Posts Tagged ‘Germany’

Germany is really a lot older than the United States. When we lived in Germany, many cities and towns were celebrating 1200 years of documented history. By contrast, when we moved from Hannover, Germany to Oklahoma City in 1979, we were shocked to discover that the city sprang into being just ninety years earlier on April 22, 1889. We saw a television interview with Oklahoma Belle Cheever, the first person ever born in Oklahoma City!

Because Germany is older and because one out of six Americans has German heritage, and like my own family– my great grandparents were born in Germany—what the German immigrants brought with them is still fairly fresh in its social influence, I continually find that much of what goes on in Germany is a foreshadow of what will be a strong tendency in the United States in the not too distant future.

For instance, the rise of theological liberalism and the abandonment of personal faith became currency in Germany in the 19th century, so that by the mid-twentieth century, the Christian churches—especially the protestant Lutheran churches—were socially active, but spiritually empty.

Is the American church on the same path, lagging just a few years behind? 

Another example is that in the place of a strong Christian epistemology, Germans moved to an amoral, secularized social structure, which some might argue produced the horrors of WWII.  With that war only twenty-five years past when we lived there, we were amazed at how virtually everyone we talked with said, “Ich war nicht dabei!”  (I wasn’t involved!)

Our first home in Lohhof on the outskirts of Munich was just minutes away from Dachau.  The smells of the local industries as well as the fertilized fields were all around us on those days when the wind was moving.  But no one had ever smelled anything from a concentration camp in their backyard! No one ever wondered why all those people went in and never came out! I can’t help but believe that a hundred years of secularizing their churches had something to do with the average person’s fear and lack of involvement.

Is a post-modernist America slowly following Germany down a path that has no moral road signs? Is a “whatever” society the forerunner to one where everything from political executions to torture to even worse atrocities could be perpetrated because the majority of people sind nicht dabei?

In the 1950s, Germany needed more laborers to help rebuild it after WWII, so it encouraged immigration from southern Europe, especially Turkey.  First, Turkish men came in thousands, planning to return home with their earnings, but by the early 70s, numbers grew to almost 1 million because they stayed and their families were allowed to join them. By the year 2000, there were 2 million Turkish citizens in Germany. Today, there are perhaps 3-4 million Turks or about 4% of the total population of Germany.

And now Germany is into its second and third generation in some Turkish families, but in 2010, Angela Merkel, prime minister of Germany, declared that integration of the Muslim Turks into German society had “failed utterly.”  She went on to say, “At the start of the 60s we invited the guest-workers to Germany. We kidded ourselves for a while that they wouldn’t stay, that one day they’d go home. That isn’t what happened. And of course the tendency was to say: let’s be ‘multikulti’ and live next to each other and enjoy being together, [but] this concept has failed, failed utterly.” 

A new study has just been released in Germany about the role of Islam in the integration process of Turkish people (both German citizens and non-citizens) in Germany—and it is not encouraging. Read this article from one of Germany’s leading magazines Der Spiegel (English version):

Now what makes this interesting for Americans today is the growth of Islam in the United States. USA Today ran a headline this week that said “Number of U.S. Mosques up 74% Since 2000.”

My two questions as both a Christian and an American are

  1. How can Christians speak the Good News to Islam in a way that it will be heard?
  2. Is increased diversity, specifically a growing Muslim population in the U.S., going to be good for the whole community?

Here is what gives me concern:

There exists a cultural memory of Western, aka, Christian war against Islam summarized in the word crusade, but including so much more than those medieval battles. Islam believes that it is under siege by the West.  You can read this from those who have studied Islamic cultures today, but it is also my own personal experience in visiting and working in Turkey over the last decade. (Read this excellent report on why the Muslim world is mad at America. to better understand what the Muslim world thinks about us.)

