by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
[Director Robert] Eggers probably didn’t intend it, but “The Northman” is a powerful reminder that western civilization arose directly from Christianity, and depends on it for its vitality. Had the Catholic Church failed to convert Europe, the continent would have languished in paganism just as surely as the indigenous cultures of the Americas did. There would have been no St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas, no Magna Carta, no philosophy or theology, and no American Founding.
All of which to say: we are today living off the interest of Christianity, drawing from the deposit of faith that lifted the West out of paganism. Our civilization, with its insistence on individual rights and due process and enumerated powers and the rule of law, relies above all on a specifically Christian understanding of man and society and the cosmos. That’s what John Adams meant, for example, when he said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
To note this is also to admit what by now should be obvious: the interest is running out. We are no longer “a moral and religious People,” and there is a real danger that without Christianity our civilization, along with our system of government, will atrophy and die.
That is not to say we will revert to pre-Christian paganism, to berserker raids on hapless villages and the demonic rituals of pagan seers. But post-Christian societies will begin to lose those ideas and principles that made western civilization distinct from the rest of the world, and all that had come before — things like freedom of speech and conscience, inalienable rights, the equality of man, the consent of the governed.