Is the EU the consummation of Christendom?

There is a strain of right-wing thought, especially in Europe, that holds Christianity responsible for the collapse of the West into rationalized egalitarian mass society. Christian monotheism and emphasis on the equality of souls before God, it is said, undercuts particularity, diversity, and hierarchy. And in the absence of some admixture of those things all you can have is social and moral chaos ordered at most by some combination of force, fraud and money.

The implications of such claims aren’t altogether clear. It’s as if someone said it’s been bad for my character to have the ancestry and upbringing I do. What sense can that make, when so little remains of me apart from those things? The West is simply the group of societies that were once part of Catholic Christendom, together with their overseas offspring. While Western culture is said to be composed of classical and Germanic as well as Christian elements, it’s not easy to separate the three. Christianity began in the Roman Empire, it spread, developed and grew up there, its formative languages were Greek and Latin, and the Roman Empire converted to it in accordance with its own needs. So why is Christianity foreign to Classical culture any more than Platonism? As to the Germans, they too became Christian without external compulsion—presumably because of weaknesses within paganism—and didn’t have much civilization before then.

So without Christianity there’s no West to worry about. Still, one can speculate about how Christianity has contributed to Western particularities. I think it’s true that the irreducible value of each individual has been a specifically Christian contribution to our politics. I have no idea why that conception is thought to be radically at odds with hierarchy. If I’m in a room with a bunch of rocks it’s not hierarchy. Loyalty, mutual personal obligation and recognition of what is to be respected in others only matter if each of the parties has individual value. And equality of souls with respect to a transcendent principle that can’t possibly be fully actualized here and now or by our own efforts doesn’t strike me as a spur to any particularly aggressive form of equality.

In general, I think a key contribution of Christianity to what Europe has been was to provide a transcendent common order within which particular peoples, institutions, political societies and whatnot could exist for hundreds of years and understand themselves as part of the same social world with considerable relative autonomy and no formal system of compulsion. I’m not sure how else that unity in diversity could have been maintained. Before Christianity there were divine emperors and after Christianity there’s the EU. Why are those things so great?

Christianity seems to me the system most favorable to meaningful freedom and diversity. The Trinity puts diversity of a sort at the center of things, and the Incarnation makes concrete particulars capable of expressing divinity. The transnational Church hierarchy gives institutional expression to the principle that it’s not force but truth that’s the thing ultimately authoritative and the supreme essence of community. No other religion has anything similar, and I don’t think that’s by accident. A universal hierarchical Church is the obvious continuation of the Incarnation, which establishes the point that divine authority has to be concretely and identifiably present here and now among us, so it can establish a common moral world and standard of truth, but it can’t be a matter of direct political power.

10 thoughts on “Is the EU the consummation of Christendom?”

  1. In what sense are these folks ‘right-wing’?
    They certainly don’t seem conservative… The National Socialists, often considered right-wing, though I think that’s an error (they self-identified as believers in a type of socialism, after all), were neo-pagans; are these ‘rightist’ Europeans neo-pagans, e.g. practitioners of Asatru (the Norse religion), too?

    Ronald Neff once said something like, Western Civilization prospered at the foot of the Cross, not at the foot of the tree of Yggdrasil… Which I think is spot on…

    I’m with you; as Hilaire Belloc once said, “The Faith is Europe. And Europe is the Faith.”

    • ENR
      Well, the ENR (the European New Right or the non-christian “Right” mentioned in the above Kalb’s post) is not considered by ifself as “rightwing” neither as “left-wing.” ENR is dont identified ifself with outdate political categories from the Enlightenment (like “Right”, “Left”, “Conservative”, “Liberal”, etc).
      ENR doesn’t have much in common neither with the liberal capitalist Right (its main enemy according to the ENR’s Manifesto) neither with the Fundamentalist Right (ENR thinks that most of modern pathologies has a distant Christian origin, ENR neither sympathizes with a religion that privileges the individual and his individual “salvation” above the ethnic community, to “Mankind” and not the particular cultures, races and ethnies, that it promotes a dualism between Man and nature, between God and divinity, between soul and body, and that it maintains a progressive or eschatological notion of the History).

