Was Jesus on the left or on the right? – POLITICS

Press play to listen to this article

How did Jesus associate with the right?

He was a son of refugees who stood up for the poor and urged his followers not to throw the first stone. But when it comes to the ballot box, Jesus has become the political property of die-hard conservatives and anti-migration populists less inclined to turn the other cheek than to send asylum seekers back in danger.

In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, an anti-migration radical, has proclaimed himself a champion of Christian Europe and illiberal democracy. In the United States, former President Donald Trump organized a controversial photoshoot in front of historic St. John’s Episcopal Church holding a Bible.

In Italy, Matteo Salvini, the populist leader of the far-right League party, regularly uses his rallies to make public displays of Catholic symbols such as kissing the rosary. And Giorgia Meloni, who heads the postfascist party of the Brothers of Italy, went viral with a speech in which she shouts: “I am Giorgia. I’m a woman. I am a mother. I am Christian.”

The trend has not gone unnoticed in the Vatican, which has quietly backed down. While the Roman Catholic Church has not backed down from major conservative battles – like abortion and traditional family structures – on other issues, Pope Francis takes an openly liberal stance (by the standards of his predecessors in any case).

“Who am I to judge? ” said once, referring to homosexuality. When it comes to migration, there is no missing an opportunity to advocate a more generous approach – not backing down, for example criticize Trump’s immigration policy as “cruel”.

On a trip to Greece earlier this month, Francis may have compared the European Union’s recently withdrawn guidelines on the use of terms like “Christmas” and “Christian” to the actions of historic dictatorships. But the main event of his trip was a speech to asylum seekers and officials, in which he called on Europe to take a softer stance on migration and prevent the Mediterranean from becoming “a desolate sea of the death “.

The Pope also appears to have sided with US President Joe Biden in a raging debate among American Catholics over whether politicians who support the right to abortion should be denied the sacrament. At a meeting in October, Francis called the president a “good Catholic” and said he should continue to receive Communion, Biden told reporters.

The point, said Manuel Enrique Barrios Prieto, secretary general of the Commission on Bishops’ Conferences of the EU (COMECE), is that the 2,000-year-old teachings of Jesus cannot be reduced to the political categories that were developed during the French Revolution. at the end of the 18th century.

“The real problem is to use categories or labels that are more of our time and our political discussions, than of the time of Jesus,” he said. “Our labels, they shouldn’t be applied to Jesus.”

Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin issued a similar warning against the politicization of God when he met with leaders of the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) in September, which includes the mainland Christian Democrats .

“In Christianity you don’t choose what you like the most or what is the most comfortable”, he said. “In Christianity, you have to accept everything” because it is not like “going to the supermarket”.

To Caesar what is to Caesar

The discussion of Jesus’ place in earthly politics has been going on since, well, biblical times. Asked by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate if he was king of the Jews, Jesus answered. “My kingdom is not of this world.”

“The message of Jesus is a religious message, it is not a political message,” said Barrios Prieto. “Although obviously the message of Jesus – the teaching of Jesus – has political and social implications.”

From the Middle Ages to the days of more recent thinkers like Hegel and Nietzsche, the debate on Jesus “created a cultural industry … which enabled him to become a paladin of causes of all kinds,” said Marco Filoni, political philosopher at Link Campus University of Rome.

He agreed that it was not correct to use modern political categories to talk about Jesus – “in the same way that we would not apply them to other historical figures like Genghis Khan”, he said. declared.

It is mainly in modern times that Christianity has become primarily linked to one side of the political spectrum, with Christian Democratic parties in countries like Germany or Italy making it their duty to represent religious values. , while in many cases socialists and communists have adopted a secular, often anticlerical worldview.

The most recent upheavals in Europe have produced a new cohort of political parties taking up the banner of Christianity as part of identity politics.

The financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the migration crisis of 2015-2016 created “in large sectors of public opinion a general feeling of decline and triggered a climate of fear and suspicion against globalization, liberalism, foreigners. … In short, against the very idea of ​​an open society, ”said Iacopo Scaramuzzi, author of a book on how populists have used Christianity.

“All of these politicians quite suddenly started to use Christianity and Christian symbols in a very instrumental way, in order to reassure their constituents,” he added.

Man creates god

The politics of these new movements often have little to do with faith. Populist politicians are rarely devotees; in many cases, they don’t even have a traditional family: Trump and Salvini are divorced; Meloni is a single mother. And in Europe at least, their constituencies are increasingly secular.

Embracing religion is often less a matter of faith than of nostalgia. They “recognize Christianity as a common language, an aura of tradition, a comfortable memory of a golden past, when there was no European Union, no same-sex marriage, no Muslims in the city,” said said Scaramuzzi.

Jesus, he says, is reduced to “an identity marker”.

Whether Jesus is thought to be on the right or on the left usually depends on his position on the political spectrum. A recent study in the United States has found that when it comes to politics, man creates god in its image rather than the other way around.

The researchers asked those interviewed to imagine what Jesus would have thought about contemporary issues. Christian Republicans imagined a Jesus who tended to be against redistribution of wealth, illegal immigrants, abortion, and same-sex marriage; while the Christian Democrats thought he would have held much more liberal views, favoring charity towards migrants rather than, say, opposition to abortion.

The European Trinity

Given the importance of European populist parties, it was perhaps inevitable that the clash between religion and politics would eventually spread to Brussels.

At the end of last month, the European Commission withdrew an internal document intended to promote inclusiveness. A suggestion to “avoid assuming everyone is a Christian” and to use phrases such as “holiday times” rather than “Christmas time” caught the attention of right-wing politicians and sparked an uproar that has forced the Commission to do an about-face.

The debate on the place of religion in the European project has a long history, although it has traditionally bubbled quietly below the surface.

The EU includes people of many faiths and not a small number of atheists, and among EU diplomats there are different views on the role of religion in the bloc. One of them joked that the key distinction between the main European political movements is that “the socialists want the government to be god, and the Christian Democrats, god to be the government”.

Much has been said that the three pioneers of EU integration – the German Konrad Adenauer, the French Robert Schuman and the Italian Alcide De Gasperi – were all born in regions close to a national border. Equally remarkable is that all three were devout Catholics. (Last summer, Pope Francis put Schuman on the way to holiness.)

“For Adenauer, as well as for Robert Schuman, Alcide De Gasperi … there was no doubt that the European Union had to be above all a community of values,” said Marijana Petir, a center-right Croatian MP with a degree from Faculty. of Catholic Theology in Zagreb.

But while some leftists saw European integration as a Catholic plot (“The Church has made a triple alliance: Schuman, Adenauer, De Gasperi, three tonsures under a cap”, declared the French socialist president of the mid-twentieth century , Vincent Auriol), the European Union has been largely a secular institution.

Indeed, when EU negotiators drafted a constitution proposal in 2002-2003, an effort to insert language referring to Christianity was rejected by the socialists, with France and Belgium playing a leading role.

The biggest concern these days, for the Vatican at least, is not to inject religion into secular politics, but to keep political battles over identity out of questions of faith.

“We have a rise in populism in Europe, it’s true,” said Barrios Prieto of the Episcopal Conferences of Brussels. “It’s true, maybe some Catholics don’t feel well represented by traditional parties. But what is also very important is the question of identity… We must avoid seeing the Christian identity in confrontation with others.