When a secular government tramples the rule of law – and higher moral laws – underfoot, Christians have a responsibility to raise their voices, says Róbert Molnár. Kübekháza’s mayor says the Christian church must focus on calling both the government’s and society’s attention to issues of social justice and morality — even if that means clashing with the state. He says that in addition to the government’s hate-mongering propaganda campaigns doing even more damage to an already poisoned society, the hate campaigns are also causing conflict within families.
On a warm Saturday in late June, several hundred Hungarians from across the Carpathian Basin assembled in Kübekháza, Hungary, a small village of some 1,500 people located at the tri-border of Hungary, Serbia and Romania. The occasion was the 6th Annual National Evangelization.
The invitation I received to the National Evangelization stated the purpose of the event as to facilitate a forum “where social and political issues can be discussed in an open and frank manner, issues that should and must be discussed but are considered unseemly within the official confines of the church. We believe that values taught in the Gospel and the true Christian creed stand far away from all that which is claimed in politics to be ‘Christian’.”
The Annual National Evangelization is organized by Dr Róbert Molnár, the mayor of Kübekháza.
No stranger to politics, Molnár joined the Independent Smallholders Party after Hungary’s democratic transition and served as a close confidant to then-party chairman József Torgyán. He holds a law degree from the University of Szeged. Molnár was elected to parliament in 1998, but left the Independent Smallholders Party’s parliamentary group before his term expired in 2002.
He returned to his native Kübekháza in 2002 and ran for mayor — a position he holds to this day. But the years of politicking took a toll on Molnár and his marriage. In 2004, he became a Christian, and that’s when everything changed. Since then, Molnár has published a number of books on faith and speaks at engagements in Hungary and abroad.
After the National Evangelization, the Budapest Beacon had a chance to sit down with Molnár and discuss some of those pressing social and political issues that he says aren’t being talked about.
One of the first subjects we discuss is the migration emergency situation, continuous fear-mongering, and state of terror that Hungarians live in. Molnár says it is important to ensure that Hungary is defended, but that the government’s aim is to send two kinds of messages to the populace: Hungary is a success story, and Hungarians should fear foreign powers.
He likens the government’s “success stories” to communist-era propaganda showing how advanced the country has become and how well the state is responding to the needs of society.
“They talk just like the communists did when they boasted of yet another five-year plan. Unfortunately, these statements don’t even come close to reality,” he says, laughing.
Regarding the fear-mongering propaganda, Molnár says “this government has always needed to create an enemy figure because if there’s an outside enemy, the Prime Minister can step up as St. George the Dragon Slayer and protect the nation from this great evil enemy.
“They need to weave fear into the fabric of society for the purpose of positioning themselves as the defenders of the nation. In a situation like this, the ill-informed citizen really has no option but to say that they will vote [for Fidesz] because Fidesz is the only party that can protect them from the evil in this world.”
According to Molnár, the government’s coordinated propaganda campaigns are very effective because they project the notion that something is being done to protect the people — often with the result of inflaming animosity in society, which Fidesz knows is the only way they can stay in power.
If the government was not “attacking on all fronts”, the people would be free to see reality for what it is and would generate their own opinions, but that would be very dangerous for the government. For Orbán, maintaining a climate of constant freedom-fighting and fear-mongering is an existential issue: if Fidesz ever loses power, there isn’t a prosecution service that would not go after them for looting and oppressing the nation. And that is why Orbán is so committed to staying in power, Molnár says.
Regarding the refugee crisis, he says “there would be no need to inflame the already poisoned atmosphere in this country” if the government’s intentions were truly noble.
“The problem is that society is kept in a serious state of psychological terror. The consequence of this is that those who are not properly informed fall victim to the propaganda. They actually believe their lives are in peril.
“What pains me the most with this migration issue is that not only are we inciting against the asylum-seekers, we’re inciting hostility within families. Family members are clashing with each other over this,” he says.
“I remember coming home from a presentation when a fellow mayor called me. He asked that I pray for his family because his father flipped the table on him and his wife during a Sunday lunch because they didn’t see eye-to-eye on the migration issue. Is it normal for politics to intrude into family lives, into our bedrooms, into our dining rooms, into our kitchens? It’s not! What pains me so in this situation is that the church is quiet.”
The Silent Church
Those who would otherwise be in a position to better inform the public are – for one reason or another – bound from addressing these issues sensibly.
According to Molnár, “the church today must strive to represent social justice, morality — all that to which God would say ‘Amen’. If that means that the church must clash with the state, then so be it. The God of the Christian church isn’t the government, it’s God. The church should work to please God, not the prime minister. Today, the Hungarian government could not get away with all that it is doing if the church would stand its ground and represent the divine truth.
“When I, as a mayor of 15 years, a Christian and lawyer, see that people’s rights are being violated, that the most vulnerable in society are the first to be trampled on, or that certain parties are provided unfair and unlawful advantages, it is my responsibility to raise my voice and sound the alarms. I must tell the Hungarian government firmly that this cannot continue.”
In Hungary, the institutionalized churches – by and large – are under intense pressure to either toe the government’s line or simply steer clear of issues that may shine a negative light on the government’s actions, he says. The state’s role in financing churches illustrates the vulnerability of religious organizations. Ending up on the wrong side of an issue may cost a church dearly.
“We must, however, know our place in society, the role we must play. God did not put us into this Babylonian world so that we should keep our mouths shut. He put us here so that we, as individuals, take in what is happening around us and respond by making the world around us a better place in a manner that reflects the justice of God.”
Molnár says he often receives criticism in religious circles for talking about issues of public life. Those criticizing him tell him to stay away from politics and to stick to evangelization.
But there is a hypocrisy to this, he says. “It’s nonsense,” he believes, that he is told to stay out of politics when Zoltán Balog, the Minister of Human Resources, is an ordained Reformed church clergyman.
“Something is very wrong in this society, and it is wrong because there are no values and there is no rule of law,” Molnár says, adding that when a system takes on authoritarian tendencies, it disregards the natural law that reflects God’s justice — namely, that everyone is created equal.
“When a system generates laws that trample underfoot higher moral laws, that’s when things start to erode in society.” And this is where Molnár says Hungarian Christians should be stepping up.
According to him, Christians must act as a brake to these authoritarian tendencies.
“God’s people can function as a check in these situations. When they see that something is not working in the country they must sound the alarms.
“That is what Martin Luther King Jr did. It was what Dietrich Bonhoeffer did. It is what Martin Luther did.
“When Martin Luther saw how dark the Catholic Church was and the dismal condition of society, he declared that it could not continue and proceeded to nail the 95 Theses on the door of the All Saint’s Church in Wittenburg. Was it dangerous? Of course it was! He could have very easily paid for that with his life. Do you remember what he said? ‘Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason – for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves – I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.’”
“Christians must stand and act because this is what God has entrusted them to do,” Molnár says.
“That is what Bonhoeffer did in a fascist country. When the German Church bowed to Hitler, Bonhoeffer and his cohorts said, ‘No!’ That is also what Martin Luther King Jr did during the civil rights movement.
“These were not special people. At one point in their lives, they saw the truth and they stood by that. It was more important for them to stand on the side of truth than to maintain their own livelihood. In many cases, it cost them their lives.
“We will always need Bonhoeffers, Martin Luther King Jrs. and other reformers who are ready to reform a system. But change cannot happen without personal sacrifice or a personal sense of responsibility. It’s not enough to talk about these problems. If the situation calls for it and it is God’s plan, we must risk our lives for the truth,” Molnár says.