Brussels is to secular, post-Christian Europe as Rome was to Catholic Europe before the Reformation. That sounds about right. The observation was dashed off casually by Catholic blogger Father Ray Blake, a parish priest in Brighton, England:
Catholics have always been looked on with a certain suspicion in Britain because it is our nature to look beyond national borders, to not only Europe but to the rest of the world, ‘Catholic’ means, in its broadest sense, ‘Universal’.
In the sixth century the Christianisation of England brought with it union with the Pope, the Bishop of Rome and the then Christian world, not only of Europe, but beyond it. In a sense, the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century brought with it England’s withdrawal from the European Union. The pre-Reformation Church in England was European with at least one Greek Archbishop of Canterbury and most of our clergy were educated in the great universities of the continent.
Christianity in England was originally an Italian import, although the more complicated truth was that Rome served primarily as the transshipment center for this product made in the Levant and elaborated in the Hellenistic cities of Asia Minor and in Greece itself. To make their faith more accessible to the people of the Western Roman Empire in late antiquity, Christians eventually rendered Scripture and liturgy into an elevated (some would say stilted) but intelligible form of Latin, the lingua franca. They invested their expression of the whole faith with a kind of Romanitas, which, to regions that had been under Caesar’s rule for some centuries at that point, was at least familiar, if not always exactly native.
After much debate, and rejecting a plea from Pope John Paul II, the framers of the European Constitution in the early years of this century excluded from that document any mention of Christianity, which is obviously integral to European culture. Western secularists who see the religion’s influence as mostly malign and would like to write it out of European history object not to the Mediterranean (Catholic) culture or to the North Sea–Baltic (Protestant) culture that forms the skin of its different denominations but rather to the sexual morality that resides in its first-century Jewish heart.
The Pentateuch prescribes a standard of sexual purity in whose spirit of rigor, if not in all its exacting detail, orthodox Christians have always partaken, even if only to seek forgiveness after lapsing. They consider it essential to a life of grace, in both senses, as well as to any decent, well-ordered society, sectarian or secular. The Romans called such virtue pudicitia. It is not the most important feature of Christian observance but seems to be what most provokes postmodern Europe to reject the religion root and branch, like a body finally rejecting transplanted tissue.
Anti-Zionists choose different turf on which to wage their propaganda campaigns against the Jewish state of the 21st century; they say they object to Jewish nationalism because it’s nationalist, not because it’s Jewish. And so the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union is good news for Zionism, because Brexit was clearly an affirmation of the idea that nationalism per se is a legitimate sentiment, necessary for the self-preservation of a people and of the individuals who constitute it: That’s an argument that has been circulating in conservative circles and that Elliott Abrams, for example, nicely articulated here at NRO.
Brexit is also a warning sign, however, that Israel’s supporters in the West should expect more of the usual trouble. Nationalism is a jealous god. In America, the accusation that “neocons” in government are more loyal to Israel than to the United States is old and established (though not respectable) and hurled in approximately equal volume and with equal force from both left and right. (In 1960, John F. Kennedy fended off the anti-Catholic equivalent.) Anti-Zionists aim to reduce the position of the modern state of Israel in international affairs, while secular elites and now (surprise!) secular populists curtail the influence of biblical Judaism on Western culture when they attack or simply treat as a dead letter much of the moral code of traditional Christianity.
The charitable assumption would be that most nationalist-populists are neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Zionist. Some polls show that Trump supporters, for example, are more likely to be pro-Israel than are Americans in general. Anti-Semites and anti-Zionists who are politically active here and in Europe, however, appear to join nationalist-populist movements disproportionately, repulsing many serious Christians and other people of conscience.
Buckley effectively excommunicated anti-Semitism from mainstream American conservatism. Does any nationalist-populist leader on either side of the Atlantic have the will or the authority to do likewise? Trump has been passionate in his excoriation of John McCain and Mitt Romney. On the question of David Duke, who endorsed him, he’s all mumbles.