While writing “Choosing Christianity’s Fate” I did not expect a favorable response. In fact, shortly before posting I had a dream in which people became immensely upset because of what I wrote. I was troubled by this dream and I considered not posting, but I did, because while I do not claim to have a solution to the problem I am posing, this problem exists and it must be resolved. The problem is this: Europe does not have a clear path forward. Paganism, even if it could be restored on a large scale, in any of its present forms, is in no position to serve as the foundation of a new civilization. But neither is Christianity. The reason for this is that Christianity has flaws, perhaps fatal ones. These flaws have always existed, but it has taken centuries for their effects to become fully realized. While the religion of Christianity may be true in an esoteric interpretation of its fundamental doctrines, the Church has made many errors in lesser, but far from unimportant areas. These errors compromise its viability as a foundational religion and instead relegate it to a matter of only individual, personal belief.
Without religion, Europe has no future. If European people and culture are not to disappear entirely, it has three options. These are paganism, Christianity, or Islam. Right now Europe is choosing the third option. This is not due primarily to the importation of large Muslim populations but rather the emptiness and powerlessness of secularism but equally the form that contemporary Christianity has taken. Contemporary Christianity is completely unable or unwilling to defend itself as well as the culture in which it developed. Why is this?
What is the difference between the Christianity of 1095 and that of today? Or more important still, why is there a difference? If something is true, shouldn’t it be unchanging and eternal? Even the most cursory examination of the history of Christianity will reveal that it has taken many, and contradictory forms. Even if it is granted that the true orthodox faith was always preserved in some place, the point is that there has been considerable disagreement. At one time there was a close connection between the Church and the state. This is not the case today. And likewise it was not the case of the early Church.
Before the time of Constantine, the early Church essentially did not give a damn about the well being of the Roman state. Christ’s words on this topic are at best ambiguous. After Constantine the Church’s attitude changed, quite simply because it had to. If the Church was seen as being at odds with the state, then it could not have been adopted as the official religion. The Church’s role included maintaining the proper functioning and well being of the state, its people, and its culture. But this responsibility, and this attitude, is simply not to be found in the New Testament. As stated before, the New Testament was directed toward people alienated from Roman society. It was never intended and is unsuited to serve as the foundation for the civilization, but rather as the faith of individuals within a pagan society. And indeed, even during the Medieval period, when Christianity was at its height, the New Testament did not in fact serve as the foundation of the society. Most people were not Christians, at least not in a New Testament sense.
Luther, and all the others that have questioned and challenged the Church, are the inevitable result of this contradiction. While the specific details differ in each case, the basic issue is always the same, the disconnect between what the Bible actually says and the realities of an official, state approved Church. Christianity will not be able to serve as the foundation of European civilization again, unless these contradictions are resolved. And that resolution would likely include changing the Bible. The link between Christianity and Europe must be made as clear and as strong as that between the Old Testament and the Jews.
Is what I’m describing here utilitarian? Does it disregard whether Christianity is actually true or not and instead look at it merely as a tool? While some will certainly disagree, in my view no, that is not what I am doing here. Following Christ’s own words, one way to judge whether something is true is to judge by its fruit, its outcome or result. And the medieval Church which conducted mass violence in the Crusades rather than turning the other cheek, and spent huge sums of money on immense cathedrals rather than giving that money to the poor, produced truly good fruit. In the same way I believe the religion of the ancient Egyptians was true as evidenced from the fruit of their civilization.
But is that a proper way to judge the truth of a religion? Isn’t religion about the afterlife, what happens after you die? Of course it is. But these two things, the material and the spiritual, are not in contradiction, they go together, or at least they should in any properly functioning society. Race, culture, and law are linked in any true religion. The proper structuring and functioning of any society is to facilitate spiritual growth and eventual liberation. But the New Testament is concerned only with the latter and ignores the former. There certainly are instructions and guidelines for this life but they apply only to individuals. Calls to give up one’s wealth and family cannot apply to the society as a whole and certainly not the state without leading to disorder and eventual destruction.
Sex, as one of the most powerful forces that people experience in this life, is something that needs to ordered properly if societal dysfunction is to be avoided. While there is nothing wrong with celibacy itself, or with the lifestyle of a monk, the error of the Church was determining that a position of religious authority required celibacy. Monks indeed should be celibate. Priests should not, or at least they should not be required to be. It’s interesting that in this case the Church not only broke with European tradition, but also the New Testament which does not require celibacy.
The Church’s teaching on the immorality of prophylactics and certain bodily positions is absurd because while the purpose of marriage is indeed procreation, that is not the purpose of sex itself, which like every action, is eventually to be spiritual liberation but also for pleasure, companionship, and improving health. Of course sex needs to regulated if order in society is to be maintained, but the Church has gone far beyond basic regulation to the point of absurdity. This repression eventually leads to rebellion and disorder.
I am in no way suggesting that Christianity be changed so that it be easier for the people of Europe, that it should appeal to their base desires. To interpret what I wrote in that way is most uncharitable and I am tempted to see that as an intentional misreading. If anything, I am attempting to raise the religion of Europe to a higher standard.
I am suggesting that some religions are appropriate for some people and some are not. Therefore, Christianity which has its roots outside of Europe, had to be changed in the process of converting Europe. If it did not, but was still the faith appropriate for Europe, would imply that Christianity is the faith appropriate for all people, everywhere throughout the world, which is nothing short of grotesque. And because culture and tradition are linked to religion, if Christianity simply replaced paganism, that would devalue those very cultures and traditions. If instead Christianity was seen as a supplement or perhaps enhancement of paganism, those traditions still would have value, which is of course the very thing that folkish or nationalist Christians claim. But the Bible itself undermines this position. The Hebrews are the only people whose religion and tradition is granted validity.
The Christianity of the New Testament is universalist. A Christian following the New Testament should have no objection to mass immigration of third world populations into Europe, perhaps preferring them to be Christian, but not necessarily, as the immigration of non Christians provides easier missionary access. Of course many Christians do object to those things, so it is their own interest to address this weakness.
In the process of converting Europe to Christianity, Christianity indeed was changed. It was Europeanized or paganized. To refuse to acknowledge this fact is either ignorance or dishonesty. The problem is not that these changes took place, it is that they did not go far enough. Although Europe became the home of Christianity, the faith maintained a universalist message, which beyond being inaccurate, was ungrateful. Notre Dame Cathedral and the music of Perotin are not the direct result of the life and teachings of Christ and the apostles, but rather the combination of many histories and traditions, pagan histories and traditions, coming together. And it is these things, cathedrals and masses, not Leviticus or the book of James, which are truly valuable.
This is a divisive issue and I find myself divided on it. When I first learned of the emperor Julian during a history of Christianity course in college, I found him inspiring, even though I considered myself a Christian at the time. When visiting Rome, I was also inspired by the sense of history and tradition at the Church of St. Paul Outside the Walls with its portraits of the Popes, but at the same time I was troubled when attending mass at the Pantheon which felt to me inappropriate and I suggested to someone that it should be restored to a pagan temple.
My view is this: if Christianity is to return to its original form, that is the faith of individuals within a largely non Christian society, unconnected to and unsupported by the state, (and after relinquishing much of its property and wealth) then Christianity is free to do just about whatever it wants. But if instead it is to be the faith of Europe the situation is different. It then has a responsibility to the state, the culture, and the people. It must explicitly acknowledge these things as valuable and its duty to defend them.