Every good Pole should know what the role of the church is … because beyond the church there is only nihilism

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com, or follow me on Twitter.

“Every good Pole should know what the role of the church is … because beyond the church there is only nihilism.”

– Jarosław Kaczyński, chairman of the Law and Justice party, 7 September


This is an interesting line because everywhere else in the West the right-wing has become synonymous with nihilism. Trump is a nihilist who believes in nothing, he is a being of pure lust, greed and spite. Boris Johnson may not be a nihilist in his heart of hearts, but his Brexit extremism is functionally nihilist.

Of course, the USA and Britain are secular nations, which raises an interesting set of complexities. What does a party of tradition fight for in a nation that recently gave up on religion? How can such political parties avoid being nihilist? What else is there, once the religion is gone? One is left with mere nostalgia and grievance. In the USA, the Republican party no longer fights for important issues such the importance of living a morally tethered life. Rather, Republicans make populist appeals to those who feel irritated. The good life is no longer service to others and god nor careful consideration of those gifts of circumstance for which we should be grateful, rather, the good life is now all about watching television, hoping your team wins, getting together with old college buddies, shouting at the idiots who want us to worry about the environment.

Somebody wants the USA to convert to the metric system? Shout them down. The USA is all about inches and feet, always has been, always will be, and the Republican party is here to protect inches and feet.

Somebody wants the USA to lead the way on a green energy revolution? Shout them down. The USA is all about coal and petroleum and methane gas, always has been, always will be, and the Republican party is here to protect fossil fuels.

The Republican party is here to tell us the past will never end, and we can live there forever. It’s the kind of heaven people look for once they’ve stopped looking for heaven in their faith.

By any measure, Poland is currently the most religious of the Western nations. It is perhaps the only Western nation where the vast majority still attend church on Sunday. Coming from a secular country, I was surprised at how much the religion was a part of everyday life. Walking through a national forest I came upon a dozen icons of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, or simply the cross. I’ve never been in a USA park that had religious symbols.

All of which is to say, the right-wing movement in Poland is different from the right-wing movements in the rest of Europe. Poland’s right-wing movement is much worse on LGBQT issues than, say, the Tories in Britain, but they are much better on social welfare programs:

Although he belongs to a small, rural party, Ormanty, 65, is a loyal and passionate supporter of Poland’s controversial Law and Justice government, which has a strong chance of winning a second term in office after next Sunday’s general election. Another photograph on his wall shows the mayor with Andrzej Duda, the Law and Justice stalwart who was elected president in 2015.

“It’s unprecedented what is being done on social welfare,” he says. “This has gone not just to families, the government is taking care of the disabled and the elderly too. Last month we opened a new centre for the disabled which is helping 30 residents.”

Ormanty believes that, beyond economics, Law and Justice are fighting the good fight in the battle to defeat the secular liberal values that have corrupted western European nations and which are threatening to do the same in Catholic Poland.

On the mayor’s desk, a small collection of books includes a volume by his brother, a distinguished priest. There is also a work entitled: “The Destructive ‘Equality’ of the LBGTQ ideology; allegedly anti-discriminatory and progressive policies as instruments of discrimination and destruction.”

For Ormanty and in much of Poland, this is the hot topic of the day. Four years ago, when Law and Justice swept to power, winning the first outright parliamentary majority in the post-communist era, they did so partly through exploiting Europe’s refugee crisis. The party’s chairman and most influential figure, Jarosław Kaczyński, pledged to shut Polish borders to an alleged 100,000 Muslim refugees who, he said, would seek to impose sharia law in the country.

This time around, LGBT rights seem to have been chosen as a useful anti-liberal battleground on which the party – and its clerical supporters – can show off their conservative credentials. At a “patriotic” conference organised by the lay group Catholic Action last spring, Kaczyński described LGBT rights and “gender theory” as a “threat to the nation”. Across the country, Pride-style marches have been condemned, contested and banned. Where they have taken place, counter-demonstrations have turned violent. No one knows how many people have been the target of homophobic attacks because there is no hate-crime category in which they could be recorded. The atmosphere has turned toxic.

Last month, Ormanty tried to persuade Kalwaria’s council to adopt a resolution stating that “gay ideology” was “annihilating Christian values” and declaring the town an “LGBT-free zone”.

“It’s not about individuals, it’s about the ideology,” he says. “Those people who demonstrate their sexuality openly are in effect attacking the church … I am a believer and a practising person, like most Poles: we have been baptised and we are believers, and therefore our goal is salvation. You achieve salvation by living a holy life, in line with the 10 commandments, and the commandment of love. The wellbeing of our children and grandchildren is at stake, because the equality movements blaspheme things we hold sacred.”