American Reformer published an article in August 2021 titled “Viktor Orban: Christianity has created the free man, the family and the nation.” The article is based on an interview given by the Hungarian Prime Minister to the Croatian Catholic weekly Glas Koncila (The Voice of the Council) in June the same year. To be fair, this article is an excerpt; therefore, the opinion of this author reflects on only what is said and not on its entirety. However, the fact that the magazine chooses to report this section of the interview and depicts Orban as a courageous man with vision raises concerns.
Orban is the Hungarian strong man who has been undermining liberal democracy through compromising the judicial system, silencing free press, and propping up a sense of existential danger for Hungarians that justifies his continual dominant style of governing (Twilight of Democracy: the seductive lure of authoritarianism by Anne Applebaum). In other words, he pushes the nation towards an “illiberal democracy”, which nudges closer to one step away from total authoritarianism. He explains clearly in this article that he opposes to the idea of State-Church Separation in the west. He says: “If someone has a majority, but does not strive for the truth, what does he need it for?…If…he advocates the truth, but cannot move the majority, how will he act in the interest of that truth?” He further explains that Christian-Democratic politics has its mandate to sustain the Christian culture in relation to the dignity of man, the integrity of the Christian family and the Christian nation. One must confess that these claims appeal deeply with the Christian communities of the world, this author included. However, church history points out the unspoken caveats of (1) the domination of truth and (2) the seduction of power. Simply put, if the institutional Church has the absolute spiritual truth, then there wouldn’t be any Protestantism or Evangelicals. The billions of Protestants and Evangelicals around the world would be Catholics and they would still be purchasing indulgences for the atonement of their sins. The fact that the Church has the revealed word of God – the Bible – does not mean she has grasped the absolute truth for all times. Followers of Christ in every generation continue to reflect on the truth and venture to its application in modern times under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the attitude of truth-seekers must be humble. Furthermore, the history of Christianity speaks of the evilness when the Church succumbed to the seduction of power. While this author agrees that today’s general understanding of State-Church Separation in America has deviated from the vision of our founding fathers, resorting to expanding the aspirations of the Church through the power of the State puts Christians on very dangerous ground. Even evangelical heroes like Martin Luther and John Calvin showed their darker sides when they flexed their power through the state. In the contemporary, this seduction of power gave birth to the notion of Christian Nationalism, which expresses in a violent form on January 6 on Capitol Hill.
This author’s main objection with Orban rests not on his articulation of the Christian concerns on the dignity of man or the integrity of the Christian family and nation but on his severance of these values on immigration. More and more obvious, the global migration phenomenon shows that it is the consequence of failed states that either resulted from corruption, power struggle, or incompetence. Liberal democracy does not provide us with an adequate solution to this problem. Administrations from Obama to Trump to Biden continue to fail to find a long term solution to render the situation even manageable. Like any global issues, the solution cannot be a simple policy of either letting in or sending back migrants. It must comprise a combination of both and it must acknowledge the complexity of the problem. As for the American migration problem in the southern border, while the Biden administration deserves much criticism of its inadequacy to address this matter, many of its policies revolve around “the dignity of man” and “the integrity of family”. The same should apply to Syrian and Yemen refugees in Europe. At the same time, Christians should understand the very notion that no man or country is God. No wealthy western countries, no matter the United States, Germany, or the United Kingdom, can save every refugee from his or her plight. There will be sufferings and deaths. This is not only a theological truth but also politically relevant. If the west continue to rescue every refugee who comes to their borders, this will only encourage the dictators who drove him out in the first place to continue with their schemes. In this context, “preserving [the] nation-states”, or preventing them from coming in, becomes enticing. But this author must point out: This is a secular concept. Not Christian.
The American pastor/sociologist Tony Campolo tells the story of the time when he was visiting Haiti many years ago. He recalls the time when he was having lunch in a hotel restaurant, sitting at a window table. When he started to eat, hungry children were pressing their faces against the window, looking at his food. He was very disturbed by that situation and didn’t know what to do. The waiter came over, lowered the blinds and said, “Enjoy your lunch.” Campolo asks the question “How can you continue eating knowing there are hungry children on the other side of the window?” The solution is not to sell everything he owns and give to the poor. That wouldn’t even make a dent. After all, poverty is rocket science. And, Campolo will need to eat. However, shutting out the suffering world from our sight to protect the integrity of what we have without even addressing the suffering in plain sight is not Christian. We are simply masking our cruelty and a self-serving agenda with a pretentious construct. In this world, each will protect the dignity of man and the integrity of family if it is his people, not anybody else’s.
In the end, this author is not attempting to propose a solution but just to point out that Viktor Orban is not a hero. He is simply a self-professing nationalist. As much as anyone would need to respect his position, it is not a position to be admired. Most importantly, it is not Christian.