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Hungary & American Conservatives

CPAC is coming to Budapest this spring, giving US conservative activists a chance to understand why they should support this unfairly demonized country
Hungary & American Conservatives

Good morning from Budapest. I flew over yesterday, but I don’t think I’ve ever made a journey that was so exhausting. There was nothing unusual about it — except that I’m still getting over Covid. When I arrived at my rented flat here, I crashed hard, and slept for 14 hours, with the exception of waking up for an hour and eating crackers and potato chips in the pantry before going back to sleep. Whee! But I’m glad to be here. I will be giving some lectures at Matthias Corvinus Collegium this spring, and doing some work for the Danube Institute, as well as working on my next book. If you’re coming over for CPAC Budapest next month, come say hi, and ask me where to go for your beer (ruin bars in the Seventh District) and coffee (Vinikli, which also serves great Hungarian wine by the glass, and, of course, Scruton).

Wait, I’ve already told you. Oh well, come say hi anyway.

Now, to business. Ross Douthat has a typically incisive analysis on our two political parties and their relationship to democracy. Here’s how it starts:

“There is no sense in avoiding or diluting the magnitude of this turn in our story: One major political party no longer accepts democracy.”

The author of this sentence is the former Obama White House speechwriter Ben Rhodes, writing recently in The Atlantic, but it could have flowed from the keyboard of a hundred different writers in the post-Trump, post-Jan. 6 era. That conservatism and the Republican Party have turned against government by the people, that only the Democratic Party still stands for democratic rule, is an important organizing thought of political commentary these days.

So let’s subject it to some scrutiny — and with it, the current liberal relationship to democracy as well.

Douthat explores how neither party can claim to be fully “on the side of democracy” as Ben Rhodes means here. This is a classic Douthat analysis column, and he criticizes Republicans too. But I want to focus on this part of his take, because it explains something important about why Hungary matters, or should matter, to American conservatives:

But then things get complicated, because the modern Republican Party is also the heir to a strong pro-democracy impulse, forged in the years when Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon won crushing presidential-level majorities but conservatives felt themselves constantly balked by unelected powers, bureaucrats and judges especially.

This experience left the right deeply invested in the idea that it represents the true American majority — moral, silent, what have you — while liberalism stands for elite power, anti-democratic forms of government, the bureaucracy and the juristocracy and the Ivy League.

This, he explains, is why Donald Trump’s “stolen election” claims find purchase with right-wing voters. They are prepared to believe it, based on the framework through which they regard American politics. But — and this is a big but — the Democrats are blinded by their own biased framework. Here’s Douthat:

To be clear, the present Democratic Party is absolutely in favor of letting as many people vote as possible. There are no doubts about the mass franchise among liberals, no fears of voter fraud and fewer anxieties than on the right about the pernicious influence of low-information voters.

But when it comes to the work of government, the actual decisions that determine law and policy, liberalism is the heir to its own not exactly democratic tradition — the progressive vision of disinterested experts claiming large swaths of policymaking for their own and walling them off from the vagaries of public opinion, the whims of mere majorities.

This vision — what my colleague Nate Cohn recently called “undemocratic liberalism” — is a pervasive aspect of establishment politics not only in the United States but across the Western world. On question after controverted question, its answer to “Who votes?” is different from its answer to “Who decides?” In one case, the people; in the other, the credentialed experts, the high-level stakeholders and activist groups, the bureaucratic process.

Who should lead pandemic decision making? Obviously Anthony Fauci and the relevant public-health bureaucracies; we can’t have people playing politics with complex scientific matters. Who decides what your local school teaches your kids? Obviously teachers and administrators and education schools; we don’t want parents demanding some sort of veto power over syllabuses. Who decides the future of the European Union? The important stakeholders in Brussels and Berlin, the people who know what they’re doing, not the shortsighted voters in France or Ireland or wherever. Who makes important U.S. foreign policy decisions? Well, you have the interagency process, the permanent regional specialists and the military experts, not the mere whims of the elected president.

