The Weekly Standard | John J. Dilulio | May 14, 2007

Religion matters more than ever in global affairs. But don’t count on the experts–or the State Department–to know that.

Speaking last December before journalists assembled by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Peter Berger had some explaining to do. Berger, an emeritus professor at Boston University, is a rightly esteemed sociologist of religion. “We live in an age of overwhelming religious globalization,” he began. But, as late as a quarter-century ago, neither he nor most other academics saw it coming. Most analysts, he explained, had the same stale orthodoxy about religion’s inevitable demise. “The idea was very simple: the more modernity, the less religion. . . . I think it was wrong.”

Except in Europe, where it has proven half-right, the idea was all wrong. This year marks the European Union’s 50th anniversary. Next year is the 40th since Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae. Europeans mocked the pope’s warnings about family planning cultures that promote abortion and produce few children. As a result, a fitting inscription for the European Union’s gold watches would be “World’s largest unfunded pension liability land mass.”

Europe still has more Christians (over 500 million) than any other continent. In Rome and several other European cities, Catholicism, but not its practice, still permeates local culture, while its architectural pageantry promotes foreign tourism. But post-1968 survey data on European beliefs, church attendance rates, and more show that postindustrial modernity has indeed loosened if not broken Christianity’s grip on the continent’s diverse peoples. Still, this decades-in-the-making European vacation from Christianity is not a permanent vacation from religion itself. From Scotland to France, Christianity’s slide has been accompanied by growth in other faith traditions including Islam. And it is not entirely clear that Europe’s Catholics have fallen so far from the cradle that their children or grandchildren (if they start having some) will never return.

Most countries once ruled, in whole or in part, by Europeans have modernized to varying degrees, but without religion losing its hold. Christianity, in particular, is growing in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. One cannot begin to understand post-colonial Africa, for example, without knowing how profoundly religion matters–and which religions matter where and to whom. Nigeria is one small case in point. There are now about 20 million Anglicans in Nigeria, on the way to 30 to 35 million over the next generation. In 1900, Nigeria was one-third Muslim and had almost no Christians. By 1970, the country was about 45 percent Muslim and 45 percent Christian.

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4 thoughts on “Spiritualpolitique

  1. I almost missed this very interesting article that contains a makes a number of intiguing and fascinating observations.

    Author John Dilulio, who championed compassionate conservatism as a domestic policy tool, extends the concept to foreign policy. He argues that Christianity is spreading throughout the under-developed countries of Africa and South America. Dilulio observes that the spread of Christian values, and the “soft power” of Christian values which stress compassion, kindness and justice, encourage economic advancement and serve as an obstacle and counter-weight to the totalitarian ambitions of would-be dictators. The United States should encourage this trend by increasing financial aid to religiously-affiliated NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) working in under-developed countries.

    The tragedy is that under Karl Rove “compassionate conservatism” has been cynically exploited as a tool to reward political allies and never developed to be anything more than a vague, clever marketing slogan. This is why Dilulio eventually left the Bush administration in disgust.

    Compassionate conservatism is a concept that could, and should, be more fully-fleshed out and developed into a comprehensive policy approach. Having worked with the local Food Bank I know there is a lot of compassion in communities that is simply awaiting the right type of organization or agency to channel it in the right direction towards people in need. Community and faith-based organizations may also have more insight into local problems and knowlege how to address them than would a distant government agency.

  2. I almost missed this very interesting article that contains a makes a number of intriguing and fascinating observations.

    Ah, another trollish opportunity almost missed ūüėČ

    The tragedy is that under Karl Rove ‚Äúcompassionate conservatism‚ÄĚ has been cynically exploited as a tool to reward political allies…

    Hey, it took you 5 or 6 sentences before you got to the Democratic talking point. This one is combination of #23 “thou shalt hate all things Rove” and “always link all things to Rove whenever possible”. The machine needs a little oil I think…

  3. Christopher: Are you satisfied with the manner in which compassionate conservatism has been implemented under the Bush administration? What about John Dilulio, the author of this article, former Director of the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, and champion of compassionate conservatism. He once used the expression “Mayberry Machiavellis” to describe Karl Rove and other leading officials in the Bush administration. Is he a “troll” also, or do his comments valid?

    His exact words were:

    “There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus,” says DiIulio. “What you‚Äôve got is everything‚ÄĒand I mean everything‚ÄĒbeing run by the political arm. It‚Äôs the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis.”

    “I heard many, many staff discussions but not three meaningful, substantive policy discussions,” he writes. “There were no actual policy white papers on domestic issues. There were, truth be told, only a couple of people in the West Wing who worried at all about policy substance and analysis..

    Every modern presidency moves on the fly, but on social policy and related issues, the lack of even basic policy knowledge, and the only casual interest in knowing more, was somewhat breathtaking: discussions by fairly senior people who meant Medicaid but were talking Medicare; near-instant shifts from discussing any actual policy pros and cons to discussing political communications, media strategy, et cetera. Even quite junior staff would sometimes hear quite senior staff pooh-pooh any need to dig deeper for pertinent information on a given issue.” ”


    Personally, I happen to think that compassionate conservatism, when fully developed and fleshed out, has the potential to represent a serious policy response to important social issues. Dilulio advances the concept one step further by suggesting it’s potential in the foreign policy arena as well.

    If you have something substantive to contribute on this subject we would all be keenly interested in reading it.

  4. Little Dean was in 4th grade. A biology test was announced. Little Dean studied very, very hard. He studied all there is to know about the dew worm. And then he knew all about the dew worm. Little Dean was happy and prepared.

    Next morning’s test topic was “The Elephant”. What to do?

    Little Dean was unperturbed and started to write:

    The Elephant by Dean Scourtes.
    The Elephant is a big grey animal. It has four legs and a trunk. The trunk is his nose and looks like a dew worm.
    Dew worms are……

    And off he goes.
    Until this day, little Dean gets by writing about dew worms…

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