Christianity and Crisis: Uses and Abuses of Religion in Modern Europe
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The article examines how European narratives of crisis have been related to religion in different eras by different factions and with varying intentions. In the first section, I offer some examples from the interwar era, in which religion was used as part both of a conservative nationalistic narrative of crisis and a progressive liberal one. Secondly, I revisit some of the post-war debates, in which religion (or the biblical legacy) was commonly depicted as the root of the ideological perversions that had caused Europe’s recent crises. Yet at the same time, religion was also laid claim to as a constructive force in the building of post-war Europe, not least by the founding fathers of the European Union. In the third part, I return to the contemporary European situation. Like in previous eras, religion is today laid claim to for various and often conflicting reasons. What is new, in relation to most of the post-war era, are the growing populist discourses that once more invest in religion for nationalist purposes. However, there are also important counter-currents to these trends, not least within the established churches. Inspired by voices from contemporary clergy as well as theology, I end this essay by briefly pondering the potential of the biblical legacy to offer counternarratives to the scaremongering and scapegoating tendencies of the populist rhetoric.