Posts Tagged ‘social integration’

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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