The dubious crusade of ‘schismatic’ Steve Bannon

Steve Bannon

Europe is sick. Despite its apparent material success, a spiritual sickness pervades it that politics will not cure.

Pope Francis shares this view.

In the United States, the pope may be known as a sharp critic of President Trump, but he has also been vocal about the trends that have led to populist backlashes in the Americas and in Europe.

In 2014, for instance, Francis said: “Europe is tired. We have to help rejuvenate it, to find its roots. It’s true: It has disowned its roots.”

Even for some non-Christians, Christianity offers a grounding for European culture that has become dangerously depleted.

The famously secular German philosopher Jürgen Habermas has admitted that the West, especially liberal democracy, depends upon Christians as a creative minority for key values of conscience and human rights.

Mr. Habermas argues: “To this day, we have no other options. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter.”

But a bastardized form of Christianity cannot provide this nourishment and may, in fact, hasten Europe’s decline.

This is the risk posed by Stephen K. Bannon, a former adviser to the Trump administration, who has embarked on his own project to rejuvenate Europe.

The politics he offers has only a veneer of Christianity, intended to justify his political aims. And his notion of Europe is perhaps just as shallow, ignoring the profound spiritual and intellectual challenges that predate the continent’s latest demographic changes.

Inclusion and civility are often dismissed as pieties of procedural liberalism. But ut unum sint (“that they may be one”) is the message of Christianity.

A politics that divides is not good politics. And it is not good for Chrisitanity.

Bannon’s ‘Gladiator School’ Takes Shape

Mr. Bannon has caused a stir with his plans to found near Rome what he calls the Academy for the Judeo-Christian West.

The imagination has run wild as many speculate about a “gladiator school” for neopopulist ideologues, even after the Italian government blocked plans to site the school at an ancient Carthusian monastery.

The political strategist is not starting from scratch.

He is building upon the work of the English political activist Benjamin Harnwell, who founded and runs the Dignitatis Humanae Institute.

Mr. Harnwell has advocated for Christian politics for several years in the European Parliament, including drafting a “Universal Declaration of Human Dignity.”

The D.H.I. presents the imago Dei as the center of Christian politics and has promoted it by organizing members of the European Parliament and now by founding a school. (It is unclear how the academy would relate to “The Movement,” Mr. Bannon’s umbrella organization in Brussels for Euro-skeptic parties in the European Parliament.) Continue reading

Bill McCormick is a Jesuit priest, political scientist and regent at Saint Louis University.

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