Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Christian Background for Political Correctness?

The Fjordman Report

The noted blogger Fjordman is filing this report via Gates of Vienna.
For a complete Fjordman blogography, see The Fjordman Files. There is also a multi-index listing here.



As a non-Christian, I have been complimenting Christianity for contributing immensely to many of the positive aspects of our culture. But precisely because Christianity has so profoundly shaped our culture, isn’t it plausible that it may also, at least indirectly, have contributed to some of the flaws that currently ail us as well?

According to the blogger Conservative Swede, whom I have debated this issue with at some length, Christian ethics is more unfettered in modern liberalism than it is in Christianity itself. The West, and Europe in particular, is sometimes labeled as “post-Christian,” but this is only partly true. We have scrapped the Christian religion, but we have still retained some of the moral restraints associated with it, which have been so mired into our cultural DNA that we probably don’t even think about them as Christian anymore. Yet our humanitarian ideas are secular versions of Christian compassion, and it is Christian or post-Christian compassion that compels us to keep feeding and funding the unsustainable birth rates in other cultures, even actively hostile ones. Likewise, there are elements of Christian thought, such as universalism, that could be seen as the inspiration behind our one-world Multiculturalists.

MachiavelliItalian Renaissance philosopher Machiavelli was more attached to Roman than Christian culture, and held the view that Christianity was totally unsuited as the basis for any empire. His ideas were echoed by the 18th century English historian Edward Gibbon, who stated in his work The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that Christianity was responsible for the downfall of the Roman Empire, because it made the Romans too soft.. But the eastern half of the Empire, centered around Constantinople, was just as much Christian, and yet survived for another thousand years after the fall of Rome in the West.

I have touched upon this issue before:

Our Western “moral and ethical values” are profoundly influenced by Judeo-Christian thinking. Will our openness to outsiders, our democratic system and our Christian compassion, precisely the values that we cherish the most, render the West incapable of withstanding Jihad? A good Christian has to turn the other cheek and love his enemies. How are we to reconcile this with the reality that Muslims regard this as a sign of weakness? And how can we fight sharia when bishops and church leaders are the first to call for a “compassionate” immigration policy that allows masses of Muslims to settle here? Christians argue that Europe’s problem is a cultural vacuum created by the retreat of church attendance and Christianity as a religion, which has paved the way for Islam to enter. They have a point, as I have shown before. But some Christian groups are opening the West to Islam, too, and the secular state doesn’t have to be insipid and toothless. The non-religious authorities in China are far more ruthless in crushing any Islamic aggression than most Christian countries are. Of course, the downside is that they are far more ruthless in crushing anything deemed to be a potential challenge to their power.

Thomas MoreI have debated the thesis forwarded by Max Weber, that Christianity, or at least Protestant Christianity, formed the basis of capitalism, which could explain the hostility many Marxist display towards the religion. However, as always reality is more complex than this. First of all, Socialists are hostile to the traditional culture also in non-Western, non-Christian countries such as India and China, mainly because they need to break down the past in order to successfully mold the future. And second of all: Christian Socialists do exist. They tend to focus on the radical egalitarianism and the suspicion of wealth that can be found within the Gospels, and view Jesus as a revolutionary hero standing up for the poor and the oppressed. In fact, Marxists have seen an early Communist society described in the work Utopia from 1516, by English writer Thomas More. More’s work is open to several interpretations and some has viewed it as satirical, but he does describe a radically egalitarian society where private property doesn’t exist. More was a devout Catholic, and may have been inspired by the communal life of the monastic movement.
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We tend to view the divisions within the West today as left-right, but the truth is that the Christian world has always been rather divided in the face of Islamic aggression, which has repeatedly been an important cause behind Muslim advances. The Catholic-Protestant divide is just the most recent of these. Author Karen Armstrong is a senior apologist for Islam who calls herself a “freelance monotheist” and is a leading proponent of the idea of a shared “Abrahamic” legacy, that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are “saying the same thing in much the same way, despite their surface differences.” Ms. Armstrong is a former Catholic nun, and when reading her book A History of God, I detected stronger hostility towards Protestant leaders such as Martin Luther than towards Muslims.