Or to pick a small but telling example recently featured in this newspaper, who decides whether an upstate New York school district gets to retain the Indian as its high school mascot? The state’s education commissioner, apparently, who’s currently threatening to cut funds to the school board that voted to keep it unless they reverse course.

Whereas the recent wave of right-wing populism, even when it doesn’t command governing majorities, still tends to champion the basic idea of popular power — the belief that more areas of Western life should be subject to popular control and fewer removed into the purview of unelected mandarins. And even if this is not a wise idea in every case, it is a democratic idea, whose widespread appeal reflects the fact that modern liberalism really does suffer from a democratic deficit.

Which is a serious problem, to put it mildly, for a movement that aspires to fight and win a struggle on behalf of democratic values.

Read it all. 

What does this have to do with Hungary? As you might have heard (see above), CPAC is coming to Budapest in March, one month before the national election which could turf out Fidesz, the party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has been in power since 2010. Orban completely mystifies Western liberal observers, particularly in the media. If you’ve been a follower of mine over the past year, you’ll know that I came to Budapest on a fellowship a year ago, and was startled to discover after being here for only a short time how far from the truth the standard Western narrative of this country and its (democratically elected!) leader is. Mind you, I’m not saying that the Orban government is completely unproblematic, but I am saying that it is far, far better than the way it is routinely portrayed in US and western European media. And not only that: the Fidesz government here is in many ways an example of successful national conservatism/populism.

Because of CPAC’s plans, American journalists are suddenly really interested in the growing relationship between Hungary and the American Right. I’ve given a couple of interviews in the past two weeks about them. Yesterday, in a series of email exchanges with one reporter, I shared with him why Hungary should matter to American conservatives. I’m not going to quote myself directly, because I don’t want to jump the gun on his story, and I don’t know which of my quotes he’s going to use, but I will explain it in paraphrase.

Re-read that last Douthat passage, and you’ll understand Hungary. At the moment, Hungary is facing persecution by the European Union because of a law it passed last summer that restricts media information about LGBT aimed at minors. It is perfectly normal for any country to restrict what information is available to children. Did you know that Sweden bans advertising that targets children? I fully support this, and wish we had a similar ban in the US. Not all European countries do this, but if any country wanted to, what business is it of other countries to tell them how they should regulate media aimed at young minds? If Hungary had banned ads that tried to convince children to buy products, nobody in the EU would have cared; some might have even praised the Hungarians for defending childhood.

What the Hungarians banned, or at least restricted, was advertising and other forms of information aimed at propagandizing children and minors for a permissive, left-wing take on LGBT. See here for more details. It also says that only approved organizations can offer sex education in schools. Given what US parents are learning about how teachers and school officials systematically deceive them on how they propagandize children to accept genderfluid identities, a lot of us would love it if our local representatives passed a similar law. The problem for the EU, of course, is that the Hungarians hold traditional views about sexuality and gender. If Budapest wanted to restrict ads selling candy and soft drinks to minors, nobody in Europe would mind, but when Budapest wants to restrict selling gender ideology to children, then it’s the most wicked thing in the world. Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, wants to kick Hungary out of the EU over it, and France’s Emmanuel Macron last year characterized Hungary’s law as a violation of hundreds of years of European tradition.

Did you know that incest between consenting adults has been legal in France since 1791, and the French are only just now attempting to ban it?I don’t recall that the Hungarian government or any other European government raised hell about France’s disgusting pro-incest legal regime. What happens in France regarding governing the sexual license of its people is the business of the French. But for Hungary, the EU elites have different standards. The will of the Hungarian people as expressed through their elected representatives, which in this case is generally in line with how most Europeans regarded homosexuality and transgenderism, particularly among children, until seemingly the day before yesterday, counts for nothing.

