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.