Dear Friends,<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Religion is irreplaceable for cultivating our conscience. The contribution, which the Christian belief can make to create an ethical fundamental consensus within society, is even seen by philosophers and politicians, who aren’t close to the church. On the occasion of the Pope’s visit in his country, for example, the French President Sarkozy coined the expression “positive laicité” to characterise the relation between the church and the state.
But at the same time, there are countries where the public expression of Christian positions of Christianity is fought massively, sometimes subtly: In Hungary there was an earnest discussion about a possible ban of the chime of church bells. In <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />England, “British Airways”, after a long lawsuit, got the right to bar an employee from wearing a small cross around her neck. This Egyptian woman had already been suspended, because she didn’t want to hide her faith at her working place.
This and other cases of “Christianophobia” in Europe show us how important it is to understand the relation between denominations and stately authority’s right, and defend it determinedly according to religious freedom. The following text will make a contribution to this theme.
Your Europe for Christ Team
P.S. Thank you for praying daily for a Christian Europe.
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About the “laicité” and its enemy, the laicism
From Etienne Rosset
The Expression “laicité” applies to the relationship between politics and religion: it appoints the principle of the separation of the secular and the clerical, the state and religions.
According to the principle of “laicité”, politicians commit themselves not to intervene in religious affairs (like the Appointment of principals – Bishops, Imams, Rabbis – or the formulation of dogmas or the call of a council). On the other side, religious authorities commit themselves not to interfere directly in political areas. The principle of “laicité”, wants to aid the respect of the citizens towards Religions and on the other hand affirm the respect of the believers towards political institutions. An ignorance referring to this or even a disrespect of each of the domains is a violation of the principle of the “laicité”.
However, the differentiation – yes, even the separation – of political and religious instances, does not rule out mutual advice, understanding, and agreement. The religious instances have the possibility to consult political authorities and vice versa.
Thus, “laicité” constitutes a principle of operation of institutions. With it comes neutrality to religions: they don’t try to be a substitute anthropology or even theology. The “laicité” is not carrier of a certain anthropology. “Laicité” does not deliver a judgement upon religion or atheism, but is characterized by neutrality and mutual respect of the religious and political instances. It is a means, not a purpose. Its purpose is freedom, be it in the religious or in the non-religious field.
Who invented “laicité” if not a man called Jesus, who Christians call Christ or Messiah? The gospels tell us: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and God what is God’s.”(Mt. 22:21; Mk. 12:16 and Lk. 20:25). Other then that, Jesus says to Pontius Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world.”(John 18:36).
Before him, a differentiation between politics and religion was unimaginable, for the Jews as well as for Greeks and Romans. Just as dogmatism is the enemy of dogmas, laicism is the enemy of “laicité”.
If the clericalism which admitted priests a political role (as it was usual in the Ancien régime), constitutes a violation of “laicité”, we notice today an endangering of “laicité” from the other side: Laicism produces a militant atheism, which forces itself upon political institutions. It produces an atheistic mindset, which demands exclusive validity and recognition by politics. Its idea of neutrality is based on the postulate of atheism – consequently it takes an anthropological position right from the start and therefore becomes disloyal to the true principle of neutrality. Instead, laicism appears more and more as a sort of missionary zeal. Laicism neither respects religious neutrality of political institutions. It raises the “laicité” in the absolute and hence ignores the order of means and purpose.
Laicism is a sort of monotheism by negation. It rejects the idea of one single God. It denies a first principle (from which everything comes) and a final cause (towards which everything strives). However, it does not argue against the worshipping of some star of the showbiz or sports. Neither does the laicism by any means, steer against the idolatry of money, freedom, and power, which become substitute purposes if religion is suffocated. It does not cut these modern forms of polytheism, because it knows that they are vain.
Clericalism as well as laicism are opponents of the “laicité”: Both demonstrate political power and religious institutions as rivals in a fight for the same purpose. They don’t realise that politics are very different than religion. The clericalism asks the same question which already the apostles asked: “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). The laicism settles on another field; Herod executes those, which he sees as opponents (cf. Mt. 2, 1-18). Unlike laicism and clericalism, “laicité” is not partisan.
The Christian culture, source of the European reason.
Let´s take a look at the artistic and architectural inheritance in Europe or at the principles, which form the basis of western laws. If one appeals to the reason of European culture, he does not get past Christian culture. Doesn’t the principle of the same dignity of every human being lead us to the Judeo-Christian thinking and to Christian anthropology? Whether one accepts it or not, officially or unofficially: European countries are steeped in Christian inheritance. To deny this reveals either blindness or ignorance, bad intention or prepossession – and with it, an indirect violation of “laicité”. This inheritance makes us “dwarfs on the shoulders of a giant“, heirs of an accumulation of cultural wealth, for which we bear responsibility today and which is a matter to work on and to be passed on.