Faith, Politics, and Transitions in Brussels

Searching for a Soul: Europe and the Gospel


“A creative minority of practising Christians, Schuman, Adenauer and De Gasperi, helped Europe out of its post-war crisis by proposing a way forward based on biblical principles. They believed that democracy was either Christian, or it would become non-existent.” — Tunne Kelam MEP

Does Europe have a soul? As an American, I find this an interesting question, because to reflect upon my home country, I must answer in the affirmative: America has a soul. But Europe? I don’t know, but I know that the European project, Europe, needs one.

Why is that? Why would Europe need a soul? To those questions, I would respond with the fact that without a common cultural consciousness, even if it is varied, then the European project is bound to fail. The tribalism inherent in human nature drives us to separate and to degrade the other, in our thoughts, in our words, and in our deeds. This is what the european integration is up against, let alone the history of war, differing cultures, and disparate languages. If a soul is not found, if a common ground is not reach, is a communal consciousness is not developed, then tribalism wins.

Where would Europe even find a soul? It was Schuman who directed the search to the Scriptures of Christians, both the Old Testament and the New. In every country of Europe, there is that common Judeo-Christian heritage. At its best, it could be a uniting force that stops the entropy leading to tribalism; at its worst, it unites Europe in war against the Others. But a soul is this kind of double-edged sword, as I know the American spirit to be. Yet I believe that is a risk worth taking, because we have the ability to learn from that past, and we have the opportunity to embrace a new future.

But a foundation is different from the livingness of soul. Even if the European soul is founded on the common historical and cultural heritage of Judeo-Christian values (and also Greek metaphysics, but that is another post), that does not prescribe its functioning existence. This is definitely something to be aware of — the Heraclitian soul of Europe; it is ever changing, in the flux, open and fluid. If the Christian tradition that permeates Europe can be open as well (as open as Jesus himself was), then it can continue to contribute to the formation of Europe and its soul.

This is the Gospel, though. It is founded, but it is open. The Kingdom of God is for all, especially the downtrodden, the lonely, and the forgotten. Jesus Christ founds this Kingdom and invites all to come for rest, for justice, and for love. If Europe as a project is to succeed, and is to grow in its identity, its integration, and its influence, its people must be united, must share a common language, common symbols and ideas, yet one that is not static or opposed to new ones. Europe’s search for a soul must begin again in the words and the traditions inspired by the Scriptures, and most importantly in the words of Jesus, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

— Jeremy