Just when things start looking the darkest, things can suddenly turn around. One of the best examples of this, in my eyes, is the European nation of Holland. For decades now it has been one of the darkest, sleaziest and most secular nations on earth.
Every lousy anti-faith, anti-family and anti-life initiative one can imagine seems to have occurred there. And in many instances the Netherlands actually led the way. This was the first nation on earth to legalise same-sex marriage (April 2001). This was the first nation on earth to legalise euthanasia (April 2002).
This was a nation noted for its brash and vulgar red-light districts, at least in its major cities. This was a country noted for its marijuana cafes (again, in places like Amsterdam). Drug dealing, crime and violence were rife in all the major cities. This was a country so keen on “tolerance” that just about anything and everything was permitted.
The place was a cesspool in other words, and like much of Europe looked to be heading down a one-way street to oblivion. It was radically secularised and seemed to be in a major moral freefall. I know this from firsthand experience, since I lived in that nation for five years in the early 80s.
But incredibly things have been turning around there. Let me begin with the most recent bit of news. Just today a Dutch court has acquitted the anti-Islamist politician Geert Wilders of charges of discrimination and hate speech. This is how one news report covers the story:
“Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders, cleared today of hate-speech and discrimination charges for his statements against Islam, said his acquittal was a victory for freedom of speech. ‘You are being acquitted on all the charges that were put against you,’ judge Marcel van Oosten told Mr Wilders, who has been on trial in the Amsterdam regional court since October last year.
“The flamboyant MP faced five counts of hate speech and discrimination for his anti-Islamic remarks on websites, internet forums and in Dutch newspapers between October 2006 and March 2008, and in his controversial 17-minute movie Fitna (Discord in Arabic).
“He also compared the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf while in Fitna he shows shocking images of the September 11 attacks in the US and other onslaughts against Western targets interspersed with verses from the Muslim holy book. ‘The bench finds that your statements are acceptable within the context of the public debate,’ the judge told the platinum-haired politician, whose case was boosted by a prosecution unwilling to take aim at him.
“‘The bench finds that although gross and denegrating, it did not give rise to hatred,’ said Judge van Oosten. The 47-year-old Mr Wilders, whose right-wing Party for Freedom (PVV) lends its support to a right-leaning Dutch coalition government, told journalists afterwards he was ‘overjoyed and very happy’ to have been acquitted. ‘It is not only a victory for me, but also a victory for freedom of speech,’ he said outside the courtroom. He added: ‘It means it is legal to criticise Islam.’
“The acquittal comes after Mr Wilders last month argued before judges that he was ‘defending freedom in The Netherlands’ against Islam. One of Europe’s most heavily guarded politicians, he told the court he was ‘obliged to speak’ because The Netherlands was ‘under threat’ from Islam.”
This is tremendous news indeed, and as Wilders said, it is a significant win for freedom: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of conscience. It seems there is hope yet for this spiritually malnourished and woefully PC nation.
Indeed, others fighting for freedom should take real hope and reassurance out of this. Perhaps Andrew Bolt will also find a win for freedom of speech here in Australia. It will hopefully result in many more people being willing to stand up and be counted – even if a heavy price must be paid for doing so.
Now Wilders of course is not a Christian – as least as far as I am aware. But since all truth is God’s truth, I think this was in many ways a victory which believers should also greatly savour. Secularists like Wilders and Christians alike would have had much to lose if this case would have gone the other way.
Indeed, his case was a real battle between Islamist totalitarianism and Western freedom. And if a Dutch court can side with him against those who would drag us into an Islamist police state then there is real hope indeed. I would say it is another sign that God is still at work in even dark and decadent places like Holland.
God has not yet abandoned Europe
I mentioned before how I once lived and worked in Holland as a Christian missionary. It was an uphill battle. Back then it was such a spiritually dead and morally vile place. It was not easy living in such a sin-soaked city such as Amsterdam.
But the good news is that God is able to turn around the most miserable and diabolical situations. Let me finish with a quick story. A few years ago I went back to Holland. After some 25 years I was again walking the streets of Amsterdam.
It is such a beautiful city in so many ways. It is rightly called the “Venice of the North”. Its many canals, quaint historic buildings, and tree-lined streets filled with bicyclists is a joy to behold. But all the sin, corruption and degradation makes the experience a bittersweet one for any Christian who longs to see God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven.
I vividly recall one day during that 2009 visit sitting in a third-story room overlooking the streets of Amsterdam. As always it was a hub of activity with people scurrying about everywhere. My heart was very heavy as I looked out my window and prayed for this lost city.
I remember telling the Lord, ‘There must have been millions of prayers uttered over the centuries for this perverse and godless city. How many thousands of God’s people have prayed and wept over this city? How long O Lord before you move again in this place?’
Soon after that time of intercession I made some amazing discoveries. God in fact had been at work in Amsterdam, and in other parts of Holland. When I lived there decades ago all the churches that were even half alive were quite small and struggling.
But things have really begun to change in the past few decades. Indeed, when I returned from Europe I wrote up a piece entitled “Europe: God is not finished yet.” Let me quote a short part of that here: “There are clear signs of God at work. Holland at the moment is actually being run by a coalition of Christian political parties, and the Prime Minister is a Christian.
“Some of the famous Dutch liberalism and tolerance has been tightened up a bit. The once ubiquitous drug dealers around Amsterdam’s central district and the sprawling red light districts have both been cleaned up and curtailed. Even some of the drug cafes have been restricted in number and scope.
“But it is the revitalisation of the church in the nation that is especially intriguing. There are now numerous evangelical churches in Holland with large and thriving congregations. One church in Amsterdam has over 2000 members. Such numbers were unheard of a few decades ago.
“And the amazing thing is, many of these large and spiritually vital churches are led by migrants who have come to Holland. The large Amsterdam church has as its head pastor an African. Indeed, many of these big churches are being led by Nigerians and Ghanaians. Missionaries and church planters from places such as South Korea, Brazil and Uganda are doing great works for God in the Netherlands and throughout Europe.”
So the prayers I had uttered just hours earlier I found were in fact already being answered. In between my two times in Holland God was in fact at work in a major way. Revival is breaking forth in Amsterdam, and in Holland, and in Europe.
Of course whereas before Christian missionaries from Europe went to the developing world to reach it for Christ, now Christian missionaries from the developing world are going to Europe to re-win it for Christ and his Kingdom. This is tremendous.
God is not finished yet with the ungodly, immoral continent of Europe. He still has a plan and a purpose for it. And the just-declared victory of Geert Wilders can be seen as part of God’s bigger plan for Holland and the continent. Secularism and Islam are both working overtime to take control of Europe and its millions of souls.
But God is also at work to see Europe once again become a place where the name of Jesus Christ is honoured and where the glorious gospel goes forth. There is still reason to hope. There is much darkness and discouragement, naturally. But with our God we shall prevail and do great things.
So please everyone keep fighting the good fight. We owe it to a broken and needy world to not give up. And we owe it to the one who died on a cross so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly.