Monday, 5 February 2018

Killing Christianity in the name of Christ

[Klikněte zde pro českou verzi.]

   On Saturday I was almost in tears as Miloš Zeman was re-elected the Czech president—and not tears of joy. I was surprised how much it affected me. Cold despair hit me. Politics is not an all-consuming passion of mine; kings and leaders come and go, and often, for the sake of sanity, it is better to think on better things closer to the ground—closer to the world in which we ordinary mortals live and move—than on the ‘strutting and fretting’ of those such as Zeman which, as Shakespeare sagely observed, is, ultimately, a ‘sound and fury, signifying nothing’.
     But, sadly, it does signify something: that my adopted nation, that I love and have devoted twenty-seven years of my life to—and in which I am a ‘refugee’—is deluded and xenophobic; that (or so it seems) an old and uneducated populace are selfishly prepared to sacrifice the future of their children and grandchildren by re-electing a drunken, pro-Putin, socialist populist who, in reality, has demonstrated no genuine love for his homeland or for the people he represents.

      Of course, he does, in some sense, represent the majority of his compatriots—around 51% of them. But is this true? He deceived the older generation into thinking that only he could hold back a wave of Muslim immigrants that would defile the ‘purity’ of the Czech lands with their foreign religion and blood. His victory is based on deceit and lies (he slandered his opponent with accusations of paedophilia, for example): I do not blame those older voters whom he cajoled into voting by playing on their fears; I blame him. Those who aspire to lead others are morally accountable for their actions and their rhetoric; Zeman has demonstrated beyond all doubt that he does not have this moral fibre, this moral integrity. He is prepared to manipulate this nation for his own personal gain and self-satisfaction. The Czech nation will once again be seen as a joke by its neighbours, and the sad truth is that its increasing alienation from those neighbours will make the ‘contamination’ of the Czech lands by foreign elements more likely, not less.
      Now you might think I’m being a bit too hard here and over-critical of Zeman, or that I have over-simplified a complex political and social dynamic, but I am basing this criticism on what he has said, and how he lives, in public. So I want to make some comments about how we should respond to such public speech and behaviour.
      Some people will always vote unwisely, and it is often the most unsuitable and ill-equipped people who lust for power over others. This should come as no surprise. But I am concerned about a more fundamental contamination: the erosion of truth and moral integrity in the name of Christianity. Nowhere is this more evident than in the growth of a Christian religious fundamentalism that has more to do with delusions of power than truth and humility—or Christ. Both in this country, and in Trump’s America (and no doubt in other places), I discover that Christians are voting—and encouraged to vote by their leaders—for morally corrupt politicians simply because they have said nice things about Israel, are ‘pro-life’ (you know—the people in the States that carry guns), or who trot out some other cliché that is music to fundamentalist ears; that this somehow balances the moral scales; that it is OK to speak lies, grope women, drink excessively, stir up hatred for refugees, smoke yourself to death, encourage violence, slander others, insult allies, and so forth, as long as you are ‘pro-Israel’ or something. This is an extraordinary distortion of the core truth of Christianity. Even God, on many occasions, was not ‘pro-Israel’: God, for example, speaking of a political Israel, said: ‘I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly; I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts’ (in other words, ‘I hate your hypocritical services’), concluding:
“So when you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Yes, even though you multiply prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are covered with blood.” (Isa. 1:13–15)
      The result of such apparently wilful blindness and naivety among many who claim to follow Christ is increasing antagonism towards Christ. Those who look on from the ‘outside’ of faith and see Christians supporting such corrupt leaders can only conclude that Christians are more concerned about power than morality; in other words, that Christians don’t care about truth and righteousness as such—all they care about is having an influence on world affairs, whatever the moral or social cost. The problem is that such ‘Christian’ influence—the quest for a ‘Christendom’, that is, a ‘state’ where a minority of believers see it as their duty to force their beliefs and values on unbelievers—is resulting in a morally corrupt Christianity in much the same way that fundamentalism has corrupted Islam. Worse, it maligns the character of God: it implies that God is quite happy to use moral evil to achieve God’s ends and is indifferent to the moral conduct of those who claim to worship him. Do not the words of Isaiah refute this?
      Every Christian voice raised in support of those such as Trump and Zeman; every blind eye turned towards moral corruption; every misguided confusion about the theology of ‘Israel’; every lie that claims to be the truth; every refugee child that dies without hope; every ‘holy war’ waged in the name of Christ—all of these mock the Christ who died on a cross rather than resort to immorality. All of these make it harder for faith to grow in the soil of the human heart. All of these insult him who died so that we might live in righteousness. All of these are making it harder to live as a Christian and speak about Christ without embarrassment. All of these increasingly make me ashamed to call myself a Christian.
      Now, I can cope. I’m an old(er) man now; I could simply say nothing and, before that long, I’ll be dead anyway. But I write this for my children and grandchildren—I want them to know that God is not a dealer in moral corruption but is light, and that in God there is no darkness. I also have many spiritual children and grandchildren in this country: I write for them too, particularly for the young girl who was in tears knowing she had to face further years of Zeman’s portrait hanging in her school, hung there, in part, by ‘Christians’.
      It is time that we, ordinary believers who want to follow Christ in truth, peace, and righteousness, take a stand against the nonsense being peddled in the name of Christ.


