Friday, February 26, 2010

"Christians cannot vote for Geert Wilders"

Despite the fact that Geert Wilders is constantly sucking up to the Christians, Church leaders in the Netherlands are not reciprocating. Fully 75% of Dutch ministers and church workers not only oppose Wilders, but say bluntly that "a Christian cannot vote for" him or his party, according to a poll of a cross-section of Protestant denominations (as reported at the website).

Wilders' chumminess with "Judeo-Christians" is one of the primary ways in which he reveals that he is not a true libertarian. While absolutely defending complete freedom of religion, genuine libertarianism is uncompromisingly hostile to both Protestantism and Catholicism, because regardless of whether Jesus is on or off the cross, the Church is among the deadliest foes of individual liberty.

Wilders has obviously been studying American "Libertarians", like Bob Barr. Barr is a past champion of the War On Drugs and the Patriot Act, a man who believes that extramarital oral-sex during working hours is an act of treason, and who has recently had difficulty deciding whether or not the first amendment applies to non-monotheists. At the same time he has been trying to pass himself off as a standard bearer of libertarianism, or at least of the party that bears the name "Libertarian."

You see, like better sex, "liberty" is one of those things that everyone is for, or at least claims to be for. But principled libertarianism, or anything even remotely resembling it, has very little to do with modern party politics in the U.S. Not too long ago, though, there seemed to be some hope that this might not be the case in the Netherlands. Pim Fortuyn, for example, combined his criticism of Islam with a libertarianism that was far more consistent than Wilders'.

For example, Fortuyn supported such traditional Dutch values as legalization of recreational drugs and prostitution, and, more generally (and like a good libertarian) opposed any criminalization of "victimless crimes" or any other kind of government interference in how people choose to lead their lives. This was not only a matter of principle for Fortuyn, but it was also in line with his own libertine lifestyle which was often described as "flashy", or even "flamboyant."

Fortuyn was an openly gay man, and he will always be remembered for his command performance during a nationally televised debate with a radical Muslim cleric in 2002, just months before his assassination, when he baited the Imam by flaunting his homosexuality until the cleric finally exploded in a torrent of anti-gay abuse. Fortuyn then calmly turned to the camera and, addressing the viewers directly (he was also extremely telegenic), told them that this is the kind of Trojan horse of intolerance the Dutch are inviting into their society in the name of "multiculturalism."

[That gorgeous portrait of Pim Fortuyn is by the extraordinary Dutch artist Jean Thomassen.]

A Dutch woman among the throngs of mourners outside Fortuyn's house the day after his assassination proudly pointed to her "well exposed cleavage" and told a BBC reporter, "I want to be free to walk around like this. But they come up to me [Muslim immigrants] and swear at me or even spit at me."

But Wilders is no Fortuyn. In fact, Wilders sounds just like a southern Republican when he talks about "law and order" -- he even supports adoption of draconian sentencing "guidelines" like those that have already turned the US into a literal police-state. And naturally he wants to close the coffee-shops and wage "war on drugs."

But most troublesome of all is Wilders incessant invocation of "Judeo-Christianity," which he claims must be defended against Islam along with "Humanism." Of course the rights of Christians to worship freely are menaced by Islam -- just ask any Christian living anywhere in the world in a Muslim majority culture! But it is an obscentiy to give credit to Christianity for the relative freedom that is now enjoyed in the West. But that is exactly what Wilders does. It ridiculous for people who love individual freedom to make common cause with Christians against Islam: in an ideal world they could be allowed to fight each other until they either come to their senses or they have "extirpated" each other into oblivion.

Wilders routinely declares that freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and individual liberty in general are (1) "European", (2) "Western", (3) "Judeo-Christian", (4) "our", and (5) "Humanist" values. But this is actually very reminiscent of that famed Sesame Street routine: "One of these things (is not like the others)." Europe, including Western Europe, has for nearly all of it's history been ruled by totalitarian states, usually Christian theocracies. "Humanism", on the other hand, was an intellectual movement of the Renaissance that can reasonably be seen as a precursor to modern liberal and/or libertarian conceptions of individualism and freedom.

But those who have fought for the rights of the individual over the last 500 years of modern, western history, have always been opposed by the Church -- both Catholic and Protestant alike. For example, the now famed Statue of Virginia for Religious Freedom (authored by Thomas Jefferson and also strongly supported by his friend James Madison) was opposed by Anglicans, Congregationalists, and other Protestants in Virginia who nearly defeated it. And one of the leaders of that alliance of good Christians was none other than Patrick Henry!

The Christians of Virginia wanted to "establish" approved Protestant denominations who would be officially recognized, and subsidized, by the State! This was the status that Anglicans and Congregationalists had enjoyed, under British law, prior to the Revolution. (It might also be worth noting that Jefferson, Madison and Henry were all slave owners.)

And European totalitarianism is hardly a thing of the far distant past. All of continental Europe lay in the grip of Stalin and Hitler just eight decades ago. And European nations (other than the USSR) prior to WWII were still unabashedly Christian nations where non-Christians were treated little better than non-Muslims are treated today in Muslim countries, and where anti-Semitism and "scientific racism" were virulent, and unchecked, psychic cancers. And these same European "Great Powers", had also savagely conquered and subjugated nearly the entire inhabited world with their colonialism.

So let "us" not be too self-congratulatory about how free "we" and our "values" are. Freedom should be cherished, but so must the truth. Sometimes the enemy of my enemy is no friend of mine at all.

We can learn something from those Dutch Protestant leaders who want nothing to do with Wilders. If freedom is really part of "our" values, then why don't those good Christians oppose the very real threat posed by Islam? Perhaps the idea of holding a religion responsible for a consistent track record, up to the present day, of violence and intolerance just makes them nervous?

Wilders is absolutely correct in his criticism of Islam, including his characterization of it as fascistic. And Wilders is not a far-rightist, let alone a neo-nazi or some kind of fascist himself. He strongly supports gay rights and women's rights. As was often said of Pim Fortuyn, it's accurate to say that Wilders is to the left of many members of the US Democratic Party! Not that that is saying much.

But Wilders, apparently out of a combination of his desire for political success and a lack of understanding of Western history, has decided that while Islam is an enemy of freedom, Christianity is on the side of freedom. For now I don't think that this makes Wilders himself an enemy of freedom, but it does make him an extremely unreliable friend.