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The Rise Of Europe’s Religious Right
August 4, 2014 1:49 PM   Subscribe

“A bomb with a long fuse has been lit,” said Sylvie Guillaume, a French MEP supportive of abortion rights and LGBT rights, who recently stepped down as vice chair of the largest center-left bloc in the European Union’s parliament. “We don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Previously: UKIP and Front National success in the 2014 European election.
posted by ellieBOA (37 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Souciant: Bild’s Europe
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:03 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


“You’re seeing a global reaction to centralized government, whether that government is in Beijing or that government is in Washington, D.C., or that government is in Brussels… On the social conservative side, we’re the voice of the anti-abortion movement, the voice of the traditional marriage movement.”

Oh, the hideous, vomit-inducing irony. "Centralized government" is horrible unless it's your centralized government, right, Andy?
posted by rtha at 2:15 PM on August 4 [27 favorites]


UKIP and Front National aren't religious. I mean they are very very terrible and I'd prefer not to know anyone who supports them and I have many bad things I could say about them.

But Jesus-Freaks isn't really one of them.

If they hate LGBT rights its because they want it to be their idealized version of Pre-WWI all over again.

"Church" is a manifestation of the old ways. Not about preparing the world for the rapture or what ever the fuck it is conservative evangelicals in the US think they are doing.
posted by JPD at 2:19 PM on August 4 [9 favorites]


The problem is that 99% of the people are decent, law abiding people who just want to live their lives and practice their religion in peace but then you have jackasses like Abu Izzadeen who just stokes the UKIP and their jackassery by telling everyone who will listen (which is pretty much the UKIP) that Sharia is coming and fuck you if you like beer and bacon.
posted by Talez at 2:23 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


whoa whoa, FN has been on that Sharia beat since Farage was a shitty stock broker.
posted by JPD at 2:28 PM on August 4


"[T]he dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet..."
posted by The Tensor at 2:33 PM on August 4 [4 favorites]


The FN may not be explicitly religious, but Manif pour Tous is absolutely, overtly linked to right-wing Catholic churches here. (Not to be put in the same basket as more tolerant ones.) Marine Le Pen is, unfortunately, savvier than her father; she welcomes them into her fold while talking around religion. She's skilled at plausible deniability and dog whistles. Think Sarah Palin with more brains and a wider support system. (Yes. It is very scary.)

I have long-time French friends who are LGBT activists, and many from diverse backgrounds who are also active in working towards wider tolerance (anti-racism, women's rights, etc.). The Catholic church has been VERY involved in right-wing politics since roundabouts last year; it's a distinct, noticeable difference from the past. For instance, you hardly even ever heard of anti-abortion groups here. Now you do. This and specifically religious rhetoric being used in political debates is very "WTF" when you've known France from the inside for decades.

This article is really interesting in making clear some connections, namely to the US, that we had drawn based on our own experiences; thanks ellieBOA!
posted by fraula at 2:36 PM on August 4 [19 favorites]


I wouldn't get too worked up about a few isolated political successes for any European right-of-center parties: if data on European religious affiliation, church attendance, and population replacement for the last generation are any indicator, progressives have nothing to fear. So "rise"? More like a speedbump. These successes are as much the result of failed progressive governments leaving little options for the electorate.

Now once Islam is re-established, different story....
posted by resurrexit at 2:37 PM on August 4


If they hate LGBT rights its because they want it to be their idealized version of Pre-WWI all over again.

It's like they want to live a life out of Mary Poppins.
It's grand to be an Englishman in 1910
King Edward's on the throne; it's the age of men
I'm the lord of my castle, the sov'reign, the liege!
I treat my subjects--servants, children, wife
With a firm but gentle hand, noblesse oblige!
I still remember when my grandparents would refer to someone as a "confirmed bachelor".
posted by Talez at 2:45 PM on August 4 [3 favorites]


UKIP and Front National aren't religious. I mean they are very very terrible and I'd prefer not to know anyone who supports them and I have many bad things I could say about them.

But Jesus-Freaks isn't really one of them.


Can't speak for UKIP, but the FN has made inroads in a traditionally bourgeois, far-right Catholic electorate over here. I've been observing the situation for about 10 years, and they've done a huge amount of PR and image re-engineering to earn support from electors who would otherwise be at the right of center-right parties.