  1. Part1:
    I'll begin by disclosing that I voted against Zeman in both this and previous elections. That said I strongly disagree with you because you obviously aren't fairminded here.

    First, you criticize Zeman's winning thanks to fearmongering but you yourself in the very beginning claim that electing wrong president (whose powers are actually quite little) is tantamount to sacrificing future of our children and grandchildren?

    Second, claiming that Zeman slandered Drahoš with accusations of pedophilia is an actual slander - his supporters indeed did that, but there isn't any evidence that he himself was complicit in any way (sure, maybe he could stand against these slanders, but wouldn't be "I'm sure that accusations of pedophilia of my opponent are completely unfounded" even worse?).

    Third, you are making Zeman and Trump into incarnates of evil on basis of lying and being morally corrupt, while Christians who support them into selfish and powerhungry despicables while ignoring that the alternative wasn't that much better. Sure, Trump was talking about how he could grope women, but otoh Hillary Clinton always defended her husband Bill whose accusations of sexual assault and even rape were far more extensive. Ditto the lying. If you have choice between two bad presidents why wouldn't you choose based on some "fundamentalist" list of reasons, e.g. position on abortions?
    Here in the Czech republic Drahoš had no such obvious baggage (although I'm pretty sure that e.g. trying to use one of his opponent's (Pavel Fischer, who was most popular first round candidate in my christian social bubble) pro-life stands against him didn't help him much), but there wasn't much positive to be said about him either.

    Fourth, I have seen literally no christian argument for voting for Zeman, while I've seen several against, one Christian denomination even issued it as an official statement. Closest to actual support was one single post saying that it's not a sin to vote Zeman (which I guess you could consider his support, because you claim literal opposite) with a list of couple of positive things about him but there wasn't written people should vote for him or that author voted for him himself.

  2. Part 2:
    Fifth, if you spoke good Czech and got out of Prague and big cities and talked with some uneducated "hillbillies" (who were often extensively ridiculed by anti-Zeman "moral" crowd) maybe you could understand why Zeman won. He talked straight and simple ideas. Drahoš didn't. He was touring the whole country for past 5 years - and yeah you can call it just campaign - but by that he was proving people who worked in all these factories he visited that he actually cares about them. Drahoš did that for much shorter time. Everyone knew him. Nobody knew Drahoš one year ago.
    Andrej Babis, sadly our currently most successful politician, famously said "Everyone steals" - so if everyone is corrupted, why vote for unknown Drahoš? (especially considering that everyone knows that in his political past Zeman didn't - unlike many others - get rich). Just because he isn't vulgar and doesn't lie (yet)? For some people it's even positive Zeman's sometimes vulgar and drinks a lot "He's just like us, not like these stuck-up people from Prague, who think they are better than us just because they actually have a time to care about politics".

    In the end in both US and Czech presidential elections was the reason why that particular candidate won exactly same - and it wasn't Christian support - it was because he persuaded the poor people that he cares about them.

    P.S.: your snark at combination of carrying of guns and being pro-life is ridiculous. Did you forget that even disciples carried swords? Or that according to Christ was having sword more important than having a coat? Anyway, my favourite quote on this topic:
    "The innate dignity of a person can be made forfeit by an act of will on the part of that person. Thus a murderer has no right to life, by his personal actions he has surrendered it. If fetuses started leaping out of vaginas and attacking people, they would forfeit their right to life too but they don't."

    P.S.2: I'm pretty sure that for the crying girl would be more helpful if you explained her that regardless of such insignificant things as presidential elections she should be grateful for living in comfort bigger then most of people in the world could ever hope for, instead of supporting her self-victimization.

  3. Hello ballsofsteel

    Thanks for taking the time to reply. I have no doubt you understand the Czech nation and Czech politics better than me. I accept that my article was based on what I am hearing and reading about the situation surrounding Zeman's election which is, no doubt, biased and limited. My main point, however, is nothing to do with politics as such (Czech or otherwise) but about the danger of making very subjective decisions on the basis that something is 'God's will' without taking into account the wider moral issues or the bigger picture. (Unlike you, I did come across leaders advising others to vote for Zeman on the basis that he was God's chosen man.)
    I am thinking here, for example, of the election campaign of a USA senator recently where strong evidence emerged of his having sexually abused young teenagers when he was in his thirties. Ultimately, these allegations remain unproven and therefore must be treated with caution, but the point is that many Christians said they would happily support this man, even if the allegations proved to be true. The immediate response to this is twofold: we must realise that the term 'Christian' or 'Evangelical' is being increasingly used by the press to describe people with very conservative political views who claim such designations but who may, in reality, have little active engagement with Christ. Secondly, of course, this man may now be living a transformed life, and God can use sinners, but—as we say in English—actions speak louder than words, and it seems to me that (at least in some quarters) faith is being reduced to believing or saying the 'right' things rather than doing the right things, and, when allied to a radical subjectivism that claims special access to the will of God, it results in immorality in the name of Christ. It is this which is my main concern.
    I agree with you that perhaps, in itself, a presidential election is 'insignificant', but the issue we face in the world today is that a multiplicity of such 'insignificant' acts are, collectively and increasingly, corrosive to the moral good and peace of society. An avalanche occurs after a period of relatively insignificant, but persistent, snowfall. If we do not actively champion peace and righteousness, there will be an avalanche of war and unrighteousness. We should have learned this lesson from history but, sadly, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.