Quite an impressive scene. Enough to make Christians in other parts of the West teary with joy and awe.
Unfortunately, an impressive scene is all the sky-cross really is. Though Hungary's rulers enjoy carrying on about the nation's Christian roots, heritage, and culture, they rarely, if ever, regard Christianity as primary in their decisions.
Among the teary-eyed Christians from other parts of the West whom the sight filled with joy and awe was none other than Rod Dreher, one of my steadfast “go-to” guys whenever I am looking to confirm everything that is wrong about contemporary Christianity.
In an article in some online mag called The European Conservative – which qualifies as the most epic oxymoron in modern usage – Dreher spews forth the following unsurprising and predictable gushing drivel:
Your faithful diarist went out on the Feast of Stephen—and saw something like a miracle. Seriously.
Sunday, August 20th was the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian king of Hungary, coronated in the year 1000 with a crown sent by the Pope. It is also one of the three official national Magyar holidays. This year I received an invitation to watch the fireworks over the Danube from the terrace of the Carmelite monastery where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has his office. I stood with a crowd of partygoers oohing and aahing at the spectacular blasts illuminating the city below.
When smoke from the final explosions was still dissipating, a swarm of drones coalesced over the Danube in front of the Parliament. They formed the Hungarian coat of arms. Then, dissolving, they came back together in the distinct shape of the Crown of St. Stephen.
And then, the final image of the day: the drones came together to form a cross of light over Budapest. I took the video above with my smartphone.
It nearly brought me to tears.
I texted the image to a Spanish Catholic friend, who was both shocked and delighted. He said that the only similar drone sky-art his own government would likely muster would be an LGBT Pride flag. It’s true in contemporary America as well. Liberalism’s successor ideology—wokeness—also has a successor religion: the religion of the rainbow, not the cross.
A short while later, I saw Prime Minister Orbán moving through the crowd. I stopped him to thank him for the cross in the sky.
“It was okay?” he said.
“Better than okay,” I said. “Thank you again.”
It was right to thank Viktor Orbán. This is his doing. This is what it means to have a leader who is a Christian and not ashamed of it. This is what it means to have a leader who believes that the faith that was inseparable from the founding of the nation is vital to its survival.
Dreher lives in Budapest now and is a verified true believer in Orbán as a Christian leader. I have lived in Hungary for over seven years, am of Hungarian heritage, am married to a Hungarian, speak the language, and know the history and culture of this country far better than Dreher could ever hope to know them, and all I can say is this – Dreher is dead wrong about Orbán and the drone cross, which is exactly as it should be when you stop to consider the kind of Christian Rod Dreher is.
I’ll make this very simple and brief. Orbán is a master politician who insincerely panders to the somewhat sincere but incomprehensibly confused reverence for tradition, religion, and nation ingrained within the Hungarian masses.
In this sense, the drone cross hovering over Hungary’s capital after a spectacular fireworks display honoring the founding of the nation exemplifies the glitzy shallowness of Orbán’s pandering, which invests heavily in putting on shows reflecting what people want to see and hear while simultaneously undermining the very values and fabric it professes to defend.
Orbán is not the sole culprit here. The Hungarian masses are also to blame. Ooh-ing and ah-ing over what amounts to an external symbolic spectacle is no substitute for an authentic, internally-lived religion.
Orbán has hooked Dreher in much the same manner he has succeeded in hooking most Christian conservatives – by effectively mirroring back everything said Christian conservatives want to perceive, all without doing any of the things that have been mirrored. I was impressed by Orbán for a little while myself, but when you live and work at the ground level in this country for a few years, you gather enough experience to know that Orbán is not all he professes to be.
Orbán as a defender of freedom and individual rights? Sorry, Hungary’s ruthless manipulative birdemic restrictions from 2020 to 2022 proved otherwise. Of course, none of that bothers Christian conservatives like Dreher who had no qualms whatsoever about lining up, getting pecked, and publicly attacking and shaming all who did not mask up, socially distance, and get in line for the pecks.
Orbán as an anti-immigration bulwark defending the West? Sure, he built a fence, but do you know what happens to the illegal migrants who climb the fence? They are stopped and sent back over the border to Serbia where they are free to try their luck again. Sooner or later, any migrant wishing to get past the fence will get past the fence.
Oh, and Orbán just announced that he will be importing several hundred thousand guest workers from places like Indonesia, the Philippines, and Mongolia to work in the mostly foreign-owned factories or to drive buses and trucks. All legally, of course. Several hundred thousand in a nation of fewer than ten million. Imagine several hundred thousand over many years. And don’t even think about using the “they’re only guest workers” argument. Germany did that. How did that work out for them?
Orbán a defender of the family and family values? Sure, if importing labor from other countries to undermine the already ridiculously low wages in Hungary counts as defending the family.
How about Orbán’s generous baby-making schemes to encourage Hungarians to have more kids by offering grants and loans for houses? Well, the demographic collapse continues unabated, and the drive to make housing more affordable has resulted in real estate prices tripling or quadrupling in most places around the country in the past six years, effectively making housing unaffordable for young couples. Hungary also has the highest inflation in the EU, particularly when it comes to food.
Orbán as an anti-woke/anti-EU crusader? Funny how the great crusader has aligned his country with virtually all the System’s globo agenda items, most notably the climate crisis, WHO-related treaties, and anything involving exploiting the Hungarian working class for the benefit of big, multinational corporations.
And this is just the material stuff. I haven’t even gotten to spiritual matters.
Suffice it to say, Orbán panders to the externals of Christianity, which works wonders for Christians like Dreher who exist purely on Christian externals. For Christians like Dreher, Christianity is all on the outside. Don’t believe me? Ask old Raymond to show you his cool Christian tattoo.
For such externally positioned Christians, the faith begins and ends with church attendance, culture, nations, and civilizations. Christians like Dreher exist entirely on the ever-evaporating surface of Christianity, which is why they become so embarrassingly sentimental and hopeful when someone like Orbán comes along and arranges some drones in the form of a cross above a city.
Christians like Dreher will never get beyond the external stance of reaction and resistance. And by stance, I mean just that. A stance. A pose. A posture. With nothing whatsoever backing it up.
It is this stance that people like Orbán pander to with their bigger, more impressive stances, posturing, and posing. So much posing and posturing about resisting without ever really resisting anything at all.
It’s time to move past external spectacles and displays that promise to defend the externals of Christianity.
It’s time to move inward and nurture the internals of Christianity. Forget being against something all the time and make the move to be "for" something all the time, or at least for as much time as possible.
That "for" something is not out there, so stop looking for it out there.