At the end of this month the people of the European Union will elect its members for the European Parliament, and I would like to take this opportunity to discuss European politics. Europe has a tragic, sinful history of war, racism, colonialism, oppression and imperialism – and even though the EU thankfully has made its member countries less prone to wage war against each other there are still many sins present in the European society. In a blog series I would like to cover what I see as the seven deadly sins of Europe that we Europeans have to deal with.
The seven deadly sins has its origins among the monastic desert fathers in the fourth century. As the monks and nuns escaped civilization and were lonely with God in prayer, they discovered the darkness of their own soul as their hearts made them lust for evil. The seven deadly sins are emotions rather than actions, since the desert fathers discovered that they unfortunately continued to sin even as they were not doing very much except praying and weave baskets. The seven deadly sins are thus not the most harmful sins – and hardly the deadly sins John talks about in 1 Jn 5:16-17 – but the sins that according to the desert fathers are the hardest to cure.
One of these sins is envy, or jealousy. The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia defines it as: “a sorrow which one entertains at another’s well-being because of a view that one’s own excellence is in consequence lessened. Its distinctive malice comes from the opposition it implies to the supreme virtue of charity.” A loving person rejoices when it goes well for one’s brother or sister; a jealous person is, well, jealous. Envy requires egoism and a desire for success and possessions.
I would say that envy is what motivates all of European politics. The main goal for most European political leaders is economic growth. Criticism of economic growth is quite marginal, mainly found among the green parties, while the most influential leaders and prime ministers want their rich countries to become even richer. And this hunger for economic growth make them oppress poor countries in order to get money, they build high migration walls so that poor people won’t easily enjoy their wealth and they destory the environment in order to grow even more – sins that we will discuss in further parts of this series.
Envy is often portrayed as a sin of the poor – when someone who lacks sees someone who has affluence, s/he becomes jealous and is thus not only suffering from injustice but has also sinned against the tenth commandment. But God wants equality, He wants the lower the rich and lift up the poor, and while we should not covet anyone’s wife or want to steal someone’s stuff we should criticize wealth and inequality. Furthermore, when it comes to Europe it’s not about the envy of the poor but the envy of the rich – the rich who wants to be richer. Europe not only wants to compeat with the US but also with an imaginary opponent – there is no limit to the growth goal of European politicians. They want to get richer and richer and richer, endlessly.
But “those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim 6:9-10). I think it is damaging and harmful that the goal of European politics is economic growth. This leads to environmental destruction, greed, inequality, oppression and death. Europe has to repent from its sins and I believe a key to this is an abolishment of the goal of economic growth. If we start working towards equality instead of inequality, if we are committed to end global poverty instead of making the richest continent richer – then the Christian Democratic parties that are ruling the European Parliament may live up to their names.