In my new just-released book, The Faith, I argue that the two greatest challenges to the Christian worldview come from radical Islam and extreme secularism. Almost on cue, recent events in Europe have conspired to illustrate the point.
In Britain, one Anglican bishop wrote in the Telegraph about the impact of the “worldwide resurgence of the ideology of Islamic extremism” on British Muslims. When coupled with British-style multiculturalism, the results are young British Muslims alienated from “the nation in which they [grew] up.” He warned about efforts “to give Britain an increasingly Islamic character by introducing the call to prayer and wider use of sharia law.” And Muhammad turns out now to be the second most popular name for newborn baby boys.
Another effect is the turning of the “already [Muslim] communities into ‘no-go’ areas where adherence to this ideology has become a mark of acceptability.” According to the bishop of Rochester, “those of a different faith or race may find it difficult to live or work there because of hostility to them.”
The bishop who wrote this should know: He is Michael Nazir-Ali, a native of Pakistan. If any member of the British elite can possibly be said to understand these communities, it is Bishop Nazir-Ali.
This unique insight into the problems did not keep members of that elite from attacking the bishop. The leader of the Liberal Democrats called his words “a gross caricature of reality.” Even a Conservative party leader said that Nazir-Ali had put it “too strongly.”
One part of Europe where religious activities are frowned upon by elites is Spain—though, ironically because of Spain’s long Christian history, it is against Christian activity. Last December, some 2 million Spaniards demonstrated in Madrid to defend marriage and family life.
They heard from Pope Benedict XVI, who called marriage “an indissoluble union between a man and a woman.” He also spoke of the “the right and fundamental obligation” of parents to educate their children in moral matters.
The huge crowd and the Pope’s words were a clear rebuke of the policies of Spain’s Socialist government. You might think that the sight of 2 million people demonstrating against your policies would cause government officials to at least reconsider those policies.
You would be wrong. Government officials called the rally an impermissible intervention in political affairs—and then demanded an apology from the Catholic bishops!
So, in Britain you have elites downplaying evidence of creeping Islamic sharia, while in Spain, Christian defense of the traditional family prompts a demand for an apology.
What makes this juxtaposition even more ironic is that both countries have recently experienced the dangers of Islamic extremists: the horrible transit bombings in London and Madrid.
Bishop Nazir-Ali is right when he draws a link between creeping sharia and secularism. The denial of the “distinctively Christian character of [Britain’s] laws, values, customs and culture” leaves a vacuum that Islamists will eagerly fill.
The same, of course, is true in Spain and the rest of Europe. Secularism, however, will fail because it cannot provide the “moral and spiritual vision” every society needs. The question becomes, “Who will?”—the faith that made Europe possible or ones wholly alien to its values and culture?