Of the three great monotheistic faiths in the West, Islam is the late comer. Judaism came first, as recorded in the Torah. Christianity clearly grew from a Jewish root and would have stayed an isolated sect of the Jews had not the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70AD and pushed the nascent Christians into the wider Roman Empire. In time, Christianity spread, became the official religion of Rome, and then survived past the usefulness of the entire Roman idea of empire and governance.
Islam came into being in the 7th century in and around the area of Mecca and Medina, which is within the borders of Saudi Arabia today. There were still Jews in the area now called Israel, but they were limited in size, and the Jewish population of Europe had always been small. If Islam were to bump up against a competing faith, it would be Christianity, and it was. The Muslims and Christians fought many wars throughout the long Middle Ages, both in the Middle East, and in Europe. Islam entered southern Spain and stayed there until the last of the Muslim forces were defeated at Granada in 1492. Yes, that 1492. Christianity spread to the Western Hemisphere at that time and is still the dominate religion of the Spanish speaking world. Mexico, for example, is reported to be 95% Catholic Christians.
However, in the intervening 500 years, Christianity has peaked and gone into steep decline in the heart of the former Roman Empire, and in what was once called Christendom. The great cathedrals of Europe, once the central focus of everyone’s efforts in a total Christian society, are largely empty now. What is full are Europe’s many mosques. Generations of immigrants have brought Islam into Europe in a way Muslim armies of the past could only dream. This is occurring at the same time the native, formerly Christian populations, have all but ceased to have enough kids just to hold their populations level.
And so, as virtually everyone now openly admits after a long period of silence, there is a competition for the future of Europe which pits the still faithful Islamicists against the atheistic and mostly childless former Christian communities. Given that Muslim birth rates are higher, it seems entirely logical that Europe’s future, after centuries of religious competition, is going to be Islamic.
Concurrently, a childless and atheist native European population has been drifting towards greater centralization and political control for a long time, which should not be surprising. As a rule, childlessness and atheism equates politically with being of the socialist left which also means being, generally, an ‘environmentalist’ and Climate Change zealot. These political beliefs produce European socialists who are mocking towards religion, especially Christianity, and paradoxically, quiet about the excesses of Islam. One explanation for this paradox notes the common ground the socialist left and Islam share, which includes a deep antipathy to Christianity. There are, however, a dwindling supply of those that profess the Christian faith left in Europe.
Faith, once lost, is difficult to retrieve. If one is faithful, it could be believed that God himself is driving these forces, but others believe that while literal Christianity is beyond retrieval, ‘cultural Christianity’ will allow the Europeans to recover their will to live, grow, build, and procreate. Cultural Christianity will prevent Europe from adapting the excesses of a total Islamic society.
So, can cultural Christianity prevail in Europe?
The idea of a religion as a cultural, rather than a religious phenomenon has been the position of the Jews for decades. Religiously faithful Jews are still in evidence in Israel and in other parts of the world, but for many non-practicing Jews, the religion is now part of a wider cultural pattern of thought and practice left behind by the religion.
Many of the Jews I’ve known over the years fit into this pattern. I would not have even known they were Jews had they not told me, or their name did not indicate it. Their habits and behaviors were mostly the same as mine, though they tended to be slightly more successful. Yes, the Jews I’ve known were lawyers, doctors, accountants, and movie people. If you asked any of these men and women about their religion, they would have reported, using various words and phrases, that they were not observant Jews who literally believed in the Torah or the Jewish God, but that they considered their faith to be part of a larger Jewish cultural pattern, and it was a culture they admired and cultivated.
In other words, they were cultural Jews, rather than literal Jews. Can there be a sort of vibrant cultural Christianity that holds dear certain Christian values, such as the worth and dignity of the individual, but that doesn’t possess the literal faith that there was a man named Jesus that died for our sins and faith in him leads to enteral life? Is Christianity worthwhile as a culture rather than a faith?
Two conservative figures recently discussed this very idea with Mark Steyn. One was Douglas Murray, the other was Eva Vlaardingerbroek.
Douglas Murray is an openly gay writer and the author of The Strange Death of Europe, described as such:
Douglas Murray travels across Europe to examine first-hand how mass immigration, cultivated self-distrust and delusion have contributed to a continent in the grips of its own demise. From the shores of Lampedusa to migrant camps in Greece, from Cologne to London, he looks critically at the factors that have come together to make Europeans unable to argue for themselves and incapable of resisting their alteration as a society. Murray’s “tremendous and shattering” book (The Times) addresses the disappointing failures of multiculturalism, Angela Merkel’s U-turn on migration, the lack of repatriation and the Western fixation on guilt, uncovering the malaise at the very heart of the European culture. His conclusion is bleak, but the predictions are not irrevocable. As Murray argues, this may be our last chance to change the outcome before it’s too late.
From his comments to Steyn, its clear that Murray is not a literal Christian, but more of a cultural one. He values the advances to civilization that Christianity enabled but doesn’t have faith in Christ. He believes that Europe can resist the suicidal impulse by embracing Christian cultural values even if very few Europeans believe in the reality of a Christian God.
