The new European Constitution contains some 70,000 words. But nowhere is there a reference to Christianity or to the Judeo-Christian tradition. Europe's commitment to human rights, according to the document, arose from classical antiquity and from the Enlightenment. Fifteen hundred years of Christian influence were airbrushed out. When a phrase acknowledging Europe's Christian patrimony was suggested (by a Jewish scholar, actually), the French and others vehemently objected.
Across Western Europe, churches stand empty on Sunday mornings (though in Poland and other Eastern European nations this is not the case). And among the intellectual elites, Christian commitment is regarded as an embarrassment -- as even perhaps a disqualifying trait for high office. (There are echoes of this attitude in the United States, as well. Last year, Senate Democrats blocked the confirmation of Judge William Pryor due to his "deeply held religious views." Pryor is a practicing Catholic.)
Culture, Weigel argues, determines civilization. Without its distinctly Christian history, Europe would not be what it is. To cite just one example, Weigel recalls the 11th century "investiture" controversy between Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII. The pope won, and the victory established an important principle that would have profound consequences for the development of what would later be called "civil society." The principle established was that the state "would not occupy every inch of social space."
Nor is it possible to conceive of the great figures of European history apart from their Christianity. Weigel lists dozens of names and reminds the reader that these emblematic Europeans were all influenced by, often completely imbued with, their faith -- much to the continent's good. Benedict, Bernini, Becket, Bach, Bacon, Calvin, Cromwell, Dante, Dostoevsky, Gutenberg, Michelangelo, Milton, More, Wesley and Wilberforce, among many others. Weigel acknowledges Christianity's sins and errors, but wonders whether atheistic humanists recognize theirs.
Europe today is a society adrift, untethered to the source of its greatness. It is, to use the great Jewish American writer Will Herberg's formulation, "a cut flower culture." And just as Europeans are losing the elemental desire to preserve their civilization, Muslim immigrants stand ready to vindicate the loss of 1683. It is not inconceivable that European civilization -- post-Christian, politically correct and too weary to take its own side in a quarrel (to paraphrase Robert Frost) -- may yet deliver to the Muslim world a delayed victory.