We Americans cannot at the same time wage war against Islam and show them we are Christians by our love.  If we choose to abandon our Christianity, opting for a secularized society, one sanitized of Christian values—which is the direction, I believe, our country is obviously going—then I am afraid we are copying the German story with integration, one that does not have a happy ending!

If Jesus were living in Israel today and John were writing his gospel, he would record a conversation in his fourth chapter between Jesus and a Muslim woman at the well!  While Jesus would be offering her living water. his Christian disciples would be shocked that Jesus was even talking to this woman in her burka. Jesus would tell her about her life and describe it to her, but in a way that she did not feel judged or condemned, rather that she had met someone who told her truth!

Sure, she would try to divert the conversation from her personal relationships by saying the Muslims worship Allah, the one true God, and that Christians worship three gods and lead decadent lives! But Jesus would just sweep that whole conversation aside. “It’s not about our cultural wars,” he would say, “it’s about the One God—and it is about the Messiah—and I am he!

The woman would be so taken with what Jesus said that she would drive into her village and tell all her friends and neighbors about the one who told her the truth about her life and who offered her that which would quench her thirst forever.

Speaking the truth in love—just like Jesus did! I think that is the only answer.

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My computer is having trouble, which has meant that I did not have good internet access, so I’m going to finish this series of traveling thoughts today even though we don’t actually leave Europe until Thursday.

Our granddaughter Cassidy flew by herself (again) from Dallas to Frankfurt, where we picked her up last Friday.  Since she was three or four years old, Mimi (Sherrylee) has been reading her the Madelein books about the little group of orphan girls who live in Paris and always walk in two straight lines!  We’ve told Cassie many times that someday we would take her to Paris, so this year we did.

Cassie slept in the backseat while we drove from Frankfurt to Paris.  Although she slept through most of the countryside, when she woke up told her all about World War I which had been fought in much of that region. The French have many new signs commemorating different nations who fought in France, probably as preparation for remembering the centennial of the beginning of the “war to end all wars” in 2014.

We had a dream Saturday in Paris: petit d’ jeuner, Notre Dame, Sant Chapelle, Musee D’Orsay, and the Louvre—being typical Americans and seeing lots instead of looking closely, but somehow it seemed to work better with a 12-year-old granddaughter, and this was all about her!

We finished the day with a trip to the summit of the Eiffel Tower on a perfectly clear night. I have to admit having been in Paris three or four times before and never really enjoying it that much. Somehow seeing it all through Cassie’s eyes on a beautiful sunny day has totally convinced me what an awesome city Paris is!  (See, I can even talk “teenager”!)

Our last three days in Europe have been at the Euro-American Retreat, held each year in Rothenburg ob der Taube.  About 140 Europeans and Americans, most of whom live in Europe, come together to be refreshed by worship and fellowship.  We try to come whenever we are in Europe in November.

Yesterday was a typical afternoon, where after the morning sessions, we had lunch with John and Beth Reese, who direct World Bible School. Then we took Tony and Leslie Coffey from Dublin, Ireland, as well as Paul, Carol, and Jesse Brazle (Antwerp) to Dinkelsbuehl, another walled city not far from Rothenburg that Sherrylee and I knew about.

We talked and talked, walked and talked, stopped for coffee and Kuchen (Black Forest cake), and even shopped a bit before heading back for the evening sessions.

Tonight is first the teen banquet and then the children’s singing program. Cassie honored us with an invitation to go with her to the banquet!  Tomorrow we pack up and start getting ready to go.

The small German towns of Reichenbach and Linden Fels will be our last stops on the way to Frankfurt, so that we can show Cassie where her great-great-great grandfather was born and where his family left to come to the United States in 1848.  Some things are better shown than told about—ancestors definitely belong in that category!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!  God is so good. Seeing so much of the world just makes me ever so much more grateful to Him for the richness of His blessings. He didn’t have to make anything beautiful or loving or fun—and, in fact, He made so MUCH that is beautiful and loving and fun!

Thank you, Lord!

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