Still, by far the oldest intra-Christian divide is the Great Schism between the Eastern and the Western churches, formalized in 1054 but a physical reality long before this. The split of the Roman Empire in two also created a split between two branches of Christianity: The Roman Church in the West replaced the Roman state, unified by the common literary use of the Latin language, while the churches in the East continued with Greek, a linguistic divide that slowly cemented the theological divide. Is the internal, Western bickering today a legacy from the long-established bickering between Christians? When the Ottoman Muslims attacked the Byzantine Empire, some Byzantines even said that it was better to be ruled by Muslims than by the Pope. Has this deep suspicion between Western and Orthodox Christians been retained in Russia, the successor to the Byzantine Empire?

Manuel II PalaiologosThomas E. Woods Jr writes in his book How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization that the Catholic Church played an indispensable role in essential developments in the West: the creation of the first universities in Europe, and before this upholding the classical heritage through its network of monasteries during much of the Middle Ages. If so, we should remember that the monastic movement was a gift from the Eastern churches.

It was born in the Egyptian desert among Coptic Orthodox Christians, and spread throughout the Roman Empire before is partition, even beyond. It has been claimed that Coptic monks brought their ideas to Ireland at about the time of the fall of Rome and deeply influenced Celtic Irish art, which can arguably be seen in works such as the beautiful Book of Kells on display in Trinity College in Dublin. It is hard to verify whether these stories are accurate, but the similarities between the art of the Copts and of the Celts are indeed striking.

One major component of Western self-loathing is the idea that we should we be punished for crimes, perceived or real, committed by our ancestors before we were even born. It could be argued that this idea has its roots in Christian thinking, in the concept of original sin, committed by Adam and Eve, but where all their descendants are subject to its effects. Christian ethics have proved more durable than Christian beliefs. Even when we have supposedly left the religion behind, we still believe we have to make atonement for the sins of our forefathers, but since we no longer believe that Christ has made that sacrifice for us and washed away our sins, we end up sacrificing ourselves instead.

This proves that unbalanced Christian ethics without Christian beliefs can be unhealthy, especially if combined with a high degree of cultural feminization and a focus on the feminine aspects of the divine, the self-sacrificing. Too much of anything will kill you. Christianity does make up a huge component of what Western civilization is, but not everything, since many countries that are Christian are not Western. Underneath a veneer of Christianity has always been the older and more brutal traditions of our Germanic or Roman past. Perhaps Christianity, despite its many great qualities, needs to be balanced out by other more worldly elements, such as attachment to nation states.

19 comments:

KJP said...

And thus, you have found the problem within our post-Christian culture:

the continual confusion between Christianity and social/cultural values!

Christianity works just fine under all forms of government - as long as the government is willing to allow you to live. Rome was no worse than the USSR or any other anti-Christian regime. Christianity flourishes.

But, "Christianity" the cultural based religion so prevelant today, does not do so well. And thus the confusion. It has some aspects of Christianity, but is sold out to social reform, tradition and cultural values - even if they are in direct disagreement with the tenets of Christian faith.

Gibbons based his writings upon Augustine's and he had a slight self serving point - Christians by and large refused to fight to defend Rome's existance. "Christians" either fought or fled to Carthage. Thus leading to Augustine's argument for a justifiable war (first to get the free loaders out of Carthage, secondly to inspire Christian non-combatants to take up arms, again so the free loaders would leave his city!) . So people believe Augustine was the founder of modern Christian thought - I think he needed a good smacking as he was dead wrong on many issues.

The problem that goaded Austine so much was Christians manage to survive, same as Christians managed to survive under Rome, USSR or China for that matter - by attempting to live in peace with all those around them. "Christians" on the other hand are the ones whom would care what type of government or what kind of benefits they can get - today's give me mentality......

Of course, I should identify myself as an ex-Hutterite (though still hold to 99.9% of the faith).

gun-totin-wacko said...

