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CharlemagneOn the morning of June 24, the world awoke to a changed Europe. With the so-called Brexit referendum, the UK voted to leave the European Union, and as such, the EU lost one of its most important member nations. Almost immediately, there were calls from France, Italy, and the Netherlands to hold similar referenda, jeopardizing the entire EU experiment.

While a number of scholars and commentators have interpreted the Brexit as indicative of the wave of nationalism that is sweeping Europe and much of the world, many have missed the significance of this wave for a resurgent conservative traditionalism in the West.

It is most certainly the case that the world is going through a radical realignment along nationalist and provincialist lines. From Bosnia to Chechnya, Rwanda and Barundi, from South Sudan to Scotland, populations have been turning increasingly inward for civic and cultural identity.

But within these balkanizing tendencies is a process called re-traditionalization. Because globalization challenges the traditions and customs, the religions and languages of local cultures, its processes tend to be resisted with a counter-cultural blowback. In the face of threats to localized identity markers, people assert their religiosity, kinship, and national symbols as mechanisms of resistance against globalizing dynamics.

Few nations exemplify this connection between a resurgent nationalism and a revived religious tradition than the Russian Federation. There has been a self-conscious distancing from globalism by Russia, drawing inspiration instead from the ideals of a neo-Byzantium, what U.S. Naval War College professor John R. Schindler calls a “Third Rome” ideology, which involves “a powerful admixture of Orthodoxy, ethnic mysticism, and Slavophile tendencies that has deep resonance in Russian history.”[1] From this admixture, Russia has emerged, in the words of a recent essay, as “Europe’s most God-believing nation.”[2]

And with this national revival comes a re-embracing of traditional moral values. Along with India, Islamic and African nations, Russians have publicly and legislatively rejected what they consider the civilizational suicide of LGBT activism and feminism. Even many Eastern-European countries that feel threatened by Russia’s recent militarism, such as Georgia and Moldova, consider globalized secular values far more threatening.

Indeed, the current rise of nationalism throughout Europe is concomitant with a growing religious conservatism. In Europe, immigration ironically is making the continent more religiously conservative, not less; in fact, London and Paris are some of the most religiously dense areas within their respective populations. Since 1970, charismatic Christians in Europe have expanded steadily at a rate of 4 percent per year, in step with Muslim growth. Currently, Laestadian Lutherans in Finland and Holland’s Orthodox Calvinists have a fertility advantage over their wider secular populations of 4:1 and 2:1 respectively.[3]

It is true that British national allegiances have yet to exemplify anything remotely akin to a Christian revival; indeed, church attendance in the UK has long been on the decline. Nevertheless, there seems to be a decline to this decline. Most people in the UK still think of themselves as Christian, and immigrants from Africa and Eastern Europe, Catholic Poles in particular, have made Britain more, not less, religious.[4] There has been an increase in evangelical church attendance,[5] all the while Islamic birthrates in the UK are dropping to under three children per woman.[6] All this suggests that the Christian tradition remains a significant factor within British cultural identity and will only increase in the coming years if nationalist trends continue.

And continue they will. We should not regard this resurgent nationalism a temporary political fad. This is because globalization entails its own futility; as we have found with the attempt to bring liberal democracy to the Middle East, few are willing to die for emancipatory politics, feminism, and LGBT rights. But the willingness to die for land, people, custom, language, and religions is seemingly universal. Though a formidable challenger, globalization appears to have no chance of overcoming such innate fidelities.

And so, it is certainly the case that the Brexit signifies the rise of nationalism in Europe, but it also suggests the inexorable revival of traditional values and norms. And while there are a number of current cultural peculiarities and paradoxes indicative of a stubborn secularism throughout the West, we can expect social and cultural trends to resolve such inconsistencies in favor of traditional beliefs and practices.

A renewed Christian Europe may not be so far away.

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[1] John R. Schindler, “Putinism and the Anti-WEIRD Coalition,”


[3] Eric Kaufmann, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century (London: Profile Books, 2010).