As I see it, the Hungarians might be wrong about this (I don’t think they are, but maybe I’m wrong too), but they have a sovereign right to be wrong. Yesterday I wrote in this space about a conservative Tennessee school board that removed Maus from the eighth grade curriculum on grounds that cuss words appear in the graphic novel about the Holocaust, and also rodent nudity (presumably of naked Jews, depicted as mice in Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel, going to the showers at Auschwitz). A progressive school board in the Seattle area removed To Kill A Mockingbird from a required reading list because the Civil Rights-era novel about justice in the Jim Crow South uses the n-word. I think in both instances, the two school boards did something idiotic — but I strongly defend their right to make those decisions. If local people don’t like it, they can vote those school officials out. This is how it is supposed to work in a democracy. It was established long ago that European Union elites are all for democracy, until the demos decides something that goes against what those elites prefer. Then it’s the demos that is undemocratic.

See how this works? Similarly with George Soros. The Fidesz government has long made him a symbol of all that they hate. Our media love to say this is an example of anti-Semitism, because Soros is of Jewish heritage (he does not practice Judaism, and is in fact an atheist). American and Western European liberals accept this as an obvious fact — that the anti-Soros attacks are anti-Semitic — even though on evidence, the anti-Soros attacks are not about his ethnicity, but about the fact that he is an extremely rich foreigner who dedicates much of his fortune to trying to change Hungary to fit his globalist principles. It was Soros, recall, back in 2015 who pushed European countries to be far more accepting of Third World migrants. 

The Hungarians refused to settle these refugees, in part on grounds that they are defending Europe from an invasion of people from other civilizations, who will permanently alter the European character of the countries in which they settle. It’s undeniably true. One could still make the case that the moral imperative of accepting these immigrants outweighs the cost of these permanent changes, but that’s not how the globalist, Soros left behaves. It simply screams racism! and tries to demonize politicians like Orban and his ideological allies in other European countries — and the media go along with it.

Conservative Americans have awakened to the malign influence of the globalist billionaire on our own politics, regarding the progressive district attorneys in US cities elected in part with Soros financial support. Their soft on crime policies are turning parts of those cities into hellholes. It is not anti-Semitic to point to this fantastically rich progressive and the role he plays in using his fortune to change America into his image. Our media have gone after the Koch brothers for the same thing for years. But Soros deserves a pass on this scrutiny because he is ethnically Jewish? Give me a break.

In 2018, the Soros-backed Central European University partially moved out of Budapest in the face of hostility from the Orban government. At the time, I did not take a stand on whether this was a good or a bad thing, saying simply that as a general principle, I am against universities feeling compelled to abandon a country. But I did want to give more context to the story than we were getting in the US media. Back then I wrote:

From Douglas Murray’s The Strange Death of Europe:

In October 2015 the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, criticised Soros publicly as one of a circle of activists who “support anything that weakens nation states.” Soros responded publicly to confirm that the numerous groups he was funding were indeed working for the ends described by Orban. In an email to Bloomberg, Soros said that it was his foundation which was seeking to “uphold European values,” while he accused Orban of trying to “undermine those values.” Soros went on to say of Orban: “His plan treats the protection of national borders as the objective and the refugees as an obstacle. Our plan treats the protection of refugees as the objective and national borders as the obstacle.” The dialogues ceased before anyone could ask Soros how long those European values might last once Europe could be walked into by people from all over the world.

In his email to Bloomberg Business, Soros referred to this plan, which you can read in full on the Soros website (GeorgeSoros.com). Excerpt:

First, the EU has to accept at least a million asylum-seekers annually for the foreseeable future. And, to do that, it must share the burden fairly – a principle that a qualified majority finally established at last Wednesday’s summit.

Soros continues:

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has now also produced a six-point plan to address the crisis. But his plan, which subordinates the human rights of asylum-seekers and migrants to the security of borders, threatens to divide and destroy the EU by renouncing the values on which it was built and violating the laws that are supposed to govern it.

Orban was exactly right! Soros believes that borders are less important than moving a million “refugees” into Europe each year, indefinitely. This is not a secret. The globalist billionaire Soros is — was — funding a university in Budapest whose purpose is to radically undermine the political and cultural order of Hungary.

