I keep coming across the idea that the West is abandoning its ‘Christian values’ (here for example). Some say we’re doing so without having anything with which to replace them, while others bemoan the influence of ‘wokeism’, Islam and social media.
This seems to me to be lazy journalism. What Christian values are we talking about?
Self-sacrifice, humility, selling all to help the poor, putting others before oneself? These are Christian values according to gospel Jesus but they have never been the prevalent values of Western culture.
Prohibitions against lying, stealing and murdering, together with admonitions to be civil and respectful predate the Bible by some considerable time. Then, as now, they were not values adhered to by everyone but were, nonetheless, ones that ancient cultures aspired to.
Sexual mores, then. This is, after all, what most Christians mean when they refer to Christian values. These are forever in a state of flux in any culture; however much authorities attempt to legislate sexual practices, consenting adults will always do what they want to do. The sixth commandment and the Bible’s homophobic stance would not exist if adultery and homosexuality were not practised in the barbaric past. Meanwhile, polygamy, paedophilia and non-consensual sex (with slaves) get a free pass in the Old Testament. The West’s sexual mores, which in any case vary from culture to culture, are not based on the Bible.
- Anti-Semitism, superstition, slavery, the subjugation of women and the denigration of those of different religions, race and sexuality, are Christian values, all derived from the Bible, that the West has upheld in the past, and occasionally returns to still. If these are the Christian values we are abandoning then good, and good riddance too. We’re all better off without them.
The West’s values are capitalism, ‘civil rights, equality before the law, procedural justice’, education, empiricism and democracy, none of which derive from Christianity. Arguably they emerged in the West as a reaction against the church and the establishment, with their oppressive values, during the Enlightenment. These are humanistic values that, it seems to me, are not under threat today (though some of them could benefit from reform).
This being said, other values, particularly the right to free speech, empiricism, privacy and the right to live peaceably according to one’s own principles do appear to be under threat. There are aspects of wokeism and its troublesome twin, cancel culture, that pose a threat to these values, which have been, until recently, highly prized in the West. wokeism gnaws troublesomely at the West’s self-esteem and self-respect, rewriting its history and insisting it apologise and make reparation for the actions of people who lived hundreds of years ago. Even so, the values wokeism threatens were not derived from Christianity; you will not find individuals’ rights, empiricism and free speech promoted in the Bible, nor by later church tradition. These values were hard won by enlightened men and women and subsequently evolved, as all values and principles do, over the last couple of centuries. years ago.
Despite the loud lament that the West is losing its Christian values, it isn’t. Apart from a few unpalatable prejudices that can be traced back to the Bible, the West does not operate on Christian values and has not done so, if it ever did, for a very long time.