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10 replies to this post
  1. This is a good article. Personally, I think the failure of globalization is built around the fact that the forces that support it are paradoxically groups that focus on what divides us rather than what unites us. Progressives the world over have tried to embrace identity politics as their key to power and while it might well work on the local level, identity politics leaves no room for a unifying myth (And I use myth in the sense that C.S. Lewis and Tolkien used myth as in stories that communicate truth), either on the National level and especially not on the international level.

    There was no, is no, unifying myth of Europe. In fact, the intellectual forces of the 20th and 21st century ensured that no such myth could exist. Postmodernism implicitly implies the deconstruction of myth and the rejection of universal truths. A Europe built on this offers only open borders and free trade at the cost of local traditions and identity. Immigration is never a problem as long as the immigrant seeks to become part of the society he immigrates to. America was built on the backs of immigrants who generally assimilated within a generation or two. Europe however, offered no such prospect. In fact, it was creating a system that would discourage assimilation into the local community because one might well move to two or three different countries over the course of a career.

  2. In reading this, I was reminded of something Whitaker Chambers once wrote William F. Buckley, asking, “…would you storm the beaches at Tarawa for that?”

    Traditionalist — or re-traditionalist — values usually include a healthy dose of faith in God. That faith enables a person to be willing to die for their beliefs. The Progressivist cadre, however willing that Other People should die for its beliefs, is singularly unwilling to engage in self-sacrifice to that extent.

    As an aside, the secular policy wonks have a very difficult time understanding the motivations of religious suicide terrorists. While the traditionalist abhors their actions, he has a far better chance of understanding and thus dealing with those so motivated than the globalist neoliberals.

  3. Thanks so much for this MarylandBill; great observations. I would add that because there has been no unifying myth for Europe of the last century, it invited demonic myths such as those of neopagan Fascism and scientifically-inspired Communism.

    • I certainly can’t argue with that… indeed, I fear that the United States is headed down the same road. The myths that unified us have been essentially destroyed. Rather than recognizing our failures to live up to our own ideals and thus redouble our efforts (an idea that every Christian should understand… though of course we also pray for God’s grace tohelp us), we have essentially thrown those ideals out. Rights are now no longer regarded as freedoms that the government may not infringe upon except when conflicting with the rights of others, but rather things we are entitled to. Community has been replaced by the federal government and states have become thin intermediaries between citizens and the Federal Government as opposed to the semi-sovereign entities they were intended to be in the Constitution.

  4. Well said, David. I think the futility inherent in secular globalization is one reason why it so easily turns towards tyranny as its primary mechanism for compliance.

  5. I’d call this the “Money Quote” of this article:

    “This is because globalization entails its own futility; as we have found with the attempt to bring liberal democracy to the Middle East, few are willing to die for emancipatory politics, feminism, and LGBT rights. But the willingness to die for land, people, custom, language, and religions is seemingly universal. ”

    That pretty much says it all.

  6. I agree wholeheartedly. The U.S. Politicians of the left are starting to realize that while, for the sake of not wanting to appear to racist, bigoted, chauvinistic, or lacking in compassion, many will pay lip service at least to LGBT principles, they will not die for them. Americans will not, as a rule, want to go on record as speaking up for traditional moral values, because they do not wanted to be painted with the brush of bigotry. However, this should not be construed by the left to mean that all Americans espouse and hold dear to their hearts the belief systems and lifestyles that are now promulgated as the norm that everyone with common sense should accept. Many people would not risk their lives or liberty, for instance to force a baker to put two brides or two grooms on top of a cake. Their real concern is whether they can even afford a cake. Many people are more worried about their ability to keep a roof over their head, and continue to afford a bathroom of their own, (faced with the reality of homelessness ) than they are about which public restroom they can avail themselves of. It reminds me of my college class about Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Until food, shelter, warmth, and survival needs are met…while people are continuing to strive to have their needs for medical care, decent jobs, decent housing, good and safe education for their children, the left’s ideological struggles for things like men using women’s bathrooms, and children having gender fluidity, seem like ridiculous dilettantism.

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