From Christendom to Europe: How a Continent Got Its Identity

From Christendom to Europe: How a Continent Got Its Identity

It is tempting to regard the history of Europe as a tale of gradually closer union, an evolution now imperilled by the forces of nationalistic populism that have brought Brexit and the growth of far-right political parties across the continent. In reality, the story is not such a neat one – and the meaning of Europe has always been up for debate.

Take the 16th century as an example. Back then, Europe as an idea and a marker of identity was becoming more prominent. So much so that by 1623 English philosopher Francis Bacon could refer to “we Europeans” and the continent was depicted as a queen .

Europe As A Queen, 1570. via Wikimedia commons.

The cultural movement of the Renaissance sparked an enthusiasm for all things classical – including the word “Europe”, which may have derived from the Greek name for the goddess Europa. At the same time, the voyages of discovery following Christopher Columbus’s landing in the Americas in 1492 led to a greater knowledge about the world at large. With this came a corresponding deepening of the sense of “us” versus “them”, of what supposedly made Europe and Europeans different.

This identification with people from across the continent had also been spurred by the westward advance of the Ottoman Empire following the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The Reformation and subsequent breakup of the church weakened the idea of Christianity as a unifying badge of identity and so Europe was able to articulate this growing collective sentiment.

The goddess Europa

A little used word

Yet some of the major thinkers of the period rarely used the word “Europe”. The term appeared only ten times in the works of writer William Shakespeare, where it was used not with any specific geographical meaning but for rhetorical exaggeration. In the play Henry V the Constable of France assures the Duke of Orleans that his horse “is the best horse of Europe”. And in Henry VI, Part 1 the Duke of Bedford promises that his soldiers’ “bloody deeds shall make all Europe quake”.

It is telling that three of Shakespeare’s ten utterances belong to that master of comic overstatement, Falstaff. In Henry VI, Part II he says: “An I had but a belly of any indifference, I were simply the most active fellow in Europe.” These are not the stirrings of a sense of cultural unity, of Europe as a great civilisation. The word “Europe” as Shakespeare used it is empty of meaning beyond that of a vast expanse.

The French writer Michel de Montaigne. Wikimedia Commons

The term popped up even less in the writing of French philosopher Michel de Montaigne – just once in the one hundred and seven chapters that make up his Essays. Montaigne used the word as a geographical marker: recalling the myth of Atlantis, he wrote of the kings of that island extending their “dominion as far into Europe as Tuscany”. Curiously, this sole instance of the term Europe appeared in an essay about the New World, On Cannibals , in which Montaigne wrote about the customs of the Tupinambà people of Brazil. Although he contrasted them with what he calls “us”, he did not use the word Europe in these comparisons.

A contested concept

But his contemporaries do. André Thevet, a Franciscan friar who had also journeyed to South America, wrote enthusiastically of the Spanish conquest of the New World: “You will find there towns, castles, cities, villages, houses, bishoprics, states, and all other ways of living that you think it was another Europe”. Thevet championed the superiority of what he called “our Europe” .

Montaigne was much more sceptical : “We may call these people barbarous in respect to the rules of reason, but not in respect to ourselves who in all sorts of barbarity exceed them.” Where Thevet regarded Europe as a cultural model to be exported, Montaigne condemned empire building in the New World. Montaigne articulated a sense of affinity with the Spanish and Portuguese by referring to “we”, “us” and “ourselves”, but – though like Thevet he could have done – he did not name this community Europe.

Some people continued to prefer the label “Christendom” to articulate a collective identity. But others were not wedded to such overarching notions of belonging. Jean de Léry, a Calvinist pastor who had travelled to Brazil, did not use the word “Christendom” and used “Europe” sparingly in a geographical, not a cultural, sense. Léry had suffered at the hands of Catholics during the French Wars of Religion and felt no affinity with them. His allegiances were much smaller – to Calvinism and to France.

Just like today, in the 16th century the meaning of Europe was not straightforward. It was contested between those who used the word as something more than a geographical area and those who did not – between those who saw the continent as a cultural idea of unity and those whose sense of community and belonging was much smaller.


Europe: What is Pope Benedict Thinking?

Ahead of the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty next week, Jesuit theologian James Corkery presents the perspectives on Europe of Pope Benedict XVI and John Paul II, and looks at how their vision can inform the development of the European Union. How has Europe drifted away from its Christian roots, and why is the future of the continent dependent on the rediscovery of its identity as ‘a way of being together by different peoples that is founded on a mutual ordering of faith and reason’?

It may seem strange, as Ireland prepares for its second vote on the Lisbon Treaty on 2 October 2009, to focus on the vision of Europe of the current pope. After all, are his views not essentially religious and are Ireland’s concerns with Lisbon not, in the main, economic, social and political? At first glance, this may appear to be the case, but on closer inspection it becomes evident that Irish people are concerned about a very wide range of issues with which the Treaty of Lisbon is, or is perceived to be, connected. And the pope is concerned, as he observes the growth and development of the European Union, with the principles and the vision of humanity that underlie the advance of the EU and with how these are related to the religious and cultural heritage of the continent of Europe as a whole. Popes, and not only the present one, have a pastoral interest in Europe – and thus in the values, freedoms, opportunities, possibilities and challenges that it presents to its peoples. Indeed, before homing in on Benedict XVI’s vision of Europe, it will be instructive to glance back at the approach to Europe taken by his predecessor, John Paul II, who dominated the papal scene for over a quarter of a century, from 1978 to 2005.

Europe As Conceived by John Paul II

John Paul II was the first Slav pope ever and the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. He was not a Western European but he had no doubt that he was European. In his early years as pope, he saw his country cast off the shackles of communist rule. In his final years he saw Poland acquire membership of the European Union. Speaking in those early years (when the Soviet bloc was still just about intact but its fate increasingly evident), in May 1987 at Spire in France, John Paul II referred to the continent of Europe, geographically, as reaching ‘from the Atlantic to the Urals’.[1] But he had already made it known earlier, when addressing members of the European parliament in 1979, just a few months after becoming pope – and he reiterated the point in 1988, when addressing them again – that he did not equate Europe with Western Europe, and certainly not just with the nations represented in the European Parliament on those occasions, but considered Europe to include also the states of the East and saw those states as legitimate and worthy aspirants to membership of the European Economic Community (as it was still called at that time). If the members of the European parliament who were listening to John Paul II were inclined to think of Europe in political and economic terms – more or less as a legal entity constituted essentially by the member-states that composed it – the pope made it clear that he was thinking of Europe not only in broader geographical terms, but also in much wider historical and cultural dimensions.

In his speech, in 1988, to the European Parliament, John Paul II referred to the Slav peoples as “that other ‘lung’ of our common European motherland”, expressing the hope that Europe “might one day extend to the dimensions it has been given by geography and still more by history”.[2] From these words it is clear that to speak of Europe was, for him, to go behind, or to go deeper than, the European Union (as a relatively recent creation) to a more fundamental reality: to what Europe is as a continent, to what makes it distinctively itself – historically, culturally and religiously. In other words, it was the overall identity of Europe, the entire historical and cultural heritage of Europe, that was the pope’s main concern.

This was already evident from remarks addressed by him to the Polish bishops in his home country at the very start of his pontificate. He said that Europe still needed to seek its fundamental unity and had to turn to Christianity in order to do so. Included in his words were these: “Christianity must commit itself anew to the formation of the spiritual unity of Europe. Economic and political reasons alone are not enough. We must go deeper to the ethical reasons”.[3] These words form an easy bridge to the thought of the present pope, Benedict XVI, on the subject of Europe, since he too focuses on European identity – on the cultural and spiritual foundations on which it rests – and seeks to articulate what Europe is in order to tease out the contribution it can be expected to make to the future of its peoples.

Europe As Conceived by Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI[4]

Europe, Joseph Ratzinger has written, “is not a continent that can be comprehended neatly in geographical terms rather it is a cultural and historical concept”.[5] To think of it simply as an economic, political or legal community is mistaken. “It constitutes, for its citizens, an entire living space, a way of being together by different peoples that is founded on a mutual ordering of faith and reason”.[6] What exactly is that? Well, Europe arose, in Ratzinger’s view, through the encounter of Christian faith with the heritage of reason coming from Greek (also Roman) thought. This encounter, through which faith became oriented to philosophical reason and reason found its moorings in faith in God (and in Christian moral values), provided a basis for living, a cultural-spiritual foundation, that served – and must still serve – as the criterion for judging whether something may be deemed authentically European or not.[7] This mutual ordering of faith and reason expresses the distinctive feature of European identity and is identified by Ratzinger through his consideration of four heritages that are each said to embody it in their own way: the Greek heritage the heritage of the Christian East that of the Latin West and the heritage of the modern period.

These cannot be explored in detail here – in any case this has already been done elsewhere[8] – but Ratzinger’s illustration of how the second, the heritage of the Christian East (that is, the early Christian heritage) arose and flourished is given expression, beautifully, in what he says about the New Testament text from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 16:9), in which the Macedonian says to Paul: ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us’. The Macedonian embodies the Greek spirit of rationality and Paul incarnates early Christian faith and here the two are drawn into fruitful relationship. Reflecting on this, Ratzinger points out: “Christianity is the synthesis mediated in Jesus Christ between the faith of Israel and the Greek spirit”.[9] And he sees Europe as being inextricably bound up with (and unthinkable apart from) this same synthesis:

Europe became Europe through the Christian faith, which carries the heritage of Israel in itself, but at the same time has absorbed the best of the Greek and Roman spirit into itself.[10]

Joseph Ratzinger knows that Christianity’s immediate origins do not lie in the west but in the east. Nonetheless he is convinced that what occurred when the faith of the Christian East encountered the rationality of the Greek (and Roman) West was what might be called ‘culturally providential’ and enabled Christianity to acquire a distinctive expression and Europe to acquire a distinctive identity that it is incumbent upon it to cherish. Here the thought of Ratzinger/Benedict XVI and John Paul II come so close as to suggest that what the latter wrote in his encyclical Fides et Ratio owes something, surely, to the influence of his (then) Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger. John Paul II said:

. in engaging great cultures for the first time, the Church cannot abandon what she has gained from her inculturation in the world of Greco-Latin thought. To reject this heritage would be to deny the providential plan of God who guides his Church down the paths of time and history.[11]

Ratzinger is distressed about Europe today because he considers that it has rejected its authentic heritage. Like John Paul II in his words (quoted earlier) to the bishops of his own country in 1979, Ratzinger looks also to Christianity to provide Europe with the spiritual unity that it needs and he sees it as failing in this task today by abandoning the heritage of the mutual ordering of faith and reason upon which it has been founded. Present-day Europe is a continent that is out of kilter with its true self.[12] It has abandoned its heritages that orientate reason to faith and has embraced a radicalized concept of reason that betrays even the Enlightenment, leaving reason (and human freedom) without compass or guide. In other words, as I shall now show, Europe has replaced a Christian culture that is characterised by a mutual ordering of faith and reason with an entirely secular culture that is marked by a radical separation of the two. This results in the destruction of Europe.

Europe Today: A Continent Out of Touch with its Roots

Joseph Ratzinger, in an evening forum on January 19, 2004, at the Catholic Academy of Bavaria with the philosopher Jürgen Habermas, argued that there exist today “the two great cultures of the West, that is, the culture of the Christian faith and that of secular rationality.”[13] While neither is universal, each contributes in its own way to various cultures throughout the world. Each is rooted in Christianity the first is an authentic expression of Christian tradition, the second is a departure from it, even though its starting-point is Christian Europe. In the first, the mutual ordering of faith and reason, of religion and law, is maintained in the second, there is a radical severing of reason from faith that claims total autonomy for reason and that relegates faith entirely to the margins of life. The former retains key elements of Europe’s heritages, its fourth – the modern, or Enlightenment, heritage – in particular, which Joseph Ratzinger enumerates as follows: “the relative separation of state and Church, freedom of conscience, human rights and the independent responsibility of reason”[14] (‘independent’ does not mean ‘absolutely autonomous’). The latter radicalizes Enlightenment principles in a manner antithetical to Europe’s Christian heritage, giving birth, basically, to a now post-Enlightenment – indeed, post-European – culture that is silent about God and that:

Excludes God from public consciousness, whether he is totally denied or whether his existence is judged to be indemonstrable, uncertain, and so is relegated to the domain of subjective choices, as something in any case irrelevant for public life.[15]

To exclude God and the voice of Christian faith from public life seems, at first glance, to express an openness to multi-culturalism and a great tolerance for the religious traditions of Europe’s many non-Christians. But Ratzinger thinks it shocks them, since no Muslim, for example, or no other believer has attempted to exclude God and the things of God from public life in the way that Europe has (recall the debate on mentioning God in the attempted draft European Constitution a few years ago).[16] To totally separate reason from faith and the exercise of human freedom from responsibility towards Europe’s Christian moral traditions seems, at first glance, to constitute a major emancipation but what kind of reason and freedom does it leave? If human reason and freedom become supreme values in themselves, with nothing to guide or orient them if human beings become the sole measure of their own thoughts and arbiters of their own actions, with no greater truth or good to guide them then what results from this is a narrowing of reason and freedom, the former to a purely scientific, positive, experimental reason and the latter to a freedom of pure form, empty of content, expressed solely in terms of absences: absence of constraint, relational ties, etc. This constricting of reason and freedom, carried out in the name of a radically desired emancipation, achieves the very opposite of what its architects apparently intended. Only when they are joined to the great religious traditions of humanity – Ratzinger often stretches the canvas broader than the Christian heritage – do they find space to put out into the deep, posing the questions and discerning the directions that correspond with the depths of our humanity.

