Tuesday, December 06, 2005

More on Germany's Mood

The New York Times has a piece on Germany's mood and the Du bist Deutschland advertising campaign. I wrote about this in a post called 'Du Bist Deutschland' and the Tragedy of German History on November 24.

While I believe that the causes of German melancholy aren't just economic, as some quoted in the Times article assert, there is no doubt that political leaders are likelier to offer psychological explanations for a society gone melancholy than to accept blame for failing to take tough economic and financial decisions.

Back in the first days of the Great Depression, then-President Herbert Hoover's friends ran ads on billboards that said, "Wasn't the Depression Awful?," as though massive unemployment was the result of negative thinking which, if simply changed, would turn the economy around.

In fact, the very term depression was apparently coined by Hoover himself, an attempt to portray the huge economic and financial problems America faced at that moment as being primarily a psychological malady. It was much more than that!

It appears that Germany's new chancellor, Angela Merkel, is having nothing to do with the conventions of the financial, economic, and social attitudes which have prevailed in Germany for decades and is ready to administer the tough medicine necessary to help the country out of its economic doldrums.

That's all to the good. But even with that, Germany's spirits won't be healed. All of the other factors feeding German melancholy that I wrote about in my November 24 piece, will still be present and neither jobs, new houses, or faster cars will mask, sublimate, or eliminate that.

Nor can an ad campaign. No society that has ventured far from God or His call to love God and love neighbor can expect to feel good about itself. No society fails to be repentant for its wrongs, repentance being different from feeling shame, can be happy. When life is nothing more than a selfish pursuit of pleasures that end at the grave, whether that life is lived by a person or a nation, we can never stockpile sufficient pleasures to fill the void inside. When shame leads to self-flagellation rather than a sense of God's forgiveness and power for better living in the future, life is a treadmill. Living, under these circumstances, becomes a kind of nihilistic and unbearable crucible. That's how many Germans seem to experience life these days.

Germany is home to the spiritual revival called The Reformation, sparked by Martin Luther. Luther and his cohort called Germany and the world to a simple trust in Jesus Christ that transforms us from enemies of God to God's friends, that gives us a sense of confidence and security because we know that while we've done nothing to earn it, God approves of our existence and gives us the freedom to become our best selves. Through Christ's death on a cross and His resurrection from the dead, God has signed an Emancipation Proclamation or a Magna Carta setting all who follow Christ at liberty to be the people God made us to be! That gives us hope for the future and confidence for living today.

Germany has ventured far from God--as has our own country in spite of all the legalistc rhetoric and coercion masquerading as a Christian approach to politics these days.

I'm not advocating "Christian" policies on the part of the German government--or on the part of the US government, for that matter. (One reason being that it's unlikely you could get any three randomly-selected Christians to agree on what constitutes a "Christian" political policy anyway.) But I am saying that when the people of a society are voluntarily and personally surrendered to Jesus Christ, His love, charity, toughness, resilience, commitment to mutual service, and joy begin to enter their individual and collective life and things change for the better.

I'm praying for Germany...and for America...and myself, in hopes that we all will figure out how to depend on God and not the stuff of a dying world.

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