“We have too little Christianity,” is not a soundbite from the Bible-belt south.
It is the bold declaration of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, who in October 2010 urged her fellow citizens to consider the potential threat of rising numbers of Muslim immigrants to Europe. Merkel told the supportive crowd, “We don’t have too much Islam, we have too little Christianity.” She continued, “We have too few discussions about the Christian view of mankind.” Merkel argued that placing a greater emphasis upon the Judeo-Christian tradition would “bring about cohesion in our society.” Another well-known German has offered a surprisingly similar commentary:
“Christianity, and nothing else is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of western civilization. To this day we have no other options. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter.”
–Jürgen Habermas, Atheist German Sociologist and Philosopher
Both the Christian Merkel and the Atheist Habermas recognize the power of Christianity for sustaining a society. The gospel establishes a basis for human flourishing both individually and corporately. That’s why wherever Christianity spreads, it leads to the development of orphanages, schools, hospitals and universities. However, to seek only the benefit of the gospel without understanding its message would be short-sighted.
In 1939 another articulate female leader offered a strikingly similar challenge. She spoke, not against the spread of Islam, but the conquests of Germany’s military. On the cusp of Hitler’s vast bombing of Great Britain in 1940, Sayers gave a provocative speech insisting that a loss of a Christian view of mankind had paved the way for the Führer:
“The rulers of Germany have seen quite clearly that dogma and ethics are inextricably bound together. Having renounced the dogma, they have renounced the ethics as well – and from their point of view they are perfectly right. They have adopted an entirely different dogma, whose ethical scheme has no value for peace or truth, mercy or justice, faith or freedom; and they see no reason why they should practice a set of virtues incompatible with their dogma.”
-Dorothy Sayers, Author
Thus, a nominal understanding of Christianity would only paint over deeper problems. Germany’s leaders have led the country away from Christian commitments in the past. As Sayers argued, without an understanding of the gospel on a deeper level, a new set of ethics could easily replace current convictions. And at this point in history, whose values would be adopted? In light of Islam’s exponential growth, it seems rather obvious.
Islam, as Christian Apologist Ravi Zacharias has rightly commented, is not the fastest growing religion, but the fastest growing enforced religion. I’m not sure a merely Christian veneer will stand up to this mounting influence. And I’m absolutely confident that some form of state mandated religion isn’t the answer either. What Germany needs, what we need, are more Christians who speak the truth in love and serve their neighbors in humility. This is the way the gospel has always worked in the past and it is the only way it will work today.
Our problem is not that we have too much religion, but that we have too little Christianity.