How Should We Spend Our Goodwill?

The New York Times reports on the controversy over the presence of Christian religious symbols on Euro coins:

It therefore came as a rude surprise when, late last year, the National Bank of Slovakia announced that the European Commission, the union’s executive arm, had ordered it to remove halos and crosses from special commemorative euro coins due to be minted this summer.

The decision has been reversed and Slovakia is going ahead with its plan to print the coins with religious symbols. But that was after the controversy had awoken the predictable animosities and inspired the usual talking points. Christian leaders accused the EU of enforcing a godless secularism and supporters of the EU decision accused religious leaders of trying to impose Christianity on a pluralistic Europe. Both were engaged in a pitched battle over the symbolic power of the coin: he who controls the imaginary on the money, controls of the heart of the EU, the argument goes.

There are some important differences between the American context and this situation. Slovakia is arguably still a Christian country in a way America isn’t.  But this kind of war over symbolic politics will be familiar to Americans: replace the money with something else—say, control over who says our inauguration prayers—and the conflict can be  transposed.

In the Spring Issue of Fare Forward, the editors suggested that the fight over symbolic politics is a distraction for the church right now; we are spending our time, money, energy, influence, and goodwill on derivative, top-down campaigns in the vain hope that we will hold on to some cultural power. The way forward, we argued, is the opposite: winning people to the faith from the bottom-up, through strong catecheses, counter-cultural witness, and orthopraxy.

[Image of the Tatra Mountains from Wikipedia]

About Peter Blair

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