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Christianity and a Divided West

Occidente, El American

Available: Español

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made clear that there is a divide over the identity of the West and Western civilization. This has been especially palpable in the right and conservative circles. It has not, however, escaped the left entirely. As the world’s largest religion celebrates its holiest week, it is worth noting and, perhaps, bridging the gaps of this division. The Free World (another name for the West) has come to the aid of a besieged Ukraine. For some, this sign of democratic solidarity has been too slow and not enough. For other Westerners, the aid should not have happened at all. Why is there a divide?

The West features a set of values, not geographically determined elements. Japan and South Korea are in Asia, yet they are part of the West. Those values include freedom, equality, justice, pluralism, rule of law, representative government, and open societies. Western civilization, the bedrock of the West, was built on a three-legged stool: Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem. Greek philosophy, Roman law, and Christian religion have been the hallmark of what constitutes being Western. When there is a disbalance within those three pillars, an identity crisis ensues.

Ukraine’s heroic resistance has forced the Free World to rethink its role. So far, this has served to energize the West’s essence. The Putin regime’s outrageous invasion of Ukraine, undoubtedly, displayed a gross miscalculation of Western resolve to defend the principles of liberty and democracy. However, had the Free World preserved its compositional balance, preemptive actions by NATO, acting as the West’s armed forces, could have dissuaded Russian tyranny from violating Ukrainian sovereignty and carrying out its current genocide campaign.

The Enlightenment brought with it many noble things. Among them was liberalism (both, classical and modern) and capitalism. However, not everything has proven to be of concrete support to republican institutions such as a free and virtuous citizenry, democratic government, and constitutional primacy. The Enlightenment represented a break with the past, the overrepresentation of individualism at the expense of the common interests, and an economic prototype that prioritized, over time, radical consumerism without considering national security issues or anthropological damage.

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Classical and medieval notions of ordered liberty and traditional bonds were shattered. Thomas Hobbes’ view of nature and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s prescription for remedying social ills laid the groundwork for totalitarian rule. Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America (1835, 1840) keenly noted that such “democratization” trends were dangerous. By dissolving the relations which link people, like the family, religion, and the political community, a void develops that is filled by authoritarian rulers. An atomized, purposeless society, in other words, is the breeding ground for despots.

The American Revolution’s success, when compared to the French as both are prototypes of a liberal political order, is due to the strong religious base that underpinned the U.S. founding and development. A virtuous society, a prerequisite for democratic rule, was bounded by a morality that religion shaped in America. Democracy works well in a morally fit society, which carefully balances rights and responsibilities. However, that Biblical foundation that gave the U.S. the advantage over other democratic experiments in the world, has been challenged with time’s passage by radical secularism, socialism, and other atheistic tenets. In Europe, these dangerous patterns of political religions have had more success. 

Ukraine’s extraordinary ability to resist and roll back Russian aggression can be attributed to its moral reserves. The collective action of a determined people to be daring and heroic in acts of abnegation on behalf of their common identity, love of country, honor, family, and choosing death over bondage, all have factored into their survivorship. All these virtues draw upon classical and medieval thinking. The West has acted upon this boldness and has correctly armed the Ukrainians (although not nearly enough) and punished the Putin regime.

Some conservatives have been skeptical about supporting Ukraine. They point to toxic policies that many E.U. countries have adapted that get their intellectual premise from cultural Marxist doctrines of the Critical Theory series. While it is true that these political courses of Neo-Marxism undermine the very essence of democracy, Putin’s Russia is not a viable alternative. When Alexander Dugin, the Russian dictator’s ideological Rasputin, critiques Western “decadence”, he does not differentiate between the vices of cultural Marxist policies (that deserve challenging), with noble Western standards of liberty, equality before the law, justice, and social compacts of consensual government.

As we observe Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a greater reliance on a transcendental order would help strengthen the values that have defined Western civilization. Freedom, education, science, the value of life and the individual, all found advocates in Christianity. A post-liberal order is, simply, a liberal order that includes God. Happy Easter!

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