Fraula has a great point about anti-abortion groups and religious discourse. None of this was present 10, or even 5 years ago. In the past, this would have been considered an affront to France's notion of laïcité.

The change has been rapid and startling.
posted by Occam's Aftershave at 2:47 PM on August 4 [8 favorites]


So "rise"? More like a speedbump. These successes are as much the result of failed progressive governments leaving little options for the electorate.

Isn't this the way it happens though? An economic depression that can be scapegoated onto immigrants and ethnic minorities giving rise to a far-right movement. I mean, even just isolating one part of the spectrum, Islamophobia, is revealing. All the same rhetoric from the early 1930s, only with "Muslims" as the boogeyman. Meanwhile, Brussels just pretty much watched the far-right bully their way into power, through violence and intimidation. I think those of us living in Europe have quite a bit of cause for concern.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 2:47 PM on August 4 [4 favorites]


once Islam is re-established, different story...

This shows a deep ignorance of issues in the case of France. Islam is France's second most practiced religion, after Catholicism. Thirty years ago, things were much more dire than now due to rampant racism; violent crimes that were racially motivated, against mainly Maghrebi and African immigrants. It all eventually culminated in the peaceful Marche des Beurs, an anti-racism movement. A great deal of progress has been made since then. Much more work needs done, but at least from my anecdotal viewpoint, I have seen huge strides towards tolerance made. Facile remarks like "once Islam is re-established, different story" are neither informed nor helpful. It's already established and has been for decades. French citizens who practice Islam are as French as those who practice Catholicism. This is why the recent rise of right-wing groups vocally and financially linked to specific churches is so worrisome – it is a noticeable step backwards in terms of the French public value of secularism in politics.
posted by fraula at 2:48 PM on August 4 [35 favorites]


The Catholic church has been VERY involved in right-wing politics since roundabouts last year....

The Catholic Church? In France? The one that practically does not exist? We must live in different worlds. Every cause needs a bogeyman, I guess.
posted by resurrexit at 2:48 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


French citizens who practice Islam are as French as those who practice Catholicism
...and any other religion or atheism or agnosticism, I really should add!
posted by fraula at 2:50 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


The Catholic Church? In France? The one that practically does not exist? We must live in different worlds. Every cause needs a bogeyman, I guess.

Indeed. Also might be a good idea to read the OP.
posted by fraula at 2:51 PM on August 4 [11 favorites]


We must live in different worlds.

Just different countries.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:54 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


One of which is France and one of which is not.
posted by elizardbits at 2:59 PM on August 4 [4 favorites]


population replacement [...] Now once Islam is re-established, different story....

Every cause needs a bogeyman, I guess.


Indeed.

Thanks for coming by to speak up for the neofascists! It'd be sad if they somehow became our "bogeymen" when we ought to be more concerned about Muslims and immigrants!
posted by RogerB at 3:02 PM on August 4 [8 favorites]


I actually have family that are part of that far-right catholic crowd in France. Its very different from the evangelical stuff we see in the US.

I also have other connections to that crowd and that crowd in Spain. Its problematic, but not this way.

I mean my first exposure to overt racism came from my family in France - so my eyes are wide open here. But the religious angle is just different.
posted by JPD at 3:02 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


The Catholic Church? In France? The one that practically does not exist? We must live in different worlds. Every cause needs a bogeyman, I guess.

I'm in Lyon and it seems like the Church is pretty well entrenched here. (Then again, it's Lyon.)

There's also been a huge surge in Pentecostalism, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other Protestant branches recently. I wonder if and how that figures in to the picture.
posted by Occam's Aftershave at 3:05 PM on August 4


There is an interesting point to be made about the position of Islam in Europe, but really from the angle that the more conservative strands could become part of the religious right in years to come, allying with conservative Christian groups where their agendas intersect. I seem to recall that in England during the legalization of same-sex marriage there was a joint statement signed by both Christian and Muslim groups opposing the law. I don't know how politicians will handle courting different religions for the same political ends, but there's an electoral prize for whoever on the right wing figures out how to draw that vote.
posted by Thing at 3:33 PM on August 4


One more thought I have. If you were working on a GOTV campaign on the left in France is there anything better to bring folks to the polls than the specter of US style Christian Conservatives?
posted by JPD at 3:34 PM on August 4


There is an interesting point to be made about the position of Islam in Europe, but really from the angle that the more conservative strands could become part of the religious right in years to come, allying with conservative Christian groups where their agendas intersect. I seem to recall that in England during the legalization of same-sex marriage there was a joint statement signed by both Christian and Muslim groups opposing the law. I don't know how politicians will handle courting different religions for the same political ends, but there's an electoral prize for whoever on the right wing figures out how to draw that vote.

