Tuesday, May 22, 2007

EUchristendom?

Razib over at Gene Expression pens an encyclopedic review of Philip Jenkins' God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis. Razib is a scienceophile atheist and rightist -- an admirer equally of Nicholas Wade and John Derbyshire. The review is in some ways a repudiation of his earlier, alarmist writings on the rise of Islam in Europe. After pointing out interesting facts, such as the cycle of reconversions in European history...

The Mizo peoples of northeast India were originally converted to Christianity by Welsh Protestant nonconformists, but with the decline of fidelity to organized Christianity in Britain they have now sent missionaries back to Wales (in some ways one might contend this is an expanded recapitulation of the evangelization of Anglo-Saxon Britain from Ireland during the late 6th and early 7th century, as the Irish themselves were converted to Christianity by the Romano-British).


He spends most of the post on two highly visible minorities: Europe's secular elite and Europe's Islamist underclass. Much has been written about the microstates before, so a word on the elite and their governments:

Though American elites are often accused of being "out of touch," Jenkins argues that European elites exhibit a far greater distance from their "hinterlands" in terms of outlook and world-view (he suggests that the small size and low number of cultural capitals results in a far greater centralization in terms of elite socialization). Dutch elites in the immigrant filled cities no doubt find it easy to forget that their nation is host to a "Bible Belt" of Calvinist believers. Nations as disparate as Norway, France and Scotland have regions of elevated Christianity commitment. But these concentrations of organized Christianity highlight the second trend: the reemergence of the ancient classical pattern where Christianity is simply a major cult within a religiously diverse landscape.


A reminder of Europe's anti-Christian past is also useful, for putting the most recent Dawkins atheist-tirade into perspective:

in 1798 the Pope was held captive as anti-Christian revolution swept Europe. Many savants of the age predicted the death of Christianity and the ancien regime. Despite the restoration after the fall of Napoleon, the ancien regime did fall and transform into the modern era of nation-states, but Christianity did not die. It is also important to remember the power of anti-clericalism throughout much of the 19th and early 20th century, and the allure and appeal of radical politics for the European working classes. In 1881 Italian nationalists attempted to seize the body of Pius IX and throw it into the Tiber river. In France the Catholicism and laicism have been at tension for two centuries.


Read the whole review.