May 23, 2010

Regaining What Was Won, But Is Almost Lost

One of the more interesting books that came out in 2006 was Jesus in Beijing, How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Balance of Power by David Aikma whose author, David Aikma, said in an interview,

I would like readers of Jesus in Beijing to grasp how Christianity, though assumed by many in the West to be outmoded and irrelevant to modern life, is regarded by many Chinese as the absolute key to a successful, peaceful, powerful modern China in the future.

This is not to defend the Chinese Communist government over the years and its disastrously bad policies, the genocide under Mao Tse Tung in China and Tibet more than fifty million people, the  "gendercide"  of a hundred million baby girls through forced abortion which is now causing great social instability because young men with no women to marry take to rampaging and kidnapping through the countryside and its violent suppression of political opponents and its complicity in the harvesting of organs of executed prisoners.

But what is happening among Chinese intellectuals is fascinating.  Akima says

But another factor has been a very open-minded approach by many Chinese intellectuals into such phenomena as the remarkable historical primacy of Western civilization around the world. How could this happen? What were the core principles of Western civilization that enabled it, time and again, to correct itself rather than plunge into cyclical and eventually permanent decline? Many concluded that it was Christian ethics and the dynamism of a faith based on a profound hope in the future and a belief that history was not cyclical, as Buddhism and even Confucianism proclaimed, but linear, and with a specific end goal.
--
At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.

How the West Was Won

"To sum up: the rise of the West was based on four primary victories of reason. The first was the development of faith in progress within Christian theology. The second victory was the way that faith in progress translated into technical and organizational innovations, many of them fostered by monastic estates. The third was that, thanks to Christian theology, reason informed both political philosophy and practice to the extent that responsive states, sustaining a substantial degree of personal freedom, appeared in medieval Europe. The final victory involved the application of reason to commerce, resulting in the development of capitalism within the safe havens provided by responsive states. These were the victories by which the West won."
Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success (Random House, 2005)  via Paragraph Farmer

Today, almost alone, Pope Benedict XVI, argues for a return to the vital source that made Europe great, A Revolution of Love is Necessary

It is an exacting challenge. The times we are living in place us before great and complex problems, and the social question has become, at the same time, an anthropological question. The ideological paradigms have collapsed that pretended, in the recent past, to be the "scientific" answer to this question. The spread of a confused cultural relativism and of utilitarian and hedonist individualism weakens democracy and fosters the dominance of the strong powers. A genuine political wisdom must be recovered and reinvigorated; to be exacting in what refers to one's own competence; to make critical use of the research of human sciences; to address reality in all its aspects, going beyond all ideological reductionism or utopian pretension; to show oneself open to all true dialogue and collaboration, keeping in mind that politics is also a complex art of balance between ideals and interests, but without ever forgetting that the contribution of Christians is decisive only if the intelligence of the faith becomes intelligence of the reality, key of judgment and of transformation. A real "revolution of love" is necessary.

More from the Holy Father as he reflects on the "priceless cultural and artistic heritage" of Christianity
"Modern culture, particularly in Europe, runs the risk of amnesia, of forgetting and thus abandoning the extraordinary heritage aroused and inspired by Christian faith, which is the essential framework of the culture of Europe, and not only of Europe. The Christian roots of the continent are, in fact, made up not only of religious life and the witness of so many generation of believers, but also of the priceless cultural and artistic heritage which is the pride and precious resource of the peoples and countries in which Christian faith, in its various expressions, has entered into dialogue with culture and the arts".

Posted by Jill Fallon at May 23, 2010 12:50 AM | TrackBack | Permalink