Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
March 11, 2002
Get back to your roots!
John Paul appeals to Europeans to embrace their righteous heritage
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
Modern and postmodern humanist conventional wisdom holds that while religion, “spirituality,” and “the sacred” are all well and good "in their place," that place is not the public square. This premise has become a rigid dogma that religion, and the freedom supposedly afforded through secularism and scientific enlightenment, are in conflict.
What people who buy into this notion fail to grasp, due to ideological blindness and/or intellectual laziness, is that Christianity was instrumental to creating the sort of civilization that scientific investigation, and indeed even liberalism itself, to develop in the first place. You can have civilization without Christianity, but what we recognize as Western civilization could not have been without the Christian principles that created it.
Unlike many Christian leaders who have shamefully capitulated to contemporary ideological fashion and beaten a cowardly and humiliating retreat from the public square, Pope John Paul has spoken and written about re-establishing an essentially Christian philosophy as an alternative to the notions of ascendant secular humanism -- a new sociology and anthropology for the 21st century based on genuine Christianity.
He means a restoration of bona fide Christian principles as the philosophical paradigm for mainstream society.
On Feb. 23 John Paul received participants in the third international forum promoted by the Alcide De Gasperi Foundation for democracy, peace and international cooperation, who are presently reflecting on the future of Europe.
"My greatest concern for Europe is that the continent conserve and develop its Christian heritage," John Paul declared. "Indeed, it cannot be denied that Europe's roots lie -- apart from in the Greco-Roman patrimony -- also in the Jewish-Christian heritage which has, for centuries, constituted the most profound essence of its soul. . . . The very modes of thought, feeling, expression and behaviour among European peoples have undergone profound Christian influence."
An observation that applies to North American culture as well.
However, the pope further observed that since the 18th century "a process of secularization has taken place, aimed at excluding God and Christianity from all expressions of human life." The Christian religion has been marginalized into to the sphere of private belief.
Many Christians, tragically, are intimidated into silence by aggressive secularist advocacy, which, among other things amounts to willful historical ignorance. Christianity built this culture; the things that are good about it are essentially Christian things, albeit increasingly adulterated to varying degrees.
"In this perspective," John Paul II asks. "is it not significant that all explicit reference to religion, and hence also to Christianity, has been removed? . . . I have expressed my sadness at this fact, which I feel to be anti-historical and offensive. . . ."
"Indeed," the Holy Father continued, "it is by virtue of the Christian message that great human values have become affirmed in people's consciences. Values such as the dignity and inviolability of the individual; freedom of conscience; the dignity of work and of workers; the right of each to a secure and dignified life and, consequently, to share in the goods of the earth, destined by God to the enjoyment of all mankind."
The civilized social values that secularists ignorantly and arrogantly take for granted, as if they somehow materialized out of thin air, are, as I said, Christian things that have never developed indigenously outside of Christian cultures.
The pope emphasized that "the Church today, with renewed vigour, again proposes these values to a Europe which risks falling into ideological relativism and surrendering to moral nihilism, at times declaring as good that which is evil, and as evil that which is good. It is my hope that the European Union may know how to draw new lifeblood from the Christian heritage that is its own."
The only force powerful enough to arrest social disintegration and a descent into neo-pagan barbarism is Christianity. The choice we face is this: We can restore foundational Christian principles as society's moral and ethical compass, or we can watch this civilization wither, rot and die.
Economic structures, technological innovations and secularist ideologies are too thin a glue to hold functional societies together, because their values and theories aren't backed by objective moral authority.
Ideas substantial enough to sustain democratic culture and functional social order must derive from something more profound than the subjective suppositions of human reason. If people think they want to revert to a paganized, non-Christian culture, they need to be aware of the inevitable consequences of such a policy.
It isn't coincidental that a steady decline in Christian cultural purchase over the past 50 years accompanied a commensurate decline in social order, decency and civility in the West.
Secularists can rant about Christians having "no right to impose their values on democratic society," but those very democratic structures are based on Christian principles like the dignity and worth of each human being in the eyes of God. Remove those values, and this society unravels. It's happening before our eyes.
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