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God, Democrats, and the Europeanization of America

The battle at the Democratic convention to exclude God from the party’s platform is no minor moment. Do not underestimate what transpired there.

And while it speaks to so many things, at many levels, it reminds me of the recent battle within the European Union to exclude God from the EU constitution. That comparison is no mere academic one. It speaks volumes about the ongoing direction of the Democratic Party, and this nation.

About 10 years ago, the EU was in an intense debate over whether to mention God in its new constitution. The God opponents were the predictable Western European progressives: leftist Eurocrats in Brussels, Labor Party atheists in Britain, German socialists, Scandinavian secularists, and, naturally, the French leadership. The God supporters included new EU member states that survived godless communism—with Poland in the forefront—and the continent’s preeminent religious figure: Pope John Paul II.

The pope, suffering from advanced Parkinson’s, took up the fight with vigor. In the summer of 2003, he devoted a series of Sunday Angelus addresses to this political issue that transcended politics. He made arguments akin to those made by the American Founding Fathers: It is crucial for citizens living under a constitution to understand the ultimate source from which their rights derive. Their rights come not from government but from God. What government gives, government can take away. What God gives, government cannot take away.

The pope was countered by the likes of French president Jacques Chirac, who sniffed: “France is a lay state, and as such she does not have a habit of calling for insertions of a religious nature into constitutional texts.” The “lay character” of France’s government and public institutions, according to Chirac, simply did “not allow” for a reference to God in a constitution.

Chirac displayed precisely the misunderstanding of church and state that secular liberals in the United States have heartily embraced.

In the end, the EU compromised on a bland statement grudgingly conceding the continent’s “cultural, religious, and humanist inheritance.” It was a nod to God that George Weigel, in his superb “The Cube and the Cathedral,” described as “so bland as to be meaningless.”

But, in an important way, it was actually not meaningless. Hilaire Belloc once said that “the (Christian) faith is Europe and Europe is the faith.” Well, it isn’t anymore. Perhaps, then, it was perfectly fitting that the Europeans excluded God from their platform.

That brings me back across the Atlantic, to Charlotte. That the Democrats, in 2012, would find themselves in a similar battle is no surprise.

I’ll never forget the night Barack Obama won the 2008 election, when I turned on CNN and glimpsed an unknown Republican congressman from Wisconsin named Paul Ryan. When asked about Obama’s victory, Ryan said he was most concerned about “the Europeanization of America.”

“That’s it!” I said to myself. “That’s exactly it. Who is this guy? He nailed it.”

A further “Europeanization” of America is the best description of what has transpired under the Obama administration, especially its first two years under a fully supportive Democratic Congress. In 2009-10, we witnessed incredibly wasteful Keynesian-style prime-the-pump “stimulus,” partial nationalizations, “Obama-care,” explosive public-sector growth and unionization, demonization of the banking and investment and oil industries, stagnant unemployment, class-warfare rhetoric unlike anything I’ve ever heard in this country, and debt-to-GDP ratios approaching Greece standards. We’ve experienced a record-long non-recovering recovery reminiscent not of the American experience but of Western Europe.

As someone who researches communism, I’m often asked if the Obama administration is pursuing socialistic or even communist policies. No, no, I’ve always said. If you want the closest model to what Obama is doing, look at the Attlee government in Britain after WWII or Western Europe today generally.

I recently did an interview with the BBC in Ireland. The host asked: “What’s wrong with you Americans? You call Obama a ‘socialist’ as if socialism is bad. Here in Europe, we think he’s doing exactly the right thing.” Likewise, a friend of mine recently returned from Spain. She was shocked by the overwhelming support for Barack Obama’s policies. It’s really no shock at all—not in Spain.

Here in America, the staunchest liberal-Democrat areas, such as California, Massachusetts, and New England, all have European-level birthrates, divorce rates, abortion rates, and even church attendance. New England, in many ways, is a microcosm of Western Europe.

