It’s hard to understand Europe without a grasp of Christianity’s role in shaping it. The old sacred/secular divide is disappearing as religion (not least Islamic) crashes into ‘public space’. But can Christians help a bewildered secular society to find its bearings?
Last time I pointed out that it’s ‘individuals’ (rather than ‘nation-states’) who follow Christ. Nations are impacted as national leaders who are imbued with the values of Europe’s Judeo-Christian heritage implement it in the public good. Examples of this include Margaret Thatcher, Teresa May and Angela Merkal – all raised as the daughters of pastors.
The ‘Judeo-Christian heritage’ is the guiding influence of Jewish and Christian Scriptures as they become embedded in the national psyche and way of life. This influence has faded as secularism has emerged in Europe.
Christian values originally flourished across Europe due to ‘Christendom’ (i.e. the dominion of Christ) as Christianity became religion of state. This was enabled via the infrastructure of the Roman Empire such as straight Roman roads and a postal service.
When French leader Charles Martel defeated a North African Muslim army at Tours (732AD) the term ‘Europeenses’ (i.e. Europeans) began to be used, which distinguished Europeans as politically “Christian” and all others as ‘outsiders’. Christianity became identified as a “religion” distinct from other religions.
The word “religion” comes from the Latin word religare (to bind). Religion binds its adherents together as a community, setting regulations; reducing anti-social behaviour and differentiates ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’.
As institutional Christianity has declined in Europe its values live on – enshrined by the EU –in issues such as ‘inclusivity’, social justice’ and ‘equality legislation’. This mind-set makes Europe a pleasant place to live and so it is attractive to migrants (economic and refugee) who come like moths to the light of ‘Christianised’ culture; as the Scripture says: ‘the Gentiles shall come to your light…’. (Is.60:3)
As ‘secular humanism’ dominated a nominal Christian Europe, it has also led to a ‘pathological altruism’ which could yet bring the demise of the EU where politicians are deeply divided. Some welcoming ‘the stranger’ others veer to the right-wing and reject them.
Mass-migration is proving a double-edged sword. It’s bringing many to Christ while ratcheting up tension because migrant culture is more ‘tight-knit’ than liberal European society. So people in host communities feel threatened by ‘clannish’ behaviour and marginalise migrants. In turn some Muslims are becoming bitter and ripe for radicalisation.
It’s a sad fact that ALL the recent violent attacks across northern Europe, were carried out by young males of migrant Muslim stock. Part of what’s going wrong here is that the glut of migrant numbers means that indigenous ‘Christianised’ host populations are seen by some newcomers as the ‘out-group’ in their own country.
There is scope here for followers of Jesus to be both carriers of good news and also ‘peacemakers’ in this climate. (Mat.5:9)
Source: This is a reflection, based on a piece by Ed West, which was first published by Lapido Media