Quite a long time ago, Hilaire Belloc wrote, “the Faith is Europe and Europe is the Faith”. To be sure, what Belloc specifically meant by “Faith” was the Roman Catholic Church, but it can be expanded to mean Christianity in a more general sense. While many streams of civilization flowed into the continent of Europe to help make it into Europe, the crucial thing about it was it’s Christian faith. Europe was not a mere development out of the Greco-Roman civilization which, in any case, never extended to Germany, Poland, the Baltic nations, Russia, Ireland and Scandinavia.
It was the Catholic Church – or Christianity if using the word “Catholic” causes discomfort – which welded the flotsam of barbarian invaders and the ruins of Greece and Rome into a completely new civilization. It was Christianity which stamped Europe in a particular manner and got it thinking in a certain way. It was because of Christianity that there was a decline and eventual termination of human slavery. It was because of Christianity that people starting thinking of the world as a rational place which human reason could come to understand (the Greeks did make a start at this, but failed to develop the scientific method…it took Christians to make that step). It was because of Christianity that the worth of a human being ceased to be a mere expression of his social position. It was because of Christianity that things were rendered to Caesar, but not all things. You can look endlessly through human history and you won’t find anywhere but in Christendom (though pre-figured strongly in Judaism) that mix of the worth of the individual, the limitation of the State and the rational approach to the world which we have come to think the normal state of human existence. It did not come into being of its own accord – it was created and fostered over a thousand years by Christians. And, now, it is nearly gone.
And it is gone because most people in our civilization don’t really believe in Christianity any longer – and this includes a a very large number of self-professed Christians (and, yes, Catholics, too). Just to give a few examples – a Christian civilization would not have government organizations empowered to come between parents and their children. A Christian civilization would not have welfare for people who refuse to work (as opposed to welfare for people who can’t work). A Christian civilization would not permit vast amounts of what we see, hear and read in popular culture. A Christian civilization would not have legal divorce, abortion and euthanasia. To be sure, some people would opine then that a Christian civilization is bad because it wouldn’t have these things – and thus we’re better off without it. And if that is what you want, then ok. But does this euthanizing, divorcing and watching-trash civilization you hold superior actually believe in anything?
For those who are sitting around on welfare watching pop-culture trash and aborting their children – just what is it that they believe? What are their dogmas? What will they stand and fight for? Anyone who wishes can take a stab at it – I can’t come up with anything. I am firmly convinced that people who live like that – or who believe that having people live like that is ok – are people who functionally believe in nothing. We Catholics call our fellow Catholics who live like that “practical atheists”…even if they go through the motions of going to Mass, they are living their lives as if God doesn’t exist and His laws are meaningless. Someone who advocates for things like euthanasia and never putting the slightest restriction on popular culture trash might claim they are for freedom, but in practical terms they are for nothing. It is more, I believe, that they don’t wish to bestir themselves to fight for what is right. Much easier to just go with the flow – though a wise writer once pointed out that only a corpse goes with the flow.
And a corpse is what we have – a dead civilization. And it died because it stopped believing in what made it into a civilization to begin with. This civilization is so dead that it can’t even sin bravely, when pressed to it. As some might be aware, Wednesday is Ash Wednesday – the start of Lent. Back when Europe was Christian, this meant that Tuesday was a time for one, last party and then everyone would repent of their sins, engage in fasting, alms and prayer and get ready for the glory of Easter. Today, in post-Christian Europe – and the western world in general – it means a big, old freakish party with heavy emphasis on booze and promiscuity…and without any thought of repentance come Wednesday. Well, the party in Braunschweig, Germany was cancelled due to the possibility of an Islamist attack on the party. And in the nature of the times, the government ordered the people into hiding and being the good, little serfs that they are, the people ran and hid. A people who believed in something would have stood forth and defied their enemies – a people who believes in nothing doffs the costumes and goes home. If these people believed in a dogma which held that human freedom is important – and partying until dawn was an act of freedom – then they would have gone on with party and defied their enemies to attack. Think about it – an entire European city has been cowed by the mere treat of an attack. Once upon a time, European cities filled with believers would endure sieges until the last cat and dog in the city had been consumed. And don’t think we’re really much better – this could happen here. In fact, it did: when the Boston Marathon was bombed, the city of Boston ran and hid from two punks on the lam. But the party wasn’t an act of freedom – it was just something to pass the time with. Meaningless activity designed to distract participants from an empty existence…and, so, when a threat possibly arose, it wasn’t something to stand firm upon. Maybe the enemy will let the party go on at a later date? And maybe they’ll kill you last?