The radical, post-Enlightenment, post-European culture that has developed in Europe in recent times does not accept any standard or measure beyond itself to which it is answerable in the making of its laws and the fashioning of its freedoms. Yet it has long been clear that pluralist democracies cannot ever be entirely self-referential, indeed relativistic, in character but need, as a foundation for the values that they espouse – for example, freedom of worship for all their citizens – a non-relativistic standard or measure that has to be found beyond themselves. Ratzinger holds that Europe’s fourth, or Enlightenment, heritage not only sees, but espouses, this, thus making possible “‘a fruitful dualism of state and Church’ in tandem with fundamental Christian humane values supporting, indeed implying, inter alia, a pluralist democracy for Europe, built on its own non-relativistic kernel”.[17]

So Joseph Ratzinger calls – not for a return to something that is past – but rather for the building together, as Europeans, of a culture based on our authentic heritage(s) that refuses the total de-coupling of reason from faith that leaves us prey to the pathologies on the side of reason and of religion that arise from doing so. He makes a proposal instead. Recognising that the dominance of religion and religious authority prior to the Enlightenment led thinkers of the Enlightenment, understandably, to propose an exercise of reason that proceeded ‘as if God did not exist’ (etsi Deus non daretur), he proposes that, at a time when the dominance of the secular and the setting aside of Europe’s Christian roots reign so supreme that Europeans should live again ‘as if God exists’ (etsi Deus daretur). And they should attempt to have confidence in that essential core of Christian Europe’s heritage – the mutual ordering of faith and reason – to contribute towards constructing a humane future for this continent (and from which such a project is still expected and necessary).[18] Here the relevance of these reflections for Ireland and its vote on the Lisbon treaty starts to emerge, since Ireland too, with its own rising, often strident, secularism, will need to recover in imaginative ways the spiritual foundations of Europe that can guide its choices and help its citizens to build a future for their country and for Europe that is really just and good – in accordance with non-relativistic standards that transcend its own mere interests and offer criteria for correct political action.

Conclusion: What about Ireland and Lisbon Round Two?

Thinking out “the criteria for correct political action against the background of the present European and global situation” has been the main concern of Joseph Ratzinger’s later writings on Europe, according to himself.[19] In his earlier essays, his focus was more on Europe’s identity. In fact, the two go together: the identity of Europe as a synthesis of faith and reason points its architects – and this includes those responsible for shaping the EU also – towards the importance of returning to public consciousness the moral heritage of Christianity and the voice of Christian faith in God.

The issues that research has shown to have been important in the NO vote to Lisbon recently were: military neutrality and defence responsibilities the family, education, and-right-to life issues taxation and social policy and the rights of workers. All of these have ethical dimensions and need to have moral criteria brought to bear upon them. Persons of all religious traditions, and sometimes even of none, recognise the importance of bringing criteria and perspectives from the great ethical and religious traditions of humanity to bear upon such questions it is only contemporary, post-Enlightenment, post-European, radical secularists who deny this. No pope could be expected to support their views and indeed Benedict XVI and John Paul II vigorously oppose them. Instead Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI proposes that we dare to wager again upon the possibility that God is there and that the Christian vision of humanity as loved beyond all telling by a God who self-empties on its behalf should act as a guide and orientation for the decisions that we make about our lives together.

Pope Benedict does not tell people what to decide about the Lisbon Treaty (even though it is clear enough that he supports, in an overall sense, European integration) but he does point to what he considers should be included in, should inform, the making of our decisions. In other places, such as in his new encyclical about integral human development (Caritas In Veritate), he provides principles from the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching that offer guidance on economic and social matters.

Whatever is decided about Lisbon, he is saying to the citizens (and to the government!) of Ireland and all of Europe, let it be informed by Europe’s Christian roots – and thus by Christianity’s vision of the dignity of the human person and the responsibilities that arise when caring for this dignity in communities with limited resources and with a special duty towards those who are most vulnerable. Europe has little to contribute to the future of humanity, and to rest of the world that sees it as being, historically, the Christian continent, if it rejects the very thing that, despite all its own shortcomings, still has the power to ennoble it.

James Corkery SJ is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at the Milltown Institute.

This article was originally published in Working Notes, the journal of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice in Dublin.

[1] See Michael Walsh, “From Karol Wojtyla to John Paul II: Life and Times”, in Gerard Mannion (ed.), The Vision of John Paul II: Assessing His Thought and Influence Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2008), 10-28, at 21.

[3] Ibid., p. 20. Walsh is quoting the speech published in the collection, John Paul II, Return to Poland (London: Collins, 1979).

[4] Since almost all of Benedict XVI’s writings on Europe date from before his election as pope on April 19, 2005 (even if many were re-published after that date), I shall refer to him in these pages mostly as Joseph Ratzinger.

[5] Joseph Ratzinger, Europe Today and Tomorrow, English Translation, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007, p. 11.

[6] James Corkery, S.J. Joseph Ratzinger’s Theological Ideas: Wise Cautions and Legitimate Hopes (Dublin: Dominican Publications and Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2009), p. 117.

[8] See James Corkery, S.J., “The Idea of Europe according to Joseph Ratzinger” in: Milltown Studies 31 (Spring 1993): 91-111, at pp. 93-97 also J. Corkery, Joseph Ratzinger’s Theological Ideas, pp. 110-113.

[9] Joseph Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism and Politics: New Essays in Ecclesiology, English Translation, New York: Crossroad, 1988, p. 230. See also J. Corkery, Joseph Ratzinger’s Theological Ideas, p. 111.

[10] Homily of Ratzinger (13 September 1980), “Wahrer Friede und wahre Kultur: Christlicher Glaube und Europa” in Christlicher Glaube und Europa. 12 Predigten (Munich: Pressereferat der Erzdiözese München und Freising), pp. 7-18, at pp. 8-9.

[11] Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, Encyclical Letter , para. 72, accessed at www.vatican.va/edocs/ENG0216/_PE.HTM on 29 July 2009. See also Tracey Rowland, Ratzinger’s Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 111.

[12] Corkery, op. cit., pp. 113-116.

[13] Ratzinger’s talk at the forum was entitled “That Which Holds the World Together: The Pre-political Moral Foundations of a Free State” and is available in the collection Europe Today and Tomorrow, pp. 67-81 (here see p. 79, also p. 81) see also Ratzinger’s essay “Europe in the Crisis of Cultures,” section 1 (“Reflections on today’s contrasting cultures”), pp. 345-350, especially pp. 348f., in: Communio 32 (Summer 2005): 345-356.

[14] “Europe: A Heritage with Obligations for Christians”, p. 232.

[15] Joseph Ratzinger, “Europe in the Crisis of Cultures”, p. 347.

[16] Ibid., see pp. 348-349 also J. Corkery, Joseph Ratzinger’s Theological Ideas, p. 114.

[17] See Corkery, Joseph Ratzinger’s Theological Ideas, p. 113, and J. Ratzinger’s essay, “What is Truth? The Significance of Religious and Ethical Values in a Pluralistic Society” in: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Values in a Time of Upheaval (New York: Crossroad and San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), pp. 53-72, at p. 55.J.


A 'Christian' Europe Without Christianity

(RNS) Does European Christendom need Christianity to survive?

It may seen an odd question for a religious culture that once stretched from Britain to the Bosphorus, born of a deep and diffuse
faith that inspired great cathedrals and monasteries and filled them with believers for centuries.

But when right-wing extremist Anders Breivik killed 77 people in a horrific rampage in Norway last month, he highlighted a novel
development in the history of the West: a burgeoning alliance between believers and nonbelievers to promote Europe's Christian identity.

"European Christendom and the cross will be the symbol in which every cultural conservative can unite under in our common defense," Breivik wrote in his rambling 1,500-page manifesto. "It should serve as the uniting symbol for all Europeans whether they are agnostic or atheists."

Whether Breivik himself can be considered a bona fide Christian given his lack of a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God," as he put it, was a topic of much debate. There was no doubt, however, that he was a devout believer "in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform."

In fact, that's been the case for any number of unbelievers for more than a decade.

One prominent example was the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, who spent her last years before her death in 2006 inveighing against a Muslim influx that was turning the continent into what she called "Eurabia."

Fallaci liked to describe herself as a "Christian atheist" -- an interesting turn of phrase -- because she thought Christianity provided Europe with a cultural and intellectual bulwark against Islam.

There's also Scottish-born historian and political conservative Niall Ferguson, who calls himself "an incurable atheist" but is also a
vocal champion for restoring Christendom because, as he puts it, there isn't sufficient "religious resistance" in the West to radical Islam.

(Ferguson dedicated his latest book, "Civilization: The West and the Rest," to his new partner, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born Dutch atheist who has promoted the values of Christianity over those of her native Islam.)

The modern-day crusade for Christendom by nonbelievers tends to be rooted in fears about Muslim immigration, but it's also fueled by worries about the deterioration of European culture -- and nostalgia for the continent's once central place in world affairs.

For some atheists, retaining European identity is reason enough to set aside long-standing enmity between churches and nonbelievers that dates back to the secularism of the Enlightenment and the anti-clericalism of the French Revolution.

And unlike the persistent sniping between atheists and believers in the U.S., Europe's nonreligious conservatives have found ready allies in the continent's religious leaders -- most notably Pope Benedict XVI.

Even before he was elected pope in April 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was spearheading the Vatican effort, however unsuccessful, to have the European Union's new constitution recognize the continent's Christian heritage. He also rejected the idea of allowing Muslim Turkey into the EU. "Europe is a cultural continent," he told a French magazine, "not a geographical one."

As pope, Benedict eventually softened his opposition to Turkey's entry into the EU but continued to insist that Europe's Christian
culture must be protected, even as religious belief among Europeans declined.

In August 2005, just a few months after his election as pope, Benedict met secretly with Fallaci, news that upset Muslims when it
leaked out. Muslims were even angrier at the pontiff's controversial speech a year later in Regensburg, Germany, when he depicted Islam as prone to violence and alien to Christian Europe.

"Attempts at the 'Islamification' of the West cannot be denied," Benedict's closest aide, Monsignor Georg Ganswein, said in a 2007
interview. "And the associated danger for the identity of Europe cannot be ignored out of a wrongly understood sense of respect."

"The Catholic side sees this clearly," he added, "and says as much."

But some atheists see this as well, and are equally happy to say so.

One of Christendom's most prominent atheist advocates is the Italian philosopher and politician Marcello Pera. In 2004, he delivered a series of lectures with then-Cardinal Ratzinger that set out their shared view of the need to restore Christian identity in Europe in order to battle both Islam and moral degeneration.

Later, Benedict wrote a forward to Pera's book, "Why We Must Call Ourselves Christians," which promotes Benedict's argument that Western civilization can be saved if people live "as if God exists," whether they believe that or not.

It's not a new argument -- 17th-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal held that even if God's existence cannot be proved, people ought to act as though God exists because they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

But the updated version seems to be winning some converts. In a landmark ruling last March, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Italy could continue to display crucifixes in public school classrooms because the cross with Jesus on it is a "historical and cultural" symbol rather than a religious one.

While the Vatican welcomed that decision, others wonder whether the cost was too high -- essentially emptying a container of its meaning in order to preserve the cultural form.