Remember - the big minority groups in the US are about the most consistent supporters of the left in the US, despite being much more socially conservative than the party mainstream.

The Repubs have been trying to claim for years they are the natural home of hispanics.

People don't forget hate like that so quickly.
posted by JPD at 3:37 PM on August 4 [4 favorites]


I do think there is a religious backlash against the EU taking place but I am surprised and saddened that Guillaume resigned. At this point, we need more advocates for keeping abortion legal on the front lines, not stepping back to watch parties unfold and take power in national elections.
posted by parmanparman at 3:37 PM on August 4


The Catholic Church? In France?

I cannot think of a less surprising development, than yes, yet again, the RCC in France allying with reactionary right-wing political forces - indeed, it often is the reactionary right wing or primary component itself. The RCC in France has a long and sordid history of ultranationalism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, militarism and general obscurantism in every form as far back as you care to go. If they had their druthers, you could be sure they'd bring the monarchy back.

The fact that the RCC is in demographic decline in France (and Europe generally) does not make their political goals any less virulent. And indeed, forces of conservatism can form alliances of convenience when their goals coincide. The ultranationalists, conservatives and reactionaries will be opposed to Islam, but happy to work together when it suits them - look at what happened with prop 8 in California, where the RCC and the Mormons who are generally in proselytising competition, formed an alliance of hate against the civil rights of gay people. The treatment of gay people's civil rights is a canary in the coalmine. As Russia drifts rightward and authoritarian, where do they start with limiting civil rights? That's right - with the marginalized and weakest, and LGBT are the first victims. In this context, it is instructive to recall what happened in France with the legalization of same-sex marriage - there was massive organized opposition, with marches by the hundreds of thousands and vocal opposition, shocking to many Americans who only know the France of the left-bank Parisian liberalism. And who provided the political organizing muscle for all this? Why, the RCC and political right wing. When fascism is on the march, you will see gay people under attack. And it is no different here.

This is a challenge to liberal democracy, and so far, the Left in Europe - and really, pretty much everywhere - has been put on the back foot by the conservative forces. Labour in Britain has been gelded by Blair. Hollande is so unpopular, he may doom the Socialists for a generation or more. The SPD in Germany has won the lowest number of seats since 1949. All of the new Eastern/Central European countries have lurched rightward, sometimes to grotesque degrees (see Hungary for a shining example of nationalistic anti-semitic fascism in power). Greece and the Golden Dawn. In Spain, where the Left seemed so dominant just recently, we see the political right in power and the RCC reasserting their influence (with predictable attacks against the rights of women and gays etc.).

It is less a story about the success of the forces of darkness and the right who always have simple answers (and usually the same answers), and more about the nominal left having no answers to complex economic and cultural problems. Who is the public going to vote for? The man with strong convictions, or the man who dodges challenges?

And as we survey the likely evolution of the economic systems, the massive political failures that result in huge dislocations of war and environmental degradation, it is not hard to see how the temptations of the right's simplistic answers will only grow.

For many Americans, Europe has been the ray of hope as the U.S. grew increasingly conservative. But that's a false hope. Because Europe has been marching rightward too. As has been the other hope - Canada. And now, everywhere, the cry is "Where is the Left?!" - but no messiah is going to rescue us - we must do the work ourselves, we, the Left.
posted by VikingSword at 4:49 PM on August 4 [23 favorites]


It's not only Europe, USA and Canada.
As Evangelical Clout Grows, Brazil May Face New Culture Wars
posted by adamvasco at 5:22 PM on August 4


The Left is just going to have to get into the game. How about some spiritual Marxism? Anyone?
posted by No Robots at 6:02 PM on August 4


Actually, Progressive Christianity has been gaining steam in the US. Still doesn't have the money or numbers to match the right, though.
posted by bgal81 at 6:07 PM on August 4


JPD: "If you were working on a GOTV campaign on the left in France is there anything better to bring folks to the polls than the specter of US style Christian Conservatives?"