You can say what you will of the Islamists, but they do believe in something. They believe in something I think quite wrong, but they believe in it. They are willing to fight and die and do rather horrific deeds in the name of their beliefs. The only sort of people who can fight them are people who believe just as strongly the other way. A Christian, in other words, can fight a Muslim – can also, by the way, become genuine friends with a Muslim. A non-believer can neither fight nor befriend a believer determined upon having his way. Faced with a determined believer, the non-believer can only run away, or accept a subordinate status. We see this in the actions of the non-believers – they literally run away (as in Braunschweig) or they accept that they have masters they cannot offend (thus the people who say that we must beware of writing, saying or drawing anything a Muslim might find offensive – and I’m not talking of actual blasphemy, but anything a Muslim might in any way, shape or form find offensive…and thus you can’t write a children’s book with a pig in it).
If we are to fight and beat these Islamists – and if we are ever to befriend Muslims – then we’ll have to be believers, ourselves. We have to find a ground we will stand upon, never to be moved. We need, that is, some dogmas; you know, that tiresome, old Christian stuff we jettisoned in the hopes that welfare and the pleasures available from applied science would usher in the New Era. We need the ability to say to Islam, “we believe in this, and we will fight you to the death in defense of it”. True, we also have to recognize that Muslims have different beliefs they will die in the last ditch to defend, as well. We might start at swords-drawn and we may have to battle, but if we both know what we believe in and what we won’t surrender, then the fight can be concluded…peace and, eventually, a sort of friendship can grow. But if we persist in believing in nothing, then the Islamists will keep attacking – and rightly so. Why shouldn’t they? By refusing to hold fast to core beliefs, we are inviting the attacks – we don’t appear reasonable: we appear cowardly. Sunk in sloth and indolence…certainly not worthy of holding the lands and wealth we have.
When Obama stated that we of the West have to get off our high horse and remember the Crusades, he wasn’t winning any points with the Islamists. All he was doing was demonstrating – aside from a lack of historical knowledge – was a willingness to surrender…or, at least, an unwillingness to fight for a set of beliefs. There is a romance in the story of Richard the Lionheart vs Saladin. They fought each other – Crusader vs Muslim – with courage and tenacity (though both leaders permitted interruptions in their careers as warrior-gentlemen) and respected each other because each saw the courage and conviction in the other. In a very real sense, they became friends across the battle lines (upon the conclusion of Richard’s Crusade, he sent one, last defiant message to Saladin stating he’d be back to take Saladin’s lands…and Saladin replied that if he had to lose his lands, he’d rather lose them to Richard than to any man alive). I don’t know about you, but while I can imagine plenty in the West becoming sycophants of Muslim enemies, I can’t imagine too many becoming friends with them. To become friends with The Other, you have to first off demonstrate your willingness to defend yourself if push comes to shove.
What I think the next ten years or so will show is whether or not there are in our civilization enough believers to defend the civilization. I have my doubts. But we will be pressed to it – our enemies will keep attacking. Eventually it will come down to a choice: do we fight or do we quit? And by “fight” I mean really take the battle to the enemy without being finicky and without trying to soften the blow. But if we fight, we’ll only fight if we are possessed of a set of dogmatic beliefs we are determined to defend – that some things may not be permitted to happen because we believe them wrong. No more excuse making – no more, that is, calling in the Crusades to justify mass murder by our enemies in the West…no more excusing things which even back during the Crusades would have been condemned by all reasonable people.
No civilization ever dies entirely from internal rot – there is always an outside blow which topples it into dust. But the internal rot is always necessary for the outside blow to succeed. The Irish in 700 years of British oppression never rotted internally – slaughtered and despoiled, their very language taken from them, they yet retained their Irish civilization (which, as it turns out, was firmly Catholic). They fought and fought and fought and lost and lost and lost…until they won. We are very much rotted internally, and Islamist radicalism are delivering blow upon blow…and already we start to surrender. Every time our leaders insist that the Islamists aren’t of Islam, we are surrendering (we are, also, insulting the Islamists – which can be a good thing, but enraging people you are surrendering to is not a good idea). Every time we gloss over difficult facts and hard truths because Muslims claim offense, we are surrendering. Every time we make any sort of excuse for actual crimes, we are surrendering. Will the next very hard blow – the next 9/11 style attack, that is – wake us from slumber and send us into battle…or will it call forth yet more pointless “security” measures applied only to ourselves? Will we fight, or surrender? We shall see.