And an empty container, no matter how attractive on the outside, can be filled with all manner of beliefs on the inside.


The Much Exaggerated Death of Europe

Philip Jenkins begs to differ. But first a word on the discussion that prompts his dissent. Over the years, First Things has devoted substantial attention to the thesis that Europe is a dying continent. In the fine phrase of David Hart, Europe is dying of “metaphysical boredom.” We were among the first to give a sympathetic hearing to the work of Bat Y’eor, who argues that Europe is, probably irreversibly, on the way to becoming “Eurabia.” Catastrophically low birth rates, combined with a burgeoning Muslim population, led the sage Bernard Lewis to comment in 2004: “Current trends show that Europe will have a Muslim majority by the end of the twenty-first century at the latest . . . . Europe will be part of the Arab West&rdquothe Maghreb.”

Then there was George Weigel’s “Europe’s Problem&rdquoand Ours” (February 2004), later expanded into his influential book The Cube and the Cathedral , in which he asks us to envision the prospect of a “Europe in which the muezzin summons the faithful to prayer from the central loggia of St. Peter’s in Rome, while Notre Dame has been transformed into Hagia Sophia on the Seine&rdquoa great Christian church become an Islamic museum.” Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum writes in National Interest that Europe is faced with three choices, two of them very stark: peaceful integration of its Muslim population a reversal of immigration policy, joined to a brutal campaign to expel Muslims or an Islamic takeover of Europe. And then there is Mark Steyn in America Alone , who says the takeover is already unstoppable. Bat Y’eor, Bernard Lewis, George Weigel, Daniel Pipes, Mark Steyn&rdquowith varying levels of scholarship and restraint&rdquosuggest little or nothing for Europe’s comfort. Other authors could be added to the list. Lawrence Wright in Looming Tower , Melanie Phillips in Londonistan , Bruce Bawer in While Europe Slept , Ian Buruma in Murder in Amsterdam , and, or so it seems, a grim new book-length diagnosis of Europe’s terminal illness almost every other week.

Enter Philip Jenkins with God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis . This is the third volume of his ambitious trilogy examining religion in global perspective. There was The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity , followed by The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South , which was his subject for our 2006 Erasmus Lecture published in our January 2007 issue. In God’s Continent , Jenkins seeks to counter what he views as the excessively dismal, even alarmist, analyses of the future of Europe.

As one has come to expect from Jenkins, God’s Continent is chock-full of information. It seems he has read nearly everything pertinent to his subject. His is an argument of many parts. For instance, “both Christianity and Islam face real difficulties in surviving within Europe’s secular cultural ambience in anything like their familiar historic forms.” Both will have to adapt to what sociologist Peter Berger calls “Eurosecularity,” and, in fact, both are doing just that. Economically, Europe will continue to need large numbers of immigrants, particularly to support its welfare states with aging native populations. Immigrants will mainly be Muslim, and, while their birth rate is high, and much higher in their native countries, the rate among second-and third-generation immigrants in Europe is falling.

But alarm about population change is an old story. Jenkins writes: “A century ago, European thinkers were deeply disturbed about the racial degeneration of their populations, as population decline among the best stock threatened to leave the future to outsiders and lesser breeds. Prophecies that Islam would overwhelm Christian Europe also have a long history, and the predictions carry heavy ideological agendas.” Throughout the book, on population and other worrying developments, Jenkins suggests that we’ve been here before and things did not turn out so badly as many had predicted.

Nations can handle large minorities, he notes. For instance, if we count African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians as minorities, 30 percent of the U.S. population today is minority, and it will probably be 50 percent by 2050. Eight to 10 percent of France today is Muslim, and the figure is about 5 percent if you take Europe as a whole. Moreover, more than a third of the Muslims are not immigrants but long-established populations in countries such as Bulgaria, Albania, and the former Yugoslavia. Then, too, many Muslim young people are as rapidly secularizing as their Christian counterparts.

Jenkins makes frequent comparison with the American experience: “Though in retrospect we regard the assimilation of American Catholics as inevitable, it would have appeared incredible in the 1920s or 1930s, quite as astonishing as any modern suggestion that Europe’s Muslims would within a few decades share many of the values of their old-stock neighbors. The decades-long story of American integration provides a rather different perspective on contemporary laments about Europe’s alleged failure to integrate its own ethnic minorities in a far shorter time span. Let us make a fair comparison: Just how well was the United States doing with assimilation in, say, 1925?”

He admits that it will probably be a “bumpy ride” for Europe. Much depends on whether Muslims continue to identify themselves primarily as Muslims. “If the poor and deprived come to link their condition to their religious identity&rdquoif the young, poor, and Muslim overtly confront the old, well-off, and Christian&rdquothen Europe would face a quite different, and far grimmer, future, which we could term Lebanese rather than American.” To be sure, Europe has had a very different historical experience with minorities, as witness the fate of the Jews. (He does not mention the millions of radically unassimilated gypsies.) Today Jews are some 0.25 percent of Europe’s population, and they will likely decline further. True, the number of Jews in Germany, now more than 200,000, is growing, but that is a consequence of immigration from Russia.

Jenkins devotes much attention to the putative death of Christianity in Europe, underscoring evidences of renewal here and there, sometimes sparked by new international movements (often Catholic) and even giving birth to a few “megachurches” in Great Britain. Yet there is no doubt about the general and dramatic institutional decline, as well as a widespread sense of alienation from Europe’s Christian history. “But institutional weakness,” he writes, “is not necessarily the same as total religious apathy, and among all the grim statistics, there are some surprising signs of life. European Christians, after all, have the longest experience of living in a secular environment, and some at least attempt quite successfully to evolve religious structures far removed from the older assumptions of Christendom. Contrary to widespread assumptions, then, rising Islam will not be expanding into an ideological or religious vacuum.”

Jenkins is much impressed by the vitality of Catholicism in Poland and by the religious rejuvenation in Western Europe and Great Britain occasioned by immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe. “Recognizing the global opportunities, Polish dioceses and seminaries are exporting priests in large numbers, making a special point of teaching them the English language they will need to evangelize Britain or Ireland. Poland in the twenty-first century seems poised to fulfill the role in the global Catholic Church that Ireland did a century ago.”

In general, Europe is not necessarily as secular as it appears to be. Here he draws on the work of Grace Davie and others to the effect that the European phenomenon is one of “believing without belonging.” At the same time, Jenkins knows that not too much comfort is to be drawn from survey research suggesting that Europeans are still residually Christian. “Such evidence for ‘latent faith’ does not necessarily offer comfort for Christians in the longer term, as it is not clear how many decades cultural memories can survive. Residual Christianity may be in reasonable health a generation or so after institutional structures went into free fall, but the situation in thirty or forty years could be very different. We might presently be seeing only a transitional phase in religious decline, on the path from active affiliation to total indifference. Still, the picture of sudden Christian decline is more complex than it initially appears.” At times, Jenkins directly challenges the prophets of the death of Europe at other times, he simply claims that the situation is more complex than they suggest.

Perspectives are skewed also, he says, by the elitism that marks the leadership of European societies. This is especially true with respect to the perceived decline of Christianity. “To draw a parallel with the official ‘European’ views on religion, we would have to imagine a United States in which all media reflected the socially liberal values of the New York Times , Washington Post , or Boston Globe , and in which most forms of conservative or charismatic religious expression were greeted with puzzlement, if not disdain. The United States has much more active religious practice than does Europe, but with its very diverse media, it also has far better means of seeing the religious life that is actually going on.” Too many American observers take at face value what is said about European secularization by Europeans who are ideological proponents of secularization.

Jenkins offers a fine historical sketch of Christian-Muslim relations, countering the bizarre but widespread notion that Islam has typically been the victim of Christian assertiveness. “Through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Turks dominated most of the southeastern quadrant of Europe, and in 1683, they came very close to capturing Vienna, the capital of the Holy Roman Empire.” At several points, he credits the prescience of Hilaire Belloc, who wrote in the 1930s about the unnatural subservience of Islam to the West and why it could not last. Jenkins writes: “Edward Said’s writings on Orientalism can be criticized on many fronts, but he was most radically off-target when he suggested that ‘the West’ had dominated ‘the East’ consistently for the past 2,000 years.”

But the growth of Islam in Europe today has causes different from an ongoing struggle against Christianity. Jenkins offers an extended discussion under the title “The Empires Come Home.” France, Britain, and the Netherlands ruled empires with large Muslim populations and, with decolonization, the idea that these peoples were citizens of the empire entitled them to a place in “the home country.”

There was also the desperate economic need for workers. “The forces driving Muslim immigration were so overwhelming that there is no reason to imagine the conspiracy theory devised by Bat Y’eor and since popularized by Oriana Fallaci and others, which suggests that European elites collaborated with Arab states to create a Eurabian federation spanning the Mediterranean. Given the economic forces demanding labor and the political factors conditioning supply, it would be difficult to imagine any outcome much different from what actually occurred. In the United States, similarly, any significant relaxation of immigration laws would inevitably have drawn in millions of Mexican workers, regardless of what any government or private cabal planned or desired.” (One notes in passing that the influx of millions of illegal immigrants from Mexico is not a hypothetical about what might have happened but a massive fact on the ground.)

“Nobody can deny,” writes Jenkins, “that European nations in coming decades will have to take account of aspects of Muslim culture, or rather of the north African and Asian cultures brought by Muslim immigrants but that is quite different from envisioning wholesale Islamization . . . . Yet matters are not so terrifying [as many contend]. While sections of European Islam in recent years have acquired a strongly militant and politicized character, we have to understand this as a response to temporary circumstances moreover, hard-line [Islamic] approaches still command only minority support. In the longer term, the underlying pressures making for accommodation and tolerance will prove hard to resist.”

That is Jenkins’ somewhat sanguine prognosis. He bases it on many factors. For instance, he says the religious fervor of most Muslims in Europe is greatly exaggerated. Secularization is taking the same toll among Muslims as among Christian young people. In dealing with Muslims, European states make the mistake of treating chiefly with the clergy, who are often in the pay of foreign powers such as Saudi Arabia and Morocco, and are not representative of most Muslims. In general, he says it is a mistake to treat Muslims as Muslims when, in fact, they are poor and marginalized immigrants who, in most cases, are only incidentally Muslims. He takes heart from “moderate” Muslim scholars who are subjecting the Qur’an to the same critical scholarship employed by Christians in dealing with their sacred texts. He cites approvingly Bassam Tibi, who urges Muslims to accept the terms of the Leitkultur (the guiding culture) of their new home. Bassam writes: “Religion may, of course, be practiced privately, but in public only citizenship counts. Such a concept would unite Muslims with non-Muslims.”

Jenkins is much taken with Tariq Ramadan, the celebrated writer who has said, “In my memories, I’m Egyptian in my citizenship, I’m Swiss in my belief, I’m Muslim.” According to Ramadan, Muslims must abandon the ancient division between dar al-Islam and dar-al harb , the world of Islam and the world of war. Rather, the non-Muslim world should be viewed as dar al-da’wa , the world of proclamation in which Muslims spread their teachings by peaceful example. Jenkins observes, “For Muslims to accept these principles in France would mark a milestone applying them to many Muslim nations would constitute a revolution.” Jenkins returns again to his theme of complexity: “Yet the religious situation is much more complex than it might appear. While radicals and militants flourish, their opponents are numerous and significant, and so are the historical forces working against extremism.”

“Moreover,” he writes, “societies can and do survive with severe underlying tensions: How many Americans would have believed in 1968 that the dreadful wave of urban race riots would soon pass, and that similar events would not become an enduring feature of American life?” Yes, Muslims in Europe are deeply entrenched in the criminal underclass, but that is a feature of being poor and marginal, not of being Muslim. Yes, Muslims engage in suicide bombings, but that, too, is not specifically Muslim. It is a tactic first developed by Hindu Tamil extremists and only later adopted by Muslim extremists. Yes, most Muslims in the world bear a deep prejudice against Jews, but, according to the Pew Global Attitudes Project, 71 percent of French Muslims and 38 percent of German Muslims have favorable attitudes toward Jews.

That a crime is committed by a Muslim does not make it a Muslim crime. Atrocities committed by Muslims are not necessarily religiously motivated. Jenkins notes that “the vast majority of Americans who rioted in the nation’s cities in the 1960s were Christians, but nobody referred to them as ‘Christian’ riots.” So also the riots in France in fall 2005 are more aptly viewed not as a war between Muslims and secular society, never mind Christian society, but as a conflict between rich and poor.

