Monday, November 23, 2015

Christianity 'Europe's only hope'

Ten days since the so-called Islamic State loosed its terror on Paris. People are still holding their own private inquests, with all their whys and wherefores.

Since 9/11, Western political leaders have been hiding their heads in the sand. They seem unable to understand Islamist jihadi ideology. Warnings from ISIS that it would flood Europe with Muslim immigrants, with ISIS operatives among them, seem to have been ignored.

After 9/11, Western leaders said "This has nothing to do with Islam." Strange, we thought, since everyone responsible for it was Muslim and did what they did precisely because they were Muslims. Then came the London bombings of 7/7. Western leaders came up with a reason that was a model of political correctness. "This has nothing to do with Islam," they said. We thought differently. After the recent Paris attacks, they said "This has nothing to do with Islam." They are wrong. This has everything to do with the violent tradition of Islam, considered every bit as valid as others consider the peaceful tradition.

Mark Durie, a Christian who is an accepted expert on Islam, says it is irresponsible and dangerous to claim that a tenacious enemy is insane and incomprehensible. To refuse to  acknowledge the ideology of ISIS and to deny its relevance is tantamount to a death wish.

"To combat this ideology," he says, "it is necessary for Europe to prove ISIS wrong on all counts. It must show strength, not weakness. It must have confidence in its cultural and spiritual identity. It must be willing to fight for its survival.

"It must show that it believes in itself enough to fight for its future. It must defend its borders. It must act like someone who intends to win in an intrinsically long war against an implacable foe."

A wave of secular humanism has swept across Europe: "I don't need God. I can manage quite well by myself." For the man in the street, when the Paris attacks came, there was surprise, for sure. There was shock, without doubt. But what seemed quite obvious was a spirit of fear: where will they strike next?  Liberal humanism - call it what you will - is a religion without a heart.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, who resigned his post as an Anglican bishop in 2009 to become director of an organisation preparing Christians for ministry in areas where the church is being persecuted because of religious extremism and ideological secularism, suggests that only Christianity  can save Europe.

It is quite astounding, he says, that some, instead of seeing Christianity as part of the answer, take the opportunity to smear all religion by association. "The truth of the matter is that Europe needs to recover its grand narrative by which to live, by which to determine what is true, good and beneficial for its people. The nostrums of Marxism and Fascism have brought frightful suffering for its people. Now another totalitarian ideology threatens.

"A truly plural space can only be guaranteed by intrinsically Christian ideas of the dignity of the human person, respect for conscience, equality of persons and freedom not only to believe but to manifest our belief in the public space, without discrimination against or violence to those who do not share them. 

"Instant self-gratification and endless entertainment will no more contribute to contemporary European survival than they did to ancient Roman. What is needed is an ethic of service, selflessness and sacrifice for the sake of the common good. Many will recognise this as the teaching of the Galilean Master, not of any paganism, ancient or modern, nor of any ideology, secular or religious.
 . . 
"The extremists have decided what their values are and from whence they come. Have we anything to counter with? The institutions, culture, achievements and values of Europe can most readily be understood with reference to the Judaeo-Christian tradition. . . It is time to reappropriate it."

He's right.

Will there be enough active Christianity to meet the need?

One thing is certain. Western Christians need to waken up from their slumbers and become the people God called them to be.

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