By Eric Metaxas and Roberto Rivera, July 24, 2017, at: www.breakpoint.org
What happens when a civilization forgets— or rejects— its roots? We’re seeing it right now.
“Europe is committing suicide. Or at least its leaders have decided to commit suicide.” Those are the opening words of Douglas Murray’s controversial best-seller, “The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam.”
What Murray means when he says that Europe is “committing suicide” is that “the civilization we know as Europe is in the process of committing suicide.” It’s a fate that neither his native “Britain nor any other Western European country can avoid . . . because [they] all appear to suffer from the same symptoms and maladies.”
It’s Murray’s diagnosis of these “symptoms and maladies” that should interest Christians.
As the subtitle suggests, Murray’s book covers much of the same ground as other recent books by authors such as Mark Steyn, Bruce Bawer, and the French novelist Michelle Houellebecq. These books seek to warn readers about the threat to European institutions and values posed by mass Islamic immigration.
While Murray is, to put it mildly, skeptical about the possibility of successfully assimilating millions of Muslim immigrants and their children, this mass migration alone wasn’t enough to cause the “strange death” alluded to in his title.
As Murray tells readers, “even the mass movement of millions of people into Europe would not sound such a final note for the continent were it not for the fact that (coincidentally or otherwise) at the same time Europe lost faith in its beliefs, traditions and legitimacy.”
In other words, it is mass Islamic immigration plus Europe’s spiritual exhaustion— my words not his— that threaten to put an end to European civilization.
And at the heart of the loss of faith Murray cites is Europe’s turning its back on Christianity.
In one chapter he writes about a sense shared by many European intellectuals, including himself, that “life in modern liberal democracies is to some extent thin or shallow and that life in modern Western Europe in particular has lost its sense of purpose.”
According to Murray, “Here is an inheritance of thought and culture and philosophy and religion which has nurtured people for thousands of years and may well fulfill you too.”
The “religion” Murray refers to is, of course, Christianity, which he calls the “source” of European ideas about rights, laws, and the institutions that protect them. He tells his secularized readers that “There is no reason why the inheritor of a Judeo-Christian civilization and Enlightenment Europe should spend much, if any, of their time warring with those who still hold the faith from which so many of those beliefs and rights spring.”
He also derides the varieties of “European Christianity [that] have lost the confidence to proselytize or even believe in their own message.” This lack of confidence, in Murray’s estimation, is why some young Europeans turn to Islam, which doesn’t suffer from the sense that “the story has run out.”
What makes Murray’s account especially interesting is that he is a self-described atheist. His reasons for disbelief aren’t particularly persuasive, but that doesn’t negate his much-needed reminder of Europe’s debt to Christianity and how its rejection of its Christian past threatens its future. The same, of course, could be said about America.
As Murry writes, “If being ‘European’ is not about race— as we hope it is not— then it is even more imperative that it is about ‘values.’ This is what makes the question What are European values? so important.”
It’s a question that can’t be answered without first acknowledging the source of those values.
“Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.”
–Arnold Toynbee, British historian (1889-1975)
Nobel Prize winning author Alexsander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) described how this loss of faith in God devastated Russia:
“Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”
Jeremiah 13:24-25 — “I will scatter you like chaff driven by the desert wind. This is your lot, the portion I have decreed for you declares the Lord, “because you have forgotten me and trusted in false gods.”
Jeremiah 2:31-32a — You of this generation, consider the word of the Lord: …Why do my people say, ‘We are free to roam; we will come to you no more’? Does a young woman forget her jewelry, a bride her wedding ornaments? Yet my people have forgotten me.”
Deuteronomy 8:10-14a…17-19 — When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God… You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.