How do we deal with religion and more specifically with the Christian roots of our society? Third episode of History of Flanders contains some interesting passages in that connection. Tom Weas talked about a lot Vita Sancti Amandi and the Christianization of Flanders. A historian reported that the story of Flanders cannot be told without considering the return of Christianity, when it brought its values and culture to the Kingdom of France. Waes himself said a little further: Whether you are religious or not, Christianity has played a big role. And also: You may not care about that religion, but the chronicles, written by the monks, are our best source of information..
Looking for the roots
In our file on history (Tertio no. 1197 of 18/1) we wrote that interest in the past expresses how we search for meaning in the present. In our time, we have the feeling that we are being carried away by changes at a frantic pace. Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman speaks of ‘floating life’ (floating life): our society can no longer count on any stability, and this makes us anxious and insecure. History speaks of our roots and gives us a place in the world again. We need such cohesion. The Christian influence in that history also belongs to that history. This rediscovery turns out to be surprising.
The broadcast sounded astonishment and admiration, mixed with some embarrassment. Why this unfamiliarity with regard to our Christian roots? The fact that we cannot understand Flemish – and by extension European – history without the profound influence of Christianity on our values is apparently infuriating. Anyone who talks about religion these days will note in some contemporary times that it is impossible to ‘make religion’ anymore. The belief behind this is that science makes it impossible to talk about God, let alone entrust yourself to God. Believing is considered to be a stage that has passed forever, which de facto means that a reasonable person cannot be a believer. These are stubborn thoughts that, in their strongest form, originate from the vision of the 19th century philosopher August Comte. According to him, history is developing towards a positivist stage: the world can be fully explained and governed by the positive sciences.
Faith and knowledge
Rick Torfs reveals the dogmatic interpretation of science in his latest book from which Tertio releasing an excerpt for the first time this week. To think that science excludes faith, says Torfs, is to make science a religion. And precisely for this reason it loses its scientific character. Faith and knowledge are completely separate. That division stems from the Pope Pope X: by his condemnation of modernism, he blocked the conversation with critical thinking. God was locked up in church certainties that no longer gave him opportunities to grow and disappeared almost silently, according to Torfs’ hypothesis.
That Christianity was a ‘punishment story’ in history, as Tom Waes calls it when he tells about Amandu’s life, can be made clear. Intellectual honesty commands friend and foe alike to recognize it. Could it be such a story again today? If Christianity is to mean anything, a genuine conversation with contemporary thinking is essential.
It is a pity that Christians hardly participate in the intellectual debate anymore. This is not only to do with the media, which gives the faithful insufficient opportunities to do so. It is also up to them.
Christians often lack a healthy self-awareness and courage to seize opportunities for conversation. Do not Christians in Flanders themselves suffer from alienation and even from religious shame? The Christian faith has brought about nothing less than a revolution in the history of thinking about man and the world, and that message is more relevant now than ever. We all face enormous challenges that threaten a dignified future. As the lamented theologian and psychoanalyst Maurice Bellet it expressed: Christianity has only just begun. Not as power, but as inspiration and openness to the world.