Having seen since then how ideologically captured universities in the US work, in conjunction with government and corporate elites, to radically undermine the political and cultural order that people like me support, I am today far more sympathetic to what Orban did. More from that 2018 post:

Orban leads a tiny and relatively poor Central European country of fewer than 10 million people, is desperately attempting to prevent that country from committing cultural suicide like the rest of Europe. It is hard for Americans to understand what the world looks like from the perspective of a country like that. When I was in Budapest earlier this year, I spoke to an Orban supporter who agreed that he was flawed. In particular, the supporter said that Orban is more susceptible to crony capitalism than he ought to be.

But, said the Orban backer, you have to understand that Hungarians are profoundly wounded by their country’s subjection to the Soviets for much of the 20th century. They feel acutely the pain of losing national self-determination. After communism’s fall there, my interlocutor explained, wealthy Western capitalists swooped in and bought decrepit state industries at fire sale prices. Hungarians were thrilled to be free of the Soviet yoke, but they were not happy to have their economic future in the hands of rich Westerners. Part of Orban’s popularity has to do with his willingness to say that Hungarians ought to be deciding the future of Hungary, and not only to say it, but to back it up with policies.

This is why the Hungarian people supported him in his refusal to yield to Brussels’s demand that Hungary accept large numbers of “refugees.” And this is why they generally support his nationalism.

Orban considers Soros’s university to be an agent of real corruption in the heart of his embattled nation. Consider something as petty as the gender studies program at the university. That’s a garbage discipline that promotes an ideology that destroys marriage and family. When I was in Hungary earlier this year, I spoke to people there who could not grasp the West’s acceptance and promotion of transgenderism, and gender ideology more broadly. I’m serious: it made no sense to them at all. I warned them that not long ago, it wouldn’t have made sense to Americans either, but cultural elites have stopped at nothing to mainstream it, and even to turn it into law. The same will happen to them if they aren’t careful.

And:

George Soros has never hidden his desire to spread secular liberal values to the former Soviet bloc countries. A few years back, the Obama-era USAID paired with Soros to translate and publish Saul Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals into the Macedonian language, and distribute it there, to undermine the conservative government. In 2016, USAID announced a plan to spend $300,000 promoting “LGBTI inclusion” in Macedonia.

It seems to me that the Orban government correctly understands that the culture war is a war of imperialism and subversion fought by other means by nations and private actors (Soros) who wish to defeat traditionalists. Whether or not that justifies kicking Soros U. out of the country is a separate question. But American readers should understand that coverage of this event in Western media is not telling the whole story, and gives no context for understanding why the Hungarians would see Soros U. as a threat to their sovereignty — and indeed, why they would see decadent Western liberalism as a threat to their existence as a people.

Read that whole 2018 post. 

Now, again, re-read these Douthat lines:

This vision — what my colleague Nate Cohn recently called “undemocratic liberalism” — is a pervasive aspect of establishment politics not only in the United States but across the Western world. On question after controverted question, its answer to “Who votes?” is different from its answer to “Who decides?” In one case, the people; in the other, the credentialed experts, the high-level stakeholders and activist groups, the bureaucratic process.

Do you see why Hungary is important to American conservatives now? Or should be? It is led by a man and a party unbowed by attacks from globalist liberal elites like George Soros, Mark Rutte, and Emmanuel Macron. Orban’s fight is our fight too. For that matter, the fight waged by national conservative politicians like Santiago Abascal of Spain’s Vox party, Eric Zemmour and Marion Maréchal in France, Giorgia Meloni in Italy, the Law & Justice party in Poland, and others — we may disagree with them on some things, but broadly, their fight is our fight too.

