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Samuel Gregg: How Europe’s way of denial became a way of death

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Modern Europe faces a future of economic stagnation and demographic decline brought on by the hollowing out of its self-confidence. These impending calamities reached the crisis point at precisely the moment the continent faces an unprecedented influx of migrants who share none of its leaders’ epistemological angst. Furthermore, some of the newest citizens are neither committed to co-existence nor averse to advancing their religion through taqiyya or, increasingly, jihad.

Samuel Gregg, Acton’s research director, recounts Douglas Murray’s argument in his review of The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Islam, Identity – before rendering his own verdict on Europe’s future.

Murray defines European civilization as “the culture produced by the tributaries of Judaeo-Christian culture, the ancient Greeks and Romans, and the discoveries of the Enlightenment.” However, Gregg writes in Public Discourse that an exclusive emphasis on Europe’s (undeniable) failings, coupled with militant and assertive identity politics by segments of its Islamic population, has impoverished this once-robust concept of “European values”:

This translates into efforts to diminish European culture to whatever offends no one, thus stripping the sense of what it means to be European of substantive content. Hence, it is now an article of faith among many Europeans, Murray holds, that anyone can come to Europe and “be European.” Why? Because “to be European” has been reduced, in Murray’s words, to “‘respect,’ ‘tolerance’ and (most self-abnegating of all) ‘diversity.’”

Europe’s immigration woes have exposed such cultural minimalism’s corrosive effects on many Europeans’ ability to address real evil in their midst.

If Europe faces a diminution unto death from its religious and cultural agnosticism, a revived faith would seem to be in order. Yet Gregg continues:

[I]t’s seriously questionable whether large swaths of European Christianity have anything to contribute to staving off the problems identified by Murray. In Western Europe you occasionally find tough-minded Catholic bishops or Protestant theologians who possess the requisite intellectual hardware and moral courage to speak clearly and honesty about these challenges. It’s also true that in much of Eastern Europe, Christian life is generally more robust and Christians are far less naïve about the effects of mass Muslim migration.

Unfortunately, liberal Christianity still reigns in much of Western Europe, and it mirrors all of its secular liberal counterparts’ incoherence and rampant self-doubt. As Murray writes, “For the Church of Sweden, the Church of England, the German Lutheran Church and many other branches of Christianity, the message of the religion has become a form of left-wing politics, diversity action, and social welfare projects.” Much of German Catholicism has essentially collapsed into a tax-funded secular-leaning NGO, content to function as the welfare state’s vaguely religious arm while proclaiming a gospel of non-judgmentalism (except, of course, with regard to ecological issues).

Murray’s book created a sensation when it was published last May. Read Gregg’s full essay at Public Discourse, and see if he shares Murray’s pessimism.

You may also be interested in Ed West’s article discussing Murray’s Strange Death of Europe, James Kirchick’s The End of Europe, and Finis Germania by German historian Rolf Peter Sieferle (whose posthumous book became a bestseller shortly after his suicide) for Religion & Liberty Transatlantic.

See also “Can ‘European values’ prevent European suicide?”

(Photo credit: bixentro. This photo has been cropped. CC BY 2.0.)

Rev. Ben Johnson Rev. Ben Johnson is Senior Editor at the Acton Institute.