Of course, there are laws that come into conflict with specifically Muslim beliefs and customs. Honor killings, forced marriages, and polygamy pose real problems. “Although France officially prohibited polygamy in 1993, current estimates suggest that anywhere from 150,000 to 400,000 residents, many from Mali and neighboring north African countries, still live in polygamous households.” On the other hand, France and other countries are redefining marriage to include same-sex and other arrangements. “If two men or two women can be married, the logical grounds for prohibiting heterosexual polygamy are eroded.” So long as laws against polygamy are not enforced, there is no need for a clash of cultures.

It is said that Muslims are unacceptably “homophobic,” but Jenkins notes that there are many gay and lesbian Muslims, and societies of north Africa and south Asia “have powerful traditions of same-sex relationships and pederasty,” and such practices are routinely tolerated so long as they are discreet in public. On these and many other scores, says Jenkins, “the modern European encounter with Islam is not as ominous as is often alleged, and perceptions of a naked clash of civilizations are wide of the mark.” In dealing with socially unacceptable practices of some Muslims, “European countries probably have erred too much on the side of tolerance and are now correcting their mistakes, but that does not mean that their strategy was wholly wrong.”

Our perspective should be complexified by a sense of history. Recall the wave of Palestinian terrorism that swept Europe from 1970 to 1976, including the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. These things come and go. It’s not a matter of how many extremists there are who might want to do bad things. During Britain’s long struggle in Northern Ireland, the Provisional IRA never had more than five hundred people engaged in violent actions. British security services say they have their eye on 1,600 Muslim militants who might do real damage. When one considers that so few can wreak so much havoc, “the mystery is not so much why

Europe has been the setting for repeated terrorist violence but why so little of it has occurred to date.” To be sure, the Madrid and London bombings were “horrifying,” but Jenkins underscores that such events are also very rare.

Europeans want Muslims to assimilate, but assimilate to what? A Muslim feminist declares: “Someone once asked me if Germany was my homeland. I could only say that not even Germans consider Germany their homeland. How are we supposed to integrate in a place like that?” Immigrants come to America to be part of “the American dream.” As a French writer in Liberation puts it, “There is no French, Dutch, or other European dream. You emigrate here to escape poverty, and nothing more.” Despite his frequent citing of analogies with the American experience, Jenkins at other points underscores the differences: “America’s strong sense of national identity owes much to what is still a broad underlying consensus about rights and values. In the United States, a person who advocates undemocratic or intolerant views is condemned as un-American and violating the principles of the Constitution to which all swear allegiance . . . . Europe offers nothing comparable and shows no sign of doing so . . . . Arguably, if a ‘mainstream’ set of values can be deduced from the last 150 years or so of European history, they would be authoritarian, military, and hyper-nationalistic, rather than pluralist and liberal.”

That says a great deal about Europe but very little about specifically Muslim extremism. Again, he says, the mistake is to focus on the religion factor. Yet elsewhere Jenkins holds out the possibility that “the contact with Islam could also inspire a rethinking of Christian roots and identity,” thus countering the slide toward total secularism.

This “on the one hand” and “on the other hand” approach can sometimes become annoying, as much as it underscores Jenkins’ determination to be, as they say on television, fair and balanced. Rarely does the author commit a contrary-to-fact gaffe. There is this instance: “A new awareness of Christian claims was evident in 2006, when Pope Benedict offered a fulsome apology to Muslims offended by his perceived insult to Islam. Many Europeans were just as offended by the pope’s apology, and the sense that Muslims had at least an equal obligation to respect the religious traditions of the countries to which they had migrated.” A fulsome apology? Benedict did say that he was sorry Muslims were offended by his September 12, 2006, address at Regensburg, but he did not step back one inch from his argument about the Christian synthesis of faith and reason and his challenge to Muslims to repudiate religious violence. (See my commentary “The Regensburg Moment,” November 2006.)

At the same time, Jenkins recognizes that, “given its dominant position within European Christianity, the attitudes of the Roman Catholic Church are critical for future interactions between the faiths.” But attitudes may be subordinate to events. “What would be the cultural effect of an attack that would devastate a cherished building such as the cathedral of Westminster Abbey or Notre Dame, Santiago de Compostela or the Duomo of Florence, or St. Peter’s in Rome itself?” While Muslim leaders would condemn such an attack “with utter sincerity,” it would also “promote a sense of religious confrontation and even encourage a rhetoric of crusade and jihad.”

But Jenkins tends to shy away from such grim scenarios. He sums up his hopeful perspective: “Putting these various issues together, we can envision a near-future Europe that is anything but uniformly secular. While Muslims engage in critical debate about their relationship with modernity and argue how far their faith can be reconciled with national ideologies, Christians will also be redefining their faith and its public role. Though Christian numbers will decline, Christians will continue to organize in groups and movements that are, if anything, far more committed and activist than [they have been] for many years and will constitute more identifiable interest groups.” There will be difficulties in accommodating to a more public role of religion, both Christian and Islamic, but “‘God’s continent’ still has more life in it than anyone might have thought possible only a few years ago.”

Again and again, Jenkins urges the reader to keep things in historical perspective. Remember 1798, possibly “the worst single moment” in the history of Christianity in Western Europe. The Catholic Church was severely persecuted deist and other anti-Christian movements were on the clear ascendancy revolutionary armies seized Pius VI and carried him into exile, signaling to many the end of the papacy and the Catholic Church. But then followed the worldwide missionary movement of the nineteenth century, the second evangelical revival, and the Catholic devotional revolution. “Nothing drives activists and reformers more powerfully than the sense that their faith is about to perish in their homelands and that they urgently need to make up for these losses farther afield, whether overseas or among the previously neglected lost sheep at home . . . . Death and resurrection are not just fundamental doctrines of Christianity they represent a historical model of the religion’s structure and development.”

God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis is a tour de force that puts the most hopeful possible construction on a set of circumstances that leads others to the edge of despair, or over the edge. Of course, Jenkins may turn out to be right, and we should, guarding against alarmism, keep matters in historical perspective. Recognizing the complexity of a circumstance is always in order, so long as it does not become the complexification that obscures what should be obvious.

There are several points on which Jenkins’ argument is unconvincing. They are overlapping, but I count seven or eight. First, the analogies he persistently draws with the United States are little more than distractions. Our race riots of the 1960s and 1970s did not involve foreigners of a radically different religion and culture. Blacks had been here almost as long as whites they are as Christian as whites (except for the hybrid Islam of Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam) they did not attack the social centers but were terrorizing one another and burning down their own neighborhoods their celebrity and public standing was dependent on the indulgence of whites who subscribed to what Tom Wolfe aptly described as radical chic they ended up by being contained in the urban underclass, abandoned by the great majority of blacks who are middle-class and largely ignored by the rest of society. On each point, the black situation in America is so very different from that of Muslims in Europe that it can carry almost none of the weight that Jenkins’ argument wants it to bear.

Similarly, his comparison with immigration in the United States is unpersuasive. Samuel Huntington may be right that, viewed demographically, America has not been and is not “a nation of immigrants” (see my discussion of his Who Are We? in the August/September 2004 issue). But the fact is that, for almost 150 years, we have understood ourselves to be a nation of immigrants. That is emphatically not true of European nations. The “British way of life” is inextricably tied to the particular people who are British France is a “universal nation” of people who are unmistakably French and Germany pines for a time when it will have a national identity it can morally affirm. As important, America has never been, and is not now, confronted by a major immigration that challenges its Christian identity based on a Judeo-Christian moral tradition.

Jenkins seriously understates the religio-ideological challenge of Jihadism, the belief that every Muslim has an obligation to employ whatever means necessary to advance the world’s submission to Islam. This belief is analyzed in chilling detail by, among others, Johns Hopkins’ Mary Habeck in her book Knowing the Enemy (see my review in the April 2006 issue). Yes, it is true, as he says, that such hard-liners are in a minority hard-line fanatics are usually a minority. But, of a billion Muslims in the world and thirty million in Europe, a small minority can do a great deal of damage. For all the horror of the attacks to date, one can agree that it is noteworthy that there have been so few. To which police and intelligence forces will respond that that is in largest part due to their vigilance. I don’t know if that is correct, nor does Philip Jenkins. Neither of us is on the “need to know” list of the respective security services. I think I do know what the Jihadists intend to do if they get the chance.

Jenkins places high hopes in the emergence of “moderate” Muslims. His confidence in Tariq Ramadan and his version of Euro-Islam in a “religiously pluralistic” Europe is not reassuring. Ramadan has a notorious record of taking contradictory positions, ranging from the pacific to the insurrectionary. Moreover, Jenkins’ hope that Muslim scholars can submit sacred texts to critical analysis and still remain credibly Muslim is, to say the least, questionable. As for the possibilities of an Islamic version of the Christian synthesis of faith and reason, see my aforementioned essay “The Regensburg Moment.” We should be supportive of Muslims who want to “put a human face” on Islam&rdquoor a democratic face, if you prefer. But it is wrongheaded to compare them with Soviet dissidents of decades past, as some do. The dissidents’ cause contributed to the disappearance of the Soviet Union. For a billion different reasons, Islam is not going to disappear. “Moderates” whose commitment to Islam is in doubt are going to be of very little help.

Jenkins rightly reminds us of the force of historical contingencies that can be neither anticipated nor controlled. He cites 1798 and the supposed demise of Catholicism, and that is a useful reminder. But scholasticism, the papacy, the Enlightenment, the rise of laicism in France, etc., are all part of a European storyline. These are intra-European struggles within an indisputably Christian narrative. Deists, atheists, and skeptics in that narrative are unmistakably Christian deists, atheists, and skeptics. Islam is, and understands itself to be, a militant counternarrative. It is, to use the academic jargon, the “other,” and it is an “other” with no history of multicultural sympathy with the other to which it is “other.”

Jenkins says European Christianity must accommodate itself to being a “creative minority.” In relation to Islam, that sounds an awful lot like dhimmitude , in this case joined to secularism’s toleration of Christians so long as they mind their manners, which means that Christians agree that their faith is a private religious preference without public consequence. But, of course, that need not be the case, and the creative in creative minority could have culture-transforming effects that we cannot now anticipate.

Jenkins operates within a very short time frame. He suggests that by 2050 there will be thirty million Muslims in Europe. Other scholars believe the figure will be much higher. Whatever the more plausible number, 2050 is, in historical perspective, only a few years distant. The life of nations is, in their own self-understanding, very long. The Novus Ordo Seclorum on the Great Seal of the United States may be a self-flattering conceit, as may be France’s belief, stemming from 1789, that it bears the destiny of humanité , but to invest in and sacrifice for the future of a people and its way of life&rdquothe most palpable form of which is in having babies&rdquorequires a timeline much longer than 2050. People who do not, in continuity with the world they know, hope to have grandchildren who will hope to have grandchildren do not have babies. The sacrifice of the identities of nations and peoples to the deracinated idea of “Europe” as institutionalized in the European Union, combined with the forceful counternarrative of Islam, does not suggest a future in which many will make an intergenerational investment.

But then, and despite his roseate projections, perhaps Philip Jenkins knows all this. Recall his observation that “both Christianity and Islam face real difficulties in surviving within Europe’s secular cultural ambience in anything like their familiar historic forms.” Europe is a historical phenomenon, and Europe without its familiar historic forms is not Europe. To speak of the death of Europe is not to suggest that the continent called Europe will disappear. It is possible that “Eurosecularity” in sustained tension with an Islamo-Christian cultural ambience will flourish, at least economically, for generations to come. But, with the establishment of Eurabia or the Maghreb, Europe “in anything like its familiar historic forms” will be a memory. That is what is meant by the death of Europe.

At a recent dinner party with European intellectuals, I put to an influential French archbishop Daniel Pipes’ projection: Either assimilation or expulsion or Islamic takeover. That, he said, puts the possibilities much too starkly. “We hope for the first,” he said, “while we work at reducing immigration and prepare ourselves for soft Islamization.” Soft Islamization. It is a wan expression. Whether soft or hard, the prospect is that, in the not-so-distant future, someone will publish a book titled Allah’s Continent . In fact, several Muslim authors have already published books with very similar titles, anticipating the future of the Europe that was. Needless to say, and historical contingencies being as contingent as they are, I very much hope that they turn out to be wrong. As I very much wish Philip Jenkins’ God’s Continent provided better reasons for believing they are wrong.


Richard John Neuhaus is editor in chief of First Things .


