August 23, 2005

BLESSED ARE THE FIG MAKERS:

Continental Christophobia Cubed: a review of The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God by George Weigel (Daniel Gallagher, Books & Culture)

The title of the book refers to the stark architectural contrast between two Parisian monuments: La Grande Arche de la Défense and the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Even a cursory glance at these structures reveals two polarized visions of the relationship between faith and culture. The cathedral embodies the subtle intricacy and richness of Catholic social thinking, while the cube was erected to celebrate the humanitarian ideals embraced by French revolutionaries and extolled in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. The potential of the agenda it strives to represent, argues Weigel, may be as vacuous as the space contained within it.

While some are heaving a sigh of despair that Europe simply forgot its Christian roots somewhere along the way, Weigel demonstrates that apathy alone is not the cause of empty churches, plummeting birthrates, and defunct welfare programs on the European continent. Nor is it a matter of Europe deciding that God isn't so important, after all, for public life. Rather, it is the overt and occasionally militant attitude that Christianity is actually harmful to political stability and social progress. Europe is not suffering so much from amnesia as from a severe case of what Joseph Weiler calls "Christophobia." Those who campaigned against the inclusion of any reference to Christianity in the EU constitution stood on the following platform: "not only can there be politics without God, there must be politics without God." Weigel points out that the sinking morale across Europe suggests "that the winners of the European constitutional debate are seriously mistaken." [...]

The book does not leave the reader without a sense of hope. More than advancing his own personal plan for revitalization, Weigel exposes points of light that are already shining. Numerous lay ecclesial movements and religiously inspired free associations are burgeoning in Europe. Weigel makes specific mention of Focolare, Opus Dei, the Sant'Egidio Community, the Emmanuel Community, and Regnum Christi. The effectiveness of movements like these—an effectiveness that baffles secular political pundits—simply proves that John Paul II was right: culture matters. Culture is the underlying fabric that supports a just and free society. Culture also holds the potential of toppling regimes that aim to trample justice and freedom underfoot. Any culture, however, is bankrupt without a memory to sustain it. And that is precisely what Europeans have jeopardized by failing to include, among the 70,000 words that make up the EU constitution, the one word which, more than any other, expresses the key to their civilization.


David Rieff's essay today points up what happens to a Europe that has no God and therefore no culture. Nice though the way the cube invokes Dostoevsky:
You believe in a crystal edifice, forever indestructible; that is, in an edifice at which one can neither put out one's tongue on the sly nor make a fig in the pocket. Well, and perhaps I'm afraid of this edifice precisely because it is crystal and forever indestructible, and it will be impossible to put out one's tongue at it even on the sly.

The fig makers have certainly won the argument.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 23, 2005 6:50 AM
Comments

Did you happen to see the weekend rebroadcast on C-Span with Weigel and Anne Applebaum (another of your favorites) discussing his book? It took place in June before the London bombings. I wish they oould reconvene in light of the events in July and see if their dim view of Europe has changed. It was a really interesting conversation. Very little of the usual secular polemics that usually make me snap off C-Span.

Posted by: Melissa at August 23, 2005 10:52 AM

Drat! I missed that one. I'll see if it's in their video archives.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2005 10:56 AM

Melissa:

Can't find that one except on DVD for $30. Check out Ms Applebaum hammering Dan Rather here though:

rtsp://video.c-span.org/project/c04/c04_wj092404_applebaum.rm

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2005 11:02 AM

Contrast Catholic cathedrals to puritan meeting-houses. Much of Protestantism, and especially Puritanism rejected the ornate richness of Catholic art and architecture as idolatry.

Many suburban non-catholic churches, and even some Catholic churches sprouting up today are indistinguishable from warehouses.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 23, 2005 11:27 AM

Which is why no one ever bother to visits puritan meeting houses, and why so many can't stand the new churches built post-WWII.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at August 23, 2005 11:31 AM

Contemporary churches are, without exception, travesties. There is no sense of transcendence, awe, or majesty. In short, no reason to go there, as Chris points out.

