October 31, 2017 marked 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, effectively jump-starting the Protestant Reformation. To commemorate its significance, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán delivered this powerful speech in Budapest:
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The leaders of our Church asked me to address you today. No doubt they asked me because they felt it to be right that, at the final gathering of this five hundredth anniversary, I should speak on behalf of the Hungarian Government – both as Prime Minister and a member of the Reformed Church. Tradition is a compelling force – particularly today, ninety-nine years to the day after anti-Christian forces murdered István Tisza: a great Prime Minister and member of the Reformed Church. In addition to our respect for tradition, this anniversary also presents us with an opportunity to clarify, to discuss and reach conclusions on what lessons the Reformation has for public affairs, state administration and the building of the nation. This is what I would like to speak about now; and due to the constraints of time, I will do so in the manner I have just learnt from Bishop Steinbach: I won’t explain things, I’ll simply say them. To serve people is at least as difficult a task in Government as it is in the Church, and this is why I am personally grateful for all the support we receive from our spiritual and intellectual communities, from you Protestants, and naturally also from our Catholic brothers and sisters. In the past few decades I have also learnt that prayer is the highest form of this support. Thank you for your prayers.
As our lives and work are governed by a force and a power that is higher than us, it is also part of a higher order of things that before our celebration we have a service of worship – only after which we turn to our secular affairs. The world did not begin with us, but at the beginning of our lives there is the same divine order which created man, and gave him place and time. The place for us is the Carpathian Basin, the heart of Europe. The time is two thousand years after the birth of Jesus Christ, one thousand years after our first king’s decision that he and his people would become Christian, and five hundred years after the spiritual and intellectual revolution that revived the Christian faith. This is our place, and this is our time. God’s teachings have led us to see not a mere coincidence or whim of fate in the fact that, here and now, there is a Christian government of faith leading Hungary, but to see in this a manifestation of God’s mercy. We believe that, after a period of anti-Christian, internationalist governance, Hungary needs a period of governance that seeks to follow Christian values; and we accept that task. We are now confirmed in this belief by the fact that Hungarian citizens decided to grant us a second mandate. We are grateful for the fact that the nation has united its efforts, has regained its footing, and has grown in strength. We are grateful for the fact that it has regained its vitality, its capacity for action and the desire to do great things. We are grateful that, instead of letting the current carry it, it has chosen a cardinal point of the compass and a lodestar, it has charted a course, and it is creating a route for its own life. We believe it is a privilege that in this renewal, providence has used us as a vehicle: our churches, the Government and the free communities of Hungarian citizens across the entire Carpathian Basin. We are grateful that divine mercy has made up for our weaknesses and lack of strength, and cancelled out our mistakes. We also see it as a manifestation of God’s help that, although we need to stand in the way of major forces – even global forces – we can still stand, and we are still standing on our feet. We believe it to be the essence of our responsibility, ordained in our governmental duties, to preserve the approach to life which, based on the teachings of Christ, has made Europe and the Hungarians great, protected us in times of peril, and helped us through spiritual, intellectual and national crises.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We don’t confuse our calling with the mission of our churches. Our calling is to protect the ways of life that have their roots in Christianity. We defend human dignity, we defend families, we defend the nation, and we defend our faith communities. For us this is not a mere task, but a duty and a calling which we must perform to the best of our abilities. We can see that the Hungarian people and Christian Europe are in need of spiritual and intellectual renewal. For our part we take on the share allotted to us as free people, of our free will, of our free resolve. The Scriptures, too, teach us – and our experiences in Government confirm this – that we should never set the soul against the body; we should never set our financial and social needs in opposition to our spiritual and intellectual growth. While working to enable Hungarians to live well, we are also making efforts to enable them to a more fair, happier and richer lives, with hearts uplifted. The Reformation also taught us that we should never set a good, fine human life against a life serving the glory of God. What is good for a community of people glorifies God the Creator and Redeemer. That which serves the glory of God is the best for the people – indeed it is the ultimate good.
We not only want a future in which everyone has a job – we have almost achieved that – but a future in which the glory of God is also served by every form of work: from street sweeping to the country’s governance. Sincere worship for God and service for men. The outlines are already visible: bridges are being built on the Danube, along with Hungarian Universities in Transylvania and hundreds of kindergartens throughout the Carpathian Basin; and Felvidék, Transcarpathia, Vojvodina and Transylvania are also celebrating together today. The reality of a peaceful unification of the nation across the borders is becoming visible. However, the thousand-year biblical force – which five hundred years ago gained such sweeping momentum that it reached even the tiniest Hungarian household – today gives us one more task. Those who have gone before us struggled a great deal with that task, but with hardly any success. We know that the truth sets one free. We have experienced this in spiritual trials and tribulations, and in our freedom fights, but we have yet to learn how together – rather than torn asunder – we can represent the truth that we have recognised. For the final, great unification of the nation, we shall need the truth that not only sets us free, but also keeps us together, and unites not only the parts of our nation, but also Hungarian souls.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I sincerely hope that it is possible to also celebrate the Reformation as something that not only has led to a denomination – a section of the community – but much more as a common calling given to us Hungarians. Ultimately we are fighting and praying together for God’s blessing on the Hungarians.
Thank you for your attention.
God save Hungary! Soli Deo gloria!