Once upon a time the terms Western civilization and Christian civilization were interchangeable. Very often they were abbreviated. That is, men simply said “the West” and everybody knew what was meant: lands and peoples whose laws as well as customs and way of life — their culture — reflected and indeed were shaped by the commandments and teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Church He founded. These lands and peoples were also known as Christendom.
It no longer exists. It has been replaced, as we were recently reminded by President Biden’s chief economics adviser Brian Deese, by the “liberal world order” (his language) That is what is meant by “the West” today.
Christian civilization was not replaced by the liberal world order overnight. The reasons for its decline and eventual replacement is an important subject, if only so that they may be understood and the direction of history thereby reversed, but tracing them is beyond the scope of the present few lines. It must be noted, however, that the Church, the very institution that gave birth to the civilization, played a key role. That was manifest at Vatican Council II. By then the Church saw that with the end of World War II nearly all formerly Christian lands had come to be dominated by one of two political forces, both inimical to Christianity and Christian social order: Communism, which was openly antagonistic, and secular liberal democracy, which tolerated Christianity as long as the practice of it was kept “private,” which is to say, as long as its adherents did not seek to “impose” their beliefs (above all, their morality) on others. So, with little or no possibility of acting in the world as she could before the advent of the liberal world order, the Church seemed to tell the world, after Vatican II, that she was modifying things both doctrinal and temporal from what they had been in past centuries. To many people it appeared that she was abandoning her mission, assigned to her by Our Lord Himself, to make disciples of all the nations, to make the world — society — Christian. I say “seemed to” and “appeared” both because the Church cannot “develop” her teaching in a heterogeneous way, and because she cannot abandon her saving mission. But modernist churchmen certainly conveyed these ideas with their embrace of modernity, liberalism, and so-called “progress.” It did not help that, in very important ways (though not totally), she even abandoned the language of the West, Latin.
Inevitably, we may even say necessarily, when Christian civilization was replaced by the liberal world order, positive law annealed to natural law was replaced by human rights, including the “right’ to abortion, the “right” to same-sex “marriage”, the “right” to no-fault divorce, the “right” to a trans identity, the “right” to be free of the “oppression” of anything, whether by law or custom, that could limit such human rights.
Inasmuch as the liberal world order has had nearly eighty years to consolidate its rule, it is heartening to see that there are still political leaders with the fortitude to resist its total hegemony. Victor Orban, prime minister of Hungary, is one. Another is Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro who declared after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe (an action denounced by numerous other foreign leaders) that “the defense of life is a mission from God.” Still another is the president of the only major country left in the world where Christianity (albeit schismatic) plays a visible role in the political life of the nation because the Church is welcomed by the state to work in tandem with it for the peace and prosperity of society. I speak of Vladimir Putin and Russia.
I am aware that as soon as I do in other than condemnatory terms I am speaking in contradiction of what readers hear from Democrats, most Republicans, the liberal media, and even many supposed “conservatives.” You are used to hearing ascribed to Putin the fault for all troubles besetting Americans and Europeans nowadays from inflation and food shortages to the high cost of gasoline.
You may also hear from some supposed “conservatives” that Putin’s profession of Christianity is “propaganda,” that he doesn’t really believe what he professes. I don’t know how they can know this, but let’s suppose it is true. Wouldn’t it be preferable to have a leader who is a hypocrite but enacts laws that buttress Christian morality to one who describes himself as a “devout” Catholic but promotes abortion and sodomy?
I would contend it is precisely because Putin believes the practice of Christianity should not be purely private and society is better off when its moral standards are “imposed” by law that the liberal world order finds him to be intolerable. The civilization that is not truly civilized, the “West” that is not the West, simply can’t stand it that Putin and his Russia are outside its orbit and control. This is why the U.S. and EU supply the money and weapons to keep the war in Ukraine going. They seek regime change in Moscow and nothing else.
That could not have been made clearer than at last May’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. It was when the multibillionaire currency trader George Soros, who cannot be criticized lest the critics be branded as antisemitic, took the podium and declared of the war: “The best and perhaps only way to preserve our civilization is to defeat Putin as soon as possible. That’s the bottom line.”
Bottom line? No. The real bottom line is that the “civilization” of George Soros, the liberal world order, ought not to be preserved and will not be when men of the authentic West start living like Christians again, which brings me to a last point.
It was natural and right that remaining Christians celebrated when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, but amid all the celebration there was little mention of an element of Christian living too often neglected as we strive for the sanctity necessary for entrance into Heaven: penance. The sacrifice of 63 million preborn babies on the altar of secular liberal democracy during the decades Roe was the law of the land requires — no, demands — that a great deal of it be done. One fears God will see that it is done forcibly if it is not done voluntarily.