Has the West lost Russia? ‘European’ identity is collapsing in the continent’s largest country, with the youth leading the charge

It has been common to predict that Russia&rsquos post-Soviet generation would feel a closer affinity to the West and embrace a shared identity with Europe. All the West had to do was to wait out Vladimir Putin&rsquos period in power and the gravitational pull of the European identity would result in a more compliant Russia. However, polls demonstrate that Russians are rapidly shedding the European identity of their country, with youngsters leading the trend.

A generational shift towards a less European Russia
A recent poll by the Levada Center, a research group branded a &lsquoforeign agent&rsquo by Moscow, revealed that only 29 percent of Russians consider Russia to be a European country, which represents a drastic decline from 52 percent in 2008. A generational shift is underway, as younger Russians lead the way in dismissing the European identity of their country, with those aged 18 to 24 polling at only 23 percent.

Previous polls by Levada and Germany&rsquos Friedrich Ebert Foundation also demonstrate that, despite not having grown up during the Cold War, young Russians distrust NATO more than any other international organisation. Young Russians are also more critical of their government, although the assumption that they want to remake Russia in Europe&rsquos image appears to be flawed.

A long and failed return to Europe

When Kievan Rus&rsquo fragmented and the Mongols invaded in the 13th century, Russia disappeared from the European map for the next 250 years. Under Peter the Great, Russia reasserted itself as a European power in the early 18th century. St. Petersburg was built as a new capital to function as a &ldquowindow to Europe&rdquo, Russia modernised along with European standards, and a cultural revolution was launched to make the alphabet, dress codes, culture and customs more European. Its aspirations for returning to Europe never culminated in its political inclusion on the continent. However, the country became unusually influential culturally, particularly in literature and performance art.

By following in the footsteps of other Europeans, Russia was not able to develop an organic path to development. In the 19th century, the writer Fyodor Dostoevsky argued: &ldquoRussians are as much Asiatics as European. The mistake of our policy for the past two centuries has been to make the people of Europe believe that we are true Europeans. &hellip We have bowed ourselves like slaves before the Europeans and have only gained their hatred and contempt. It is time to turn away from ungrateful Europe. Our future is in Asia.&rdquo

These sentiments re-emerged in the 1990s, as it became evident that Russia would not be included in the new political Europe and, instead, arrogant Westerners expected Moscow to supplicate itself to institutions that did not offer membership. Uniquely among the major former Communist states, Russia was expected to follow Western rules, but without the promise of Western integration &ndash a formula that clearly had no chance of working.

Just three years after the Soviet break-up, in 1994, Yeltsin&rsquos exceedingly pro-Western and pro-liberal foreign minister, Andrey Kozyrev, argued that Russia might be doomed to chart its own path again, as &ldquosome people in the West have succumbed to the fantasy that a partnership can be built with Russia on the principle of &lsquoif the Russians are good guys now, they should follow us in every way&rsquo.&rdquo

NATO embraced its post-Cold War expansionist mission to make Europe &lsquowhole and free&rsquo by attempting to integrate every country on the continent &ndash except Russia. The European Union began to incrementally monopolise on the concept of Europe, and Russia soon became more or less the only non-European country in Europe, despite being its largest state and home to somewhere between 14% and 18% of its people, depending on your measure.

Whither Europe?

Europe has lost much of its appeal to Russia. Throughout history, the need to modernise the economy has incentivised Russia to look towards Europe and embrace a European identity. But now Moscow is working tirelessly to reorganise its economy towards the East, and the relative economic power of Europe in the world is in steady decline. For the new Russian generation, the West has not offered much besides economic sanctions and moral posturing.

Furthermore, Russia is less interested in modelling its society on Europe&rsquos. The Marxist experience was destructive for conservative values in Russia, and Europe provided a healthy alternative. In the effort to create &lsquocommunist man&rsquo, liberated from his own past, the early Bolsheviks sought to dismantle the nation, the Orthodox Church, the family and other indispensable societal institutions so as to cancel capitalism and advance a Marxist concept of human freedom. Once the Soviet experiment came to an end, Europe was seemingly a model to emulate when it came to finding a balance between conservative societal institutions and liberal values.

However, the Europe that Russia sought to emulate no longer exists and is no longer a model that is attractive to Russia. The effort to create &lsquoWestern man&rsquo, liberated from his past, resembles the failed experiment of &lsquocommunist man&rsquo. Putin observed: &ldquoWe see that many Euro-Atlantic states have taken the way where they deny or reject their own roots, including their Christian roots, which form the basis of Western civilization. In these countries, the moral basis and any traditional identity are being denied &ndash national, religious, cultural, and even gender identities are being denied or relativized.&rdquo

Polls also reveal that Russians seek stability in traditional institutions such as the family and the Church. A poll by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation shows that Russians are increasingly embracing an identity linked to the Orthodox Church, and yet again, the youth are leading the way.

Eurasian Russia engages Europe

The generational shift away from a European Russian identity presents an opportunity to improve relations between Europe and Russia. The European identity of Russians provided the West with the flawed expectation that Russia, as an eternal aspirant of the West, would continue to abide by the rules of institutions in which Moscow was denied representation. In Russia, the European identity has been a source of deep resentment, due to its enduring exclusion.

The shift away from a European identity represents a cordial divorce. Russia will no longer feel compelled to explain itself for not following European norms, and the West&rsquos effort to conceptualise Russia out of Europe will be less likely to fuel historical grievances and resentment. As Russia exits a bad marriage with Europe, it should move towards establishing good neighbourliness instead.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.


Contents

The Anglo-Saxon term crīstendōm appears to have been invented in the 9th century by a scribe somewhere in southern England, possibly at the court of king Alfred the Great of Wessex. The scribe was translating Paulus Orosius' book History Against the Pagans (c. 416) and in need for a term to express the concept of the universal culture focused on Jesus Christ. [10] It had the sense now taken by Christianity (as is still the case with the cognate Dutch christendom, [11] where it denotes mostly the religion itself, just like the German Christentum. [12]

The current sense of the word of "lands where Christianity is the dominant religion" [3] emerged in Late Middle English (by c. 1400). [13]

Canadian theology professor Douglas John Hall stated (1997) that "Christendom" [. ] means literally the dominion or sovereignty of the Christian religion." [3] Thomas John Curry, Roman Catholic auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, defined (2001) Christendom as "the system dating from the fourth century by which governments upheld and promoted Christianity." [14] Curry states that the end of Christendom came about because modern governments refused to "uphold the teachings, customs, ethos, and practice of Christianity." [14] British church historian Diarmaid MacCulloch described (2010) Christendom as "the union between Christianity and secular power." [15]

Christendom was originally a medieval concept which has steadily evolved since the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the gradual rise of the Papacy more in religio-temporal implications practically during and after the reign of Charlemagne and the concept let itself be lulled in the minds of the staunch believers to the archetype of a holy religious space inhabited by Christians, blessed by God, the Heavenly Father, ruled by Christ through the Church and protected by the Spirit-body of Christ no wonder, this concept, as included the whole of Europe and then the expanding Christian territories on earth, strengthened the roots of Romance of the greatness of Christianity in the world. [16]

There is a common and nonliteral sense of the word that is much like the terms Western world, known world or Free World. The notion of "Europe" and the "Western World" has been intimately connected with the concept of "Christianity and Christendom" many even attribute Christianity for being the link that created a unified European identity. [17]

Rise of Christendom Edit

Early Christianity spread in the Greek/Roman world and beyond as a 1st-century Jewish sect, [18] which historians refer to as Jewish Christianity. It may be divided into two distinct phases: the apostolic period, when the first apostles were alive and organizing the Church, and the post-apostolic period, when an early episcopal structure developed, whereby bishoprics were governed by bishops (overseers).

The post-apostolic period concerns the time roughly after the death of the apostles when bishops emerged as overseers of urban Christian populations. The earliest recorded use of the terms Christianity (Greek Χριστιανισμός ) and catholic (Greek καθολικός ), dates to this period, the 2nd century, attributed to Ignatius of Antioch c. 107. [19] Early Christendom would close at the end of imperial persecution of Christians after the ascension of Constantine the Great and the Edict of Milan in AD 313 and the First Council of Nicaea in 325. [ citation needed ]

According to Malcolm Muggeridge (1980), Christ founded Christianity, but Constantine founded Christendom. [20] Canadian theology professor Douglas John Hall dates the 'inauguration of Christendom' to the 4th century, with Constantine playing the primary role (so much so that he equates Christendom with "Constantinianism") and Theodosius I (Edict of Thessalonica, 380) and Justinian I [a] secondary roles. [22]

Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages Edit

"Christendom" has referred to the medieval and renaissance notion of the Christian world as a polity. In essence, the earliest vision of Christendom was a vision of a Christian theocracy, a government founded upon and upholding Christian values, whose institutions are spread through and over with Christian doctrine. In this period, members of the Christian clergy wield political authority. The specific relationship between the political leaders and the clergy varied but, in theory, the national and political divisions were at times subsumed under the leadership of the church as an institution. This model of church-state relations was accepted by various Church leaders and political leaders in European history. [23] [ full citation needed ]

The Church gradually became a defining institution of the Roman Empire. [24] Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313 proclaiming toleration for the Christian religion, and convoked the First Council of Nicaea in 325 whose Nicene Creed included belief in "one holy catholic and apostolic Church". Emperor Theodosius I made Nicene Christianity the state church of the Roman Empire with the Edict of Thessalonica of 380. [25]

As the Western Roman Empire disintegrated into feudal kingdoms and principalities, the concept of Christendom changed as the western church became one of five patriarchates of the Pentarchy and the Christians of the Eastern Roman Empire developed. [ clarification needed ] The Byzantine Empire was the last bastion of Christendom. [26] Christendom would take a turn with the rise of the Franks, a Germanic tribe who converted to the Christian faith and entered into communion with Rome.

On Christmas Day 800 AD, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne, resulting in the creation of another Christian king beside the Christian emperor in the Byzantine state. [27] [ unreliable source? ] The Carolingian Empire created a definition of Christendom in juxtaposition with the Byzantine Empire, that of a distributed versus centralized culture respectively. [28]

The classical heritage flourished throughout the Middle Ages in both the Byzantine Greek East and the Latin West. In the Greek philosopher Plato's ideal state there are three major classes, which was representative of the idea of the “tripartite soul”, which is expressive of three functions or capacities of the human soul: “reason”, “the spirited element”, and “appetites” (or “passions”). Will Durant made a convincing case that certain prominent features of Plato's ideal community where discernible in the organization, dogma and effectiveness of "the" Medieval Church in Europe: [29]

. For a thousand years Europe was ruled by an order of guardians considerably like that which was visioned by our philosopher. During the Middle Ages it was customary to classify the population of Christendom into laboratores (workers), bellatores (soldiers), and oratores (clergy). The last group, though small in number, monopolized the instruments and opportunities of culture, and ruled with almost unlimited sway half of the most powerful continent on the globe. The clergy, like Plato's guardians, were placed in authority. by their talent as shown in ecclesiastical studies and administration, by their disposition to a life of meditation and simplicity, and . by the influence of their relatives with the powers of state and church. In the latter half of the period in which they ruled [800 AD onwards], the clergy were as free from family cares as even Plato could desire [for such guardians]. [Clerical] Celibacy was part of the psychological structure of the power of the clergy for on the one hand they were unimpeded by the narrowing egoism of the family, and on the other their apparent superiority to the call of the flesh added to the awe in which lay sinners held them. [29] In the latter half of the period in which they ruled, the clergy were as free from family cares as even Plato could desire. [29]

Later Middle Ages and Renaissance Edit

After the collapse of Charlemagne's empire, the southern remnants of the Holy Roman Empire became a collection of states loosely connected to the Holy See of Rome. Tensions between Pope Innocent III and secular rulers ran high, as the pontiff exerted control over their temporal counterparts in the west and vice versa. The pontificate of Innocent III is considered the height of temporal power of the papacy. The Corpus Christianum described the then-current notion of the community of all Christians united under the Roman Catholic Church. The community was to be guided by Christian values in its politics, economics and social life. [30] Its legal basis was the corpus iuris canonica (body of canon law). [31] [32] [33] [34]

