Why Europe Matters To America

We live in an increasingly smaller world. Information travels at the speed of the Internet. One of the questions I am asked as I speak to people in churches around the country is why does Europe matter to us at all?  People are genuinely concerned that any attention we give to Europe keeps us from solving the problems of America.  I believe that many people in the church are guilty of seeing the pie as already made with no possibilities of a new pie or increasing the size of the pie.  We have to understand that in the spiritual world we have barely scratched the surface of our potential.  This means that we must be concerned with more than one country at a time.

 

Europe and America are tied together in a number of ways.  I want to look at our ties.

 

Patriotism is a great emotion.  It is important for us to feel good about our country.  It is important for us to bloom in the land where God has planted us.  At the same time, it is important for us to align ourselves with proper Christian principles for living.

 

There is no doubt that America plays a great role in world events.  It is even more true that America plays a great role in spiritual events.  This is why we must be vigilant in our pursuit of spiritual matters in America and around the world.

 

There are a variety of important reasons why what happens in the rest of the world, most particularly in Europe, matters to the church in America. Perhaps the primary reason that must be central to our thinking is that as Christians we have a charge to reach the world.

 

Jesus commanded us to reach the world by beginning at home.  He was not telling us to only work at home when he said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.”  (Matthew 28:19.)  Jesus made sure we understood the details of His commandment in Acts 1:19.  “You shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

 

While it is great to love our country and commit ourselves to the spiritual awakening of our country, we must look further than our own doorsteps.  We must work in the remotest part of the earth as well.

 

The late Keith Green summed it up well, “Jesus commands us to go; it should be the exception if we stay.”

 

As a group of lawyers and legally-minded lay people, we stand on the front lines against the tide of secularism that is growing stronger around the world. We fight to maintain the open doors for the proclamation of the Gospel. This fight often involves battling with government officials to keep public places open for the expression of religious belief. We can no longer afford to look at our world as only America. We live in a larger place and this larger place must include the entire world and the legal work that must be done there to protect religious liberty.

 

A simple example of why it matters is found in an exchange I had with a lawyer and local Parliamentarian in Holland in 2001.  We had just fought off the push of the same-sex marriage agenda in Hawaii and Alaska.  In both of those states the voters voted against legalizing same-sex marriage by near equal percentages in the general election—this is the most liberal and most conservative state.  As a result the battle was withdrawn from America and taken to Europe.

 

In May of 2001 I was working in Holland.  One day we were talking about the fact that Holland was going to legalizing same-sex marriage.  When we walked away from the conversation my wife turned to me and said, “Thank God we will not have to fight that fight in America.  There is no way same-sex marriage will ever be legal in America—our Christian foundation is too strong.”  We were not naïve; in fact, we had been very involved in the fight in America.

 

The most amazing fact of all is that less than two years later the fight for same-sex marriage returned to America and the results have been harmful to our culture.

 

America is a world leader in a number of fields. We must lead in the field of religious freedom. To do that, we must help train and develop a network of Christian attorneys, around the world, who are capable of standing up for repressed minorities in their own countries. If we do not do this, one day we will find that our own freedoms are shrinking further in the tide of lost religious freedom elsewhere.

 

            This principle has become truer since the Supreme Court of the United States has recently turned to the European Court of Human Rights to find the legal answers to questions of moral importance to us all.  If Christians do not fight for the same religious freedoms in Europe we will find the courts here using legal precedents that are not influenced by Christian morals to reshape our Christian foundations.

 

We live in a circular world, spiritually and legally.  What happens in America will eventually happen in other key areas of the world.  Just as true is that what happens in key areas around the globe will eventually happen in America.  We cannot simply turn our back on what happens in the courtrooms and parliamentary halls of other countries and hope that we will not be affected by the outcome of their debates over the moral and legal issues of our day.  We must be proactive around the globe, just as we are proactive in America.

 

In both the United States and in the rest of the world, the clear end goal of many political forces is a purely secular society that is based on the acceptance of all lifestyle choices, except Christianity, and the concept that science should be the determiner of the national moral structure rather than religion. These views include the belief that the government is in a better position to determine what our children learn than are parents.  Therefore we cannot wait until the change comes and hope to battle the forces of change.  We must begin to stem the tide now.

 

            Europe cannot be ignored.  We have a great relationship with the countries of the European Union and many within the Council of Europe.  To begin with, we come from similar political philosophies.  American concepts of freedom and individual responsibility were born from the Age of Enlightenment which was sweeping through Europe at the time of our founding.  Additionally, we have treaties with the countries of Europe for security purposes—NATO is the key to these treaties which bind us to the common defense of the western world.

 

            More importantly, Europe is one of our greatest trade partners.  The past few weeks have shown us that we live in an economic system that is truly global.  While we remain one of the most vibrant economies in the world, our economy is still tied to the rest of the world.  Life as we know it is determined by Europe and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the world.

 

            We owe a great debt to Europe.  Europe is the birthplace of the Evangelical Church.  It was in the 1500s that the Protestant Reformation began in Germany.  From the Reformation most of our religious traditions were birthed.

 

            Now Europe stands in need of America for spiritual awakening.  We need to see new churches planted in Europe.  We need churches that bring real change to the lives of their people; change to the countries where they minister. 

 

            Additionally, we need to bring legal change to Europe; legal change that respects the religious freedom that is guaranteed by the laws of every country in Europe.

 

            We cannot afford to be passive in our approach; that is why we are standing for religious freedom in the courts of Europe.  

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Books Worth Reading

C.S. LEWIS--Mere Christianity; CLAIRE BERLINSKI--Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's Crisis, Too; BRUCE BAWER--While Europe Slept: How Radical islam is Destroying the West from Within; DAVID LEVERING LEWIS--God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215; THOMAS SCHIRRMACHER--The Persecution of Christians Concerns Us All; PHILIP JENKINS--God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis

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