What does the election of Geert Wilders mean for Christians?

In an interview with Mark Steyn for the Jewish Independent over a decade ago, I mentioned several ‘far-right’ figures and included the name of Geert Wilders, the Dutch MP who had emerged as one of Islam’s fiercest critics during the War on Terror years. “What are you talking about?” Steyn sputtered, “I’m far-right: pro-life, pro-traditional marriage. I like Wilders, but he’s to the far Left on every one of these issues! The civilization he wants to defend is Amsterdam’s vibrant gay scene!” This was coming from the man who wrote the foreword to Wilders’ 2012 memoir Marked for Death: Islam’s War against the West and Me, which describes Wilders’ ideology as well his life under police protection since a price was put on his head by angry Islamists.

Steyn was right. Wilders is not a conservative—at least, not in the sense that most Christians would understand the word. He is a staunch defender of the sexual revolution and the consensus of the last half-century—a man who believes that abortion should be legal but that madrassas should not. While he occasionally gives a nod to the Christian heritage of the West, he is more likely to cut it out. I remember watching a speech he gave in 2010 at a protest in New York City, where the construction of a mosque was being planned within spitting distance of Ground Zero. At one point in his speech, he quoted Abraham Lincoln. “Those who deny freedom to others,” he told the crowd, “deserve it not for themselves!”

I recognized the quote—it hung on my wall at home and was taken from a letter Lincoln wrote to H.L. Pierce on April 6, 1859—but Wilders had removed half of the sentence. The full quote reads: “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves, and, under a just God, cannot long retain it.” The omission sums up Wilders’ worldview quite succinctly—he treasures the freedom, but not the source.

Now, Wilders is back on the national stage, discussed around the world after his party won the most seats in the Dutch parliament (for a full rundown of what happened, read Rod Dreher’s great essay for TEC here). His victory was, in part, due to the number of Christians who voted for him, and conservatives around the world have been celebrating the trouncing of the Dutch liberal establishment. With Muslim immigrants rioting in the streets around the Western world and calling for the destruction of the Jews, politics suddenly feel, once again, much like they did just after 9/11. Hamas has ensured that Wilders is relevant.

But what does Wilders’ election mean for Dutch Christians? How might his views impact religious liberty? To answer those questions, I reached out to Dr. Bart-Jan Spruyt. Spruyt is a Dutch historian, a longtime journalist, and sometime TV presenter who writes for several of the largest newspapers in the Netherlands, including Nederlands Dagblad and Reformatorisch Dagblad (Reformed Daily). He answered our questions on what the election of Geert Wilders means for Dutch Christians.

Geert Wilders has been labeled ‘far right’ by many media outlets due to his positions on immigration, but he is actually a devout social liberal. What is his position on the Christian heritage of the Netherlands?

Geert Wilders was a member of (and MP for) the Dutch Liberal Party (VVD), before founding his own populist Freedom Party (PVV) in the late Summer of 2003. His first focus was to combat Islam itself (not just Islamism as the political embodiment of Islam), and in this context he advocated a tax on wearing the veil by Muslim women, and a ban on the Quran and mosques. He claims this is to defend the Judeo-Christian heritage of the Free West. On a closer look, however, it becomes clear that the ‘heritage’ he refers to is the norms and values of the 1968 revolution, with the freedom to be who you are or who you want to be as the highest value.

Wilders is a former Catholic and he defends freedom of education—although not for Muslims to found their own schools. He does not endorse the so-called ‘pink agenda’ (LGBT), and he openly opposes initiatives for a new transgender law. His political position is somewhat ambivalent. For this reason, many Christians regard him and his party as a conditional ally: they share important policy goals such as those mentioned, but they frequently distance themselves from his tone, rhetoric, and socially liberal views. An eye-opener was his support for a ban on ritual slaughter, which seemed to prove that freedom of religion is not entirely safe with him.

Wilders has made many comments about the negative impact of religion. Would he be an ally for Christians on the issue of religious liberty? Would he oppose, for example, government oversight of church catechism classes, or would he support such policies as part of his anti-religious worldview?

Wilders’ ambivalence and inconsistency makes it hard to answer this question. As a rule, he would oppose government oversight of church catechism classes (and other forms of informal education). At the same time, he would support this governmental oversight when it pertains to Quran schools on Saturday, as he opposes any institution which translates Islam into a worldview that is hostile to the free West and liberal democracy. He wants to ban Muslim schools, so he certainly wants to ban some kinds of informal religious education.

Why did so many Christians vote for Wilders?

The most important reason is his position on immigration. He wants to close our borders. Many Christians think our country is gradually being taken over (at least in the big cities) by migrants with a Muslim background, and that our Christian heritage and autochthonous norms and values are at stake. Other political parties that have governed our country have proved incompetent in reducing migration numbers. The Christian parties are too small and do not have the power to make a difference in that area. That is why Christians voted for Wilders.


2 thoughts on “What does the election of Geert Wilders mean for Christians?

  1. Navi says:

    Eh. None of these right-wing leaders ever lives up to the hype and meaningfully limits abortion. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

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