Responsibilities

Dr. Regin Prenter, professor of theology at the University of Aarhus, has warned members of the Danish Parliament that too great a dependence upon government will stifle self-reliance of the people and make them incapable of democratic self-government.

Speaking at the annual worship service in Copenhagen, marking the opening of Parliament, he declared that “the greatest danger of the modern welfare state lies in its failure to acknowledge its limitations.

The danger is that the State not only cares materially for those who are not able to take care of themselves, but that it will care both materially and spiritually for all of us … to such a degree that the personal responsibility of the individual is weakened by it.”

Taking as his text, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” Dr. Prenter praised “the far-reaching social legislation” of recent years which has “put an end to much human need and misery.”

“But,” he added, “a democracy can live only as long as there is a feeling of responsibility in the people. On the day when the politicians alone have any responsibility and all of us let ourselves be blindly led by them … democracy will be finished.”

Sharp criticism of the sermon was voiced by the Danish press. Editors took issue on the grounds that it was a “political sermon” rather than the “ordinary devotional service” customarily delivered on the opening of Parliament.

In response to the criticisms, Dr. Prenter said “a colorless church service is of no devotional value.” (He is chairman of the Commission on Theology of the Lutheran World Federation.)

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