Op 21 januari 2005 gaf Hans Blokland een lezing over het belang en de grondslagen van Christelijke politiek, tijdens de jaarlijkse conferentie van de European Christian Political Movement (ECPM) in Tallinn, Estland.
Bij deze presentatie hoort ook een Powerpoint presentatie die is op te vragen bij het fractiesecretariaat in Rotterdam.
Bijdrage van Hans Blokland aan de ECPM conferentie in Tallinn, Estland, op 21 januari 2005.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Why am I a politician? My motivation is not ‘being influential’ or the publicity. My motivation can be found in the content of the subjects that I deal with in the European Parliament. And it is more than just being interested in the content, or doing a good job. What makes the work valuable is that being active in politics should be Christian in its nature. That specific Christian nature of the political ideas, decisions and their effects in the daily life of people is something I would like to underline, because the preciousness of the Christian content to all aspects of life is what brings us together here, isn’t it?
Let us start with going through some issues concerning the Christian view on the government and policy areas.
First of all, what we have in common is our belief in God, and the trustworthiness of the Bible. So we acknowledge Gods sovereignty, that Hé is the One who constitutes the authorities, and: the Christian is cálled to be àctive in society.
Surely we will be able to agree on the ethical issues. Since we would like to co-operate in Christian politics we will also seak to find each other on other topics. So far we did not talk too much about:
1 The role of the government;
2 Our visions on Europe;
3 Socio-economic policy.
1.1 About the role of the government:
A remark about the goal of the government to start with. As we can find it in the Bible.
The supreme goal of the government is the strive for public justice. To be able to judge what is right, you need a criterion. The notion of Biblical justice has as its criterion the Ten Commandments and the deepening that Jesus gives by the Commandment of Love. That makes that the task of the government is more than setting up facilitating rules, namely setting ethical norms. The government should lead the society in its development to the goals and ideals, remember the Biblical justice. Norms are based on values. For us Christian values are based on the Word of God.
1.2 personal responsibility and the serving government
Leaders should be serving society, to enable people to take their responsibility as a response to their Creator. They should have the possibilities to give full scope to their gifts. Jesus teaches us: not to rule over people, but to serve one another.
The government should enable me to take my responsibility to develop my life according to the way God wants me to be. This notion of a serving governmental attitude in fruitful conjunction with the own responsibility, is, you could say, the way in which the goal of the Biblical justice can take form.
1.3 The power of the government
Thirdly, the government has power and authority.
But also here, it is a power and authority to serve (society) according to Gods standards.
The government having power, must be subject to control. Christians are aware that as human beings we can always be tempted to sin. And misuse the power given to us to serve.
In order to fight against misuse of power, the Parliament has the important task to execute its controlling power. This we find an important task of the Parliament besides its function of giving approval to legislation.
These notions are part of our foundation and we try to put these into practice together with the party we co-operate with closely, the SGP, the Christian Reformed Party. I mention these fundamental matters because it is important to be aware of our foundation as members of our ECPM-network. Once the foundations of each other are clear, it helps to answer the question in which direction our network should develop and gives insight in where our network and the involved parties stand for. That is why I would like to put a question in your midst. Do you consider these notions useful: the government is subordinate to God and His commandments, for the sake of Biblical justice and the society, thus enabling people to take responsibility?
2 Our visions on Europe
In ethical matters we easily know what each others positions are. For as Christians these issues are in our minds and we all have the common base: the Ten Commandments, as the criterion for good and evil. Gods law has to be taken literally and serious. And has implications for the practical policies, which in most cases need to be sharpen. For example: care for life: embryonic life and the lives of people who have to die shortly. In the European Parliament I co-operate with colleagues who fight against abortion and disapprove euthanasia.
Fundamental as well is the strike against marriage as a unity intended by God between man and woman and faithfulness in marriage, for example in campaigns against aids. A further policy area on which we have a clear Christian profile relates to the people who are suffering of addiction such as drug addiction.
The final ethical topic I would like to mention here is the acknowledgement of the Name of God and the Jewish-Christian tradition in the new European Treaty that refers to our historical roots in Europe.
In this kind of ethical matters we hold the view that these should remain national competence, not a European one. Ideas about exactly these things vary enormously throughout Europe and show Europe’s diversity. Therefore the decisions should be taken at the governmental level that is as close to the citizens as possible. The people don’t feel like they are involved enough in regulation coming from Brussels. That is not motivating for people to act in accordance with these rules.
