Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Europe and Christianity

Recently, in the midst of the "cartoon controversy" (so aptly named!), a Turkish editorial stated that ‘If Jesus Christ was Depicted as a Terrorist, Europe Would Take to Streets’.

This I highly doubt.

Europe has the lowest religious-attendance rate in the world. In some countries, it's lower than 5 percent. For missionaries, Europe the toughest gig on the planet. Europeans would probably write these anti-Christian cartoons themselves.

I recently read an article about Christianity and Democracy at intelligent russian written by Vladimir Kantor. It explores (from a Russian perspective) the Christian roots of European democracy, maintaining that modern democracy is a Christian invention that rests on certain Christian teachings. Interesting -- I'm not sure I buy his whole argument, but he has some quotable ideas:

The Church (institutionalized Christianity, as it were) played a tremendously important yet dual role: on the one hand, it brought up the nations in the Christian spirit and carried Christian ideas and intuitions into the depths of the masses; but on the other, Christianity’s original doctrines gave way to politically and venally profitable theories and an alliance with the powers that be, while the vibrant religious life gave way to dogmas…

Totalitarianism was essentially an anti-Christian and therefore an anti-European movement that set up, in opposition to reason, a mythologically constructed consciousness that rested on the masses’ impulsive desire to live in non-freedom, without problems…

It may be pertinent to place side by side two utterances by Stepun (who repeatedly spoke of democracy being utterly powerless in Russia and Germany): “I definitely and fully reject any ideocracy of the communist, fascist, racist or Eurasian persuasion, i.e. any violence inflicted on people’s life. <…> I firmly believe that Europe’s parliamentarianism supposedly ‘past its ideological prime’ still contains a more profound idea than the notorious ideocracy. So what if contemporary West European parliamentarianism constitutes degeneration of freedom; so what if contemporary bourgeois democracy is increasingly sliding into philistinism. The ideocracy about to replace it is far worse because it represents the birth of violence and clearly gravitates toward Bolshevist Satanism.”…

Democracy is none other than a political projection of this supreme humanist faith of the last four centuries. Together with the entire culture of humanism it establishes the human personality as the highest value of life, and the form of autonomy as a form of action obedient to God.”…

There is only one thing that can save democracy and freedom of the individual: a religious sanction for cultural values. But to do that the Church, too, has to be free instead of being torn apart by confessional quarrels, to say nothing of smearing itself by servile kowtowing before the powers that be. As for those who feel Christian, the main thing for them is “not to betray the religious meaning of freedom.”…

At the moment we are witnessing the construction of a new global civilization, so far the most successful, that started with European-Christian culture. Its extensive spread proved possible as a result of the secularization of the “Christian world” (which until the 15th century was identified with Europe). Having fulfilled its role of teacher, Christianity exerted a beneficial influence on human mentality within its radiation field, inculcating in it the humanist norms of behavior and morality. It would seem that Christian ideas have taken root in European civilization forming its subsoil, for without understanding Christian symbolism it is impossible to understand the most sublime achievements of literature, art or music. But the experience of the 20th century shows that this referred only to the best of art, while the soil remained perfectly pagan. The revolt of the masses rejected Christianity falling back on the gods of the soil...

Well, you get the idea. It's a long article, so you get just the best nuggets here.

If the gist (and really, only the gist) of what Vladimir is saying it on the mark, then for European-style democracy to survive, it needs a spiritual strength. But for that strength to "take" in modern European culture, it needs to combine humanism (considered the anti-Christ by N.Am. fundamentalist Christians!) with the teachings of Jesus, and then together with a culturally relevant form of of worship + spiritual exploration + community. It couldn't be top-down (Europe has too much experience with totalitarianism), dogmatic (ditto here), or smells-and-bells (too anti-intellectual).

In other words, trying to convert Europeans to the kind of Christianity that many North Americans would accept (dogmatic, top-down, book-centred, liturgical/euphoric, nonhumanistic-- and never mind what this says about North Americans) won't work. So mebbe them missionaries should try a different tack -- like how about asking Europeans what kind of Christianity they would want?

On the flip side, the most church-attending nation in the world in the United States. The state of democracy there? Maybe Christian church attendance isn't enough to support democracy.


At 9:30 PM, Blogger david said...

I think there are several faith communities in North America who regularly depict christa s a terrorist -- and do so openly and with prid eof heart. I don't like their Jesus overly much.

At 3:41 AM, Anonymous John said...

Hi Im from Melbourne Oz.

For a thoroughly different assessment of the state of the world free of the blinders of phoney USA christian self righteousness please check out these related references.

1. www.coteda.com

2. www.dabase.net/restsacr.htm

3. www.dabase.net/proofch6.htm



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