Posted by: b at August 23, 2005 11:38 AM

No one ever goes to churches anymore, they're too crowded.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2005 11:42 AM

Except for, you know, worship.

While the Catholics in South America poured their money into building up the beauty and majesty of the Church, those philistine North Americans with their sparse and spare Puritanesque country church houses were building the greatest culture the world has ever known. Go figure.

Posted by: Shelton at August 23, 2005 11:47 AM

Amen I say onto you, Shelton.

Posted by: erp at August 23, 2005 12:06 PM

Shelton: Exactly. My point is that if you can worship in a sterile, unadorned church, you should be able to worship just as well in your sterile, unadorned kitchen. And so why not do so, and save yourself a drive? Stained glass, elaborate murals, candles, etc--these things aren't just for decoration. They facilitate getting into the mindset for worship and celebration that is the point of Mass. I readily concede that this is not a Protestant ethos, of course...

Posted by: b at August 23, 2005 12:13 PM

b:

How many people can you fit in your kitchen?

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2005 12:19 PM

oj: More than 1, and that's all you need, no?

I've been to Mass in a school cafeteria many times. Have no desire to go to the new LA cathedral, since it's decor looks to be fairly similar...

Posted by: b at August 23, 2005 12:28 PM

Because my kitchen isn't big enough to hold a community event. Though to be fair many Protestant churches do hold service in members homes.

You actually may be preaching to the choir - I'm an Episcopal who drives 30 miles out of my way to attend the "high service" at the downtown cathedral rather than the modern service at my local parish. But I consider this a personal preference rather than a universal principal of worship.

In spite of my personal preferences I recognize that it was and still is that Protestant ethos you speak of that made and makes this country so great. I contend that a nation's success is directly proportional to its acceptance of Christianity, Protestantism, and Dissident Protestantism, in that order (Dissident Protestantism being the most preferable). The focus on the improvement of the individual and the community rather than on the improvement of the adornments of the church is one of the greatest lasting achievements of American Protestantism, and is one of the greatest achievements of American culture. Those little wooden whitewashed country church houses are a monument to American and Christian achievement.

Posted by: Shelton at August 23, 2005 12:37 PM

b:

No. Contra Sartre, Hell is one person.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2005 12:58 PM

Hey everyone,

Here's an article that OJ probably doesnt want you to read:

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0823-03.htm

The article above is a bunch of bs anyways, as anyone who has visted Europe extensively probably knows. I could pull up some stats from elsewhere that disprove it.

Posted by: Dave at August 23, 2005 1:04 PM

oj: I said that "more than 1" is all you need...

Shelton: America is a Protestant nation, undeniably.

Posted by: b at August 23, 2005 1:06 PM

So, as embodied in its houses of worship, dissident Protestantism has much in common with the humanist ideals of the French Revolution. That Weigel fellow does some very interesting connecting of the dots.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 23, 2005 1:10 PM

Dave:

To the contrary, this is about the funniest thing you could ever hope to read:

On security, for which points were awarded for participation in peacekeeping operations and humanitarian intervention authorized by multilateral bodies, such as the United Nations or NATO, Australia and Norway tied for the top ranking, followed by New Zealand, Denmark and the Netherlands. Switzerland was ranked lowest, followed by France and Japan.

No nation on Earth, including Norway, owes its security to Norway. Any nation that has security owes it to the United States. The rest of the measures are equally designed to skirt reality in order to render faithfully Leftist conclusions.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2005 1:15 PM

Robert:

The cube celebrates humanity. No church does.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2005 1:16 PM

Dave, Which "article above" is bs, yours or oj's?

The URL in your comment directed me elsewhere, so I don't know what it is that I, as one who has visited Europe extensively, probably know.

What I positively and definitely know is that I feel like kissing the ground as soon as we land in the U.S.

