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Praying With Viktor Orban

That happened on Friday. A Croatian reader sent me the story. The Hungarian leader is praying with Nick Vujicic, an Australian evangelist who was born without arms or legs. From a Croatian story I’ve translated with Google:

The prime minister, who was born into a Calvinist Protestant family but lost contact with his faith after his grandfather’s death, returned to Christianity at the urging of Catholic wife Aniko Levai, with whom he has five children. In the middle of the last decade, he spoke publicly about his conversion.

I was looking around just now online for information about Orban’s Christian faith. I found this 2017 Christmas address he gave to the nation. Excerpt:

When we draw the boundaries of our identity, we mark out Christian culture as the source of our pride and sustaining strength. Christianity is a culture and a civilisation. It is within this that we live. The essence is not how many people go to church, or how many pray with true devotion. Culture is the reality of everyday life: how we speak and behave towards one another; the distance we keep from one another and how we approach one another; how we enter this world, and how we leave it. For European people, Christian culture determines the morals of our daily lives. In borderline situations, this gives us a benchmark and a compass. Amidst the contradictions of life, Christian culture shows us the way. It determines our understanding of justice and injustice, the relationship between men and women, family, success, work and honour.

Our culture is the culture of life. Our starting-point—the alpha and omega of our philosophy of life—is the value of life, the dignity that every person has received from God. Without this we could not evaluate “human rights” and similar modern conceptions. This is why we doubt whether we can export this into the life of civilisations built on other foundations.

The fundamental elements of European life are now under attack. There is now a threat to the self-evident nature of European life: those things one should not need to think deeply about, but on which one only has to act. The essence of culture is that if it is not self-evident, we the people will lose our reference points: one will have no footholds, and one will have nothing against which to check one’s clock or one’s compass. Regardless of whether or not we attend church—or if so, which one we attend—we do not want to be forced to celebrate Christmas behind drawn curtains to avoid hurting the feelings of others.

We do not want our Christmas markets to be rebranded, and we definitely do not want to have to retreat behind concrete barriers. We do not want our children to be deprived of the joys of Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus and the Christmas angels. We do not want to be robbed of the Feast of the Resurrection. We do not want our religious festivals and ceremonies to be haunted by anxiety and fear. We do not want our women and daughters to be molested in crowds of New Year’s Eve revellers.

We Europeans are Christians. All this is ours, and this is how we live. Hitherto we have seen it as natural that Jesus was born, died on the cross for us and then rose from the dead. For us our religious festivals are self-evident, and we look to them to give meaning to our everyday lives. Culture is similar to the human body’s immune system: as long as it is working properly, we do not even notice it. It becomes noticeable and important to us when it is weakened. When crosses are airbrushed from photographs, when people seek to remove the cross from a statue of Pope John Paul II, when they try to change how we celebrate our festivals, then every right-thinking European citizen bristles with anger. This is also true of those for whom Christianity—as Gyula Juhász brilliantly put it—is “just paganism with holy water”. And it is even true of those like Oriana Fallaci, who feared for Europe as “an atheist Christian”.

Today the attack is targeting the foundations of our life and our world. Europe’s immune system is being deliberately weakened. They do not want us to be who we are. They want us to become something which we do not want to be. They want us to mix together with peoples from another world and, so that the process will be smooth, they want us to change. By the light of Christmas candles we can clearly see that when they attack Christian culture they are also attempting to eliminate Europe. They want to take our life from us, and exchange it for something that is not our life. In return for the life we have lived up to now they are promising one which is new and more enlightened. This, however, is a utopia: not the essence of real life, but distilled from abstract, theoretical sophistry. Utopias are dreams: potentially wonderful, and therefore alluring. But they are just as incoherent, impenetrable, obscure and meaningless as dreams are. One cannot live in them, or be guided by them.

We cannot claim that Christian culture is the peak of perfection. This is precisely the key to Christian culture: we are aware of imperfection, including our own imperfection; but we have learned to live with this, to draw inspiration from it and to derive impetus from it. This is why for centuries we Europeans we have been striving to improve the world. The gift borne by imperfection is that we are given the opportunity to improve. Those who promise a beautiful, new, mixed world now want to take this opportunity from us. Now they also want to destroy everything that we must preserve for future generations; our duty to do so is derived from the knowledge that, when called upon to do so, our ancestors shed blood to preserve it for us.

By the way, if you haven’t yet read Kelley Vlahos’s great piece about the 1956 anti-Soviet uprising in Hungary, and what it says about Hungary today, please do!


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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