Eva Vlaardingerbroek does not share Murray’s faith in the strength of a cultural Christianity. She is young, Dutch, straight, exceedingly attractive, well-spoken, and openly Christian. She has noted that the fall of European ideas has been terrible for European women and the wider idea of freedom and independence of Dutch citizens. She has lamented the murder of young French girls by crazed Muslims, the mass rapes of British girls by Pakistani rape gangs, and the subjugation of European women anywhere Islam is a local majority. And she has little faith that a ‘cultural Christianity’ is strong enough to face down a literal Islamic identity.
From a recent speech she gave:
“We are not just dealing with an enemy who wants to brainwash us, we are dealing with an enemy who wants to get inside our brains. An enemy who wants to play God. If it is that the globalists want us to believe that everything is just a social construct, they will not stop there. They want us to believe that even life itself is a construct. One that they can develop, and therefore of course control. Like all other things, they bring this to us under the guise of equality and other honorable pretexts, like public health care. If there is one thing we have seen in the last two years, it is that people have shown an incredible willingness to give up their freedoms to be protected by the state. This is of course no surprise, with the decline of Christianity people developed more and more fear of the afterlife, or lack of it. And that is the reason why modern man is now incredibly afraid of death. Protecting public health therefore naturally sounds like a really noble goal. That is why it is an extremely effective means of gaining control over millions of citizens. What if the elites offer us more than just protection from death with their vaccine passports? What if they offer us not just protection from death, but even the elimination of death? This is where transhumanism comes in. Transhumanism argues that the human species should take control of its own evolution through technology. Technologies such as brain implants, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology, whereby we humans will one day become immortal in the cloud, but not this cloud.
At that point, she directed a pointed finger upwards. Vlaardingerbroek would done well in any of the Baptist churches I attended earlier in my life.
So, the question remains; is cultural Christianity strong enough to survive the death of literal Christianity? In Jewish life, the answer has been yes. Zionism is a political movement that supports the creation of a separate and protected Jewish identity independent of the faith in a monotheistic God. Jews have died and killed for pure Zionism; no faith required. And I would posit the same thing, which is that a culturally Christian heritage combined with a strong nationalism and commitment to one’s heritage is enough to overcome the loss of literal faith.
This situation describes my perception of myself. I was, like Vlaardingerbroek, raised in a Christian house by wonderful people who processed the Christian faith and took me to church. I’ve read the Bible many, many times, and I’m grounded in both European and American history. I know the marvelous contributions Christianity has made to human life, and I’m aware of the excesses. I am an ‘American Zionist,’ in a sense; grounded in my cultural faith even as I’m not grounded in my literal faith. My lack of literal faith is, as Vlaardingerbroak points out, based in a certain rationalism, and I can’t see how I might undo that. But my rational mind also sees the world as it is, over long periods of time, and I’m not unhappy with my condition. Eva Vlaardingerbroek does not think cultural Christianity can stand up to Islam in Europe, but Europe was the scene of two brutal world wars where one of the central goals was the destruction of the Jews. I would suggest the European problem is as much a loss of faith in their culture as well as their religion. Mass slaughter and genocide was not caused by any Christian tenet, but it happened in Europe, in the 20th Century, and the consequence is still with us.
Also, it is worth noting that it was excessive government, and not Christianity or Western freedom, that drove the spiritual death of Europe, and the Europeans have doubled down on the nanny state since 1945. Many Europeans countries have had Communist parties that were openly atheist. Christians had nothing to do with it and it was Catholic Christians in places like Poland that threw off the murderous Communist yoke. British Christians have resisted the British Socialists for decades now. Nevertheless, most European governments have weakened national and ethic pride in place and people on purpose since they blamed those factors on the wars. Religious pride declined as well and a cultural Christianity not rooted in a national commitment is, as Vlaardingerbroek suggests, weak beer. If a dead Christian faith is all they have left, it won’t hold them together. Their Socialist governments are who champion mass immigration from the Middle East and other Islamic majority nations. It was Communist atheism and government dependence that killed Christianity, and now is leading them all to irrelevance.
But I’m a proud American by birth, and a Texan by immigration, raised by great parents and I’m the father of three boys. Those factors together give me hope for a future, and a commitment to it. In spite of all the efforts of the radical American left to get me to hate my country and ethnicity, I refuse to buy into their bullshit. I love my Christian cultural history, and am standing by, should Jesus wish to have a chat with me. My combined identities and faiths will see me through as Europe falls to an Islamic majority, depopulates, and then possibly reverts back to it’s pagan roots. Maybe Islam will die in Europe next. The lights will stay on here in Florida where I’m from, in Texas where I live, in our schools, homes, and even in the churches.
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One thought on “Is Cultural Christianity Enough?”
I appreciate these insights! Excellent article. I agree with and resemble your summation. Transhumanism appears to be a sad attempt to achieve our Creator/Saviors promise. Lord come quickly! (Thanks to Gina for sending me this link).
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