20 November 2004

Europe and America . . . yes, again

The European Parliament has finally approved the new, revamped European Commission -- minus the controversial Rocco Buttiglione, who had the temerity to admit that he actually believes his church's ethical teachings. His treatment at the hands of the EP undoubtedly inspired him to write the following opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal: "Of God and Men," in which he contrasts religious America with secular Europe. Chuck Colson picked up on this in one of his own Breakpoint commentaries a few days ago: "Reconsidering Secularism." David Klinghoffer, though himself a Jew, supports Bush the Christian for reasons given here: "What We Bush Voters Share: In God We Trust." Writes Klinghoffer:

Where, then, does the difference lie between those who look forward to the next four years and those who dread them? It has to do with a philosophical question: not of what is right or wrong, but why certain things are right or wrong.

There are two possibilities. Either we know what's right because God or his earthly agents inform us through objective revelation or tradition — or, we know because that's just what the better-informed human beings appear to have decided, through a subjective process of moral democracy. President Bush is the country's most prominent believer in objective morality.

I wish it were all as simple as this. As a believing Christian who is convinced that one's faith must have public significance, I would seem to fall into the demographic that re-elected Bush. I dislike the fact that so many Europeans -- and Canadians -- are keen, not only to discard their own spiritual heritage, but to try to forget that it even played a role in their histories. I am unequivocally pro-life. I believe that one tampers with long established human institutions at considerable peril. So that makes me a Bushie, right?

Not exactly. Unfortunately, I fear that many Christians, as well as observant Jews, are so caught up in the current culture war polarization that they risk falling prey to three errors by failing to recognize: (1) that, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has aptly put it, the line between good and evil runs through every human heart; (2) that both sides are caught up in the idolatries of the day even as one more easily speaks the language of conventional religiosity than the other; and (3) that politics in the real world inevitably necessitates a willingness, not to seize power, but, along with our opponents, to share it for the sake of accomplishing admittedly partial goods. My own book addresses the second point in particular, although the other two certainly play a role in my argument.

I could wish that the "red state" people, with whom I otherwise identify, would be as wary of the older forms of liberalism and nationalism as they are of the more decadent late forms of liberalism and socialism. I could wish that they would see through grandiose rhetoric attributing redemptive qualities to the spread of freedom and perhaps adopt a more modest, Burkean appreciation for peace, order and good government where it is actually found. I could wish that they would recognize that their own country is but one country among many, all of whose governments are called to do public justice as they best understand it within their own territories. I could wish for more, but perhaps it's best to stop for now.

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