In the East, Christendom became more defined as the Byzantine Empire's gradual loss of territory to an expanding Islam and the muslim conquest of Persia. This caused Christianity to become important to the Byzantine identity. Before the East–West Schism which divided the Church religiously, there had been the notion of a universal Christendom that included the East and the West. After the East–West Schism, hopes of regaining religious unity with the West were ended by the Fourth Crusade, when Crusaders conquered the Byzantine capital of Constantinople and hastened the decline of the Byzantine Empire on the path to its destruction. [35] [36] [37] With the breakup of the Byzantine Empire into individual nations with nationalist Orthodox Churches, the term Christendom described Western Europe, Catholicism, Orthodox Byzantines, and other Eastern rites of the Church. [38] [39]

The Catholic Church's peak of authority over all European Christians and their common endeavours of the Christian community — for example, the Crusades, the fight against the Moors in the Iberian Peninsula and against the Ottomans in the Balkans — helped to develop a sense of communal identity against the obstacle of Europe's deep political divisions. The popes, formally just the bishops of Rome, claimed to be the focus of all Christendom, which was largely recognised in Western Christendom from the 11th century until the Reformation, but not in Eastern Christendom. [40] Moreover, this authority was also sometimes abused, and fostered the Inquisition and anti-Jewish pogroms, to root out divergent elements and create a religiously uniform community. [ citation needed ] Ultimately, the Inquisition was done away with by order of Pope Innocent III. [41]

Christendom ultimately was led into specific crisis in the late Middle Ages, when the kings of France managed to establish a French national church during the 14th century and the papacy became ever more aligned with the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. Known as the Western Schism, western Christendom was a split between three men, who were driven by politics rather than any real theological disagreement for simultaneously claiming to be the true pope. The Avignon Papacy developed a reputation for corruption that estranged major parts of Western Christendom. The Avignon schism was ended by the Council of Constance. [42]

Before the modern period, Christendom was in a general crisis at the time of the Renaissance Popes because of the moral laxity of these pontiffs and their willingness to seek and rely on temporal power as secular rulers did. [ citation needed ] Many in the Catholic Church's hierarchy in the Renaissance became increasingly entangled with insatiable greed for material wealth and temporal power, which led to many reform movements, some merely wanting a moral reformation of the Church's clergy, while others repudiated the Church and separated from it in order to form new sects. [ citation needed ] The Italian Renaissance produced ideas or institutions by which men living in society could be held together in harmony. In the early 16th century, Baldassare Castiglione (The Book of the Courtier) laid out his vision of the ideal gentleman and lady, while Machiavelli cast a jaundiced eye on "la verità effetuale delle cose" — the actual truth of things — in The Prince, composed, humanist style, chiefly of parallel ancient and modern examples of Virtù. Some Protestant movements grew up along lines of mysticism or renaissance humanism (cf. Erasmus). The Catholic Church fell partly into general neglect under the Renaissance Popes, whose inability to govern the Church by showing personal example of high moral standards set the climate for what would ultimately become the Protestant Reformation. [43] During the Renaissance, the papacy was mainly run by the wealthy families and also had strong secular interests. To safeguard Rome and the connected Papal States the popes became necessarily involved in temporal matters, even leading armies, as the great patron of arts Pope Julius II did. It during these intermediate times popes strove to make Rome the capital of Christendom while projecting it, through art, architecture, and literature, as the center of a Golden Age of unity, order, and peace. [44]

Professor Frederick J. McGinness described Rome as essential in understanding the legacy the Church and its representatives encapsulated best by The Eternal City:

No other city in Europe matches Rome in its traditions, history, legacies, and influence in the Western world. Rome in the Renaissance under the papacy not only acted as guardian and transmitter of these elements stemming from the Roman Empire but also assumed the role as artificer and interpreter of its myths and meanings for the peoples of Europe from the Middle Ages to modern times. Under the patronage of the popes, whose wealth and income were exceeded only by their ambitions, the city became a cultural center for master architects, sculptors, musicians, painters, and artisans of every kind. In its myth and message, Rome had become the sacred city of the popes, the prime symbol of a triumphant Catholicism, the center of orthodox Christianity, a new Jerusalem. [45]

It is clearly noticeable that the popes of the Italian Renaissance have been subjected by many writers with an overly harsh tone. Pope Julius II, for example, was not only an effective secular leader in military affairs, a deviously effective politician but foremost one of the greatest patron of the Renaissance period and person who also encouraged open criticism from noted humanists. [46]

The blossoming of renaissance humanism was made very much possible due to the universality of the institutions of Catholic Church and represented by personalities such as Pope Pius II, Nicolaus Copernicus, Leon Battista Alberti, Desiderius Erasmus, sir Thomas More, Bartolomé de Las Casas, Leonardo da Vinci and Teresa of Ávila. George Santayana in his work The Life of Reason postulated the tenets of the all encompassing order the Church had brought and as the repository of the legacy of classical antiquity: [47]

The enterprise of individuals or of small aristocratic bodies has meantime sown the world which we call civilised with some seeds and nuclei of order. There are scattered about a variety of churches, industries, academies, and governments. But the universal order once dreamt of and nominally almost established, the empire of universal peace, all-permeating rational art, and philosophical worship, is mentioned no more. An unformulated conception, the prerational ethics of private privilege and national unity, fills the background of men's minds. It represents feudal traditions rather than the tendency really involved in contemporary industry, science, or philanthropy. Those dark ages, from which our political practice is derived, had a political theory which we should do well to study for their theory about a universal empire and a Catholic church was in turn the echo of a former age of reason, when a few men conscious of ruling the world had for a moment sought to survey it as a whole and to rule it justly. [47]

Reformation and Early Modern era Edit

Developments in western philosophy and European events brought change to the notion of the Corpus Christianum. The Hundred Years' War accelerated the process of transforming France from a feudal monarchy to a centralized state. The rise of strong, centralized monarchies [48] denoted the European transition from feudalism to capitalism. By the end of the Hundred Years' War, both France and England were able to raise enough money through taxation to create independent standing armies. In the Wars of the Roses, Henry Tudor took the crown of England. His heir, the absolute king Henry VIII establishing the English church. [49]

In modern history, the Reformation and rise of modernity in the early 16th century entailed a change in the Corpus Christianum. In the Holy Roman Empire, the Peace of Augsburg of 1555 officially ended the idea among secular leaders that all Christians must be united under one church. The principle of cuius regio, eius religio ("whose the region is, his religion") established the religious, political and geographic divisions of Christianity, and this was established with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which legally ended the concept of a single Christian hegemony in the territories of the Holy Roman Empire, despite the Catholic Church's doctrine that it alone is the one true Church founded by Christ. Subsequently, each government determined the religion of their own state. Christians living in states where their denomination was not the established one were guaranteed the right to practice their faith in public during allotted hours and in private at their will. [ citation needed ] At times there were mass expulsions of dissenting faiths as happened with the Salzburg Protestants. Some people passed as adhering to the official church, but instead lived as Nicodemites or crypto-protestants.

The European wars of religion are usually taken to have ended with the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), [50] or arguably, including the Nine Years' War and the War of the Spanish Succession in this period, with the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713. [ citation needed ] In the 18th century, the focus shifts away from religious conflicts, either between Christian factions or against the external threat of Islamic factions. [ citation needed ]

End of Christendom Edit

The European Miracle, the Age of Enlightenment and the formation of the great colonial empires together with the beginning decline of the Ottoman Empire mark the end of the geopolitical "history of Christendom". [ citation needed ] Instead, the focus of Western history shifts to the development of the nation-state, accompanied by increasing atheism and secularism, culminating with the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars at the turn of the 19th century. [ citation needed ]

Writing in 1997, Canadian theology professor Douglas John Hall argued that Christendom had either fallen already or was in its death throes although its end was gradual and not as clear to pin down as its 4th-century establishment, the "transition to the post-Constantinian, or post-Christendom, situation (. ) has already been in process for a century or two," beginning with the 18th-century rationalist Enlightenment and the French Revolution (the first attempt to topple the Christian establishment). [22] American Catholic bishop Thomas John Curry stated (2001) that the end of Christendom came about because modern governments refused to "uphold the teachings, customs, ethos, and practice of Christianity." [14] He argued the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (1791) and the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Religious Freedom (1965) are two of the most important documents setting the stage for its end. [14] According to British historian Diarmaid MacCulloch (2010), Christendom was 'killed' by the First World War (1914–18), which led to the fall of the three main Christian empires (Russian, German and Austrian) of Europe, as well as the Ottoman Empire, rupturing the Eastern Christian communities that had existed on its territory. The Christian empires were replaced by secular, even anti-clerical republics seeking to definitively keep the churches out of politics. The only surviving monarchy with an established church, Britain, was severely damaged by the war, lost most of Ireland due to Catholic–Protestant infighting, and was starting to lose grip on its colonies. [15]

Western culture, throughout most of its history, has been nearly equivalent to Christian culture, and many of the population of the Western hemisphere could broadly be described as cultural Christians. The notion of "Europe" and the "Western World" has been intimately connected with the concept of "Christianity and Christendom" many even attribute Christianity for being the link that created a unified European identity. [17] Historian Paul Legutko of Stanford University said the Catholic Church is "at the center of the development of the values, ideas, science, laws, and institutions which constitute what we call Western civilization." [51]

Though Western culture contained several polytheistic religions during its early years under the Greek and Roman Empires, as the centralized Roman power waned, the dominance of the Catholic Church was the only consistent force in Western Europe. [52] Until the Age of Enlightenment, [53] Christian culture guided the course of philosophy, literature, art, music and science. [52] [54] Christian disciplines of the respective arts have subsequently developed into Christian philosophy, Christian art, Christian music, Christian literature etc. Art and literature, law, education, and politics were preserved in the teachings of the Church, in an environment that, otherwise, would have probably seen their loss. The Church founded many cathedrals, universities, monasteries and seminaries, some of which continue to exist today. Medieval Christianity created the first modern universities. [55] [56] The Catholic Church established a hospital system in Medieval Europe that vastly improved upon the Roman valetudinaria. [57] These hospitals were established to cater to "particular social groups marginalized by poverty, sickness, and age," according to historian of hospitals, Guenter Risse. [58] Christianity also had a strong impact on all other aspects of life: marriage and family, education, the humanities and sciences, the political and social order, the economy, and the arts. [59]

Christianity had a significant impact on education and science and medicine as the church created the bases of the Western system of education, [60] and was the sponsor of founding universities in the Western world as the university is generally regarded as an institution that has its origin in the Medieval Christian setting. [61] [62] Many clerics throughout history have made significant contributions to science and Jesuits in particular have made numerous significant contributions to the development of science. [63] [64] [65] The cultural influence of Christianity includes social welfare, [66] founding hospitals, [67] economics (as the Protestant work ethic), [68] [69] natural law (which would later influence the creation of international law), [70] politics, [71] architecture, [72] literature, [73] personal hygiene, [74] [75] and family life. [76] Christianity played a role in ending practices common among pagan societies, such as human sacrifice, slavery, [77] infanticide and polygamy. [78]

Art and literature Edit

Writings and poetry Edit

Christian literature is writing that deals with Christian themes and incorporates the Christian world view. This constitutes a huge body of extremely varied writing. Christian poetry is any poetry that contains Christian teachings, themes, or references. The influence of Christianity on poetry has been great in any area that Christianity has taken hold. Christian poems often directly reference the Bible, while others provide allegory.

Supplemental arts Edit

Christian art is art produced in an attempt to illustrate, supplement and portray in tangible form the principles of Christianity. Virtually all Christian groupings use or have used art to some extent. The prominence of art and the media, style, and representations change however, the unifying theme is ultimately the representation of the life and times of Jesus and in some cases the Old Testament. Depictions of saints are also common, especially in Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy.

Illumination Edit

An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration. The earliest surviving substantive illuminated manuscripts are from the period AD 400 to 600, primarily produced in Ireland, Constantinople and Italy. The majority of surviving manuscripts are from the Middle Ages, although many illuminated manuscripts survive from the 15th century Renaissance, along with a very limited number from Late Antiquity.

Most illuminated manuscripts were created as codices, which had superseded scrolls some isolated single sheets survive. A very few illuminated manuscript fragments survive on papyrus. Most medieval manuscripts, illuminated or not, were written on parchment (most commonly of calf, sheep, or goat skin), but most manuscripts important enough to illuminate were written on the best quality of parchment, called vellum, traditionally made of unsplit calfskin, though high quality parchment from other skins was also called parchment.