      ENR neither believes in the political legitimity of categories like the “West”, categories that come from Cold War’s language, and that they never have existed in the real world. Europe and America aren’t the same Civilization, in fact, they are a very different things. America was been founded against Europe, as a refuge for all the revolutionaries and religious and non religious agitators that were not tolerated in traditional Europe, it was founded as a safe heaven for all that people. Their puritan founders thought that it will become into a New Jerusalem, where they could create a paradise, separated from the “evil” papist or monarchist Europe, where everyone would be equal and free from the “corrupt” customs of the Old Europe. Anti-Europeanism (along with anti-Catholicism ) it was one of the central values of the American Civilization in their beginnings. For all of that, ENR is not considerated “rigthwing” in America.

      There are more information on the ENR here:

      • Roman, thanks for that great link to ENR thought!
        Roman, thanks for that link to some of the ENR literature! The page that comes up puts it all right there at our fingertips, ready to browse! That’ll keep me busy for a while! (I see by the way that I got Alain de Benoist’s name wrong in my post earlier in this thread.)

        Long live Flanders!

      • I agree with Roman that peopl
        I agree with Roman that people associated with the European New Right say all these things. I suppose the issue is how true or sensible they are:

        1. I agree that “Left” and “Right” are from the Enlightenment. I don’t see though why rejecting the Enlightenment means rejecting that polarity as long as the Enlightenment in fact dominates what passes for public life. “Left” means you like the Enlightenment and want to go with it without reserve. In the end, it means that you want to say that the world is composed morally of human desires and the human capacities, resources and formal social arrangements for fulfilling them equally. “Right” means you reject all or some part of that view in favor of something else. So recognizing the polarity is just a matter of recognizing A or ~A, which is not a distinction invented by the Enlightenment.

        2. Post-Alexander I don’t think it is possible to avoid in the end privileging the individual and his destiny above the ethnic community. The most you can do I think is say that the ethnic community is part of what makes the individual what he is so that it makes no sense to suppress the ethnic community in favor of the individual or to deny the reasonableness, rightness and necessity of ethnic loyalty. That seems to me quite consistent with Christianity, which does not purport to abolish the nations or establish a universal pragmatic order with a single law for everyone. I’d say the same, mutatis mutandis, with regard to “mankind” and particular cultures, races and ethnies. The key point I think is to recognize the world as complex, with necessary hierarchies that do not reduce to each other, so that both the individual and the people can both be real even though one or the other may be more real for some reason.

        3. It also seems to me that the dualism between Man and nature, soul and body, has been unavoidable since well before the Christian era. The resolution of the dualism is I think one of the functions of the conception of God. Christianity is in fact especially strong on the point that the body is not extraneous to the soul but rather body and soul join to form the human person. (Consider the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, and also the Incarnation and Real Presence.) I’m not sure what the dualism between God and divinity would be. Certainly the Christian doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation tell us that God is not simply an infinitely distant blank unity but includes drama, relationship, and this-worldly presence.

        4. Is “Western Civilization” only a Cold War expression? That would make Spengler’s Untergang des Abendlandes a Cold War tract before its time. And civilizational identity goes too deep to be cancelled by an act of will. So I don’t see why the fact that some American settlers rejected some aspects of European life means that they weren’t nonetheless Europeans.

        5. Thank you for the reference to the repository of ENR links. There’s a lot of interest there.

        Rem tene, verba sequentur.

  2. Does Christianity invite these attacks by not being balanced?
    I’ve not actually read any of the European right-wingers—Julius Evola, Alain Benoît and so on—and have read almost no articles about them, so can’t contribute apart from giving my uneducated “two cents,” which is: 1) I agree with Jim Kalb that without Christianity there’s little recognizable “West” left, so there’s scarcely any more problem to be discussed if Christianity be chased out of Europe and replaced with Islam, paganism, or who knows what; 2) that said, there seems to be a feminizing principle or tendency inherent in Christianity—sometimes, as a result, almost a childish tendency—which would appear to need to be counterbalanced every so often by clear statements of a more masculine “inspiration” by the Christian authorities; 3) Christianity certainly does recognize and incorporate a masculine side but Christian authorities have been neglecting their duty to acknowledge that the world cannot function with just a collection of mushy feminine-style attitudes about things like the relation between economics and social justice, about race-relations and ethno-cultural particularity, and others. Man cannot live by bread alone; nor can he—neither men nor women, children, old people, societies, or nations—live by femininity alone, any more than they can live by masculinity alone. Since at least the latter part of the Victorian era Protestant and Catholic Christianity (I don’t know about Eastern Orthodox) have been too feminine. The Catholic Church of, say, Renaissance Italy combined, I feel, the masculine and the feminine principles of Christianity in just the right proportions (to see what I mean, think how that Church establishment compared to the current pope, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, or a Christian like Jimmy Carter for example—you have the feeling you’re dealing with men on the one hand and children on the other). If the modern Christian establishments and hierarchies would do the same—would combine the masculine and feminine principles inherent in Christianity in more balanced proportions rather than wildly favoring the feminine side—there might not be this felt need on the part of today’s European right-wing thinkers to attack Christianity.

