“The silent majority now has a voice.” Thus says Geert Wilders, the most controversial and yet the most popular politician in the Netherlands these days. He is speaking, of course, about himself and his Party for Freedom, which is on the way to become the largest party in the Dutch parliament after the coming elections.
Hated and maligned by the establishment politicians, loved and exalted by the voters, Wilders didn’t do much to achieve his fame. All he did was state certain truths that were politically incorrect to voice from the platform of a political party; truths that every Dutch citizen knew very well, and may have discussed every day with their neighbors and friends, but no politician or media dared speak out publicly. The main thrust of his message is that Islam is a religion that has moral values contrary to the Judeo-Christian values on which the Dutch society was based, that Islam is at war with the ideas of freedom and liberty, that the Quran is a book of tyranny and oppression just as much as Hitler’s Mein Kampf is, and that the Muslim immigration to Europe is threatening the very foundations of the European civilization. Therefore he calls for and end to the Muslim immigration to Europe, banning the Quran in the Netherlands, and banning the construction of mosques as well as all visible symbols of the Muslim faith in the Netherlands. He also denounces the Socialist-Islamist political alliance that has taken over most of Europe, EU’s big government policy, and calls for decentralization, cutting welfare programs, deregulation and low taxes. His party’s political program is to amend the Dutch Constitution to read that the Netherlands is a nation based on Judeo-Christian principles.
For this he is declared by the establishment politicians a racist (even though he has no racist statements; European leftists are as dumb as their American counterparts, they think “Muslim” is a race), a Fascist (even though he has no ideas for social engineering or corporate state; the other political parties in the Netherlands are way more Fascist than Wilders), and anti-Semite (even though he is considered a friend of Israel and has wide support among the Jewish community in Europe). And he is prosecuted by a Dutch court for “hate speech”—and the court violated all the legal procedures and moral rules that could be violated in its frantic attempts to have a case against Wilders, to the point even of refusing his right to summon qualified witnesses in his support, or to have the trial open to the public.
The organized political assault on Wilders doesn’t seem to affect his popularity. The silent majority apparently understands that learning moral values from politicians is like learning colors from a mole, and he is on his way to becoming the Netherlands’ next Prime Minister.
But my goal here is not to cheer for Geert Wilders. As a committed Christian, I disagree with him on several issues, all of them important to me. But I think we as Christians can learn from his experience.
“The silent majority now has a voice.”
Silent majorities were always a major part of any civilization; large numbers of people throughout history didn’t have their voice in their societies. Elites of warlords, aristocrats, priests and magicians wielded power over the masses and there was no law to protect the masses from being oppressed, enslaved, or exploited. Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and Rome weren’t known for their concern for the masses; ordinary people were only canon-fodder, little useful cogs in the big machines of the elite social planners.
There was one law code in the antiquity that stood apart from all the rest: The Law of the Hebrews, given to them by their God Yahweh, through Moses on Mount Sinai. It was the only code that subjected both rich and poor, elite and masses to Almighty God and His will. It was the only code that made no difference between noblemen and commoners, between majorities and minorities, between the king and the slave. It spoke for God, not for men, and gave hope and justice and liberty to all; and it didn’t favor the rich and the mighty, and it didn’t favor the crowd. And the silent majorities responded. Even before the Law was given, a great multitude of peoples left Egypt with the Hebrews, later to become part of Israel through adoption; and throughout its history Israel was an attractive destination for all those who were looking for liberty and justice.
But it wasn’t until the Christian Church appeared on the historical scene that the silent majorities worldwide found their true voice. Rome found it impossible to eradicate Christianity for the very reason that it reached multitudes of people who simply weren’t accounted for. As far as the ruling class was concerned, the conquered and enslaved masses were little more than cattle for the Empire, beasts to be fed and milked and slaughtered at will. They didn’t have a voice, and they didn’t have any organized power, and for the religion of Caesar that worshipped power over all, they were of no consequence. But the Church thought otherwise, and the Church won the day over Caesar.
Likewise, we can’t understand the rise of the influence of the Church in the Dark Ages without realizing that the Church followed this tradition. As the Empire grew weaker and abandoned border after border, it was the Church that structured communities, organized city life, set up defenses against Barbarians and converted those Barbarians; it was the Church that opposed invaders from without and tyrants from within the civilized world, and it was the Church that protected and cared for the weak. The masses recognized the Church as “our own” Church and responded by trusting the Church more than they trusted their political rulers.
During the Reformation, the silent majorities throughout Europe were waiting for a voice. Leo X was warned by his own people about the silent majority in Germany that was only waiting for “some fool to open his mouth against Rome,” to rise against the Roman Church. And the fool that became the voice of the silent majority came from the Church itself, the Augustinian monk and priest Martin Luther. Silent majorities in Hungary, Switzerland, England, Scotland, Holland, Hungary, found their voices in the Church and followed them in opposition to the tyranny and injustice of ungodly social orders. In the 1500’s, it was the Reformed religion that inspired the heroic Dutch to rise against their Spanish overlords and create the freest society in Europe at the time. And in the 1600’s in England, Puritan, Congregationalist, and Baptist preachers helped Cromwell turn humble peasant boys – the silent majority – into the most effective and disciplined army Europe had seen since the times of the Roman legions.
In the 1700’s, the American colonists didn’t have any voice in the Parliament, but they surely had their voice in the churches in the land. By the time King George realized the extent of the influence of the churches on the minds of his rebellious subjects, the “Presbyterian Rebellion” was over, and the Crown had lost thirteen of its best colonies. The Presbyterian parsons spoke for the silent majority of the colonists, and the silent majority followed them to victory.
Friedrich Engels, the self-proclaimed “prophet to the masses” together with his friend Karl Marx, hated one man above all: Charles Spurgeon. Why? Spurgeon could talk for the silent majority of industrial workers better than anyone else in England; and he used it to shape a course for England that avoided the violent bloody struggles of the nations on the Continent. Marxism lost the battle, and it took two more generations before Marxists were able to take over the island, and that through political machinations, not through a mass movement.
Even in the late 20th century Reformed pastors in Eastern Europe still spoke for the silent majorities and won battles over cruel barbaric tyrants; proving that the Church can still speak for the masses and lead them, if she has the right message and the right spirit.
In all this the Church was only following the example of her Lord Jesus Christ, when He walked on this earth and the multitudes of Israel – the silent majority – followed Him and recognized Him as the voice of the voiceless; and Jesus felt compassion for them (Matt. 14:14).
There is no church today in Europe that speaks for the silent majority anymore; no pastor, no missionary, no evangelist raises their voice for those without voice. The church is silent on the issues that torment the masses, and the church has refused to be their representative and their voice to the political elite. A politician – Geert Wilders – has taken this task, and reaps the success that the church was supposed to reap. The Church is too “holy” to do it.
But this is a lesson for us. Contrary to what we have believed, Europe is not lost, spiritually. The silent majority hasn’t found its voice yet. Wilders has a very limited message. He has asked only a few very relevant questions, and has offered a few very relevant solutions, and a hope; but he is a mere politician, he can’t overstep his political limitations.
But the Bible has relevant practical solutions to all problems – including political, cultural, economic, etc. And when the Church in Europe wakes up and starts giving the relevant answers of the Bible, the silent majorities will return to her. If one politician with a limited message can do it, a church with a comprehensive Gospel can do much better.
If only our missionaries and pastors and churches wake up.