This just reinforces what I've been thinking for a while: I need to start my own religion. Partly Christian (though I subscribe to the "Jesus wasn't a Christian" school), Zoroasterism, and a few others. No Islam of course, but a big old helping of Freedom and "democratic ideals".

I understand that Peace is a nice ideal, but in my mind, the desire for peace has to be balanced by the desire, if not requirement, to resist those that would harm you. Like a "religion of peace" that wants to rule the world, regardless of how they have to get the power.

Peace, my Children.

Spinoneone said...

The two sides of the coin seem to me to be: "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to loose," and "Freedom isn't free." The post-Christians seem to follow the former sentiment; those of a Judeo-Christian persuasion generally follow the latter. Now, where did I leave my '94 Winchester??
Spinoneone

Charles Martel said...

Christianity untethered from its moorings to Jesus Christ metamorphoses into the hideous beast: leftism.

That being said, I cannot understand how to reconcile the teachings of Christ with pacifism. My wife (a conservative Presbyterian - PCA) tells me that the New Testament cannot be viewed except in the context of the Old Testament.

But I (a Catholic) am not a biblical or theological scholar. Too many Christians of Catholic or Protestant stripe are craven blithering idiot pacifists. Pacifism is an ugly bloated slovenly beast.

ricpic said...

The whole problem boils down to the, God is Love, equation. And since Man is made in the image of God...
Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. God's a meanie. And since Man is made in the image of God...Man's a meanie, too. He's gotta be. To survive. Doesn't mean you can't be civil. But, bottom line? It's war baby. Every day in every way.
Insist on believing the opposite? Down! All the way down. Not immediately. And maybe not in one lifetime, or two. Especially when you're surrounded by a population that believes the pablum. Or, at least, fakes belief in it. But eventually, like now, when another population moves in, a population that has nothing but hatred and contempt for the pablum -- the End.

livfreerdie said...

I am not a church goer, but consider myself a Christian in acts, words and thoughts, even though I may backslide occasionally. As far as being responsible for all that ails the world, John 9:1-5 paraphrased, Why was this child born blind? was it his sin or the parents? Jesus replied " Neither, it is so the works of God may be made manifest in him". I have a hard enough time being responsible for myself, let alone what someone did 200 years ago.

As to the Post-Christianity the Gospels remind us to beware of false prophets. I think a lot of the the good deeds done today are a form of the old buy your way into heaven scheme. If people spent half as much time reading the Bible(various translations), commentaries and even the Gnostic Gospels, as they spend trying to feel good about themselves they might understand what Jesus was trying to say.

Tom

Profitsbeard said...

Praise the Lord, if you want to, but please pass the ammunition when the Beheading Cult shows up, while you're doing it.

I prefer Taoism, which understands the absurdity of those who want to confine all reality to their cramped tunnel vision, and the need, at times, to break their fantasy on the rock of reality.

But not gloating about it.

Then you sing a tune about the battle while canoeing in the serene moonlit and sipping wine.

Maybe with a ukeleli.

Maybe not.

Mr. Spog said...

It is probably important to keep in mind here that until well into the 20th century, Western education was based on the pre-Christian Greco-Roman classics -- for example Aristotle's Ethics -- as well as on Christianity. This would have provided some balance or context to Christian ethical teachings (while at the same time causing some confusion, since the two streams of thought were probably not fully integrated). Some such balance seems necessary, if not necessarily our traditional Greco-Roman one.

Ypp said...

Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, used to say: I am not a religious man and I don't attend a synagogue. But the synagogue which I don't attend, is the orthodox one. So do I - I prefer not to invent new religions and new bicycles. The problem of modern people is that they tend to overestimate their mental abilities. But intelligence can deceive you - it is always possible to confuse what is with what you want to be.

Archonix said...

Personally I think many of the problems stem from that good old fashioned problem of misinterpreting the scriptures. I know this is an excuse used by the muzzies, but bear with me while I explain.