We're the best and there's no really close second, although not having visited Australia yet, I'll reserve judgment that the Aussies are pretty close.

Posted by: erp at August 23, 2005 1:21 PM

Japan may have a low "participation in peacekeeping operations and humanitarian intervention authorized by multilateral bodies", since their Constitution prohibits them from sending troops into foreign wars, but they contribute boatloads of money to such causes, including the '91 Persian Gulf war, and the current Iraqi situation.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 23, 2005 1:35 PM

Erp - I think you know what I meant.
The URL is fine, i just tried it.

There are positives and negatives that go between the US and Europe; both areas are suffering from the same general recession since 9/11.
In general, from the trends I've seen occuring across the US, I would much rather live in Europe, were the job climate better than it is.
Christianity expresses the key to European history? Well, maybe for Christians living there now. Muslims will soo outnumber Christians in Europe, and the Europeans are openminded enough to recognize that there should be a distinct separation between Church and State.
I'd say this kind of open-mindedness is what I like about Europe the most. We don't see the kind of backwards, Puritanical, literalist Bible-thumping, self-righteous, xenophobic class that has taken hold in much of rural America, that is now being taken advantage by the Republican Party, who are manipulating them through a number of wedge issues that play to their multiple ignorances. The conservatives of Europe are much more educated than that.

Posted by: Dave at August 23, 2005 1:40 PM

Robert -

The Cube and the Crystal Cathedral may look similar but they are focused in entirely different directions.



Posted by: Shelton at August 23, 2005 1:41 PM

My favorite bit of Dave's article was this:

the United States was the most generous in terms of its private giving
What was your point again, Dave?

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at August 23, 2005 1:43 PM

I wouldnt' confuse the wars in Iraq or Aghanistan with a humanitarian intervention or peacekeeping mission. Their actually much the opposite, and its unfortunate no one has been able to step in to prevent the US from raping the Iraqi people.

Posted by: Dave at August 23, 2005 1:43 PM

Dave:

The U.S,. hasn't had a recession since the early '80s and we're in a sufficiently strong boom now that even Japan anmd Europe are being lifted out of their doldrums to some degree.

The future of Europe is indeed Muslim, because they, unlike the secular Europeans, are not tired of life. It'll be a better place then.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2005 1:45 PM

Annoying Old Guy-

Keep reading on...per capita...

Posted by: Dave at August 23, 2005 1:49 PM

Dave:

The Afghans and Iraqis confused them with humanitarian interventions, but what do wogs know....

Of course, Hitler didn't think our liberation of Western Europe was a humanitarian intervention either.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2005 1:59 PM

My favorite part is where Dave says that the job climate in Europe is better than in the US. I guess if you consider being on welfare as having a job.

Posted by: Shelton at August 23, 2005 2:00 PM

OJ - I don't know if recession is the right word.. Restructuring because of rampant outsourcing and mergers; increases in the service industry; The middle class in America is quickly disappearing. It may appear like were in an economic turnaround, but its not the kind of turnaround that happened after WWII. The rich are getting richer the poor are getting poorer, and people are arguing about asinine things like whether or not god in in the EU constitution, or how Natural Selection is taught in Schools, or steroids in baseball, or whether or not the 10 commandments can be posted, or whether or not we should use stem cells to fund potentially the most lifesaving biological research; meanwhile corporations who are trashing this country are laughing at our annoying chatter, all the way to the bank. And like Moby Dick, the singleminded perseverance of the Ahab-like religious types who lead the chase in this religious inquisition are going down an abyss and dragging the rest of American with it.

Posted by: Dave at August 23, 2005 2:01 PM

Dave:

Our poor have the same living standards as Europe's middle class, it just feels like less because they're American.

http://www.brothersjudd.com/blog/archives/022788.html

If you worked two 40 hour a week jobs at a fast food place anywhere in America -- the very lowest rung of our economic ladder -- you'd make more than Swedes make per capita.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2005 2:07 PM

"and its unfortunate no one has been able to step in to prevent the US from raping the Iraqi people."

