A Christian Renewal? What the Brexit Means for Traditionalists

 
king alfred

King Alfred

On the morning of June 24, the world awoke to a changed Europe. With the so-called ‘Brexit’ referendum, the UK voted to leave the European Union, and as such, the EU lost one of its most important member nations. Almost immediately, there were calls from France, Italy, and the Netherlands to hold similar referenda, jeopardizing the entire EU experiment.

While a number of scholars and commentators have interpreted the Brexit as indicative of the wave of nationalism that has swept Europe and much of the world, many have missed the significance of this wave for a resurgent conservative traditionalism in the West.

It is most certainly the case that the world is going through a radical realignment along nationalist and provincialist lines. From Bosnia to Chechnya, Rwanda, and Barundi, from South Sudan to Scotland, populations have been turning increasingly inward for civic and cultural identity.

But within these balkanizing tendencies is a process called re-traditionalization. Because globalization challenges the traditions and customs, religions, and languages of local cultures, it tends to be resisted with a counter-cultural blowback. In the face of threats to localized identity markers, people assert their religiosity, kinship, and national symbols as mechanisms of resistance against globalizing dynamics.

Few nations exemplify this connection between a resurgent nationalism and a revived religious tradition than the Russian Federation. There has been a self-conscious distancing from globalism by Russia, drawing inspiration instead from the ideals of a neo-Byzantium, what U.S. Naval War College professor John R. Schindler calls a “Third Rome” ideology, which involves “a powerful admixture of Orthodoxy, ethnic mysticism, and Slavophile tendencies that has deep resonance in Russian history.” From this admixture, Russia has emerged, in the words of a recent article, as “Europe’s most God-believing nation.”

And with this national revival comes a re-embracing of traditional moral values. Along with India, Islamic and African nations, Russians have publically and legislatively rejected what they consider the civilizational suicide of LGBT activism and feminism. Even many Eastern-European countries that feel threatened by Russia’s recent militarism, such as Georgia and Moldova, consider globalized secular values far more threatening.

Indeed, the current rise of nationalism throughout Europe is concomitant with a growing religious conservatism. In Europe, immigration ironically is making the continent more religiously conservative, not less; in fact, London and Paris are some of the most religiously dense areas within their respective populations. Since 1970, charismatic Christians in Europe have expanded steadily at a rate of 4 percent per year, in step with Muslim growth. Currently, Laestadian Lutherans in Finland and Holland’s Orthodox Calvinists have a fertility advantage over their wider secular populations of 4:1 and 2:1 respectively.

It is true that British national allegiances have yet to exemplify anything remotely akin to a Christian revival; indeed, church attendance in the UK has long been on the decline. Nevertheless, there seems to be a decline to this decline. Most people in the UK still think of themselves as Christian, and immigrants from Africa and Eastern Europe, Catholic Poles in particular, have made Britain more, not less, religious. There has been an increase in evangelical church attendance, all the while Islamic birthrates in the UK are dropping to under three children per woman. All of this suggests that the Christian tradition remains a significant factor within British cultural identity and will only increase in the coming years if nationalist trends continue.

And continue they will. We should not regard this resurgent nationalism a temporary political fad. This is because globalization entails its own futility; as we have found with the attempt to bring liberal democracy to the Middle East, few are willing to die for emancipatory politics, feminism, and LGBT rights. But the willingness to die for land, people, custom, language, and religions is seemingly universal. Though a formidable challenger, globalization appears to have no chance of overcoming such innate fidelities.

And so, it is certainly the case that the Brexit signifies the rise of nationalism in Europe, but it also suggests the inexorable revival of traditional values and norms. And while there are a number of current cultural peculiarities and paradoxes indicative of a stubborn secularism throughout the West, we can expect social and cultural trends to resolve such inconsistencies in favor of traditional beliefs and practices.

A renewed Christian Europe may not be so far away.

Published in General
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 41 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Fredösphere Inactive
    Fredösphere
    @Fredosphere

    CuriousKevmo:

    KC Mulville: the larger the group, the smaller each individual becomes. Each individual has less and less influence … and importance … when the group gets larger

    This is genius KC. It’s mine now.

    I agree. Another way to put it is that social groups, like buildings, must not exceed a human scale, or they will become dehumanizing.

    • #31
  2. Fredösphere Inactive
    Fredösphere
    @Fredosphere

    Those who want to understand better why Russian Orthodoxy always seems so unbalanced, narcissistic, and prone to weird enthusiasms (and why it was so easily co-opted during the Stalinist era) should read up on how Patriarch Nikon drove the Old Believers out of the church in the 1600s. When you make enemies out of your most devout members, you create a wound that can fester for centuries. I believe the nihilism, hedonism and spiritual wantonness in Russia that enabled the 1917 revolution had one of its roots in Nikon’s great act of hubris.

    • #32
  3. Fredösphere Inactive
    Fredösphere
    @Fredosphere

    I just saw this paragraph from the Wikipedia page on the Growth of Evangelical Christianity:

    We have performed these unprecedented analyses on several cases. Austria offers us a window into what the future holds. Its census question on religious affiliation permits us to perform cohort component projections, which show the secular population plateauing by 2050, or as early as 2021 if secularism fails to attract lapsed Christians and new Muslim immigrants at the same rate as it has in the past. (Goujon, Skirbekk et al. 2006).

    This explains secularism’s aggressiveness: with its low birth rate, it must by nature be evangelistic in order to survive. It can only grow by luring the young away from their devout parents.

    • #33
  4. KC Mulville Inactive
    KC Mulville
    @KCMulville

    Fredösphere: Another way to put it is that social groups, like buildings, must not exceed a human scale, or they will become dehumanizing.

