Against the Defense of Christendom

Against the Defense of Christendom October 21, 2015

Multiculturalism teaches us to approach the sacred things of others with respect, but we can do this only if we ourselves are not estranged from the sacred, from God.

After reading Ratzinger in context look at Rod Dreher’s pious praise for the Stephens piece:

Amen to that. Could Europe even produce another Joseph Ratzinger today? Read the whole thing. It is incredibly harsh on German chancellor Angela Merkel, as it ought to be, given what the column reports she has done with the Turks.

Such fawning approval for a Nietzschean piece written for the WSJ suggests it would be very difficult for American Christianity to produce a thinker who understands Christianity’s hospitable heritage as subtly as Ratzinger.

Do not proof-text Ratzinger as the detractors of the Regensburg Address did.
A thinker as subtle as Ratzinger should not be used for proof-texting spurious arguments. It will always come back to bite you.

Christianity has, of course frequently fallen short of its theological heritage. However, it always intuitively understood the importance of welcoming the stranger, outcast, widow, no matter what their affiliation might be, from the beginning. I suppose it is possible to take the title of the Stephens piece title seriously and see it not as a defense of Christian values, but a defense of Christianity screwing up, that is, the many abuses of Christendom.

But, it we understand the title as being imprecise, as being an approving slap on the butt of Christianity, then even someone as dogmatically attached to capitalism as Rodney Stark understands how hospitality toward the non-affiliated by a religious minority was a core cause for its rapid growth in late antiquity. In his The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries he numerically demonstrates how Christian aid to the unaffiliated of all classes helped the burgeoning religious movement gain adherents en masse during times of severe social upheaval that make contemporary Europe look like a calm island vacation resort.

There is no reason why a living Christianity, rather than a museum piece called “Christendom,” which is periodically put on display and exploited by writers like Stephens, couldn’t do this again right now for Muslims. The argument that the number of adherents is not sufficient to pull something like that off is not historically valid.

After saying all of this you should also consider why Europe’s most reflected historian of the Christian heritage, Remi Brague, firmly argues that Christianity doesn’t endeavor to save Christianity.

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