Last week, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán gave a speech in which he said something that has caused a maximal freakout among the right-thinking set:
I have formulated five tenets for the project of building up Central Europe. The first is that every European country has the right to defend its Christian culture, and the right to reject the ideology of multiculturalism. Our second tenet is that every country has the right to defend the traditional family model, and is entitled to assert that every child has the right to a mother and a father. The third Central European tenet is that every Central European country has the right to defend the nationally strategic economic sectors and markets which are of crucial importance to it. The fourth tenet is that every country has the right to defend its borders, and it has the right to reject immigration. And the fifth tenet is that every European country has the right to insist on the principle of one nation, one vote on the most important issues, and that this right must not be denied in the European Union. In other words, we Central Europeans claim that there is life beyond globalism, which is not the only path. Central Europe’s path is the path of an alliance of free nations.
Well, there you have it. Sounds right to me. There’s more — and here, Orbán really and truly sets himself out as a visionary:
Our opponents are very close to succeeding – we don’t even sense how close they are. And neither do we appreciate the significance of this fact. Without lengthy explanation, I’d merely like to provide you with a brief overview. If you think back over the past one hundred years or so of European democracy, you can detect a pattern in which matters in Europe have effectively been decided by competition between two camps: on one side, communities based on the continuing foundations of Christian tradition – let us call them Christian democratic parties; and, on the other side, the organisations of communities which question and reject tradition – let us call them left-wing liberal parties. Europe moved forward with these two forces competing with each other; sometimes one was dominant, while sometimes the other was. This competition even had beneficial effects: it released energy and intellectual power. In fact this competition guaranteed Europe’s development, being both political and spiritual in nature. Up until now this has been Europe, this has been European politics, and this is how the allocation of power in Europe has been decided. But, Dear Friends, a situation can arise in one country or another whereby ten per cent or more of the total population is Muslim. We can be sure that they will never vote for a Christian party. And when we add to this Muslim population those of European origin who are abandoning their Christian traditions, then it will no longer be possible to win elections on the basis of Christian foundations. Those groups preserving Christian traditions will be forced out of politics, and decisions about the future of Europe will be made without them. This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the situation, this is the goal, and this is how close we are to seeing it happen.
The upcoming elections are therefore of the utmost importance. In these elections we must demonstrate that there is an alternative to liberal democracy: it is called Christian democracy. And we must show that the liberal elite can be replaced with a Christian democratic elite. Of course in Central Europe there are many misconceptions related to Christianity and politics, and so here I must make an incidental observation. Christian democracy is not about defending religious articles of faith – in this case Christian religious articles of faith. Neither states nor governments have competence on questions of damnation or salvation. Christian democratic politics means that the ways of life springing from Christian culture must be protected. Our duty is not to defend the articles of faith, but the forms of being that have grown from them. These include human dignity, the family and the nation – because Christianity does not seek to attain universality through the abolition of nations, but through the preservation of nations. Other forms which must be protected and strengthened include our faith communities. This – and not the protection of religious articles of faith – is the duty of Christian democracy.
Having got to this point, there is just one trap – a single intellectual trap – which we must avoid. It is part of human nature to be reluctant to step outside one’s comfort zone and engage in disputes; and so we are willing to make concessions to our opponents. But on intellectual issues this does more harm than good. The bait for this trap is hanging right in front of our noses: it is the claim that Christian democracy can also, in fact, be liberal. I suggest we stay calm and avoid being caught on that hook, because if we accept this argument, then the battle, the struggle we have fought so far will lose its meaning, and we will have toiled in vain. Let us confidently declare that Christian democracy is not liberal. Liberal democracy is liberal, while Christian democracy is, by definition, not liberal: it is, if you like, illiberal. And we can specifically say this in connection with a few important issues – say, three great issues. Liberal democracy is in favour of multiculturalism, while Christian democracy gives priority to Christian culture; this is an illiberal concept. Liberal democracy is pro-immigration, while Christian democracy is anti-immigration; this is again a genuinely illiberal concept. And liberal democracy sides with adaptable family models, while Christian democracy rests on the foundations of the Christian family model; once more, this is an illiberal concept.
What’s most interesting to me about it is that he rejects the empty claim of liberal neutrality. Liberalism, he says, has become a system and a way of looking at the world that destroys nations and traditions, especially the Christian tradition. He’s right about that: it’s not a bug of liberalism, but a feature. It’s something that’s very hard for Americans to see, because we were founded as a liberal nation, and unlike contemporary Europe, we have not yet faced mass migration from non-Christian civilizations. For traditional Europeans, this is not an abstract discussion. They are fighting to save their civilization. If that requires illiberal democracy, fine.
