Saturday, June 16, 2007
“White Dwarf” Christianity in Europe
Last month, in a post I titled Eurabia, or Not?, I noted Richard John Neuhaus’ review of Philip Jenkins’ book God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis.
Jenkins postulates, unlike other well known individuals, that Islam is not, and will not, overrun Europe, and his book lays out his arguments as to why Europe will not become Eurabia.
This morning I find a piece penned by Jenkins online at Foreign Policy titled Europe’s Christian Comeback. The piece is written, I would gather, in further support of Jenkins’ arguments as put forth in his book, and has a couple of interesting points which I include here.
The West is awash with fear of the Islamization of Europe. The rise of Islam, many warn, could transform the continent into “Eurabia,” a term popularized by Harvard historian Niall Ferguson and other pundits. “A youthful Muslim society to the south and east of the Mediterranean is poised to colonize—the term is not too strong—a senescent Europe,” Ferguson has predicted. Such grim prophecies may sell books, but they ignore reality. For all we hear about Islam, Europe remains a stronger Christian fortress than people realize. What’s more, it is showing little sign of giving ground to Islam or any other faith for that matter.
In fact, the rapid decline in the continent’s church attendance over the past 40 years may have done Europe a favor. It has freed churches of trying to operate as national entities that attempt to serve all members of society. Today, no church stands a realistic chance of incorporating everyone. Smaller, more focused bodies, however, can be more passionate, enthusiastic, and rigorously committed to personal holiness. To use a scientific analogy, when a star collapses, it becomes a white dwarf—smaller in size than it once was, but burning much more intensely. Across Europe, white-dwarf faith communities are growing within the remnants of the old mass church.
I would caution, though, against fundamentalist attitudes arising from any of these “white dwarf” churches, as fundamentalist attitudes are the leading cause of expressions of violence no matter what individuals may be propounding.