This says something about the constitutional position we have. We are now part of a eurocritical group, but all parties have to deal with a dilemma here. Do you keep the decision-making at national level or rather at European level. For example because the European level can tackle the problems more effectively than nation-states can do in this time of internationalisation. I would like to hear from you how you stand in this dilemma.
3 Let us now turn to socio-economic topics.
Since the French Revolution socio-economic problems are on the political agenda. Bad living conditions in the 19th century for many people in society were the reason for coming up with measures.
Social and economic policy is however not something for socialists and liberals alone. Christian parties also face the duty to respond to actual challenges in accordance with the norm of Gods Word.
My country has a long tradition of reflection on socio-economic policy. In the 19th century Dutch Christian leaders such as G. Groen van Prinsterer (1801-1876) and Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) laid the foundations for a Christian politics. Both have been the founding fathers of the emancipation or empowerment of societal circles. With these circles in society they mean the family, organisations related to churches, politics, social activities, all having there own specific character. The government should give them enough room and responsibility so that they can take care of their own activities without too much influence from the government. Both people have been of major importance for the thinking about and realisation of the Christian character of the nation and government. Moreover they have fought to get so far as setting up Christian schools.
Concerning this societal emancipation there is written extensively on socio-economic policy. Christians tried to be distinctive in the choices they make and they keep on being active in it.
In political discussions often the word Christian-social is begin used.
- It is distinct from left and right;
- Based on Biblical principles;
- Key words are: responsibility, love for your neighbour.
I am curious on which base other parties make their choices concerning the Economy and the Society.
As well as I wonder whether there are common characteristics in the contribution of Christian politics in the economic and social policy.
Concerning the Dutch tradition, the one I am most familiar with, we as ChristianUnion can offer an input in the ECPM. I hope it will contribute to a dialogue in our network about the political basis. Furthermore we can find out whether we can come to common formulations on themes like a Christian view on the government and socio-economic matters, including agriculture and environment.
Ways to achieve all this, could consist of study groups and courses. The ChristianUnion is equiped with a Research Institute that regularly writes publications. Here you can see publications in the English language.
- Reformed concept of the State, 1992. This is a Christian political view on the task of the government;
- Towards Europe, 2002. This contains a Christian reflection on the European Union;
- The Serving Government, 2003. The publication deals with politics, policymaking and governance from a Christian perspective.
They are also mentioned on the website of the ChristianUnion.
A number of important themes derive from the value Care for the weak and vulnerable. What could you think of? What I mentioned earlier: embryonic life and elderly people who will die shortly. Secondly I would like to mention trafficking in human beings and prostitution. The ChristianUnion put a lot of effort to get more support for programmes aiming at prostitutes getting out of that work. Human trafficking is a cross-border problem requiring strict international agreements in which control is a crucial element. So institutions should be provided with the human, material and financial resources they need. These things, trafficking in women and prostitution tend to be interwoven with other problems like drug trafficking and arms trade. The money generated by these phenomena is too often used to finance international terrorism. All these are high on my agenda.
Let us go back to the foundation for a moment. A prostitute set a clear example of how important it is to have a serving government and people´s responsibility.
The government is not serving the prostitute enough as long as it does not enable her to step out of this work so that she could develop the way God intents her to be, namely not for the prostitution. Secondly her own responsibility.
If she has the opportunity to get out of this work, she has to use that opportunity for building a new life by earning money in a better way.
Other important topics are:
- a timely reform of the pension systems
as to enable people to build up their own capital during their years of being active on the labour market.
- the protection of consumers,
by things like the provision of adequate information and a strong juridical position.
- responsibility and freedom for enterprises,
to avoid too much regulation and administrative burden for them.
And last but not least:
- speaking up for persecuted Christians;
So we can see that Christian social values give rise to numerous concrete political actions. In this respect we are of the opinion that the government has to care for a minimum, a kind of safety-net. The government should not accept that there are people that are weak, just like that, but should actively work on decreasing the number of people getting into the category ´weak´ as well as the number of people remaining in that category. Are there also discussions on these topics in your society? If so, is that a discussion mainly within a political party or between parties?
