All over the world, Christian-influenced political movements are advancing. In Britain we find this strange.
In the interminable Brexit debates, everything is seen in economic terms. The ultimate political question – the sovereignty of the nation and who we are and want to be – is never mentioned. Even when immigration is touched on, it is to stress its financial profitability. The effects of large-scale immigration on the nation’s underlying culture is never seriously faced.
Such is the progressive grip of the elites and their compliant media that in Britain we are reluctant to say we have an underlying culture. More importantly, we are afraid to say that this culture is Christian-based.
Not so elsewhere. The latest surge of cultural-Christian politics is to be found in South America, where fast-growing Protestantism is making its presence felt.
Sworn in on January 1, Brazil’s new president Jair Bolsonaro immediately laid out his priorities. Addressing the National Congress, he made clear his intention to lead his country according to ‘Judeo-Christian’ principles. This includes defending the institution of the family against ‘destructive’ gender ideology and political correctness.
This is what his voters wanted. ‘My electoral campaign listened to the call of the streets and forged a commitment to place Brazil first and God above all,’ he said. ‘We can – I, you, and our families, all of us together – re-establish ethical and moral standards that will transform our Brazil.’
Whilst not ignoring Brazil’s economic problems, Bolsonaro, unlike British politicians, realises a nation is more than economics. He is concerned about the underlying direction in which the nation is moving: ‘We face the great challenge of confronting the effects of the economic crisis, of record unemployment, of the ideological indoctrination of our children, of the corruption of human rights, of the deconstruction of the family.’
He is determined to protect the family: ‘We cannot allow destructive ideologies to divide the Brazilian people, ideologies that destroy our values and traditions, destroy our families, which are the foundation of our society.’
He described the breakdown of Brazil’s moral values after decades of socialist rule as catastrophic. The collapse in morality ‘has brought us to the greatest ethical, moral, and economic crisis in our history’.
Damares Alves, Bolsonaro’s minister for women, the family and human rights, and an Evangelical pastor, made it clear that Christian values will shape her ministry, not political correctness. Alves acknowledged that ‘the government is secular, but this minister is terribly Christian. I believe in the ways of God’.
Whilst giving assurances of continued recognition of LGBT rights in Brazilian law, Alves declared that the indoctrination of gender ideology in public schools would no longer be government policy. ‘In this government, a girl will be a princess and a boy will be a prince . . . We are going to do away with the abuse of ideological indoctrination.’
The reaction to her appointment was swift. Due to death threats, Alves did not allow her daughter to attend the confirmation of her appointment.
Europe, too, is seeing the rise of cultural-Christian politics.
Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, is unabashed about Christianity. Once an outspoken liberal given to taunting Christian MPs, he now proclaims his belief that Christianity is vital for Europe’s cultural identity. In 2012 he said, ‘Europe should recognise that without nations it has no heart, and without Christianity it has no soul.’
In Italy, Poland, Switzerland, Hungary, Austria, and to a different extent Russia, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries, populist parties draw on Christian language, Christian imagery and Christian concerns.
Italy’s Lega Nord repeatedly emphasises the defence of ‘the Christian people’, and focuses on Christian symbols in public and state spaces, seeking to protect crucifixes from the encroachment of human rights, multiculturalism and Muslim activists.
The Austrian Freedom Party explicitly identifies Christianity as the ‘spiritual foundation of Europe’. The FP speaks out against hedonistic consumption and aggressive capitalism, and campaigns in favour of church bells over against the Islamic muezzin.
Marine Le Pen’s charismatic niece Marion Maréchal, once seen as a likely successor as leader of France’s National Rally, has withdrawn from party politics. This is believed to be temporary; she may be making moves to start a new party.
Last summer Maréchal, a devout Catholic, opened a graduate political academy to train future leaders. Her expressed aim is displacing the culture that dominates our ‘nomadic, globalised, deracinated liberal system’.
Most of these burgeoning parties talk of Europe’s ‘Christian heritage’. Many stress their ‘Christian roots’, ‘Christian values’, ‘Christian principles’, or ‘Christian identity’. This doesn’t mean they are led or supported by devout Christians or base their policies on biblical principles. Neither, unfortunately, is there a spiritual revival sweeping the West.
It means there is growing disillusionment with mainstream parties and their backing for the secular globalism crushing Western Christian-based culture. Ordinary people recognise that secular globalism demands open borders and that means open values.
Many are frustrated by the unwillingness of governments to control illegal immigration, resentful of the patronising political aristocracy ignoring their concerns, and uncomfortable with ever-changing moral codes of political correctness.
This is not racism, Islamophobia or small-mindedness, neither is it nostalgia for a lost past. It is a desire to retain and pass on the values and traditions which created the West. As Gustav Mahler said, ‘Tradition is not the cult of ashes, it is the transmission of fire.’
A populism which sees Christianity not as a faith, but an identity may well be naïve. However, denominational leaders dismissing the legitimate ‘call of the streets’ and naïvely aligning themselves with the globalist dream fails the Church. A place is opening up for reasoned, traditional Christian political/cultural input based on sound theological principles.
These movements are happening. If they go off the rails, much of the blame will lie with a Church which, like our politicians, is too concerned with ‘respectable’ opinion to address and interact with the real concerns of real people.