Essay by Kenan Malik: RETHINKING THE IDEA OF ‘CHRISTIAN EUROPE’
January 25, 2012 § Leave a comment
In the warped mind of Anders Behring Breivik, his murderous rampage in Oslo and Utoøya were the first shots in a war in defence of Christian Europe. Not a religious war but a cultural one. Breivik acknowledged that he was not religious but, he wrote in his manifesto in a section entitled ‘Distinguishing between cultural Christendom and religious Christendom’:
Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian
Few but the most psychopathic have any sympathy for Breivik’s homicidal frenzy. And most Christians have rejected the Breivik’s claim to be one of them. Yet the idea that Christianity is a ‘cultural, social, identity and moral platform’ that provides the underpinnings of ‘Western civilization’ and that ‘Christian Europe’ is under threat finds a widespread hearing. From Mark Steyn to Christopher Caldwell to Melanie Phillips to Martin Amis and beyond, alarm about Muslim immigration, the rise of ‘Eurabia’ and the collapse of the Judeo-Christian tradition is rife.
At the heart of the argument lie two claims. First, that the political ideals and ethical values of ‘Western civilization’ are underpinned by Christianity (or the Judeo-Christian tradition). And, second, that this vital and unique tradition is under threat, from Islam on the one side and Marxists and the ‘liberal intelligentsia’ on the other. The erosion of Christianity, in this narrative, will lead inevitably to the erosion of Western civilisation and the end of modern, liberal democracy.
Many writers (myself included) have challenged the argument about the ‘Muslim takeover’ of Europe and about the growth of ‘Eurabia’. The idea of Christianity as the cultural and moral foundation of Western civilisation is, however, accepted as almost self-evident. Europe, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, the Archbishop of Prague argued recently, ‘has denied its Christian roots from which it has risen and which could give it the strength to fend off the danger that it will be conquered by Muslims, which is actually happening gradually’:
At the end of the Middle Ages and in the early modern age, Islam failed to conquer Europe with arms. The Christians beat them then. Today, when the fighting is done with spiritual weapons which Europe lacks while Muslims are perfectly armed, the fall of Europe is looming.