How Europe Lost Faith in Its Own Civilization Reply

Article by Fritz Bolkestein. Interesting to find something like this in the Wall Street Journal.

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Europeans weren’t always so self-hating. The 19th century saw the high tide of imperialism, and Europe was brimming with self-confidence. What has happened? The past century witnessed the cataclysm of World War I, the rise of collectivist dictatorships during the interbellum, World War II and the Holocaust, Stalinism and the societal chaos of 1968. These events eroded our cultural certainties and ushered in the era of multiculturalism, which enjoins us “not to judge” that which is different.

David Gothard

bolkstein

bolkstein

The other foundation of our current masochism is, ironically, the very Christianity that modern generations have been so eager to cast off. Whether we like it or not, our civilization remains deeply marked by Christianity. Consider the Gospel of Saint Matthew, which states that “whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (23:12). Friedrich Nietzsche characterized this as “slave morality.” But one does not have to go that far to realize that this saying, along with instructions to “turn the other cheek” and “go the extra mile,” do not exactly prod people to stick up for their own.

If Islamic civilization may be described as a shame culture, Christianity is a guilt culture. Listen to Bach’s “Passion According to Saint Matthew.” The chorus—that is to say the people—sings, “I shall be punished for what you [Christ] have suffered,” and, “You are no sinner, like we and our children.” Pride joined guilt and we in Europe soon came to believe that the mote in our eye was heavier than the beam abroad.

This would not be a problem if the burden of a bad conscience came with atonement, forgiveness, confession, expiation or any of the other theological or liturgical forms for purging guilt from the sinner. Formerly, Catholicism and Lutheranism provided for the atonement of guilt. But these traditions no longer have credibility in Europe. Feelings of guilt are not sublimated. This also goes for Calvinism, which in its purest form knows no remission of guilt in this life. Its effects have been deep in Europe and outlast the doctrine.

Thus in 1996 the Dutch government declared that its “debate about multiculturalism must be conducted on the principle that cultures are of equal merit.” And so it has gone, for years. In 2002 right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn was assassinated during national elections, three months after he had called to remove an anti-discrimination clause from the Dutch constitution.

The day after his murder, the editor in chief of the NRC-Handelsblad, a leading Dutch newspaper, wrote that “The pride of the Netherlands is precisely that we do not find one culture better than the other.” The writer apparently did not realize that his pride exalted Dutch culture over others—supposedly against national values.

And in 2009, when Utrecht University theologian Pieter van der Horst wanted to devote his valedictory address to “the Islamization of European Anti-Semitism,” the institution forbade it, letting its fear of Islamic displeasure take precedence over another ostensibly protected right in Holland: free speech.

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