Adonis Diaries

Modern Europe: Re-defines Christianity

Posted on: November 5, 2009

Modern Europe re-defines Christianity; (Nov. 5, 2009)

A few years ago, the European Parliament was considering attaching a clause in the Constitution that Christianity is the foundation of Europe’s civilization. It didn’t pass and Europe saved its modern identity as promoter of human rights and human dignity. How could a religion (one of the many in Europe), one of the various attributes in the vast matrix of a civilization be the exclusive characteristics of Europe?  Europe is a heterogeneous society of Nordic, Slavic, and Mediterranean climate and cultures and was dominated intermittently by several Empires.

Modern Europe has extended to its citizens a minimum of human rights.  This respect to human dignity was not the case until late in the 20th century.  Respect of man did not evolve historically as a continuum but in bounds. Retrospective historical studies tend to discover just the illusion of human respect for rights and dignity.

Europeans claiming Christianity to be the foundation for Europe’s new trend for “mercy, forgiveness, and kindness” (trying to attach these attribute to Europeans) forget that for many centuries the strongest faith in Europe was the taste for violence such as in the Inquisition, the chasing out of the Moslems and Jews from Spain, the Crusading campaigns, the conquest of overseas lands with the benediction of Papal Rome, the division of the conquered lands among the European monarchs by Papal decrees, the religious mass massacres among the Christian sects and factions with Papal consent, the so many wars in Europe where the Catholic Church was an integral party, and the worst of all the Dark Age in Europe that lasted from 400 to the 15th century because the central religious power in Rome was apprehensive of rational thinking and forbade the influx of scientific works that might rob it of its temporal power.

There are Europeans claiming that it was Christianity that set the foundation of the individualistic character in Europe, a non-conformist attitude to the collective norms, rituals, and traditions, the will for self-realization rather than clinging to the behavior of rank and file; these chauvinistic Europeans are also relying on entrenched illusions.  The Christian Church was the personification of harassing free thinkers and burning who defied the Christian central dogma for many centuries. Once baptized as a Christian at birth, you had no other alternatives but to obey the Christian laws.  Christianity was the most exclusive religion among all religions:  It coerced colonized people by force into Christianity.  As “Saint” Augustine wrote “It does not matter the faith of a new convert; what counts is what time and rituals will produce in the long run on him and his descendents.”  This is exactly the tactics of western globalization “Promote the consumerism of technological gadgets and the world will acquire faith in the superiority of western civilization”

It is paganism that disseminated liberal thinking of individuality.  A pagan could worship any other idol in foreign lands (with different name but with the same potency in his mind) and he was never persecuted. A pagan could switch idols that suited his interest of the period and his community would not persecute him or ex-communicate him on his God’s preferences.

The modern principle of universality (which means that individuals of all genders, races, colors, and origins have the same mental potentials and capabilities as human and that the differences reside in societies) was never a Christian dogma. Christianity never had this meaning of universality in its dictionary of laws; a slave was a slave by birth and should accept his condition and offers his miseries and plights as sacrifices to God Jesus who suffered for the entire humanity and forgiveness of the “original sin” that never existed. The discovery by the Europeans of the universality of mankind was due to the de-colonization process, an implicit discourse on the role of society during the 20th century.

How could equality and fraternity have emerged from Christianity in order to claim that Europe’s roots are Christian? Lactance in 314 wrote “People are born equal. In societies where people are not considered equal then justice is not served.  Yes, within the Christian communities there are rich and poor, masters and slaves by the flesh but they are equal in the spirit.”  How sweet! Lactance was repeating St. Paul’s ejaculation that added oil to the machinery of the caste system. Gregory “the Great” considered charity what was offered to nobles reduced to poverty because of the huge suffering they felt of being considered within the rank of the poor classes; thus, the true poor people by birth were so used to their way of life that they didn’t need much charity to survive.

The Western Christian Churches (Catholic and Protestants) supported and maintained the caste system of nobility and the “others” non-noble classes.  The feudal lord had the right to crush his vassals with all the might he possessed as a father had the rights over his kids.

There are many Europeans who claim that it was Christianity that promoted the separation of the spiritual off the temporal power on the basis of Jesus saying “Give to Caesar what is due to Caesar and to God was is due to God”;  this is total nonsense.  Most of the wars in Europe were launched by monarchs against the temporal influence of Papal Rome in state matters.  Neither the Catholic Church not the various Protestant sects relinquished their temporal “rights”.

Protestantism had this indirect advantage that it weakened the central power of Papal Rome; thus, Islam scientific manuscripts were permitted to enter Europe; this new openness to rational discovery was the main catalyst for the Renaissance period and the qualitative jump into modernity.  It does not mean that the previous sentence of Jesus had no influence in the mind of modern Europe; it does not mean also that Christianity willingly relinquished its temporal influence based on that sentence.  The Prophet Mohammad also urged Moslems to acquire knowledge even from China; it worked for four centuries; it does not mean that Moslems remembered that encouragement most of the time.

There are Europeans, when pressed to give an identity (other than their State), they might opt for their religious denomination (with utmost reluctance in Europe) and thus, when a European says that he is Christian it is sort of family name, the latest in heritage, as cathedrals, old churches, and the paintings, sculptures, and music of the Renaissance period. Christianity cannot be used as identification because it won’t do: most of the US citizens also claim to be Christians, as is the case with Latin Americans; does this means that they could also be considered Europeans or European civilization roots?

Modern Europe is democratic, secular, with laws guaranteeing free religious beliefs, free speech, gathering, and opinions, human rights, sexual liberty, welfare states, open borders and travel.  Modern Europe is anathema to the principles and practices of Christian Churches.  Christianity must be glad that the modern European civilization is giving it not just a mere face lift but a totally different identity.

Note 1: This topic was inspired by the last chapter in the French book “When the world became Christian” by late Paul Veyne.

Note 2:  Ten years a go, Europe was the scene of large genocide; not just between “Christians and Moslems” but among Christians of Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox on the basis of “ethnic cleansing” in former Yugoslavia.

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adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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