Conservatism, Christianity, and the Revitalization of Europe

By Congdon, Lee | Modern Age, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

Conservatism, Christianity, and the Revitalization of Europe


Congdon, Lee, Modern Age


We live in a secular, by which I do not mean a neutral, society. No society can be neutral with respect to religion, for public appeal either may or may not be made to religious principles. If--in the Western world--all discussion must be limited to maxims drawn from non-Christian sources, secularism is enthroned. There was a time when one could say--and Hilaire Belloc did say--"the Faith is Europe and Europe is the Faith." That time is no more, for the acids of modernity have done their work--the churches, not to mention the souls of men, are empty. And that is not all; no public acknowledgment can now be made of Christianity's historical importance. During the debate leading up to the drafting of a constitution for the European Union, those opposed to any mention of Christianity constituted a majority. Former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who presided over the constitutional convention, left no one in doubt that "Europeans live in a purely secular political system, where religion does not play an important role." (1)

At the recent celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, the first step on the road to a unified Europe, the European Union again refused to recognize Europe's Christian heritage, although German Chancellor Angela Merkel did opine that it would be permissible for people to express their personal views of the matter--as long, apparently, as they did not raise their voices in public. To do so might disorient a population that, however well programmed, remains discontented--this to the utter bewilderment of Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, who reports that the last half century witnessed a rise in living standards, improvements in health, and longer life expectancy. What, then, could be wrong?

Nor is contentment noticeably greater in the United States, where material life has also improved and where, polls assure us, belief in God continues to be widespread. To be sure, "god" may no longer be the familiar Deity of the Old and New Testaments, for the de-Christianization of the country is well underway. Courts interpret the Constitution to mean that every sign of the Christian Faith, unless it is blasphemous, must be removed from public view. Taking their cue from the French Revolution's pagan calendar, publishers insist upon "B.C.E." (Before the "Common Era"--whatever that means) rather than B.C., and "C.E." rather than A.D.

As December 25 approaches, businesses instruct their employees to greet customers with "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas." Booksellers, magazines, and television treat with seriousness anti-Christian screeds such as The Da Vinci Code and do everything in their power to stimulate interest in the so-called Gnostic Gospels. While they portray Christianity as the religion of "crusaders," bigots, and yahoos, the "mainstream media" show deference to Islam and Buddhism and remain "non-judgmental" concerning scientology and other cults. "There are those," G. K. Chesterton wrote, "who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions."

How did Western society arrive at its present "Christophobic" state? The trail is long but clearly marked. The Scientific Revolution succeeded in providing convincing explanations for what had once seemed the sacred mysteries of nature. Inspired by the achievements of science, the Enlightenment taught that all truth claims had to be subjected to rational scrutiny; those that failed the test of rationality had to be rejected. Naturally, then, doubt began to creep in concerning supernatural claims. By the middle of the nineteenth century, Matthew Arnold could write that "The Sea of Faith / Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore / Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled. / But now I only hear / Its melancholy, long withdrawing roar."

Soon thereafter, Darwin published The Origin of Species, which advanced the theory--as a historical reconstruction, it could not be other than a theory--of natural selection. …

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