You are not going to hear about this from the establishment media or from establishment Republicans. The anti-democratic authoritarianism, even the soft totalitarianism, of the progressive Left is invisible to the media, and establishment Republicans are way behind the story. This is why I was so pleased to have played a small role in helping smooth the way for Tucker Carlson to come to Budapest last summer and give another side to the story of this country than what Americans normally get. The Tucker Effect has been great; I doubt CPAC would have planned its event here if not for Tucker putting Hungary and Viktor Orban on the radar of US movement conservatism.

To be clear, there are meaningful differences between American populism and the various European populists. For example, the Orban government has been far more aggressive on Covid restrictions than most American conservatives would like. But so what? It’s important to be aware of these differences, and also to do one’s homework and avoid allying with truly anti-Semitic or neofascist political factions (along these lines, it’s interesting how there hasn’t been any reporting that I’ve seen about how the anti-Orban Hungarian left partnered with the genuinely far-right Jobbik party in an effort to unify the anti-Orban opposition in this year’s election; this alliance of convenience with a party that has an openly anti-Semitic recent past has been undiscussed in the Western media). It is important to know, though, that the mainstream US and UK media are not reliable guides to covering right-of-center politics in Europe.

Here is a link to a superb and nuanced 2018 piece in the New York Review of Books by the Columbia University professor Mark Lilla, who is a man of the center left, writing about new paths on the French Right. I was thrilled to read the piece, not only because I’m interested in the French Right, but because some of my Catholic friends and their institutions figure into the piece. Lilla writes about how the French media completely missed the huge popular support for the Manif pour Tous movement opposing same-sex marriage. The movement failed, but it turned out a million Frenchmen on the streets of Paris to demonstrate in favor of the idea that children deserve a mother and a father. Lilla wrote back then:

The first reason is that it revealed an unoccupied ideological space between the mainstream Republicans and the National Front. Journalists tend to present an overly simple picture of populism in contemporary European politics. They imagine there is a clear line separating legacy conservative parties like the Republicans, which have made their peace with the neoliberal European order, from xenophobic populist ones like the National Front, which would bring down the EU, destroy liberal institutions, and drive out as many immigrants and especially Muslims as possible.

These journalists have had trouble imagining that there might be a third force on the right that is not represented by either the establishment parties or the xenophobic populists. This narrowness of vision has made it difficult for even seasoned observers to understand the supporters of La Manif, who mobilized around what Americans call social issues and feel they have no real political home today.

The Republicans have no governing ideology apart from globalist economics and worship of the state, and in keeping with their Gaullist secular heritage have traditionally treated moral and religious issues as strictly personal, at least until Fillon’s anomalous candidacy. The National Front is nearly as secular and even less ideologically coherent, having served more as a refuge for history’s detritus—Vichy collaborators, resentful pieds noirs driven out of Algeria, Joan of Arc romantics, Jew- and Muslim haters, skinheads—than as a party with a positive program for France’s future. A mayor once close to it now aptly calls it the “Dien Bien Phu right.”

Lilla went on:

This past summer I spent some time reading and meeting these young writers in Paris and discovered more of an ecosystem than a cohesive, disciplined movement. Still, it was striking how serious they are and how they differ from American conservatives. They share two convictions: that a robust conservatism is the only coherent alternative to what they call the neoliberal cosmopolitanism of our time, and that resources for such a conservatism can be found on both sides of the traditional left–right divide. More surprising still, they are all fans of Bernie Sanders.

The intellectual ecumenism of these writers is apparent in their articles, which come peppered with references to George Orwell, the mystical writer-activist Simone Weil, the nineteenth-century anarchist Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt, the young Marx, the ex-Marxist Catholic philosopher Alasdair Macintyre, and especially the politically leftist, culturally conservative American historian Christopher Lasch, whose bons mots—“uprootedness uproots everything except the need for roots”—get repeated like mantras. They predictably reject the European Union, same-sex marriage, and mass immigration. But they also reject unregulated global financial markets, neoliberal austerity, genetic modification, consumerism, and AGFAM (AppleGoogle-Facebook-Amazon-Microsoft).

