Multicultural, Relativist Mush vs. Radical Islam

On Saturday, I shared some thoughts from chapter five of Mark Steyn’s book America Alone, but couldn’t finish that chapter without writing a tome of my own. The central message of that post was how the West gives in to radical Islam with scarcely a murmur. I ended the post with the question, “What is the underlying problem that allows this abject cowardice to flourish?” The rest of the chapter is Steyn’s answer to that query.

The bottom line to his answer is that we now live in a post-Christian West, particularly in Europe. Due to that religious vacuum, many Europeans are either becoming Muslim or at least accommodating to it because they have no deep-seated belief themselves to counter it. For the reverts [that’s what Islam calls a convert because it believes everyone is naturally Muslim, but they just don’t realize it yet], Islam “provides the sense of identity that the happy-face nothingness of multiculturalism declines to offer.” For those who choose to accommodate … well, it’s just more comfortable that way.

Steyn relates that he heard from Dutch and English women that they’ve begun going out “covered.”

The Dutch lady lives in a rough part of Amsterdam and says when you’re on the street in Islamic garb, the Muslim men smile at you respectfully instead of jeering at you as an infidel whore. The English lady lives in a swank part of London but says pretty much the same thing. Both felt there was not just a physical but a psychological security in being dressed Muslim. They’re not “reverts,” but, at least for the purposes of padding the public space, they’re passing for Muslim. And as more of the public space becomes Muslim it will seem more and more comfortable to do that.

The mainstream church—as opposed to the real one—is no help in countering the Islamist assault on society. After the London Tube bombings, one Anglican bishop assured his flock that this atrocity had “nothing to do with any of the world faiths.” Another Anglican priest explained to his parishioners, “There are no Muslim terrorists. There are terrorists.”On a personal level, Steyn informs us,

Even in America, the interim pastor at my local church in New Hampshire on the Sunday morning of September 16, 2001, was principally concerned to warn us not to attack any Muslims, even though in that notably undiverse corner of America finding any Muslims to attack would have involved a three-hour drive. That’s why the Church of England and the Episcopal Church and the Congregational Church and the United Church of Canada and many others are sinking beneath the bog of their own relativist mush, while Islam is the West’s fastest-growing religion. There’s no market for a faith that has no faith in itself.

Steyn’s conclusion, in his own inimitable writing style?

Most mainline Protestant churches are, to one degree or another, post-Christian. If they no longer seem disposed to converting the unbelieving to Christ, they can at least convert them to the boggiest of soft-left political clichés, on the grounds that if Jesus were alive today he’d most likely be a gay Anglican bishop in a committed relationship driving around in an environmentally friendly car with an “Arms Are for Hugging” sticker on the way to an interfaith dialogue with a Wiccan and a couple of Wahhabi imams.

The real Christian faith has a backbone. God’s truth changes lives. Changed lives lead to changed societies. You can measure the vitality of a nation’s Christianity by the direction in which society is being changed. As we witness the sad state of Western civilization, one has to ask the question—where does this real Christian faith continue to exist?

A Warning

Jesus exhorted His disciples to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. They are supposed to reflect His heart and carry out His mission. That’s hard to do when those who call themselves Christians may not be Christians at all.

The Barna Group recently conducted a study of those who claim the name of Christ. A summary of the findings shows the following:

  1. The Christian church is becoming less theologically literate. Basic Biblical concepts are fading, especially among young adults. Only a minority of those surveyed associate Easter with the resurrection of Christ, although they do know it’s a religious holiday. [This is an indication that those interviewed are probably from all denominations, and not those considered to be more evangelical/fundamentalist in nature.] A majority don’t think of the Holy Spirit as an entity, but merely a symbol of God’s power. Very few believe their faith [such as it is] should be integrated into every aspect of their lives.
  2. Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented. They are more isolated from unbelievers [although I’m not sure there’s much difference between the majority of those surveyed and those who are self-identified unbelievers]. The emphasis on religious pluralism they receive through their education makes them less inclined to get involved in faith-based conversations.
  3. Growing numbers are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life. For both young and old, life accomplishments are more important than faith. They don’t want to take time for spiritual reflection and they compartmentalize their lives, not allowing the spiritual to interfere with what they deem “the practical.”
  4. Interest in participating in community action is escalating. On the surface, this would appear to be a positive, but that is surface only. What it really indicates is the ascendancy of the liberal worldview’s concept of social justice, which is usually disassociated from a vibrant faith that focuses on the foundational truths of Scripture. This community action is more geared toward government programs than personal self-sacrifice.
  5. The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian church. We now fear being labeled judgmental. As a result, we don’t take strong stands against immorality and philosophies that lead away from Biblical truth. Only a minority of those surveyed believe that the Scriptures dictate moral absolutes.
  6. The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible. The media treatment of modern Christianity tends to point out the faults rather than the contributions. Lacking sound judgment and the desire or ability to probe beneath these negative portrayals, those surveyed don’t think the church does much good in society.

