It has become fashionable liberal parlance to criticize the tendency of the American people to promote their way as the right way. Yet in light of the reaction by some of the nations most prone to caste aspersion over the McVeigh execution, it would seem these countries normally priding themselves on the detached moral tolerance characterizing their own cultures ought to abide by their own advice.
Despising the conservative leanings in the policy agenda espoused by the Bush administration, European elitists are using the McVeigh execution as an excuse --- as well as differences over issues such as global warming and strategic missile defense --- to defame America’s image in the eyes of the world.
Amnesty International is quoted in a Reuters story available on Yahoo! News as saying, “By executing the first federal death row prisoner in nearly four decades, the US has allowed vengeance to triumph over justice and distance itself yet further from the aspirations of the world community.” The Portuguese human rights group Law and Justice added to this sentiment by saying, “The death penalty is a barbarism inappropriate to our times.” Hooligans across Europe have taken to the streets to riot in protest of both President Bush and the McVeigh execution.
Yet it must be remembered that these are the same European powers who recently played a role in orchestrating the removal of the United States from the UN Commission on Human Rights. These countries also don’t seem to have a problem with conducting normalized relations with known sponsors of terrorism and oppression such as Iran and Cuba.
The people of the world should not be lulled into thinking that Europe has done much recently for the cause of human rights and freedom around the globe. For these very same countries thinking one should be able to blow apart over 168 people and to ruin the lives of countless others without a similar degree of misery being inflicted upon the perpetrator themselves go out of their way to curtail more traditional conceptions of individual liberty.
If anything, European governments have become something of an impediment in this particular arena of social undertaking. Last year, I wrote on an Italian proposal that would have outlawed the criticism of homosexuality in that country. Now the French have enacted an equally disturbing piece of legislation.
For while the United States gets roundly hooted-down for anesthetizing one of the most loathsome criminals to mar the landscape of the twentieth century, the French government threatens to imprison for up to five years or fine up to $75,000 any member of an unauthorized sect or religious group convicted of a nebulous offense euphemistically referred to as “mental manipulation”. Judges will be further empowered to shut down specific groups if two or more members are convicted of these hazy thought crimes.
No reasonable person supports the coercive recruiting tactics employed by cults such as the Unification Church and Moses Berg’s Family of God. However, the French law makes little distinction between something as unconscionable as nutritional deprivation or as innocent as repeatedly inviting someone to church.
The Institute on Religion and Public Policy warned in a Crosswalk.com story regarding the French law that proper established methods of evangelism could be outlawed if interpreted as an “exercise in serious and repeated pressure on a person in order to create or exploit a state of dependence.”
Fearing the pending wave of oppression ready to sweep across this pivotal European nation, many Protestant groups have dropped the term “evangelical” from their names since that ecclesiastical classification has become something of a dirty word among hypertolerant elites.
Even Pope John Paul II, despite his own ambiguous perspectives regarding Protestantism, has come out in opposition to the French legislation, fearing it will create an atmosphere of unneeded social tension. Other as equally perceptive Catholics, in light of the hostility expressed by militant atheists in that nation since the days of the French Revolution, realize little prevents the law from being used against those adhering to this interpretation of Christian belief as well. For in the eyes of the radically secular, little separates the fanatic from the sincerely devout regardless of the religion in question.
Though it may not be evident upon an initial view, both the opposition to the McVeigh execution by the militantly secular across Europe and the opposition to basic religious freedoms on the part of French authorities are symptoms of the same theo-philosophical disease.
Having sunk deeper into the quagmire of humanism to a greater extent than even the United States, Judeo-Christian perspectives aren’t exactly appreciated for the most part on the European continent. The ironic thing of this is that, in the rush to elevate man above God, intellectuals have inadvertently devalued man by devaluing God. It is this development in man’s perceptions about reality that ultimately links the issues of McVeigh’s execution and freedom of religion in the mind of the nontheist.
You see, justification for the death penalty finds its foundation in the Biblical idea that, since man is made in the image of God, anyone who sheds innocent blood must be required to atone for such ghastly deeds by forfeiting their own life to duly constituted authorities.
Religious liberty is based upon the idea that, since God exists above and apart from that of the state, it is not the province of the government to proscribe how the individual relates to providence.
But once God is removed, both of these conceptual frameworks fall apart. In such an instance, it would not really matter what humans did to one another since we have been reduced to level of savage animals. In the end, McVeigh is no worse than the rescue workers who cam after him in an attempt to salvage broken bodies and shattered lives and these emergency personnel no better than the fiend taking so many lives.
Likewise, once God has been removed, there is little recourse in appealing to religious liberty because in such detheized settings the government becomes the ultimate authority able to reconfigure the social contract as it sees fit. One cannot appeal to a higher standard existing apart from the transitory realities of this world if this world is all that exists.
Even more so than the United States, Europe could be said to be a post-Christian society in that it has been more thorough in its effort to expunge the last remaining Judeo-Christian vestiges from its culture. A land that rejoices at the slaughter of innocent babies through abortion yet takes to the street in heated protest against justice being meted to the guilty could just as easily be referred to as “post-commonsense” as well.
Copyright 2001 by Frederick B. Meekins