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Daniel Darling: A lesson for American Christians


WORLD Radio - Daniel Darling: A lesson for American Christians

True democracy that advances freedom and human flourishing requires a robust church

Belgian Police block the entrance to the National Conservatism Conference on April 16. Getty Images/Photo by Simon Wohlfahrt/AFP

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday April 23rd. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Up next: canceling conservatives in Belgium. WORLD Opinions commentator Daniel Darling on the fragile state of freedom in Europe–and in our own backyard

DANIEL DARLING: Last Tuesday in Brussels, Belgium, the National Conservatism Conference known as NatCon found itself being confronted by police who refused to let any more guests enter the building and also stopped food and beverage deliveries. They were enforcing an order by the socialist mayor of the district where the event was to take place. The police later retreated.

The mayor’s justification was that this gathering consisted of European thinkers and politicians of a variety he didn’t like. He objected to their ethically conservative views, such as hostility to legalized abortion and same-sex unions. He also criticized their defense of “national sovereignty” and their “Euro Scepticism” or their opposition toward a stronger European Union.

To put it in the clearest terms possible, a bureaucrat in Belgium tried to shut down an event promoting reasonable viewpoints he did not like.

The conflict in Brussels illustrates the fragile nature of free speech in many European countries. Belgium, like other countries, says it guarantees the right of assembly and speech, but the protections are much flimsier than America’s Bill of Rights and Constitution.

Thankfully, NatCon has had its day in court, quite literally, and the conference was allowed to resume. The highest court in Belgium, the Conseil d’État, declared last Wednesday, “Article 26 of the Constitution [of Belgium] grants everyone the right to assemble peacefully.”

There is much here to learn for American Christians. We should first be grateful to live in a nation with robust First Amendment protections. Europe’s version of classical liberalism features a hollowed out public square, filled by the false promises of secularism and modernity. And thus, you get a democracy that tries to stifle free speech in the name of freedom.

We can also note the ironies that abound in Belgium. On the one hand, the legal arguments being made in defense of the National Conservative Conference are made on a basis of classical liberalism that National Conservatives often loudly critique. As Winston Churchill once said, democracy is “the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” In a fallen world, it dilutes power and thus best advances freedom and human flourishing.

America should learn this lesson. We enjoy perhaps history’s greatest experiment in human government, but it will not endure simply on procedural arguments and appeals to fairness. The American experiment is premised on finding the proper relationship between liberty and virtue. As John Adams rightly said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

As a Baptist Christian, I’m unwilling to entertain ideas of an established state church, which usually ends poorly for both the church and the state. At the same time, we must see the necessity of a robust church as a bulwark against the excesses of liberalism and as the proclaimer of gospel truth.

Let’s pray, then, that democracy flourishes in our own country and among our allies in Europe. But let’s pray just as urgently for a spiritual renewal essential to the survival of liberty.

I’m Daniel Darling.

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