Depressed yet? Well, keep in mind that these results are drawn from a broad spectrum of American Protestantism, and most of the mainline churches have departed from Biblical teaching for decades.

It’s still sobering, however, simply because this is the public face of American Christianity. This is what observers consider to be the real thing. What they don’t realize is that this represents more the watered-down, liberal church. The true Body of Christ exists within the overall “church,” but most of what passes for the church today is not the genuine article. How about this for an illustration?

From my own experience, though, I do want to warn that there are serious inroads being made within those denominations and movements that still hold to Biblical foundations. Attempts to erode those foundations are evident, and we need to speak out against them. Is that too negative? Tell that to the apostle Paul and others who gave stern warnings to the believers of their day. We must follow in their footsteps.

 

Tocqueville & American Christianity

Alexis de Tocqueville, a Frenchman who toured America from 1831-1833, was a keen observer of what he experienced. He put those observations into a famous book, still used in political sciences courses, called Democracy in America, first published in 1835.

Tocqueville quotes can be found throughout the Internet; unfortunately, some of them dealing with religion in America are more legend than fact. I know, since I’ve read the entirety of his book without finding them. However, he did make clear statements about the influence of the Christian faith on American society. Here are some samples:

There is an innumerable multitude of sects [denominations] in the United States. All differ in the worship one must render to the Creator, but all agree on the duties of men toward one another. … All the sects … are within the great Christian unity, and the morality of Christianity is everywhere the same. …

… America is … still the place in the world where the Christian religion has most preserved genuine powers over souls; and nothing shows better how useful and natural to man it is in our day, since the country in which it exercises the greatest empire is at the same time the most enlightened and most free.

So this French observer was duly impressed with the unity he discovered among the various Christian denominations and the pervasiveness of the Christian faith in the nation. He also saw another practical effect of the universality of Christian faith: “Of the world’s countries, America is surely the one where the bond of marriage is most respected and where they have conceived the highest and most just idea of conjugal happiness.” Would that were the case today.

Christian influence on the morals of society dominated, according to Tocqueville:

Revolutionaries in America are obliged to profess openly a certain respect for the morality and equity of Christianity, which does not permit them to violate its laws easily when they are opposed to the execution of their [revolutionaries’] designs; and if they could raise themselves above their own scruples, they would still feel they were stopped by those of their partisans. Up to now, no one has been encountered in the United States who dared to advance the maxim that everything is permitted in the interest of society. An impious maxim—one that seems to have been invented in a century of freedom to legitimate all the tyrants to come.

So, therefore, at the same time that the law permits the American people to do everything, religion prevents them from conceiving everything and forbids them to dare everything.

Religion, which, among Americans, never mixes directly in the government of society, should therefore be considered as the first of their political institutions; for if it does not give them the taste for freedom, it singularly facilitates their use of it.

Tocqueville’s experience in France had taught him that religion combines with the state to produce tyranny. He was amazed to find the opposite in America:

On my arrival in the United States it was the religious aspect of the country that first struck my eye. As I prolonged my stay, I perceived the great political consequences that flowed from these new facts.

Among us [in France], I had seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom almost always move in contrary directions. Here I found them united intimately with one another: they reigned together on the same soil.

What we have here is a nineteenth-century Frenchman with a sharper vision of the greatness and uniqueness of America than most current commentators, particularly those on the Left of the political spectrum. If only they would listen and learn from him.