    And I think what Brexit represents is a rebellion against that. All of the critics are probably right that Britain is abandoning those economies of scale, but they’re holding onto something more important.

    • #34
  5. KiminWI Member
    KiminWI
    @KiminWI

    KC Mulville:

    Fredösphere: Another way to put it is that social groups, like buildings, must not exceed a human scale, or they will become dehumanizing.

    And I think what Brexit represents is a rebellion against that. All of the critics are probably right that Britain is abandoning those economies of scale, but they’re holding onto something more important.

    The Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel keeps springing to mind. Not because I predict that God will scatter the EU, but because of the wisdom in scattering people into smaller groups.   Identities in family, community’s, culture, nation (or online center-right community) are apparently necessary for our stability and function. Even before engaging well outside your group, you must know identity in a group.

    • #35
  6. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    The relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian state today has underpinnings that go back to the Czars. One Vatican spokesperson put it this way when referring to Patriarch Kirill:

    They only know how to be a chaplain to the Czar, whoever he may be.

    That is probably pretty close to the truth. His alleged KGB agent’s codename was “Mikhailov”.

    Caesaropapism,  political system in which the head of the state is also the head of the church and supreme judge in religious matters.

    Caesaropapism was more a reality in Russia, where the abuses of Ivan IV the Terrible went practically unopposed and where Peter the Great finally transformed the church into a department of the state (1721), although neither claimed to possess special doctrinal authority.

    The concept of caesaropapism has also been applied in Western Christendom—for example, to the reign of Henry VIII in England, as well as to the principle cujus regio, ejus religio (“religion follows the sovereign”), which prevailed in Germany after the Reformation.

    • #36
  7. Brian Wolf Coolidge
    Brian Wolf
    @BrianWolf

    Fredösphere:Those who want to understand better why Russian Orthodoxy always seems so unbalanced, narcissistic, and prone to weird enthusiasms (and why it was so easily co-opted during the Stalinist era) should read up on how Patriarch Nikon drove the Old Believers out of the church in the 1600s. When you make enemies out of your most devout members, you create a wound that can fester for centuries. I believe the nihilism, hedonism and spiritual wantonness in Russia that enabled the 1917 revolution had one of its roots in Nikon’s great act of hubris.

    right on! Very good point.  Also the Communist purges killed something like 2 to 3 million of the most devout Russians when they went about liquidating churches and melting down icons.    That kind of persecution didn’t stop until WWII forced Stalin to turn to old school Russian nationalism to resist the Nazis and their allies.  That made a big difference on how the faith was based down and understood by later generations as well.

    • #37
  8. Brian Wolf Coolidge
    Brian Wolf
    @BrianWolf

    Doug Watt: The concept of caesaropapism has also been applied in Western Christendom—for example, to the reign of Henry VIII in England, as well as to the principle cujus regio, ejus religio (“religion follows the sovereign”), which prevailed in Germany after the Reformation.

    Perhaps Boniface VIII and the preceding Popes might contribute to the idea as well when Boniface wrote. ” “Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”[12]

    Agreed that this Ceasaropapism has long plagued the Orthodox church in Russia and elsewhere.

    • #38
  9. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Brian Wolf: A good movie to watch for the current state of Russian spirituality is Leviathan it is in Russian but subtitled and well worth a look.

    I loved Zvyagintsev’s first film.  It’s one of those that got me hooked on Russian film when I first started watching, ten years ago.  The trailers on this one haven’t seemed very promising, but I’ll give it a try when I get a chance.

    An interesting look at Russian spirituality can be found in the film Gruz 200 (Cargo 200).  The setting is the late Soviet days – when the system was falling apart due to filth and corruption. You have to watch it all the way to the end, though, and there is a lot of filth along the way.  (I was reminded of it because one of the actors is also in Leviathan.)

    Another film about Russian spirituality that is Ostrov, a semi-autobiographical film starring Pyotr Mamanov. Some of it could be construed as anti-abortion, so maybe it’s not allowed to be shown in our country.

    One thing that has happened with the rise of Putin is an almost complete elimination of nudity in Russian film – at least in the ones you can find on YouTube. I presume this is done to please the Patriarchs. Unfortunately, it has been replaced by stupidity.  Lots of stupid chick-flicks now, most of which are almost unwatchable.

    • #39
  10. Brian Wolf Coolidge
    Brian Wolf
    @BrianWolf

    The Reticulator: I loved Zvyagintsev’s first film. It’s one of those that got me hooked on Russian film when I first started watching, ten years ago. The trailers on this one haven’t seemed very promising, but I’ll give it a try when I get a chance.

    I agree with all of your post.  Let me just say I found Leviathan to be mesmerizing to watch.  Really couldn’t take my eyes off the thing it is so true to life.  What I mean by that is I have contact with real Russians living in Putin’s regime and the whole thing just rings so true.  The shots, the scenery, symbolism amazing.  It also resonates in the whole former Soviet Union, when the Communist faith collapsed there was just not much to cling too that was not compromised and tainted by the past.    More than just Russia struggle with the spiritual void left by Communism.

    • #40
  11. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Valiuth:I think that one must distinguish between Globalization the technological driven phenomenon and Globalism an ideology formed around that phenomenon. Globalization is the product of our increased ability to communicate and travel and our increased need for resources. Technology and normal human behavior will drive this. Globalism is a political reaction to this phenomenon. To the extent that it is guided by basic principles of Classical Liberalism I think it is a positive thing.

    ^Well said.

    • #41
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.