeff! To me it seems that Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Donald Trump are carved from the same wood, the Tree of Good and Evil. They are led by the same misunderstanding that Gods Kingdom is shown forth by old values and regulations, like the Pharisees and Sadducees in Jesus time. The fruit of the Tree of Life are Godly principles which need to be explained as Jesus did to His disciples in time, cultures and generations into values and regulations. And the most remarkable thing with Gods principles is that they are seldom about I, Me and Myself. They are about God and my fellow man.
Thank you for this. I have been following the Hungarian situation closely since 2002 because I have had a holiday house there and not just stayed three times per year in the country but have been involved in quit a large network in and around the country. The atmosphere in the country has dramatically changed. Xenophobia, Anti-EU sentiments, closing down of many critical media, huge anti immigrant campaigns by the government, and so on. 500.000 young Hungarians have left the country to get a future elsewhere and will not return. This on a population of 10 million.The anti-immigrant sentiment is very strong. There is recognition of the economic need to keep the population at level. Family Support programms offering lots of benefits do not bring any result… The birth rate is not rising. The role the “official church” plays is sad. They are just blessing the government and are not giving any biblical countering. Government policies are being “sold” as being christian although very few people are still active church members. Free churches seem to keep out of questions regarding society and politics and focus on miracles and heaven. It is incredible that even the Reformed Church does not seem to be able to see through developments in Hungary and bless Orbán as “their” man. We are watching the collapse of former christian Hungary in due course. Opposition is uniting against Fidesz. Several cities have already been lost by Fidesz. The rising of the opposition is unstoppablee and the result will be fierce anti-christian politics and fast secularization. Hungary will follow Czech Republic and Slovakia and will become one of the most secular States of the EU. On the one hand Orban has tried to reverse this development, on the other hand he has created so much opposition that his result will be counter-productive.