Let us now turn to the value of Care for the creation of God, so that covers nature in a broader sense than the human aspect. We have to strive for cleaner air, cleaner soil and cleaner water, also because of the health effects. I have the privilege to work on this. Also before my actual job, I worked on this on a municipal and regional level.
On all of these topics I am co-operating with Christians and non-Chistians in the European Parliament. But it would be really nice if we as Christians could sharpen each other Europe-wide.
A final point I would like to address is: we should be sensitive for what is going on in society. For every single person absolutely needs to relate: to relate to others, in the family and other circles, to relate to God and to relate to His creation. These relations are easily so much overlooked. Probably deriving from a Libertarian way of thinking: let everyone do what he or she likes, that is in fact indifference. and contrary to what God teaches us.
So not only brutal power politics might hinder people in taking responsibility. The individualised, libertarian society takes away the responsibility with detrimental effects on the care for each other. It strikes me and I am curious whether you see this problem in your country as well. It reduces the bearing power that the society has for caring for its responsibilities. It makes it hard for the government to let the people take up their responsibilities. Citizens and organisations are hardly able to deal with it anymore. In The Netherlands the result is that there is not taken care of people: elderly, youth, people with a disability. Moreover, it also leads to poverty, social segregation instead of integration, few shared values. This shows the need for investing more in the bearing power of society in order to have the responsibilities there where they ought to be: organisations in society and the citizens that can handle it.
This libertarian problem is visible in politics as well, being surrounded by the elected representatives of this society. The European Parliament is an evident example when there was major resistance against mister Buttiglione. As a candidate European Commissioner he spoke about the exclusiveness of marriage calling on the Bible. His expression was so controversial in the European Parliament that its pressure held him away from taking office. Quite often we see this kind of resistance. It says something about the spirit we face. We can unmask it as being against that what is Christian.
So, just a technocratic consideration of governmental tasks would not suffice. Politics is about clearly showing a direction. The spirit in society and politics it too often directed against God and His commandments. This is the character of the human sinful flesh, but humans can be renewed by God in Jesus Christ through His Spirit, the Holy Spirit reforming people even though they do not deserve His salvation. Being dependent on Gods Spirit ourselves, we know that we are not better than others. WE should pray for the ongoing work of that Spirit, for ourselves as citizens, politicians or lobbyists, because we have to serve in this society, and should also pray for others. Remember that the Bible calls on us to pray for government.
This is where I conclude:
- Foundation: Bible and political views
- Bearing power for being responsible
- Practical policy themes
- Need for prayer
I hope there was something in it that provides food for further reflection. I am awaiting your thoughts on these things. What comes up in the discussion could be used in the part of the program hereafter led by Gerard Geijtenbeek dealing with the future of the ECPM-network.
Member of the European Parliament
The lecture was concluded with a discussion on the following statements:
1 The government is not neutral
Justification: Government is above interests of different actors in society, but not without values. It has to honour God and to lead society.
2 Religious views on humans better indicate what a politician stands for than concepts like left-right or socialist, liberal, conservative
Justification: The Christian nature of political thinking and action exceeds left-right and other concepts
3 What we share with conservatives is only the notion of responsibility for one’s own life.
Justification: Conservatives do not necessarily take into consideration the notion of responsibility towards God, people and creation
4 A federal Europe or a Union of states that restricts itself to its actual competence and concentrates at a few central tasks?
Open question for discussion 1: What is our Christian politics having in common regarding economic and social policy? Or do we share no comparable considerations?
Open question for discussion 2: Do you consider the libertine thinking a problem in your society? Libertine: I am autonomous, not responsible to God and others
5 How can national parliaments more effectively realise their parliamentary function of control on European issues?
Justification: National parliaments should ask themselves more often if it would not be better to deal with the European policy issues at national level. Member states try to get the European issues more effectively under control. Most of us can probably agree on that. How we put this into practice however varies between member states. How do you try to solve this in your country?
6 Turkey should not have been allowed to start negotiations for accession
Justification: Turkey is geographically not a part of Europe and the dominance of the state conflicts with the political criteria of a well-functioning democracy and constitutional state. The result of this is that the human rights and minority rights are not sufficiently guaranteed.
7 There is no need for a European Constitution
Justification: Citizens have not expressed the desire for a constitution. Secondly, Europe is not a state and a European nation does not exist.
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