Iconography Edit

Christian art began, about two centuries after Christ, by borrowing motifs from Roman Imperial imagery, classical Greek and Roman religion and popular art. Religious images are used to some extent by the Abrahamic Christian faith, and often contain highly complex iconography, which reflects centuries of accumulated tradition. In the Late Antique period iconography began to be standardised, and to relate more closely to Biblical texts, although many gaps in the canonical Gospel narratives were plugged with matter from the apocryphal gospels. Eventually the Church would succeed in weeding most of these out, but some remain, like the ox and ass in the Nativity of Christ.

An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Christianity. Christianity has used symbolism from its very beginnings. [79] In both East and West, numerous iconic types of Christ, Mary and saints and other subjects were developed the number of named types of icons of Mary, with or without the infant Christ, was especially large in the East, whereas Christ Pantocrator was much the commonest image of Christ.

Christian symbolism invests objects or actions with an inner meaning expressing Christian ideas. Christianity has borrowed from the common stock of significant symbols known to most periods and to all regions of the world. Religious symbolism is effective when it appeals to both the intellect and the emotions. Especially important depictions of Mary include the Hodegetria and Panagia types. Traditional models evolved for narrative paintings, including large cycles covering the events of the Life of Christ, the Life of the Virgin, parts of the Old Testament, and, increasingly, the lives of popular saints. Especially in the West, a system of attributes developed for identifying individual figures of saints by a standard appearance and symbolic objects held by them in the East they were more likely to identified by text labels.

Each saint has a story and a reason why he or she led an exemplary life. Symbols have been used to tell these stories throughout the history of the Church. A number of Christian saints are traditionally represented by a symbol or iconic motif associated with their life, termed an attribute or emblem, in order to identify them. The study of these forms part of iconography in Art history. They were particularly

Architecture Edit

Christian architecture encompasses a wide range of both secular and religious styles from the foundation of Christianity to the present day, influencing the design and construction of buildings and structures in Christian culture.

Buildings were at first adapted from those originally intended for other purposes but, with the rise of distinctively ecclesiastical architecture, church buildings came to influence secular ones which have often imitated religious architecture. In the 20th century, the use of new materials, such as concrete, as well as simpler styles has had its effect upon the design of churches and arguably the flow of influence has been reversed. From the birth of Christianity to the present, the most significant period of transformation for Christian architecture in the west was the Gothic cathedral. In the east, Byzantine architecture was a continuation of Roman architecture.

Philosophy Edit

Christian philosophy is a term to describe the fusion of various fields of philosophy with the theological doctrines of Christianity. Scholasticism, which means "that [which] belongs to the school", and was a method of learning taught by the academics (or school people) of medieval universities c. 1100–1500. Scholasticism originally started to reconcile the philosophy of the ancient classical philosophers with medieval Christian theology. Scholasticism is not a philosophy or theology in itself but a tool and method for learning which places emphasis on dialectical reasoning.

Medieval conditions Edit

The Byzantine Empire, which was the most sophisticated culture during antiquity, suffered under Muslim conquests limiting its scientific prowess during the Medieval period. Christian Western Europe had suffered a catastrophic loss of knowledge following the fall of the Western Roman Empire. But thanks to the Church scholars such as Aquinas and Buridan, the West carried on at least the spirit of scientific inquiry which would later lead to Europe's taking the lead in science during the Scientific Revolution using translations of medieval works.

Medieval technology refers to the technology used in medieval Europe under Christian rule. After the Renaissance of the 12th century, medieval Europe saw a radical change in the rate of new inventions, innovations in the ways of managing traditional means of production, and economic growth. [80] The period saw major technological advances, including the adoption of gunpowder and the astrolabe, the invention of spectacles, and greatly improved water mills, building techniques [ disambiguation needed ] , agriculture in general, clocks, and ships. The latter advances made possible the dawn of the Age of Exploration. The development of water mills was impressive, and extended from agriculture to sawmills both for timber and stone, probably derived from Roman technology. By the time of the Domesday Book, most large villages in Britain had mills. They also were widely used in mining, as described by Georg Agricola in De Re Metallica for raising ore from shafts, crushing ore, and even powering bellows.

Significant in this respect were advances within the fields of navigation. The compass and astrolabe along with advances in shipbuilding, enabled the navigation of the World Oceans and thus domination of the worlds economic trade. Gutenberg’s printing press made possible a dissemination of knowledge to a wider population, that would not only lead to a gradually more egalitarian society, but one more able to dominate other cultures, drawing from a vast reserve of knowledge and experience.

Renaissance innovations Edit

During the Renaissance, great advances occurred in geography, astronomy, chemistry, physics, math, manufacturing, and engineering. The rediscovery of ancient scientific texts was accelerated after the Fall of Constantinople, and the invention of printing which would democratize learning and allow a faster propagation of new ideas. Renaissance technology is the set of artifacts and customs, spanning roughly the 14th through the 16th century. The era is marked by such profound technical advancements like the printing press, linear perspectivity, patent law, double shell domes or Bastion fortresses. Draw-books of the Renaissance artist-engineers such as Taccola and Leonardo da Vinci give a deep insight into the mechanical technology then known and applied.

Renaissance science spawned the Scientific Revolution science and technology began a cycle of mutual advancement. The Scientific Renaissance was the early phase of the Scientific Revolution. In the two-phase model of early modern science: a Scientific Renaissance of the 15th and 16th centuries, focused on the restoration of the natural knowledge of the ancients and a Scientific Revolution of the 17th century, when scientists shifted from recovery to innovation. Some scholars and historians attributes Christianity to having contributed to the rise of the Scientific Revolution. [81] [82] [83] [84]

Geographic spread Edit

In 2009, according to the Encyclopædia Britannica, Christianity was the majority religion in Europe (including Russia) with 80%, Latin America with 92%, North America with 81%, and Oceania with 79%. [85] There are also large Christian communities in other parts of the world, such as China, India and Central Asia, where Christianity is the second-largest religion after Islam. The United States is home to the world's largest Christian population, followed by Brazil and Mexico. [86]

Many Christians not only live under, but also have an official status in, a state religion of the following nations: Argentina (Roman Catholic Church), [87] Armenia (Armenian Apostolic Church), [88] Costa Rica (Roman Catholic Church), [89] Denmark (Church of Denmark), [90] El Salvador (Roman Catholic Church), [91] England (Church of England), [92] Georgia (Georgian Orthodox Church), Greece (Church of Greece), Iceland (Church of Iceland), [93] Liechtenstein (Roman Catholic Church), [94] Malta (Roman Catholic Church), [95] Monaco (Roman Catholic Church), [96] Romania (Romanian Orthodox Church), Norway (Church of Norway), [97] Vatican City (Roman Catholic Church), [98] Switzerland (Roman Catholic Church, Swiss Reformed Church and Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland).

Number of adherents Edit

The estimated number of Christians in the world ranges from 2.2 billion [99] [100] [101] [102] to 2.4 billion people. [b] The faith represents approximately one-third of the world's population and is the largest religion in the world, [103] with the three largest groups of Christians being the Catholic Church, Protestantism, and the Eastern Orthodox Church. [104] The largest Christian denomination is the Catholic Church, with an estimated 1.2 billion adherents. [105]

Demographics of major traditions within Christianity (Pew Research Center, 2010 data) [106]
Tradition Followers % of the Christian population % of the world population Follower dynamics Dynamics in- and outside Christianity
Catholic Church 1,094,610,000 50.1 15.9 Growing Declining
Protestantism 800,640,000 36.7 11.6 Growing Growing
Orthodoxy 260,380,000 11.9 3.8 Declining Declining
Other Christianity 28,430,000 1.3 0.4 Growing Growing
Christianity 2,184,060,000 100 31.7 Growing Stable

Notable Christian organizations Edit

A religious order is a lineage of communities and organizations of people who live in some way set apart from society in accordance with their specific religious devotion, usually characterized by the principles of its founder's religious practice. In contrast, the term Holy Orders is used by many Christian churches to refer to ordination or to a group of individuals who are set apart for a special role or ministry. Historically, the word "order" designated an established civil body or corporation with a hierarchy, and ordination meant legal incorporation into an ordo. The word "holy" refers to the Church. In context, therefore, a holy order is set apart for ministry in the Church. Religious orders are composed of initiates (laity) and, in some traditions, ordained clergies.

Various organizations include:

  • In the Roman Catholic Church, religious institutes and secular institutes are the major forms of institutes of consecrated life, similar to which are societies of apostolic life. They are organizations of laity or clergy who live a common life under the guidance of a fixed rule and the leadership of a superior. (ed., see Category: Catholic orders and societies for a particular listing.) are communities of laity or clergy in the Anglican churches who live under a common rule of life. (ed., see Category: Anglican organizations for a particular listing)

Church and state framing Edit

Within the framework of Christianity, there are at least three possible definitions for Church law. One is the Torah/Mosaic Law (from what Christians consider to be the Old Testament) also called Divine Law or Biblical law. Another is the instructions of Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospel (sometimes referred to as the Law of Christ or the New Commandment or the New Covenant). A third is canon law which is the internal ecclesiastical law governing the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion of churches. [107] The way that such church law is legislated, interpreted and at times adjudicated varies widely among these three bodies of churches. In all three traditions, a canon was initially a rule adopted by a council (From Greek kanon / κανών, Hebrew kaneh / קנה, for rule, standard, or measure) these canons formed the foundation of canon law.

Christian ethics in general has tended to stress the need for grace, mercy, and forgiveness because of human weakness and developed while Early Christians were subjects of the Roman Empire. From the time Nero blamed Christians for setting Rome ablaze (64 AD) until Galerius (311 AD), persecutions against Christians erupted periodically. Consequently, Early Christian ethics included discussions of how believers should relate to Roman authority and to the empire.

Under the Emperor Constantine I (312-337), Christianity became a legal religion. While some scholars debate whether Constantine's conversion to Christianity was authentic or simply matter of political expediency, Constantine's decree made the empire safe for Christian practice and belief. Consequently, issues of Christian doctrine, ethics and church practice were debated openly, see for example the First Council of Nicaea and the First seven Ecumenical Councils. By the time of Theodosius I (379-395), Christianity had become the state religion of the empire. With Christianity in power, ethical concerns broaden and included discussions of the proper role of the state.

Render unto Caesar… is the beginning of a phrase attributed to Jesus in the synoptic gospels which reads in full, "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s". This phrase has become a widely quoted summary of the relationship between Christianity and secular authority. The gospels say that when Jesus gave his response, his interrogators "marvelled, and left him, and went their way." Time has not resolved an ambiguity in this phrase, and people continue to interpret this passage to support various positions that are poles apart. The traditional division, carefully determined, in Christian thought is the state and church have separate spheres of influence.

Thomas Aquinas thoroughly discussed that human law is positive law which means that it is natural law applied by governments to societies. All human laws were to be judged by their conformity to the natural law. An unjust law was in a sense no law at all. At this point, the natural law was not only used to pass judgment on the moral worth of various laws, but also to determine what the law said in the first place. This could result in some tension. [108] Late ecclesiastical writers followed in his footsteps.

Democratic ideology Edit

Christian democracy is a political ideology that seeks to apply Christian principles to public policy. It emerged in 19th-century Europe, largely under the influence of Catholic social teaching. In a number of countries, the democracy's Christian ethos has been diluted by secularisation. In practice, Christian democracy is often considered conservative on cultural, social and moral issues and progressive on fiscal and economic issues. In places, where their opponents have traditionally been secularist socialists and social democrats, Christian democratic parties are moderately conservative, whereas in other cultural and political environments they can lean to the left.

Women's roles Edit

Attitudes and beliefs about the roles and responsibilities of women in Christianity vary considerably today as they have throughout the last two millennia — evolving along with or counter to the societies in which Christians have lived. The Bible and Christianity historically have been interpreted as excluding women from church leadership and placing them in submissive roles in marriage. Male leadership has been assumed in the church and within marriage, society and government. [109]

Some contemporary writers describe the role of women in the life of the church as having been downplayed, overlooked, or denied throughout much of Christian history. Paradigm shifts in gender roles in society and also many churches has inspired reevaluation by many Christians of some long-held attitudes to the contrary. Christian egalitarians have increasingly argued for equal roles for men and women in marriage, as well as for the ordination of women to the clergy. Contemporary conservatives meanwhile have reasserted what has been termed a "complementarian" position, promoting the traditional belief that the Bible ordains different roles and responsibilities for women and men in the Church and family.


Hungary Warns Europe Losing Its Identity, Islam Penetrating Without Resistance

2,533 Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Hungarian deputy prime minister Zsolt Semjen has warned that Islam is penetrating Europe without resistance as Christianity and national identity fade away.