More:

Whatever one thinks of these conservative ideas about society and the economy, they form a coherent worldview. The same cannot really be said about the establishment left and right in Europe today. The left opposes the uncontrolled fluidity of the global economy and wants to rein it in on behalf of workers, while it celebrates immigration, multiculturalism, and fluid gender roles that large numbers of workers reject. The establishment right reverses those positions, denouncing the free circulation of people for destabilizing society, while promoting the free circulation of capital, which does exactly that. These French conservatives criticize uncontrolled fluidity  in both its neoliberal and cosmopolitan forms.

These are my people! Many of them are committed Catholics who reject the racist far right, but who also are sick and tired of the French conservative establishment. Lilla did a real service in exploring their ideas, and distinguishing them from the outdated and inaccurate stereotypes of the French Right reflected in media coverage. What do you know, James McAuley, the Washington Post‘s Paris correspondent wrote to NYRB to accuse Lilla of trying to whitewash the racism of these French conservatives. I wrote about that here, including Lilla’s response to the accusation. Lilla wrote:

But a reader of McAuley’s letter who had not seen the piece might come to a different conclusion: that it was intended to whitewash Marion (or her grandfather, or right-wing forces everywhere; it’s unclear which) and ignore the real animating forces on the right, which are “white supremacy,” “hatred of the other,” “bigotry,” and “an ideology of exclusion,” all whipped up by the phantom of immigration. In other words, never mind all the things that seem new, forget the writings about family and sexuality, forget all the talk about organic community, forget the lashing out against neoliberalism and tech giants, forget Pope Francis (an inspiration for some). It all comes down to hatred: “Any responsible discussion of the movement’s new developments must begin and end there.”

That sentiment is so common on the left, and not only in France, and so fruitless for confronting the contemporary right, in all its manifestations, that I’m moved to respond, though this was not my original subject. The forces McAuley lists are real enough in our societies. But it is foolish to deny or minimize social realities that xenophobes exaggerate and exploit, in the vain hope of cutting off their oxygen. Equally foolish is an unwillingness to take up fundamental political questions that the xenophobes give bad answers to, and to try giving better ones—questions like Ernst Renan’s “What is a nation?” These avoidance instincts must be resisted. If there is anything we’ve learned in recent decades, it is that closing our eyes or establishing taboos on what can and can’t be discussed, or how, always backfire. The left needs to present people with a fuller reality than the right presents, not an equally restricted one.

He’s right. Mark Lilla is an old-fashioned liberal who believes that defending liberalism requires understanding its opponents and challengers, not living in a phony dream world. I am quite sure that Mark Lilla vehemently opposes Viktor Orban and most of the European populist right. But to his great credit, he is trying to understand them. Meanwhile, within his own university, Lilla has been denounced as one engaged in “making white supremacy acceptable” because of his criticism of the fanatically illiberal left in the wake of Trump’s 2016 victory.

Anyway, I’ve rambled too long. The reporter I emailed with yesterday asked me how I square my own conservative commitments with my support for Orban, given that Orban’s policies don’t always line up with mine (the example he brought up was how fighting abortion has not been a priority for Fidesz). My response was that Hungarians are not the same as Americans; we have different traditions, and different concerns. Plus, after forty years of Communism, Hungarians are less religious overall than Americans are. Still, I was not aware in my answer that Hungary’s abortion laws are significantly more restrictive than American ones. I wish we were as restrictive of abortion as Hungary is!