Yeah Dave, I hear that we're operating the plastic shredders around the clock over there.

Posted by: jefferson park at August 23, 2005 2:09 PM

Shelton - I dont know if you misread or if i mistypes, but I meant the opposite of what you quoted me.

Posted by: Dave at August 23, 2005 2:09 PM

Ahab wasn't religious - he didn't attend the sea chapel before embarkation of the Pequod.

Posted by: Shelton at August 23, 2005 2:09 PM

Shelton - You misread me

Posted by: Dave at August 23, 2005 2:11 PM

OJ - that statistic is absolutely meaningless. If you think the poor in Sweden have it worse than the poor in America, you are dead wrong. Has anyone here seen a lot of homeless people in European cities?

Posted by: Dave at August 23, 2005 2:16 PM

Your right I did, sorry - I thought you meant where the job climate... but you said were the job climate.... So how do you jive that up with your assertion that the US economy is a sinking ship? If unemployemnt and inflation are worse in Europe then how exactly is the US system worse off. By the fruits you'll know the tree.

Posted by: Shelton at August 23, 2005 2:18 PM

Dave makes me long for lonbud's return.

Posted by: erp at August 23, 2005 2:19 PM

The homeless aren't poor, they're ill.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2005 2:21 PM

Dave:

Please provide a reference for the claim that the American middle class is "quickly disappearing".

Home ownership in America is at an all-time high, hardly the hallmark of impoverished masses.

Automobile sales in the U.S. are substantially increased vs. '04 - again, not the behavior of a mostly poor population.

The rich are getting richer much faster than the poor are, but even the poor are getting richer.

Corporations built America, and are continuing to do so.
There are a few business organizations who are out for a quick buck, ignoring what the long term consequences might be, but there are also individuals who commit crimes - we don't therefore say that every person is a latent criminal.

[In Europe, we] don't see the kind of backwards,[...] self-righteous, xenophobic class that has taken hold in much of rural America...

Huh ?
I won't contest the claim that you've been to Europe, but you obviously didn't get a good sense of the cultures.

...that is now being taken advantage by the Republican Party, who are manipulating them through a number of wedge issues that play to their multiple ignorances.

50% - 60% of voters are simply stupid ?

Perhaps the last three national elections have provided information that you don't want to accept.

It's always iffy when you contend that the masses don't know what's in their best interests.
(They don't always do what's best, but that's another topic).

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 23, 2005 2:32 PM

Shelton - The US is worse off because it wont be able to support its massive infrastructure; We have grown too fast and too big for us to maintain our present society in the face of, say, a dramatic increase in the price of oil.

Posted by: Dave at August 23, 2005 2:34 PM

Stop the world, shel, Dave wants to get off.

Posted by: joe shropshire at August 23, 2005 2:39 PM

Down And Out In Europe - The number of homeless in Western Europe is at its highest level in 50 years and rising. What should be done ?

The US [...] wont be able to support its massive infrastructure; We have grown too fast and too big for us to maintain our present society in the face of, say, a dramatic increase in the price of oil.

Absolutely untrue.
Oil would have to go to $ 180/bbl before we started to stagger, and that just isn't going to happen.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 23, 2005 2:49 PM

So you're all telling me that Weigel is all wet, correct?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 23, 2005 2:51 PM

Dave:

We? I thought you were European? Why don't you move if it's so great?

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2005 3:06 PM

Robert:

No, he's bang on. The cube is a monument to man in a dying nation. The Cathedral was built to God in a rising one.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2005 3:11 PM

Dave:

See also: EASY MONEY

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 23, 2005 3:12 PM

Dave -

So the US economy is so bad because its so good - ok.

Also - I don't believe that you've ever been to Europe when you make statements like this:

Has anyone here seen a lot of homeless in European cities?