Semjen, who leads the Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) which partners with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party in the Hungarian parliament, made the comments at a massive pilgrimage gathering in Csiksomlyo (Sumuleu Ciuc) in Transylvania, Romania — home to a large minority of ethnic Hungarians.

“A great many Hungarians, irrespective of their religious affiliation, gather here year by year to reinforce themselves in their national identity and Christian mission,” he told the assembled crowds.

“This pilgrimage therefore carries the message that Europe can only survive if it retains Christianity and preserves its identity, if the European nations are proud of their national identity,” he added.

Hungarian Prime Minister: ‘Those Who Do Not Halt Mass Migration Are Lost: Slowly But Surely They Are Consumed’ https://t.co/0P6JfpxQ3R

&mdash Jack Montgomery ن (@JackBMontgomery) March 16, 2018

Prime Minister Orbán has already pledged that his government — returned to power in a landslide super-majority victory in April, to the great consternation of the European political establishment and the network of George Soros-funded ‘civil society’ organisations which oppose his strong border policies — will seek to transform the country into “a 21st Century Christian Democracy”, rather than “try[ing] to fix a ‘liberal’ democracy that has run aground”.

Prior to the elections, he warned that “the greatest danger threatening [Europe] today is the indifferent silence of the European elite who are renouncing their Christian roots, despite the fact that the fate of Middle Eastern Christians should wake Europe up to the fact that, no matter how unbelievable it may still seem, what happened there could also happen to us”.

He took aim at groups among “Europe’s intellectual and political leaders, who want to create a mixed society that would completely change the continent’s cultural and ethnic identity, and Christian nature, within just a few generations”, and vowed to oppose them.

“To us, Europe is a Christian continent and we would like to keep it that way, and although we may not be able to preserve all of it, we would at least like to save the little slice of it that the Good Lord entrusted to the Hungarians,” he said.


Flashback: Rabbi Explains Why Jews Should ‘Rejoice’ Over Islamification of Europe

Rabbi Baruch Efrati, a yeshiva head and community rabbi in the West Bank settlement of Efrat, believes that the Islamization of Europe is actually a good thing for Jews:

“With the help of God, the gentiles there will adopt a healthier life with a lot of modesty and integrity, and not like the hypocritical Christianity which appears pure but is fundamentally corrupt,” he explained.

Rabbi Efrati was asked to discuss the issue by an oriental studies student, who inquired on Judaism’s stand toward the process Europe has been going through in recent years.

Following the election of a hijab-wearing Muslim woman as the mayor of the Bosnian city of Visoko for the first time in continent’s history, the student asked the rabbi on the Kipa website: “How do we fight the Islamization of Europe and return it to the hands of Christians and moderates?”

Efrati wrote in response that the Islamization of Europe was better than a Christian Europe for ethical and theological reasons – as a punishment against Christians for persecuting the Jews and the fact that Christianity, as opposed to Islam, is considered “idolatry” from a halachic point of view.

Jews should rejoice at the fact that Christian Europe is losing its identity as a punishment for what it did to us for the hundreds of years were in exile there,” the rabbi explained as the ethical reason for favoring Muslims, quoting shocking descriptions from the Rishonim literature (written by leading rabbis who lived during the 11th to 15th centuries) about pogroms and mass murders committed by Christians against Jews.

We will never forgive Europe’s Christians for slaughtering millions of our children, women and elderly… Not just in the recent Holocaust, but throughout the generations, in a consistent manner which characterizes all factions of hypocritical Christianity…

“A now, Europe is losing its identity in favor of another people and another religion, and there will be no remnants and survivors from the impurity of Christianity, which shed a lot of blood it won’t be able to atone for.”

The theological reason, according to Rabbi Efrati, is that Christianity – which he sees as idolatry – has a tendency to “destroy normal life and abstain from it on the one hand, while losing modesty on the other hand,” as it “ranges between radical monasticism to radical Western licentiousness.”

Islam, the rabbi added, is “a religion which misjudges its prophets but is relatively honest. It educates a bit more for a stable life of marriage and creation, where there is certain modesty and respect for God.”

Efrati ruled, therefore, that “even if we are in a major war with the region’s Arabs over the Land of Israel, Islam is still much better as a gentile culture than Christianity.”

He added, however, that Jews must pray that the Islamization of most of Europe will not harm the people of Israel.

How do Christian Zionists, who rabidly support Israel and the jewish people, explain away this visceral Jewish hostility not only toward all Christians but also toward the entire White European race?

This is an open call for genocide coming from a people whose ancestors committed deicide against the prophecized Christ, yet they want us to feel as if we deserve this attack on our culture and race because of some vague mistreatment of Jews in the mists of time.

The Jews created Islam for the illiterate, moon-worshipping desert nomads 1,500 years ago as a way of mobilizing these Arab people against the White Christian power of the Byzantine Empire, and then against Christian Europe after that.

Their game plan has not changed, but this time around, they’ve made the Muslim invasion of the West “legal” within the societies that they’ve worked hard to subvert.

Of course, bringing “antisemitic” Muslims into Europe puts Jews at risk in those countries, but that’s a small price to pay if they can finally bring down all of Christendom in the process.


Introduction Of Christianity To Africa

Mark the Evangelist made history in the year 43 when he became the first bishop to serve in the Orthodox Church of Alexandria. The Alexandria-based church initially used Greek, and it was not until the late 2nd century that both the liturgy and the scriptures were translated into three native languages. Christianity found its way to Sudan in the 1st century as well, and the region's Nubian churches had links to those in Egypt. The religion also grew in northwestern Africa where the churches maintained links with the Church of Rome. The Church in Alexandria grew quickly in the 3rd century, and Alexandria's Bishop earned the title of Pope, and he was recognized as the senior Bishop in Egypt. However, Emperor Decius ordered the persecution of the adherents of Christianity in mid-3rd century forcing Christians to seek refuge in the desert. It is some of these Christians who stayed in the desert for prayers after the end of the persecution and founded Christian monasticism. King Ezana of the Ethiopian/Eritrean Kingdom of Aksum gave Christianity official status and facilitated the establishment of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. However, Christianity in most of the areas of North Africa was wiped out with the advent of Islam.


Eastern Europe: The Last Barrier between Christianity and Islam

"Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims . This is an important question, because Europe and the European identity is rooted in Christianity." — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

The last chance to save Europe's roots might well come from the former communist members of the EU -- those who defeated the Ottomans in 1699 and now feel culturally threatened by their heirs.

Cypriots know much better than the comfortable bureaucrats of Brussels the consequences of a cultural collision. Ask about their churches on the Turkish side of the island how many of them are still standing?

Austria's fate is now at stake.

Perhaps it was a coincidence that Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna and tipped to be the next Pope, chose September 12, the anniversary of the Siege of Vienna, when Turkey's Ottoman troops nearly conquered Europe, to deliver a most dramatic appeal to save Europe's Christian roots.

"Many Muslims want and say that 'Europe is finished'," Cardinal Schönborn said, before accusing Europe of "forgetting its Christian identity." He then denounced the possibility of "an Islamic conquest of Europe."

Konrad Pesendorfer, head of the Austrian Office of Statistics, said that by 2030, 40% of the population of Vienna will be foreign-born, thanks to internal demography and migration flows (60,000 arrivals in just one year).

Since the fall of Constantinople in 1453, much of Eastern Europe's Christian population spent centuries under Islamic occupation, particularly under the Ottomans. It now seems that the clock has reverted to 1683, when Ottoman armies were at the gates of Vienna.

It is not a coincidence that the fierce resistance of Eastern Europeans has been the main impediment to a unified response by the European Union to the migrant crisis. It was these Eastern states that forced German Chancellor Angela Merkel to halt the massive flux of migrants. Today, where there is no border, migrants keep coming en masse. In August alone, 23,000 migrants arrived in Italy.

Brussels is whipping up a propaganda war to cast the Western Europeans, who favor unvetted Muslim migration, as cosmopolitan and tolerant, and Eastern Europeans as a bunch of xenophobic bigots, if not outright neo-Nazis.

Europe's educated elite might do well to listen to their Eastern brethren. These countries, ironically, are the core of the "new Europe," the last to join the European project and the very countries, having escaped from authoritarian regimes, which should have revived it. Brussels' policy is now pushing this Eastern bloc back under Russia's sphere of influence.

The Eastern Europeans' reluctance to open the doors to massive Muslim migration can be explained by the economic crisis, falling birth rates, their relatively homogenous societies, the persecution of the Christians under Communism, memories of a conflict with Islam dating back to the Middle Ages, and the attempt by Brussels to impose a cultural agenda. The European Parliament, in fact, has constantly passed resolutions pressuring conservative East European member-states such as Poland, Hungary and Croatia, to legalize same-sex marriage and abortion on demand.

The President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, calls him "Viktator" Orbán. But Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, defiant, is going ahead with the construction of a wall on Hungary's border with Serbia. When Communism fell, Hungary was the first country to open the Iron Curtain and let people out. Now it is first country to erect a fence to keep people out. Orbán is also planning an additional fence along that border.

Orbán is the Eastern nemesis of the European elite. No one else in Europe except him speaks about defending "Christianity." The "Visegrad-4," the alliance between Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria and Slovakia, want to distinguish between Christian and Muslim immigrants. Orbán has the support of Hungarian bishops who oppose Pope Francis' open-armed policy toward migrants.

In an opinion piece for the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, Orbán wrote:

"Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims. This is an important question, because Europe and European identity is rooted in Christianity."

Orbán's rebelliousness goes back to his student days in 1989, when he was at the funeral of Imre Nagy, who led the anti-Soviet insurrection of 1956 -- Orbán had the courage to demand the withdrawal of the communist invaders.

Orbán later led Hungary into NATO.

Son of a communist and a Calvinist mother, Orbán has a devout Catholic wife and five children. To those who question whether he is a reactionary, Orbán replies: "I eat with a fork and a knife, but we are not nice guys from the mainstream." For him, the European Commission is a kind of new politburo. "We did not tolerate being dictated to from Vienna in 1848 nor from Moscow in 1956 and 1990," Orbán said. "Now we're not going to allow ourselves to be dictated to by anyone from Brussels or anywhere else."

Orbán's speeches are full of historical references, as when he asked Hungarians to behave with the same courage shown by their ancestors "in the war against the Ottoman armies."

The Hungarian constitution is unique in Europe it protects "life from conception" and says that marriages can take place only between a man and a woman.

Orbán's approach has been adopted by other ex-communist members of the EU. Poland's President Andrzej Duda complained about "dictates" from Brussels to accept migrants flowing into the Continent from the Middle East and Africa. Meanwhile Poland's Law and Justice Party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, appealed "to an old historical viewpoint, according to which Poland is a bulwark for Christianity in the East and must save Europe from itself."

"Since its adoption of Christianity in 966, Poland has often played the role of Antemurale Christianitatis, a bastion of Christendom," according to Crisis Magazine.

"From halting the European advance of Mongols at the Battle of Legnica in 1241, to saving Europe from Muslim colonization when King John III Sobieski defeated the Turks at Vienna in 1683, this has been reinforced. Communism failed to extinguish Polish Catholicism, when John Paul II was elected pope in 1978 and inspired the rise of the Solidarity movement, which playing a crucial role in ending communism. More recently, Polish immigrants have filled hitherto empty pews in Western Europe. During the current Vatican synod on the family, Polish bishops have been among the most vocal defenders of tradition."

The prime minister of another Eastern European country, Robert Fico of Slovakia, said his country will accept only Christian refugees that Islam "has no place" in his country and that "multiculturalism is a fiction."

Czech President Milos Zeman also attacked multiculturalism. Even Socratis Hasikos, Cyprus' interior minister, said that his country would accept refugees but wanted them to be Christians. For many Cypriots, the line that divides the island is a frontier between Greek Christianity and Turkish Islam, just as the Berlin Wall was a frontier between democracy and communism.

As the prestigious American Catholic magazine First Things noted, "in Hungary, Croatia, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, a pro-family, pro-life revolution and a rediscovery of Christian roots is occurring."

Like it or not, the last chance to save Europe's roots might well come from the former communist members of the EU -- those who defeated the Ottomans in 1699 and now feel culturally threatened by their heirs.

Cypriots know much better than the comfortable bureaucrats of Brussels the consequences of a cultural collision. Ask about their churches on the Turkish side of the island how many of them are still standing?

Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.

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