It would appear, that in order to ‘maintain’ or ‘assert’ their legitimate place in ‘secular’ or ‘pluralistic’ Europe that some Christians feel the need to appeal to the Judaeo-Christian underpinning of ‘valued’ practices such as democracy and human rights.
I am not sure that I would deny this historical claim although the contribution requires to be defended and defined with some nuance rather than simply claimed. The Christendom past was hardly reformist.
The above notwithstanding, I am not at all sure to what extent the above claim actually provides any traction for the current relevance of the Christian faith.
While from my Christian frame of reference, such practices, can find an ideological root in the Christian faith (or at least some versions of it) – I am not convinced that the Christian faith is ‘essential’ to a person valuing these practices nor that these practices cannot be defended from a different ideological basis. Moreover, I am also not sure what the point is of trying to argue ‘if you are not a Christian you cannot really defend human rights or support democracy’ – where are such arguments meant to take us?
For me the issue of ‘relevance’ or having ‘current currency’ in the present ‘public space’ will not be found in trying to argue ‘the Christian faith was critical to these practices emerging’ but rather requires a current demonstration of how and why we may value such practices today.
The above, however, I think faces at least three problems:
a) I am not convinced that on the whole Christians value these practices as practices in their own right that require to be defended other than to the extent that they ‘help’ them and their ’cause’.
b) I am not convinced that we see it as our business to engage with the ‘political’ at this level of the theory and theology of the ‘political’ rather than on single issues.
c) I am not convinced that we have the imagination to see and work for an future ‘common good’ with an alternative role in it than the role and place that we once had and want back.
To put all of the above more simply – if we desire a relevance in the present, at this level of what Christian faith and thought contributes to wider socio-political culture, (if we actually think a all that this should be a project for the Church) then we need to demonstrate that in the present, rather than through constant appeals to the past. We need to stop talking about how we contributed to the development of democracy and human rights and start showing how our faith in the present desires to see such defended and developed.