The German Christian Democratic Party (CDU), one of the most powerful political parties in Germany after the Second World War, is looking for a new image. The Merkel party lost the last federal elections, its voters are mostly elderly people. The younger generation sees no reason to vote for what they call the ‘old Conservative club’. Under the leadership of its new president Friedrich Merz, a new start is discussed. One of the suggestions on the table – to drop the C in the party name.
In other countries, Swissfor example, the Christlich-Demokratische Volkspartei (CVP) already dropped Christian in its name in October 2020, now calling itself “Die Mitte” = “The Middle”.
German history professor Andreas Rödder, a longtime CDU member, argues that it is precisely the C in the name of the party that prevents the vast majority of Germans from voting for a party so close to a religious worldview. distinct. In a secular society like ours, says Rödder, the religious identity is a major issue in winning the masses to vote for a party. “The time for Christian-democratic identity in Europe is over,” he proclaims.
The CDU is still debating. Influential party leaders fear a total loss of identity if the name is secularized. Even Muslim members like Serap Güler oppose a name change. The Christian in the name not only identifies a “club for Christians,” but reveals values that the party steers and that can be shared by Christians and non-Christians alike, Güler argues.
The German debate is indeed not new. Throughout Europe Christian Democracy is on the verge of defeat. Christopher Bohr brings it to a point where it states:
“The ‘C’ is increasingly perceived as a foreign body in a secularized society, as a heritage whose meaning is difficult to understand. Fewer and fewer people still understand what the “C” means, while for more and more people this “C” is becoming a real nuisance. For the claim of Christianity is associated with the strength of a norm that finds little understanding in a time when people want self-reliance above all else.
Observers agree that main reasons for development lies: (a) in the state of most Christian churches, especially the mainline churches, which are rushing from one autonomous Church to another and have largely lost confidence in literally all European societies and ( b) the poor performance of the Christian Democratic Parties. A CDU commentary edited by Armin Laschet makes this clear: The “C” in the CDU stands for Chaos more than Christian.
For evangelical Christians, all of this is a clear warning. Will a Christian orientation in politics soon be absent in Europe? What happens when alternative worldviews take over people’s mindsets? Will Europe continue as it is today or will it soon fall into fragmentation and disunity? How would the loss of Christian identity determine our European future? What can we evangelicals do? And after all, does Europe need Christian parties?
Secularized society in Europe is by and large the product of an unfaithful church. Being a baptized Christian often means nothing. Since the Roman Catholic Pope John Paul II called on his Church and all Christian entities in Europe to launch a process of new evangelization of Europe, we have become aware of the sickness of the body of Christ in Europe. Europe needs a living and truly sanctified Christian church, Christians who know what they believe and who live accordingly. Only a modified Christian way of life can regain the trust of our society in us Christians.
We Christians are invited to confess our sin and to pray that the Lord may purify our land. To Solomonwho build the Temple of Jerusalem, God once said:
“When I close the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land or send a pestilence among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and I will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:13-14 NIV).
Times of pestilence, despair, war and suffering are also a chance for God’s people to reflect on their own sins and wrongdoings. They need to humble themselves, confess their evil ways and God’s promises, see the dawn upon them from heaven and heal their land. Undoubtedly, God does not say this to those who attack and destroy Israel. With them, He will have his own outspokenness. He says this to Israel, victim of the attack. Confessing evil ways opens the way to heavenly blessing and the healing of the land. What a promise!
The Church of Christ has lost its credibility – this implies a movement of conversion for all Christians, including evangelicals. There’s no sense in pointing fingers at major churches. Their bad image makes it very difficult for all of us to evangelize and bring our societies back to Christ. We need a movement of repentance among Christians in Europe. A united movement!
A few years ago, a delegation of Ugandan Christian bishops invited themselves to the President of Uganda to discuss with him the issue of corruption within his government. The president, himself a Christian, patiently listened to the bishops and after a while turned to them and asked, “Why do you obey? My ministers are all your members. Shouldn’t you teach them good behavior? Isn’t your primary responsibility to prepare your members for a godly lifestyle?” Embarrassed, the bishops left the presidential palace.
It’s true, Christian politics is never better than Christians involved in politics. The church must accept its political responsibility and train its members to become witnesses of God even in the daily work of a political party. Changing the name and dropping the C in the party name is not an option – a change in the lives of Christians in society, and therefore of those involved in politics, is what is needed.
European societies have become multi-religious and multi-optional in every respect and are caught between two extremes. The values that determine our peaceful coexistence are under attack. Individual interests determine the political agenda. Where does all this lead us?
The The Christian worldview gave Europe a solid foundation, determined our human rights and our democracies. We shouldn’t give up on that. Do we need Christian Democrats in Europe? I guess – yes, we need it, but only as true Christians do we need it, as a prophetic voice pointing to a vision of a just society as developed in the kingdom of God.
And no, we don’t need “democrats” who sacrifice their identity for broader influence. No one will win over non-Christians, seculars and adherents of other religions to Christian values, by hiding them under fancy new names. We win people by living an authentic Christian life. It is only when people in our societies see the good works we do that they begin to glorify our Heavenly Father (Matthew 5:16). Jesus Christ invited his disciples to be the salt of the Earth and the light of the world. According to his words, the light is not hidden under a blanket, but placed in the highest place in the city so that it gives light to all (Matt. 5:13-15).
The Christian Church must therefore become what it is sent to, Gods ecclesia called out of the world to accept the responsibility of the world (Matthew 16:18). As such, it will not withdraw from the daily life of a community, but will rather engage in the transformation of the community so that it becomes a place of good living for all, a place of reconciliation and peace, of justice and respect. Some of its members will become involved in active political parties, using their channels to promote transformation. But they will never engage in compromising the gospel and the core Christian values of the kingdom of God.
Christian identity is for them a non-negotiable basis. Whatever the ways The spirit of the times might take the side, they’ll keep Christ first.
Johannes Reimer is a professor of global mission and cross-cultural theology and directs the
World Evangelical Fellowship (WEA) Public Engagement Department.
2. To Roßmann: Die CDU debattiert über das C.
4. Christoph Böhr: Die Zukunft der Christlichen Demokratie in Europa. In: Winfried Becker & all: Christliche Demokratien im zusammenwachsenden Europa. (Bonn: Konrad Adenauer Stiftung 2004), 393.
6. Johannes Paul II.: Neuevangelisierung Europas. Ansprache an die Teilnehmer des VI. Symposia der europäischen Bischöfe am 11.10.1985, in: Die katholische Kirche und das neue Europa. Documents 1980-1995, Teil 1, hrsg. against Jurgen Schwarz. (Mainz: Matthias Grünewald Verlag 1996), 202-214.
7. See more in my book: Johannes Reimer: Missio Politica: Church Mission and Politics. (Carlist: Langham 2017).