Wednesday, June 18, 2003
God, Man and the EU-Many pundits have commented on the fight on how to acknowledge Europe's Christian roots in the new EU constitution; the powers that be are trying to ignore it as best they can, leaving a millennia-long gap between ancient Greece and Rome and the Enlightenment. Joshua Claybourn points to this John F. Cullinan piece on the topic. Josh sums things up nicely, albeit with some faulty chronology, here
From Greece and Rome to the Enlightenment something seems to have been skipped over - an important part of Europe's history and a fundamental player in what it is today. That little piece of nearly two centuries I'm talking about is, of course, ChristianityEileen and I were batting this around before dinner yesterday: What do a Scotsman, a Spaniard, an Italian and a Pole have in common other than a common Christian heritage? Not much. Eileen mentioned a love of family, but that is true of many other non-European cultures. Even if churchgoing is low, the Christian-flavored culture is still what is the common denominator in Europe. Cullinan cites Christopher Dawson in saying that "cult (or worship) is the basis of culture — not the other way round." Europe will struggle to keep a society together on purely secular grounds; the militantly secular French Revolution wasn't stable, nor have the militantly secular communist states been stable systems. You have the secular touchstones of the Greco-Roman roots and of the Enlightenment, but Christianity put a humane face to the harsh humanism of Greco-Roman philosophy. The Enlightenment took a universe created by a rational God and set out to understand it and to bring freedom and individual worth to a feudal culture. The meat of the Christian culture that it was made in flavors the Enlightenment stock of post-Christian Europe. However, the feel and flavor of Christianity is becoming overwhelmed by postmodern secularism and Islam, which both lacks the rationality and personal worth that makes the strength of the Enlightenment. Battered by irrational selfishness on the secular left and by irrational collectivism on the Islamic right, a functioning Enlightenment center will likely not stand, either devolving into communism, anarchy or mullocracy. The US Constitution doesn't mention God or Christianity, either. However, in a more religious era, such commentary wasn't needed. The Declaration of Independence, while not constitutionally binding, credited a Creator with granting us the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; this was the Deist-leaning Jefferson, a liberal of his day, that gave us that prose. There appear to be no Jeffersons in the EU convention, for Jefferson would be an outlier in that bunch, both in his desire for personal autonomy and in bringing God into the mix, making him a somewhat conservative libertarian in a godless statist bunch. The anti-clerical spirit that drove the French Revolution is what lives on in the EU, not the pro-church bunch that founded the US. Without God in the picture, the State is the source of all power and arbiter of what is good and bad. Morality flows not from scripture informed by centuries of experience and prayer but from what the government says is right. With God in the picture, there is a source of power that transcends the State; the State operates only by God's blessing as expressed by the people. God works with individuals, not the State, on the ultimate questions of faith and salvation. Libertarians might want to think about taking God out of the political mix, for the replacement in that cultural vacuum will likely be the state and not the individual, for God is the one going to bat for the individual.
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