Part of the reason why I am so concerned about Europe’s economic decline is that Europe was the cradle of Western Civilization. The United States is the applied epitome of the values that formed our modern civilized world – which makes it so fundamentally important to defend this great Republic – but the ideas that inspired and informed our Founding Fathers originated in Europe.
Some of the original ideas were already half-a-millennium old when the Declaration of Independence was written, while others had sprung from intellectual seeds sown only a century earlier. Together, the ideas that shaped the free, prosperous West – from the discovery of the individual through the invention of the modern form of government to laissez-faire and economic freedom – have helped generations to enjoy freedom and opportunity, to produce prosperity and diminish poverty. The rise of Europe and North America to global dominance was no accident, nor was it the result of some vague “injustice” done upon the rest of the world. Western prominence was entirely the work of values that appealed to and nurtured the best and most peaceful sides of mankind.
In addition to the three pillars of modern society – the individual, accountable government and economic freedom – the West enjoyed one more advantage over the rest of the world: a humble commitment to God.
Also known as Christianity.
Unlike other religions, Christianity opens a relationship between the individual and God that is based not on subjugation or conditions, but on your very existence as a human being. This makes Christianity a peaceful religion that promotes both respect for the individual and the concept of personal responsibility.
With this in mind it is troubling to witness the persecution of Christianity around the world. Even more troubling is the fact that the main defense of Christianity today is not coming from the president of the United States or the leaders of the European Union. They all seem to have lost perspective of what Christianity means for the foundation and continued existence of their peaceful, prosperous societies.
Thankfully, there is a new advocate for Christianity on the global scene, as reported a while ago in a thoughtful column by Bryana Johnson in the Washington Times:
Vladimir Putin said last week that he observes “with alarm” that “in many of the world’s regions, especially in the Middle East and in North Africa, inter-confessional tensions are mounting, and the rights of religious minorities are infringed, including Christians and Orthodox Christians.” The Russian president made his comments at a meeting with Orthodox Christian leaders in Moscow. He urged the international community to take steps towards preserving the rights of Christian people worldwide and preventing the violence that they suffer routinely in dozens of nations around the globe.
Bless Mr. Putin for speaking up. Other than him, there is complete silence among the leaders of free nations. Actually, there is one exception, namely the Norwegian minister of foreign affairs. The silence is appalling; what if these images had been images of mosques burning in Europe?
Interestingly, the Orthodox leaders with whom Mr. Putin met did not stop at criticizing persecution of Christianity in the Middle East. As we return to the Washington Times article, we learn that their concerns are far more widespread than that:
The meeting was held with the leaders of all 15 Orthodox Churches to celebrate the 1,025th anniversary of the official adoption of Christianity by Prince Vladimir in 988 A.D. Orthodox leaders spoke out against what they consider the growing secularist suppression of Christian freedoms in Western nations like the U.K. and France, where same-sex marriage has just been legalized, and Christian business owners have been threatened with jail time and forced to pay fines for refusing to participate in homosexual wedding ceremonies. The Russian Orthodox Church’s chief ecumenical officer, Metropolitan Hilarion, warned of “secularization in disguise of democratization” and of a “powerful energy today [that] strives to finally break with Christianity”
Seven decades of Communism could not eradicate Christianity in Russia. However, as Metropolitan Hilarion observes, Western Europe is much closer to losing its ties to the Christian faith. When that happens, it will be the work not of seven decades of Communism, but of seven decades of the welfare state.
One of the most dangerous characteristics of the welfare state is its diminution of the individual. As a recipient of mass-dispensed entitlements you are not only reduced in your contribution to society, but also forced to conform with the collective to fit the eligibility requirements of those entitlements. The more entitlements government creates the less room there is for you as an individual to form and shape your own life. If you refuse the entitlements you are conformed as a taxpayer instead.
The collectivization of people’s lives comes with a hefty price: your freedom. Recently, that same freedom has been under attack from another angle, namely the growing security state. Interestingly, Metropolitan Hilarion noted this, as quoted by Washington Times:
“Eventually,” Hilarion said, “it unconsciously strives to set up an absolute dictatorship that demands total control over each member of society. Don’t we move to it when ‘for the sake of security’ we agree to obligatory electronic passports, dactyloscopy [fingerprint identification] for everyone, and photo cameras occurring everywhere?”
You know something is afoot when a religious leader in Russia speaks up for individual freedom… As a matter of fact, it is all rather simple. Bryana Thompson explains, eloquently:
Putin … said the church in Russia had been a “moral compass” to many who were looking for help, hinting at the recent century of misery and struggle that the Russian people have endured. He also acknowledged the role that the church has played in “culture and education,” adding, “The adoption of Christianity became a turning point in the fate of our fatherland.” Why is the Russian leadership suddenly recognizing the priceless value to their nation of the Christian virtues they condemned for so many years? It’s simple. The Russian people have learned the hard way about the cultural devastation and decline that results from the rejection of the happy principles that have bolstered the western world for so many centuries. Russia is a nation that has tasted of the fruit of the self-destructive anti-ethical policies that so much of the western world has come to label “progressive.” They already tried dismantling the natural institution of family, and replacing it with state control and regimentation. As a result, they are suffering a demographic crisis, with the highest abortion rate in the world. Russians have more abortions than live births. They already tried out the scheme of deconstructing the faith of individuals and replacing it with a collectivistic, subservient society where people owe nothing to an eternal, unchanging God, but everything to a transient, ever-evolving state. This didn’t serve as any kind of cultural liberation.
Very well put, indeed. Take some time and read the rest of her article. It is worth it.