Can Christendom be restored?
Every society is based on some understanding of man and the world that is comprehensive enough to define good and evil, moral obligation, the nature of the good life and so on. But that is just to say that every society is based on a religious understanding.
The issue then is not whether “politics” and “religion” should be kept separate — in the long run they can’t be, the two are joined at the head — but the nature of the established religion and the relation between explicitly religious considerations and more secular issues.
To say that Christendom can’t be restored is to say either that the West will be ordered by some religion other than Christianity, or that it won’t be a coherent society but a region run in accordance with shifting ”modi vivendi” and the momentary outcome of continuing struggles.
How can Christendom be restored?
You can’t have Christendom without Christianity. In the end the question is truth. If Christianity is true then our actions, including our actions in public life, should reflect its truth, just as our actions should reflect the truth of the germ theory of disease if that theory is true.
The restoration of Christendom is therefore not a political project in any narrow sense. The basic issue is how men understand the world, and that’s something that precedes politics.
The religious alternative to Christianity in the West is ideological liberalism, and it doesn’t seem up to the task of ordering social life. It begs too many questions, depends too much on avoiding issues, and doesn’t solve people’s problems or even give them a way to understand what they are and why they matter. It grew up within Christendom, and what’s valuable in it — free inquiry, limited government, the relative autonomy of various aspects of life and so on — can’t survive apart from its Christian setting.
It seems then that in the long run Christianity has a competitive advantage. Nonetheless, it may be important to remove barriers to the development of a common Christian understanding of things, for example the current rules that in effect establish secular liberalism.
By why did Christendom decline? Its decline hardly seems a passing fad. It’s been 800 years since the high point of the medieval papacy, 500 years since the Protestant Reformation, 200 years since the first non-confessional states, something less than 100 years since the first officially atheist state, and 40 years since the United States became officially godless. Since that last date the pace of secularization has increased and become headlong. It seems difficult to talk about restoration without some idea how restoration came to be needed and why a trend that has continued so long should reverse.