    This pope (the latter half of whose papacy has been a failure in my opinion) obviously has not much longer to be with us. The Vatican badly needs a next pope who appreciates certain aspects of practical economic, social, and historical reality for Europe and Christendom that have been too long neglected by the Catholics and by Western Christianity.

    Long live Flanders!

    • Christianity indeed has a str
      Christianity indeed has a strong masculine tradition. Paul’s epistles are full of martial idioms and the early church saw itself as a masculine brotherhood. Chivalry grew out of notions of Christian warriorship. Even in the 19th century there was a movement called “Muscular Christianity” which sought to build up manliness based on Christian principles. Theres a book about this, The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity by Leon J. Podles

      • Thanks for the Podles reference
        Perun, thanks for citing that book by Podles. It’s one I think I’m going to track down and read. Mainline Christianity today, including Catholicism (dunno about Eastern Orthodox), is too feminine, similarly to the way in which the Democrat Party is too feminine (which may explain a portion of the affiinty between the two?).

        Long live Flanders!

        • Review of Podle’s book.
          Heres a very good review of Podle’s book.

          As noted, masculinity used to play an important part in Christianity as this excerpt explains:

          For centuries the Church was a manly enterprise, and brotherly love a virtue like wartime militancy. Jesus’ disciples labored under the continuing threat of persecution or martyrdom. In canonical and patristic literature, military idioms abound. The warfare is not only against worldly powers and the tribulations of the flesh but is a battle with spiritual powers intent on destroying the faithful.

  3. New Right is wrong about Christianity.
    I really must that when the New Right comments on political issues I couldnt agree with them more. But when it comes to religious issues, they are way off the mark!

    The New Right glorifies paganism for something it never was. They claim universalism is a product of Christianity. XXX….Wrong! The notion of universal brotherhood(which lies at the heart of Liberalism) was first seen during the Hellenistic age. Alexander the Great wanted to a create a world empire to unite all humanity and that theme ran through the thinking of the age. The cynic Diogenes declared himself a “citizen of the world”. Universal brotherhood lay at the heart of the Stoic philosophy, which is what drove Rome’s expanisionist policies.

    “The Pax Romana was far from being a mere excuse for the world rule of the Roman aristocracy. The Romans did provide stability, order, and social peace. The ruling elite did accept the stoic ideal of universal brotherhood. Its members readily intermarried with the peoples they conquered, producing a new provincial aristocracy out of this union. The Roman Empire was the most harmonious and successful multiracial society the world had ever known. The old Roman aristocracy was not free from racial prejudice, but, gradually, in practice, the aristocrats overcame these feelings; by the early third century B.C. all free people in the empire enjoyed the full benefits of Roman citizenship.”
    —Norman C. Cantor Antiquity: From the Birth of Sumerian Civilization to the Fall of the Roman Empire pg. 173

    Indeed heres a real kicker…Romans did not even see themselves as Europeans! They saw themselves as rulers of the world. The pagans only had a vague geographical notion of “Europe” but it had no cultural meaning. In fact the Greeks saw “Asia” as superior. It was the Christians, through the story of Noah’s decendents, that gave Europe any real cultural meaning.

    The pagans were certainly not devotees of “blood and soil” as the New Right claims. They eagerly adopted gods from different cultures, even non-European ones. Look at this:

    “Roman polytheism could adapt itself to, and indeed merge with, what we may call the provincial traditions. Greek and Roman gods became practically identical. Celtic, Semitic, Pannonian, and African gods were either assimilated to Greco-Roman gods or accepted as respectable gods in their own right to an extent which is no less stupendous for being obvious.”
    — Arnaldo Momigliano On Pagans, Jews, and Christians pg.123

    And the Classical pagans were not alone.