By the time of the 2012 Democratic convention, party delegates had already (following Barack Obama’s lead) embraced everything from unlimited taxpayer-funding of abortion to gay marriage. How does one get to these positions? Answer: by removing God. Fittingly, then, the delegates merely need to take the next evolutionary step: exclude God. It was very … European.

The soul of the Democratic Party continues to change dramatically.


Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. He is also co-author (with Patricia Clark Doerner) of The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007).
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  • Why do they want so much to turn America into Europe? If they want to live in Europe, Europe is available for that purpose.

  • noelfitz

    Be on your guard.
    It is worse than secularism, it is worse than socialism, it is worse
    than communism, America will be attacked by Europeanization. What is this ? It may be connected with God in the Constitution. But
    God is not mentioned in the US Constitution. This is expected as the Founding
    Fathers, including Jefferson, were in the most part Deists, not believing in the Divinity of Christ, but I suppose American
    politicians today would not hold that Christ is not divine.

    European values are essentially Judeo-Christian ones,
    while some proposed ideas in the US are
    contrary to Christian and European solidarity.

    I
    read (http://ncronline.org/news/politics/nuns-bus-take-message-about-ryan-budget-road-missouri):

    “This
    message echoed (Sr Simone) Campbell’s remarks at the convention Wednesday night.

    “Paul
    Ryan claims his budget reflects the principles of our shared Catholic
    faith,” Campbell said. “But the United States Conference of Catholic
    Bishops stated that the Ryan budget failed a basic moral test, because it would
    harm families living in poverty.”

    It
    would undermine the food stamp program,
    harm Medicare, Lower tax on wealthy, cut health care for the poor and increase
    Pentagon (Government/Federal) spending.

    • Noel, I don’t get your point here, except that I think I hear you saying something about the Catholic Church. On that note, let me just say that just because a message is on USCCB letterhead does not mean the message is in accordance with what the Catholic Church teaches. Start with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Once you have read the relevant paragraphs from the catechism, please get back to me.

      • noelfitz

        Hi Bill,

        many thanks for your reply to me.

        I had hoped my post would create interest, but you are the first (and only, so far) person who replied.

        Again I am not too sure of your point. I thought that what comes from the USCCB are the views of the hierarchy of the Church in the US.

        We Catholics listen to the Church and its magisterium. The teaching in the Church comes from the pope and bishops united with him, corresponding to Jesus and his apostles.

        I have read recently that we had cafeteria Catholics, then cultural Catholics, but the honest term is Protestant, those who choose what they want to believe. This independent and personal interpretation is admirable, but not Catholic.

        You advise me to look at the CCC. That is always good advice.

        I read:

        85 “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.” This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

        862 “Just as the office which the Lord confided to Peter alone, as first of the apostles, destined to be transmitted to his successors, is a permanent one, so also endures the office, which the apostles received, of shepherding the Church, a charge destined to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops.”375 Hence the Church teaches that “the bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church, in such wise that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ and him who sent Christ.”376

        100 The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.

        Is that enough for me to get back to you.

        • Hi Neil, No that was not enough 🙂 My points (or my thoughts) were:

          (1) The USCCB puts out some letters that reflect ideas contrary to what the church teaches. They also put out some/many letters that do not even pretend to be part of the ordinary magisterium of the church. You appear to be relying too much on the “USCCB’s” Ryan-budget letter you referred to (and which I have not read and would like you to post here who signed the letter and on whose behalf it was signed). Regarding the bishops’ roles in identifying specific solutions, I propose for starters the (one-page) letter of Bishop Robert C. Morlino (Madison, WI) published in the Diocese of Madison Catholic Herald; see http://www.madisoncatholicherald.org/bishopscolumns/3366-bishop-column.html.

          (2) The church teaches the principle of subsidiarity, not centralized control, in solving societal problems. For example, the church does not teach that the federal government is the proper level of government to address the problem of some families not having the means to get food. The federal government plays a role, but the principle of subsidiarity limits its role.

          Please get back to me again. I will try to do better in looking for your response.