Anyone who has traveled in Europe will tell you that the prevalence of bums in Western European cities is comparable to the US. Official numbers support this - Unicef shows the homeless population in the EU at 3 million - which is 0.7% of the population and shows the homeless population in the US at 750 thousand which is 0.3% of the population. Keep in mind that the poorest states in Europe are not even counted in these statistics since they are not EU members.

Posted by: Shelton at August 23, 2005 3:18 PM

Robert:

Its not the shape of the building but what goes on inside it that counts. I don't think I'm in disagreement with Weigel since I supposed his comparison of the Notre Dame and The Cube to be a metaphor for the contest of faith and not a literal critique of the state of modern architecture.

Posted by: Shelton at August 23, 2005 3:30 PM

Dave,

The homeless or "bums" as you so delicately put it, are victims of social engineering gone mad. One of Carter's many presidential atrocities, it's so hard to pick out the worst, was the emptying out of the institutions which traditionally cared for those among us who can't take care of themselves, our intellectually and emotionally challenged neighbors, our substance abusers and our criminally insane. It didn't take long for even the most seriously delusional liberal moonbat to realize that much as they wanted to blame the institutions for the condition of their "clients" -- wishing didn't make it so.

So what's a social services agency to do with this large population of unfortunates who can't function on their own? Why blame Reagan for not funding them properly and then just dump them on the streets with instructions to go to the clinic for refills to their meds and then go on to their next do-gooder project.

Oh, and I nearly forgot, the vagrancy laws were also struck down, so the authorities were barred from rounding up the pathetic creatures roaming around in a world they couldn't fathom and re-establishing them in proper institutions.

Check James Taranto's The Best of the Web. He has an ongoing bit about the homeless that perfectly exemplifies their plight.

Posted by: erp at August 23, 2005 5:36 PM

When we were newlyweds, my wife worked in an outreach program targeted at homeless mentally ill people in Columbus. By her account (which is consistent with a number of serious journalistic accounts, including a rather prominent article in Washington Monthly circa 1990, I forget the author's name) the homeless are, in the main, not the pathetic victims of our cruel and heartless system of dog-eat-dog capitalism. Many are substance abusers who spend whatever money they get on their habit instead of food and shelter (why I never, never ever give money to beggars)--victims of physiological addiction and their own foolish choices. About an equal number are mentally ill, and can't help themselves (if it's even possible) because it's hard to stay on your meds in an unstructured street environment. Most of the rest are what the Washington Monthly writer called "people with Factor X"--people who, for whatever reason, are unwilling to do what they might need to in order to obtain shelter. To give an example of Factor X, my wife dealt with one guy who could have lived with his grandmother, but chose not to because it would have meant observing an 11:00PM limit on loud TV or music.

The homeless-as-losers-in-life's-lottery is a lovely myth if you have a Marxist worldview, but it's nothing more than a myth.

BTW, what happened to the armies of the pathetic homeless between 1/20/93 and 1/20/01, anyway?

Posted by: Mike Morley at August 23, 2005 7:27 PM

My name has been used by a troll, ugh!

So much has been said on this thread, I will just add my 2cents and say "good night".

It's sad that so many churches are trying to look and feel "non-churchy". I'm convinced that effective, vibrant worship is less likely to occur in sterile cubes. I l;ike to sense (w/all 5 senses) that I am in fact in church worshipping the Lord God almighty!

Good night.

Posted by: Dave W. at August 23, 2005 11:01 PM

> No nation on Earth, including Norway, owes its security to Norway. Any nation that has security owes it to the United States. The rest of the measures are equally designed to skirt reality in order to render faithfully Leftist conclusions.

No, OJ, the UN is the last best hope of humanity! It's all in "Sophie's World" for those with ears to hear. (Sophie's dad is a Norwegian UN soldier, and quite optimistic about the UN's future prospects.)

Posted by: at August 24, 2005 7:08 AM
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