Saturday, October 29, 2011

Belloc, Europe, the Faith

I've seen a number of people quoting Belloc's famous phrase, "Europe is the Faith," in contexts that require that it be taken in a different sense than Belloc took it, so I thought I'd put up a brief note on its meaning in its original context. The phrase is found in Europe and the Faith; it comes from the very last paragraph, "The Faith is Europe. And Europe is the Faith." What is important, however, is that this is not a thesis about the Faith, as it is often taken; in context it clearly is a thesis about Europe. The basic claim is that 'The Faith is what gives Europe its integrated unity (and thus its identity as Europe rather than, say, just a jumble of countries West of Asia), and Europe is constituted by the unity it receives from Christendom.' As he puts it earlier, "My object in writing it is to show that the Roman Empire never perished but was only transformed; that the Catholic Church, which, in its maturity, it accepted, caused it to survive and was, in that origin of Europe, and has since remained, the soul of one Western civilization." It's a thesis some would controvert, of course, but it's not a claim that Christianity is somehow intrinsically European, a position I have repeatedly seen it used to represent in recent times.

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