Thursday, October 18, 2007

Christian Reawakening in Europe?

Tony Blair converted to Catholicism as his first act post-PM. His wife Cherie is RC & he attended Mass with her & the children when in London. But this was under-reported by the secular EU and leftist US media. However, Tony B may be part of a trend that is also underreported by the MSM, as Philip Longman observes:
Americans of all political stripes tend to see what they want to see in the European Union. For progressives, its example is supposed to show how a robust welfare state, including universal health care, is consistent with prosperity. It’s also supposed to show how separation of church and state, multilateralism, multiculturalism, opposition to the death penalty, embrace of gay marriage, state-sponsored preschool, gun control, the Kyoto Treaty, and other progressive causes are all consistent with a just and sustainable civilization -- indeed, with becoming a "moral superpower."

And so we have received books like Mark Leonard’s Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century (2005), which extols the EU’s ability to attract new nations into its orbit and convert them to its secular, humanistic values by force of moral example. "The EU has a way of accommodating and nurturing diversity in a liberal way," Leonard explains. "It has a set of norms that are essentially about respecting difference -- the rule of law, human rights, etc., which it embodies in its relations with other countries."

Americans holding traditional religious and conservative values, meanwhile, have their worldview confirmed by a different vision of Europe. It’s a Europe that forgot to have children and is now well on the way to committing slow-motion "autogenocide," that is overrun by hostile immigrants, that is economically stagnant, that can no longer afford its welfare state, that is militarily irrelevant, and that at the end of the day cannot even find the voice to defend its most politically correct values, such as freedom of speech and sexual equality,when attacked by Islamic fundamentalists.

And so we get books like Mark Steyn’s America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It (2006), in which the conservative columnist writes Europe’s obituary, ascribing its death to godlessness, narcissism, relativism, pacifism, and willful sterility. "Europe by the end of this century will be a continent after the neutron bomb," Steyn writes. "The grand buildings will still be standing but the people who built them will be gone. And long before the Maldive Islands are submerged by ‘rising sea levels’ every Spaniard and Italian will be six feet under." This spring, conservative Walter Laqueur published a more sober and mournful obituary, The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent, in which the best he can say is that "decadence is attractive and infectious," and that maybe Europe’s invading Muslims will fall for it.

So who is right? A new offering from Penn State historian Philip Jenkins provides a brilliantly researched, intellectually honest, and surprising account of Europe’s cultural future. In God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis, Jenkins is guardedly optimistic, though not for reasons that will leave most secular Americans comfortable. Europe will survive, indeed will flourish. But in the process, it will become far more religious and morally conservative.

Longman wrote an intriguing article a while back on an aging Europe committing "autogenicide" which I blogged upon. The Catholics are making a comeback in London, and not only because of a huge influx of Poles [who also choose Ireland as a destination.] Click on the link to read the details of how even the Finnish are reverting to an anodyne-version of Lutheran liturgy. Longman gives the reasons we have not heard about this:
The reason more Americans aren’t aware of these trends, Jenkins argues, is because most of what they know about Europe is filtered first by the European media, which are overwhelmingly secular and generally hostile to organized religion. "European accounts of religious life all but ignore significant trends or events, and this lack of attention means that these movements receive little attention elsewhere."

For similar reasons, most Americans have little conception of how conservative ordinary Europeans are on a wide range of other issues. For example, no European country has practiced capital punishment since 1981. Because of the ability of elites to control public discussion, the issue is simply off the table. Yet, as Jenkins reports, majorities in most European countries support the death penalty, as well as much tougher stands on criminal justice. Similarly, the European "man in the street" opposes much else the European Union stands for, including sheltering asylum seekers and promoting "positive discrimination" (affirmative action) for Muslim youths. Americans who don’t pay close attention get only hints of what a "red state" Europe is becoming -- as when, for example, a majority of voters in France and the Netherlands unexpectedly rejects the proposed EU constitution (in 2005), or when France elects a "law and order" president like Nicolas Sarkozy.

This rings hyper-true to me with my two years in Lyon, where every person on the street who was not a Communist/Socialist disliked the cultural/political/social/educatonal elites running France and compared the elite illuminati and their commentariat pilot fish to various parts of the human body between the knees and the navel.

But what about them pesky Muslims proliferating like rabbits?
The influence of European Muslims will also grow. But their numbers are, as Jenkins points out, still quite small. The largest concentration of Muslims is in France, at about 8 percent of the population. In the Netherlands, 6.3 percent of the population is Muslim, and Jenkins notes that in all other current EU countries, just 4.3 percent are Muslim. Furthermore, there is great diversity within Europe’s Muslim citizenry. The Turks who dominate Germany’s Muslim population do not even speak the same language as France’s Algerians, much less Britain’s Pakistanis. Moreover, polls suggest that Muslims living in Europe generally express far more positive attitudes toward Christians -- 91 percent in France, 82 percent in Spain, and 71 percent in Britain -- than do Muslims in their countries of origin. Though European Muslims are generally hostile to Jews, they are less so than Muslims living elsewhere in the world. And, as Jenkins points out, violent fundamentalists are a very tiny minority of all practicing Muslims.

In the end, Longman deflects a comparison between Muslims in the EU and Roman Catholics who in the US experience were expected to take over the country ["Catholics didn't explode themselves for religion"], and comes out with an interesting "Third Way" between the utopia of the secularists and the autogenocide predicted by Mark Steyn:
Still, a confrontation between a resurgent Christianity in Europe and a militant Islam is not necessarily the new battle line in European society. Indeed, as I was reminded at the World Congress of Families in Warsaw, conservative Christians and conservative Muslims living in Europe have much more in common with each other on many issues -- notably abortion, euthanasia, and "family values" -- than they do with Europe’s childless relativistic secularists. Time and again, speakers at the conference made this point. We are all People of the Book. The true infidels are the secularists who deny a role for the God of Abraham in public life, and who in the name of human rights and personal liberation create a "culture of death."

If one defines European civilization by the public philosophy of the European Union, including its embrace of secularism and multiculturalism, then that Europe is definitely in demographic decline. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that this Europe forgot to have children and thereby lost much of its influence over the evolution of European society while also undermining the sustainability of its welfare state. If, however, one defines European civilization by its Judeo-Christian traditions, including its long history of both confronting and adapting to Islamic influences, then Europe looks poised for rejuvenation.

One might even see a syncretistic response such as Sikhism was between Hindu and Muslim on the boundaries of their overlapping adherents. However, the confrontational stance between Christians and Muslims [and the nasty relationship with the Jewish mini-minority both share] will mitigate between any hugs-and-kisses make-up soon. 1687 is still a key date in many EU countries' national history and the reverberations from the Christian reconquista of Eastern Europe are still a hum in the ear.

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