    “Pagan beliefs and rituals must have been affected by contact with Christianity. It is likely, for example, that the concept of Valhalla, first evidenced in the mid-tenth century, was shaped under Christian influence. Poetry and pictures provide good evidence for some Scandinavian myths and the attributes of a few of their gods, but most of that evidence is not early enough to escaped the risk of some Christian contamination….Pagan rituals were originally conducted in the open air or in houses of rulers and chieftains, but pagans may have been influenced by the example of Christian churches to build a temple in Scandinavia’s most important cult centers, if nowhere else(O. Olsen).”
    —Birgit and Peter Sawyer Medieval Scandinavia: From Conversion to Reformation circa 800-1500 pg.104;105

    I could go on and on and on and on about this.

    The New Right likes to claim Christianity places the individual before the community. Nonsense. Scriptures itself states that its not good for man to be alone. The Old Testament is basically the story of a people building a nation-state founded on communitarian principles. In fact what most people dont know is that the Old Testament example of the Israelites formed the basis for much of our modern-day concepts of what a nation should be like.

    “The Bible, moreover, presented in Israel itself a developed model of what it means to be a nation – a unity of people, language, religion, territory and government. Perhaps it was an almost terrifyingly monolithic ideal, productive ever after all sorts of dangerous fantasies, but it was there, an all too obvious exemplar for Bible readers of what every other nation too might be, a mirror for national self-imagining.”—Adrian Hastings The Construction of Nationhood pg. 18

    In fact Adrian Hastings makes the argument that Christianity gave birth to nationalism. As he claims, “The nation and nationalism are both, I wish to claim, characteristically Christian things…”— inbid page 186

    Whats most shocking is that Adrian Hastings was a staunch Liberal Catholic and yet defended the role that Christianity played in shaping nationalism. And he is not alone in his assertion.

    “Old Testament beliefs in chosen peoples and sacred territories were a continual source of inspiration and language for a dynamic providential history among so many Christian peoples in Europe and America; that it in turn was vital for their growing sense of national identity in the early modern epoch. The religious aspect, rooted in the Hebrew Bible, appeared therefore to complement and reinforce their sense of common ethnicity.

    That in turn had implications for nationalism. As a European ideology and movement, it owed much to biblical and religious motifs and assumptions; in many ways these have been more important than their secular forms and doctrines.
    —Anthony D. Smith Chosen Peoples: Sacred Sources of National Identity pg. viii

    Smith contends with Hastings argument that nationalism itself originated from Christianity, but nevertheless admits it had a profound influence on nationalism. Smith even argues that Christianity helps explain why nationalist ideology originated in Europe instead of elsewhere.

    Christianity is indeed universalistic, but that does mean its uniform. Again I turn to Hastings:
    “Regino of Prum writing in his Chronicon about the year 900, set out what may be called the normative Christian view of human society as follows: ‘Just as different peoples(diversae nations populorum) differ between themselves in descent, manners, language and laws(genere, moribus, lingua, legibus) so the holy and universal church throughout the world, although joined in the unity of the faith nevertheless varies its ecclesiastical customs among them.’ Here the unity and universality of the church is not in question; it inevitably limits the degree of specifically religious diversity acceptable between nations but it takes the existence and differences of the latter for granted and does not rule out a diversity of ecclesiastical custom reflecting national differences.

    Within the unity of Christian faith, the full diversity of nations, customs and languages comes simply to be taken for granted. No one reading the New Testament as a primary guide to the way the world is could have much doubt of that.”
    —Adrian Hastings The Construction of Nationhood pg.195

    Peter Brown also gives a good explaination of the full diversity of Christianity in his book Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity, A.D. 200-100, claiming that within the framework of a one and united Christendom there existed what he calls “Micro-Christendoms” that corresponded to local customs and traditions. So Christianity during this time(but actually is true throughout history) is that its both universal and local. Even the Apostles determined this is how Christianity should be when they decided that Hebrew customs apply only to Hebrew Christians while non-Hebrew Christians could follow their own customs within the faith.

    I’ll argue more about this later.

    • The New Right likes to say th
      The New Right likes to say that egailitarianism is a product of Christianity. Interesting considering the fact that the egailitarianism of the Enlightenment looked for inspiration in Ancient Greece and Rome not Medieval Europe. Rousseau based his Social Contract on Sparta not the Carologinian Empire. The Jacobins saw themselves as a modern-day Roman Republic. Perhaps there was another reason why the aesthetics of the Enlightenment are commonly refered to as “Neo-Classical”?

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