American exceptionalism cuts both ways - in other countries I've been to, lefties don't believe that US-style Christian conservatism can thrive anywhere but the US.
posted by gingerest at 9:32 PM on August 4


The RCC in France has a long and sordid history of ultranationalism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, militarism and general obscurantism in every form as far back as you care to go. If they had their druthers, you could be sure they'd bring the monarchy back.

I don't know if it's still there, but when I visited the cathedral of Chartres there were some amusing placards going on about how the French Revolution was an atheist disaster and how laicity was evil and so on.

As for Spain, the conservative Catholic lobbies like Hazte Oír have managed to look like backwards loons, and the Justice minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardón's pet abortion reform project (which takes its cue from American anti-choice activists in that it makes things awfully difficult for women to get an abortion, plus the added humiliation of having to justify it by essentially saying that they're mentally unbalanced) looks like it's going to get shelved, since nearly nobody else in the conservative PP government really likes it and it's only going to make them lose votes. The annual pro-life/ pro-traditional family rallies on December 28 (the feast of the Innocent Saints day, a day that has been co-opted by anti-choicers and anti-LGBT people) are declining in their numbers year after year since it's clear that it's been taken over by the Camino Neocatecumenal (which is a cult-like Catholic association and not terribly popular outside their people). OTOH, nobody's even tried to turn back legislation on equal marriage, which is still legal.

Oh, and every papal visit in recent years has been plagued by economic corruption by PP cronies. And there's the stolen babies scandal. And the hardcore conservative president of the bishop's conference Rouco Varela has just resigned. And...
posted by sukeban at 10:31 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


How about some spiritual Marxism? Anyone?

Nah. Y'all motherfuckers need Eris.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 4:15 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


American exceptionalism cuts both ways - in other countries I've been to, lefties don't believe that US-style Christian conservatism can thrive anywhere but the US.

Yes - this was essentially the point I was trying to make. Just the idea of that sort of Christian Conservatism is likely to drive lots of disaffected left of center folks to the polls.
posted by JPD at 4:38 AM on August 5


“You’re seeing a global reaction to centralized government, whether that government is in Beijing or that government is in Washington, D.C., or that government is in Brussels…

He said to a conference taking place in the Vatican.
posted by ersatz at 4:45 AM on August 5 [6 favorites]


I'd agree thay're reacting to our centralised governments. These religious leaders observe the waste, corruption, and stupidity coupled with such power over everyone's life, well of course they want a piece of the action.

We need to improve our systems of governance a that neither the corporations nor the wackjobs can rules us. in particular we need radical transparency, deliberative democracy or demarchy, proportiinal representation, and probably some form of modularisation of representation.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:26 AM on August 5


Facile remarks like "once Islam is re-established, different story" are neither informed nor helpful. It's already established and has been for decades. French citizens who practice Islam are as French as those who practice Catholicism...and any other religion or atheism or agnosticism, I really should add!

Except that part of Frenchness that relishes wine, cognac, roast sanglier, pork cassoulet, medieval graven images, chemin de fer, topless beaches, La Cage Aux Folles, Proust. But then, I'm generally more interested in culture than in politics.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:05 AM on August 5




So are you saying that now Europe has a 'hole-shaped God in it?

 
posted by Herodios at 9:12 AM on August 5


Me: "American exceptionalism cuts both ways - in other countries I've been to, lefties don't believe that US-style Christian conservatism can thrive anywhere but the US."

JPD: "Yes - this was essentially the point I was trying to make. Just the idea of that sort of Christian Conservatism is likely to drive lots of disaffected left of center folks to the polls.
"

You aren't taking me literally enough - I mean that people aren't motivated to act against something they don't believe can happen, and even if they see ultraconservative Christianity beginning to constrain daily life, most Europeans don't believe it's the same thing as American ultraconservative Dominionist Christianity.
posted by gingerest at 4:35 PM on August 5


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