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The Meaning of the Cross Over Hungary’s Parliament

A 3-meter-wide Communist red star once illuminated the sky over the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest. After the Iron Curtain fell, the Hungarians removed it, and it now sits as an exhibit in the basement of the building.

This year, on the Feast of St. Stephen—a celebration held every August 20 in memory of Hungary’s first Christian king—a different sign illuminated the banks of the Danube.

A group of drones swarmed to form the Hungarian coat of arms, then the Crown of St. Stephen, and finally an enormous Christian cross. Thus concluded an evening of fireworks and other festivities.

Invited to watch the display from the terrace of the Carmelite monastery where Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has his office was American expatriate commentator Rod Dreher, who has since written of the night in his column at The European Conservative.

To Dreher, the cross over Budapest was no hollow gesture but rather “a sign of the times in the Hungarian Capital,” a physical manifestation of a political philosophy that pains and puzzles Westerners.

Even as the post-Christian West continues its downward slide into illiberal secularism—or what Dreher calls “the religion of the rainbow”—Hungary has already been to bowels of hell and back and wants no more of it.

If four decades of Communism have taught Hungarians anything, it’s that a society built only on human ideas can only end in tyranny. Or put positively, in the words of Orbán himself, Christian culture is “the cornerstone that holds the architecture of European civilization in place.”

Orbán is a bugaboo for woke Western journalists, whose only reference point for Christian civilization is a college campus caricature of the Holy Roman Empire. What they do not understand, Orbán’s critics do not like. And what they do not like, they are quick to dismiss as anti-democratic. Google his name if you don’t believe me.

Dreher concedes that Orbán’s Hungary is “not the Garden of Eden, and Budapest is not the New Jerusalem.” However, he unapologetically asserts that “for Christians and any other kind of conservative, [Hungary] is an oasis of sanity, led by a popularly elected Christian street-fighter who never learned the word ‘winsome,’ and please God, never will.”

Orbán is a populist, and a popular one at that. In 2022, he was returned for his fifth term as prime minister, and his party was re-elected with a two-thirds supermajority.

Unlike your run-of-the-mill populists, however, Orbán has led his country not with a grab bag of grievances but a cohesive vision for his nation. Specifically, he has defended “Christian democracy,” not to be confused with Christianity itself. He explains:

Christian democracy is not about defending religious articles of faith—in this case Christian religious articles of faith. Neither states nor governments have competence on questions of damnation or salvation. Christian democratic politics means that the ways of life springing from Christian culture must be protected. Our duty is not to defend the articles of faith, but the forms of being that have grown from them. These include human dignity, the family and the nation—because Christianity does not seek to attain universality through the abolition of nations, but through the preservation of nations.

Orbán is unafraid to prize Christian culture over ever-nebulous multiculturalism, secure borders over unchecked immigration, and a biblical conception of the family unit. Each of these he defends on explicitly Christian grounds.

What his critics fail to grasp—or perhaps refuse to see—is that Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu heads of state are given permission to do the same every day of the week. Orbán is simply asking why Christian nations are not afforded the same grace—which, as it happens, was the norm until recent decades.

We now live in a world where globalism is viewed as innovative and compassionate, while a nationalist like Viktor Orbán is derided as selfish and parochial.

What the globalists have yet to spot is their own die-hard imperialism. They will only be satisfied when nations like Hungary surrender their sovereignty to an ascendant global order. Meanwhile, they have the audacity to call Orbán anti-democratic.

The post-Christian West might be losing its way, but Orbán’s protest is that it doesn’t have to.

In the words of Dreher: “This is what it means to have a leader who believes that the faith that was inseparable from the founding of the nation is vital to its survival.”

Image credit: Rod Dreher on Twitter. Image cropped.

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Kurt Mahlburg
Kurt Mahlburg
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  • Avatar
    Thelbert R Murphy
    August 25, 2023, 10:40 am

    This is why America is going down hill because they have turned their back on God and the death of His Only Begotten Son !

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  • Avatar
    Kevin Bjornson
    August 25, 2023, 6:11 pm

    All the biblical texts, old testament and new, apocryphal and canonical, were written by humans and thus represent ideas of humans. Unlike Islam claims, which is that Muhammed went into seances and his scribe wrote down the words supposedly exactly as heard. So already Judeo-Christianity is more humanistic than Islam.

    Christianity as we know it today, is a fusion of traditional western humanism and mystical texts from the middle east. Even the religious texts had a larger human element than most religions.

    Secularism is not a positive philosophy, but simply rejects faith–particularly religious faith. But in reality, faith is a method not a conclusion; and can be secular or religious. Marxism was faith-based and didn't rely upon observation or logic, so was a secular faith.

    The choice is between human reason, and muscle-mysticism (wherein faith is used to justify force-initiation). The survival of civilization depends on how reasonable humans are in practice.

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    • Avatar
      Arlene Sheldon@Kevin Bjornson
      August 27, 2023, 11:03 pm

      "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." 2 Peter 1:21

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  • Avatar
    Mark Tapson
    August 25, 2023, 9:47 pm

    Hear, hear. Well said, Mr. Mahlburg.

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  • Avatar
    Adrian Turner
    August 29, 2023, 10:42 pm

    What an inspirational article. It seems having lost their freedom and then getting it back they can see the value of what they had. Maybe the west will have to do the same. We sure seem to be heading that way.

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