Anyway, on the general point about why we American conservatives should make alliances with Hungarian conservatives, even if we don’t share 100 percent the same views, I told the reporter that I learned an important lesson interviewing anti-communist dissidents in the former Warsaw Pact countries. In particular, when I asked Kamila Bendova how she and her late husband, Vaclav Benda, justified their close alliance with Vaclav Havel and the other leaders of the dissident movement, given their own strict Catholicism (the rest of the dissidents were irreligious and sexually adventurous), she told me that under conditions of totalitarianism, the rarest quality to find in individuals was courage. She said the overwhelming majority of Czech Christians kept their heads down and wanted to avoid trouble. The Bendas weren’t that way. There were so few brave anti-communist dissidents that when you found one, you needed to figure out how to stand with that person, no matter how much you differed on religion, morality, and politics. That lesson really stayed with me, and it’s why I have no trouble at all standing with anti-woke liberals like Bari Weiss, Heather Heying, Bret Weinstein, Peter Boghossian, and others. We disagree on many things, but we all share the conviction that the wokeness that has captured the American establishment and its institutions is the greatest threat facing us all now. Similarly, I don’t like some things about the Orban government’s policies (e.g, its tolerance for corruption, its openness to establishing a Chinese university here, its use of Pegasus spyware against journalists), but on the big and important things, Orban and Fidesz are on the right side, and they deserve our allyship.

For example, did you know that Hungary, alone among the nations of Europe (to my knowledge), has a state ministry dedicated to advocating for and helping persecuted Christians? I wrote about it last year when I visited its director, Tristan Azbej. Excerpt:

More than a third of a billion people around the world — Christians — are persecuted, Azbej said, but their plight is barely mentioned in United Nations, European Union, and human rights NGO circles.

“The reason for that is mostly political. First of all, the Muslim majority countries, they don’t necessarily persecute Christians, but they are interested in hiding the fact that Christians are persecuted,” Azbej said. “Second, the Western liberal governments and politicians want to conceal this fact, simply because it doesn’t fit their narrative. In their narrative, Christianity is the oppressor, is the persecuting ideology that they say— falsely, I think — is persecuting sexual minorities. They are only interested in that.”

Azbej said he and his staff have to deal with this denial every day in the diplomatic world. This is why his Hungary Helps program not only has to deliver aid to persecuted Christians, but has to advocate for them too.

“I’ll give you an example,” he said. “Nigeria currently is where the most severe Christian persecution takes place. Last year there were close to 3,000 reported cases of jihadists murdering Christians for their beliefs. Whenever I talk with Western diplomats and politicians about this, they try to convince me that it has nothing to do with persecution.”

Azbej recalled a conversation with a high-ranking Western diplomat.

“When I explained about the genocide committed by Boko Haram against Nigerian Christians, he told me it wasn’t religious persecution. This was near the beginning of my appointment, so I was really shocked. Do you know what he told me the cause was? Climate change. He said it was farmer-herder conflict caused by climate change.

“I explained the reports and the testimonies we received on the ground,” Azbej continued. “It is true that herders are attacking farmers, but the herders are all jihadists who get weapons and funding from al Qaeda. We had numerous testimonies of them overrunning villages and burning Christians inside their churches. We had a report where they burned alive 150 Christian martyrs inside their church, then they razed the church to the ground and built a mosque instead. But the Western diplomat kept insisting it was climate change.”

Azbej said his secretariat logically belongs in the foreign ministry, but instead he reports personally to PM Orban, because the issue of persecuted Christians is a priority for him. Whenever the secretariat receives representatives from persecuted Christian churches, Azbej takes them over to meet Orban. (A couple of years ago I was present in a meeting with Orban at the Buda Castle in which a bishop from a Middle Eastern church thanked Orban with great emotion for all that Hungary had done for his people).

So, liberals, tell me again why American conservatives, especially Christian conservatives, are supposed to hate Viktor Orban’s government? Is it because they aren’t ashamed of their country’s Christian heritage, and unlike the US government, sees a particular responsibility to aid and defend persecuted Christians in other countries? The US State Department, at least since the second Obama administration, has made it open policy to defend persecuted LGBTs abroad. Christians? Forget about it. In the mind of liberals and progressives, we Christians are always the bad guys. Hungary doesn’t see it that way. Imagine that. Thanks to the opening Tucker Carlson provided over the heads of the US media and gatekeeper Republican institutions, ordinary American conservatives can start to understand what a friend we have in Hungary — and how we ought to be standing with them, and up for them.

The winter sun is up over Budapest now. I’m going to go out and say hello to the city.

 

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