The first thing I"ll address is the ideaof the God of love. Even a cursory read of the bible reveals that God is love, but not the passionless, artificial, non-commital 'love' of our modern age, not the sort of love that says we have to 'understand' our foes. It's the love of a parent for a child. It's the love of a mother and a father. The sort of love that will reward good and punish bad. This sort of love is what we're meant to emulate; love that will defend and preserve all that is good and right with the world.

The jewish scriptures, the old testament, go in to this concept at great length. God describes himself in terms of a mother and father, or a parent. Like any good parent he doesn't demand subservience, but simply obedience, and obedience out of love and compassion, not fear.

Love like this drives man to do things that confuse the modern world. The love of a man for his children will drive him to defend them at any cost, disregarding his own life to save theirs. The love of a mother drives her to stand her ground in the face of dangers that would see her flee if she had no children to defend. The scriptures even make the comparison with the mountain lions that existed in those areas, and bears. Both species defend their offspring to the death. That is what Christian love is. Not the wimpy, fussy modern sort of 'love' that is really just sentimental pap wrapped up in nice words.

The second thing I want to address is the pacifism. Again, this comes from a misunderstanding of the scriptures. MOre accurately it comes from the divorce between the church and its hebrew roots as it was absorbed in to the hellenist and then roman ways of life. The key to this is the phrase "turn the other cheek," which many see as a call to simply be passive in the face of violence. It is not. The phrase extends from a custom that held that if you hit someone with the back of your hand you were essentially declaring them to have no soul. By turning your other cheek to the one assaulting you, you goaded them in to striking you again - they would have little choice in the matter for honour's sake. By forcing them to strike you with their open palm you achieved two things: first, you forced them to acknowledge your humanity, and secondly you humiliated them by forcing them to publicly recant the insult. There is an important lesson for us here for dealing with highly honour-based societies, too.

Other apparent pacifistic verses are also similarly misunderstood, being artifacts of a culture that was, and is, radically different to our own, with ideas of honour that are also radically different. Jesus himself was no pacifist. He was a radical. A real radical, not the pseudo-radicals you face today. Christians have forgotten just how radical his behaviour was. And unlike certain other 'prophets' who have co-opted him for their own religion, he was also just and fair. He knew what was right.

USpace said...

Fabulous stuff, well done!
This idea would surely upset the Leftists I suspect, they should all be forced to read it. Instead of 'book burnings' there should be mandatory mass 'book readings'. lol...

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
I do not exist

I am not everywhere
in everything there is
.

David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 04/25/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

Mission Impossible said...

Fjordman ... sometimes you give me an eerie feeling. One day I am working on a topic or thinking about same, and then you suddenly reappear a couple of days later with a new article that includes reference to the very same topic! Here is the latest example; allow me to quote from your article: and it is Christian or post-Christian compassion that compels us to keep feeding and funding the unsustainable birth rates in other cultures, even actively hostile ones. I was on this very subject just two days back.

Am I tracking you or you tracking me? Never mind. Another well formed and accurate article by you. Well done and appreciations.

Lots of good comments posted already, but I am with archonix (4/25/2007 7:38 AM) here.

It is the secularization and "feminization" of Christianity that is at the root of our problem. In the modern era, the Church of England (Anglican Church) is pushing out an essentially Marxist message, and thus shies away from adhering to the scriptures. Too many of our Senior Clergy are old, soft and effete; our young virile men see nothing in Christianity that is relevant to their needs. I think the concept of celebacy is a problem and we should dispense with it, whilst removing women from high office. The leader of the Episcopal Church in America is a woman (as you may already know) and is a strong supporter of all the Cultural-Marxist claptrap so typical of her gender and nationality.

If Christians were indeed as passive as you have suggested Fjordman, then the Crusades would never have happened. So, we can always find religious justification for aggressive self-defence if we have the right leadership.

I have the Holy Bible loaded in my Palm T/X handheld and I love reading it; but the last time I attended Church was many years ago. That, I guess, is an experience we can all relate to.

Melissa said...