One can’t expect liberals to be happy with this. But one hopes at least that they recognize that the kryptonite they’ve been able to use so effectively for so long to paralyze opposition no longer works on people like Orbán.
It’s hard to transfer Orbánism (if that’s a word) onto the American scene, because European culture is far thicker than US culture. This is not a criticism of either side, but a recognition of reality. Europeans have a lot more tradition and traditionalism to build on than we do. We are far more atomized and commercialized. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t think about what Orbán’s ideas might mean in an American context, but it does mean that they can’t be transferred one-to-one.
It is also the case that from the outside — especially from an American perspective — some of Orbán’s policies seem hard to defend. But if you to to Hungary, as I have, and get a better understanding of the situation on the ground (versus hearing about it through the US and Western European media), you better grasp why he does the things he does. You still may not agree with it, but he’s responding to threats that Western liberals don’t perceive as threats, but as liberation. You really get a sense of what it is like for foreigners to be told by Americans that they (the Americans) come to liberate them from their traditions by bringing liberal democracy. Americans rarely stop to ask if the people there actually want liberalism, at the expense of the things that make them a people.
For me, what’s especially interesting to consider is how this kind of thing is playing out in the Church on the Continent. Pope Francis and the Italian Catholic bishops are pro-immigration extremists (see here and most especially here, a post that includes the comment by a bishop that he would happily see all his churches turned into mosques if that would help the migrants.) But the liberalism of Catholic Church elites does not simply express itself in migration policies. You can see them collaborating to advocate for the destruction of the Christian family.
A German Catholic reader sends in a translation of a new article in the official publication of the German Catholic bishops. The reader writes:
In Stuttgart, a Catholic youth organization (which is officially approved by the diocese, btw) took part in this year’s Christopher Street Day parade [gay Pride — RD] and even received an award for their contribution. Today, the Catholic news website katholisch.de, which is paid for by the German Bishops’ Conference, featured an op-ed that praises the Catholic Youth’s CSD rapprochement and slams potential critics. The piece’s author, Simon Linder, is a consultant for church politics and youth ministry in the BDKJ (Bund der deutschen katholischen Jugend), the umbrella association of all Catholic youth federations in Germany. I’ve translated Linder’s op-ed for you and attached the translation to this mail; if the translation sounds clumsy in places, I can assure you that the original text is already awkward enough.
Here’s the link to the original:
I’m used to expecting more ill than good from katholisch.de, but this time, I could hardly believe my eyes.
The translation of the article:
Catholics, Celebrate with Homosexuals!
During last Saturday’s Christopher Street Day celebrations, about 80 young people outed themselves as Catholics. Under starting number 81 they took part in the CSD’s political parade through the streets of Stuttgart, celebrating diversity and tolerance. In the afternoon it became especially obvious that they were not only tolerated but very welcome: The „Katholische junge Gemeinde“ (KjG, „Young Catholic Congregation“) Rottenburg-Stuttgart that had organized the young Catholics’ participation in the parade received the award for the best CSD contribution in honor of their creativity and their political statement. Not only were these young people who belong to a Church whose official doctrine views practiced homosexuality as grave sin not rejected, they were even honored.
The KjG are aware of the hurt that lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, transgenders. intersexuals and queers have suffered at the hands of their Church. Instead of ignoring this, they act as a strong counterbalance and commit themselves to a better understanding. The award they received proves that the CSD jury appreciates this commitment. It is more than just an award. It is an invitation to all Catholics: Come join us, celebrate with us! Even though it took you quite a while to come near, we are happy to have you here after all.
On Facebook one might sometimes have the impression that those who oppose same-sex relationships were still a majority within the Church. Perhaps these people will view this article as another example of conforming to the „evil zeitgeist“. They will quote certain verses from Leviticus out of context and with a lack of exegetical expertise. They will fret over the fact that an article like this is even published at katholisch.de and require that the Church’s official doctrine should at least be mentioned in a sidebar.
Whatever: We will not let them spoil our cheerfulness, our openness, our tolerance and our diversity. Thank God, the world is multicolored.
Who is a more trustworthy contemporary steward of European faith and culture: Viktor Orbán, or bishops who preach more immigration and more gay pride parades?