The death of core Western values
It’s an extreme irony that we should now be marginalising Christianity in the interests of individual rights, when it was Christianity that bequeathed to us those very rights in the first place
Christians and traditional conservatives in Britain will welcome the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights that a Christian has the right to wear a cross at work.
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, praising the judgment, said: “Christians and those of other faiths should be free to wear the symbols of their own religion without discrimination.”
So, in the homeland of Christianity, the source of our Western educational, political, and even legal culture, three legal bureaucrats decide it is not illegal to wear a cross at work. After almost two thousand years of cross-wearing, that indeed is real progress. Three cheers for the ECHR!
But there is another way of looking at this judgment, not as a success for Christians but as a measure of the collapse of traditional Western core values.
For years now, Western countries with large immigrant populations such as France, Holland, Sweden, and Britain have been concerned about the failure of decades of multiculturalism. These countries have witnessed the growth of ethnic and cultural ghettoes.
Back in 1984, Ray Honeyford, a headmaster in Bradford, warned about the dangers of multiculturalism and called for respect for some form of core traditional British culture. Most Western governments now accept that Honeyford was right. Multiculturalism has been a disaster, although at the time he said it, Honeyford was excoriated for his troubles.
But in the self-loathing liberal West, Christian culture, precisely because it traditionally defined what it is to be Western, could never be seen as part of any core set of values that might unite a culturally divided society. On the contrary, Christianity had to be marginalised in order to accommodate the diversity brought about by immigration.
And that’s what is happening to Christianity in the West today. It is being sidelined in the interests of cultural diversity. In theory, accommodating diversity should involve give and take, but Christianity, being the dominant cultural force, has to make most of the concessions; it has to give away more in order to make room for the new, incoming religions.
In any case, Christians are an obedient lot. That goes some way to explain why British Airways denied a Christian the right to wear a cross at work, but allowed those of other faiths to wear public expressions of their religion and culture.
Britain, along with many other Western European countries, is moving out of two thousand years of core-based culture, into a maelstrom social experiment of endlessly contested individual rights. Mere toleration of those who don’t accept core values is no longer acceptable. Everyone must have equal rights, backed up by a morally coreless neutral law.
As the British political philosopher, John Gray puts it:
“What the neutrality of radical equality mandates is nothing less than the legal disestablishment of morality.”
And that’s what we have in Britain and much of Western Europe today—the disestablishment of traditional morality.
But of course the destruction of our Western core values will not, very likely, end in sweetness and light. A society that needs the judgment of three legal bureaucrats before one can wear a cross is hardly likely to satisfy any genuine believer. What happens to our core-free society of equal rights when a believer puts his belief above the law?
For two thousand years Christianity and its secular legacy constituted the modus vivendi for an enlightened Europe. But that modus vivendi has collapsed. We no longer have a core set of values by which to live.
It’s an extreme historical irony that we should now be marginalising Christianity in the interests of individual rights, when it was Christianity that bequeathed to us those very rights in the first place. And you don’t have to be a believer to accept the truth of that statement. Jurgen Habermas, the atheistic German philosopher, has said:
“Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization. To this day, we have no other options. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter.”
Vincent Cooper is a freelance writer
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