I have to disagree with your premise on this one, Fjordman. Today's neutered Christianity isn't what formed the basis for so much of Western Civilization. After Vatican II, and throughout the sixties, the Roman Catholic Church followed most other Christian denominations in softening its message, becoming more "inclusive," and "modern." Too many people said that the Church was backward, chauvinist, misogynist, homophobic, etc, etc, so the Church changed to accomodate the changing mores of the time. I don't want to open a can of worms of those change, because the point is this: when the cargo got thrown overboard, a lot of the Church's toughness went with it.

This is the same organization that sent the Crusaders to Jerusalem, the same organization responsible for the Inquisition, and one that preached hellfire and brimstone for millennia. Christians didn't hesitate to defend their Church and their countries in God's name, at the point of a sword when necessary. Passivity is no more a foundation of the Church than it was originally a foundation of the United States--anymore than it is the natural condition of mankind.

I'd say that it was the 60's counter-culture that caused the softening of the Church, not the other way around. The newly 'inclusive' Church is the reason why everyone associates "turn the other cheek," with Christianity before almost any other precept, forgetting that Jesus was no Kumbaya-singing metrosexual. He drove the money changers from his Father's temple with a whip. He said that "it would be better to fall into the ocean with a millstone around your neck than to face my father's judgment, if you give scandal to children." [paraphrased] Compassion, care for the poor and infirm, and repentence are all part of Christianity, but righteous wrath used to have its place, too. It was understood within the Church that "compassion" wasn't the beginning and end of a Christian's responsibility.

Neutering Christianity is what has left us with nothing BUT standing around feeling compassionate, when an old-school Catholic would be kicking butt in defense of the weak, oppressed, and helpless. Your premise is basically a "chicken or the egg," question, but in this case, the Church came well before political correctness historically and ideologically, and the softening of the Church, its weakness in the face of a religion that has attacked it more often than any other, is in response to weak and flimsy sixties thinking, rather than the other way around.

Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

Wicked good.

In a nutshell, there are cultures of creation and cultures of destruction.


Choose one.

Paul Green said...

At a forum I attended Monday at Arizona State University West on the theme of “Conflict or Common Ground? Evangelical, Jewish, Muslim Perspectives,” the Christian panelist cited several Biblical verses that seemed to me to epitomize how Christian doctrine can prepare a culture for dhimmitude. One need look no farther than Bat Ye’or’s “The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam” to see the extent to which it has historically done so. In addition to the better-known pacifist platitudes from the Gospel of Matthew such as “Love your enemies,” “Turn the other cheek,” and “He who lives by the sword will die by the sword,” the panelist cited such injunctions as “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man” (I Peter 2:13) and “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers ... Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour” (Romans 13:1, 7). These seem ill-considered in the face of the depredations of a totalitarian “prophet” who would command his followers to fight Christians until they “feel themselves subdued” (Quran 9:29) and to “let them feel in you a harshness” (Quran 9:123).

But in fact there are other elements of Christian scripture more suited to the present danger, which a friend of mine has noted in a cogent refutation of the notion that Christianity is a pacifist faith. These include Jesus’ observation that “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace his goods are in peace. But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils” (Luke 11:21, 22), and his injunction to his followers at the Last Supper that “he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one” (Luke 22:36). The words of Psalm 144 are also worthy of note: “Blessed be the Lord, my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight ... Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood” (Psalm 144:1, 11). Christians of this era accordingly need no more bend to the baleful will of “politically correct” preachers than did those of the Renaissance era to that of the popes whose corruption provoked the Protestant secession.

Manny C said...

Fjordman,

I have posted my response/rebuttal to Fjordman's conclusions over at my blog.

However, I agree with Fjordman's premise that the bastardisation of Christian ethics has enfeebled the Christian West to defend itself against a parasitic enemy that is Islamism.

internet_income_business_opportunity_guy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Conservative Swede said...

For those interested in the dicussions I had with Fjordman, and Lawrence Auster, about the role of Christian ethics, I invite you to read my blog: Conservative Swede. Is Christian ethics truly a major force behind the suicide of our civilization?

I have barely started. There will come much more. Also about the Wilsonian world order.