Editor’s Note: The “V&V Q&A” is an e-publication from The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. Each issue will present an interview with an intriguing thinker or opinion-maker that we hope will prove illuminating to readers everywhere. In this latest edition, the executive director of The Center for Vision & Values, Dr. Paul Kengor, interviews Ralph Peters, noted historian, columnist, and commentator, in the second of a two-part interview. This is the sixth in a series of special Q&As with participants in the forthcoming April 12-13 conference, “The De-Christianization of Europe: From Nicaea to Nietzsche,” to be held on the campus of Grove City College.
V&V: Ralph, in our last Q&A, we talked about the war in Iraq. Now to Europe, the subject of our conference: What is your sense of the status of Christianity there? Do you agree that it is not merely in decline, but, in many ways, under attack? If so, how is it under attack? Who or what is attacking it? To me, the question is whether Christianity in Europe is irrevocably in decline, or merely in abeyance and waiting to return. Religious faith has never been a constant—it’s cyclical. The great religious revivals of the 17th century (here, I mean the Puritans, dissenters, etc.), 18th century (Wesley and his peers), and the 19th century in England were all reactions to a breakdown in personal faith and public morality. We idealize the past, forgetting that humans have always strayed (and often with great enthusiasm).
That said, a key difference today is that, while states favored religious belief in the past, today governments have fled from any meaningful identification with Christianity (even where “Christian” is part of a political party’s name). Enforced secularization at the hand of bureaucrats educated to leftist biases has done much to discredit religion in Europe.
And yet, faith is unkillable. While Europe exudes the bleak odor of atheism today, I don’t think it would take all that much to re-excite faith—perhaps greater confrontation with Muslim immigrants, or a pandemic … or simply a reaction to the current anomie afflicting individuals and their societies.
I look at the entire globe as I attempt to understand Europe, and what do I see?Evangelical fervor sweeping much of Latin America, a reawakened yearning for spirituality in China (to the great alarm of the bureaucrats in Beijing), the mighty Christianity of sub-Saharan Africa (syncretic, yes, but so is European Christianity), and even the religious fever scorching the Muslim world…. All of this suggests that Europe is not eternally immune to faith.
Whether we approach religion as transcendental reality or merely as the most effective survival mechanism ever developed by human collectives (a key point Darwin and Spencer missed), it’s clear that it isn’t going to go away anytime soon. And centuries of faith cannot be fully erased in a few generations—the problem at present is that, although the Europeans have disavowed God, they’ve retained the intolerant self-righteousness of the sort of fanatics who give religion a bad name. Today’s Europeans are Inquisitors without a cause.
V&V: Is a clash of civilizations indeed taking place in Western Europe? Rather than a clash between the forces of Christendom vs. the forces of radical Islam is the clash instead between Islamists vs. post-Christian European secular elites? No European state—not one—has a functional model for integrating immigrants from different cultural and religious backgrounds. This is, indeed, a clash of civilizations. Europe’s secular elites are, in fact, the last to get it. The average Frenchman or German or Englishman understands that the situation is dysfunctional, but the governing elites insist on pretending that all will be well—despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And, of course, there’s blame on every side. Immigrants don’t want to assimilate, but neither do Europeans really want them to assimilate. The miraculous North American model, in which “America makes Americans,” has no counterpart in Europe. And for all their pacifist masquerading, Europeans remain really good haters—you can still smell the smoke of the ovens of Auschwitz.
V&V: You made a very interesting point at our last conference, which you will be discussing at this conference: You said that, given Europe’s often brutal track record of dealing with ethnic minorities, we should not be surprised if these “high-minded” Europeans suddenly get real ugly with the Muslims in their midst. Could these people crack down on Muslims? And is that already happening?The hatred is already there, just waiting for trigger events—such as a wave of terror attacks—to operationalize it. Native Europeans despise Muslims, while Muslim immigrants despise Europeans and their values (and the Saudis continue to fund the exacerbation of hatred and the deepening of social divisions). As I’ve said many times, Europe is the continent that perfected genocide and ethnic cleansing—and that has exported more man-wrought death than any other continent. We still identify too readily with Europe because Europeans look like (most of) us. But American civilization and European civilization are profoundly different and ever more divergent. When I look at the situation in France, for example, where both the native-born and the immigrants behave insufferably, my reaction is, “A plague on both their houses.”
The Islamists are, in fact, correct that Europe is culturally degenerate. I don’t mean this in the moral sense—people are people, with the same urges everywhere, and all puritanical societies are hypocritical societies; rather I find Europe spiritually and ethically degenerate—but that leads us back to the potential for a new “Great Awakening.”
V&V: This is, of course, all speculation, but if such a crackdown took place, what might it look like? How violent could it get? Perhaps most interesting, how might America and the rest of the world react? Could we face a stunning situation where one day America feels compelled to come to the rescue of persecuted Muslims in Western Europe?I have no difficulty imagining a scenario in which American naval vessels and U.S. Marines are in European ports to evacuate Muslims expelled from their countries of residence. Compounding the tragedy, Muslim countries would attempt to refuse to repatriate them, precipitating a wave of consequent crises. The Muslims of Europe may end as the 21st century’s displaced persons, a mass without a home, confined to holding camps, etc. Of course, there are many other less-dramatic potential scenarios. But one does sense that Europe’s Muslims are living on borrowed time. Good Lord, consider how thoroughly the Jewish middle classes had integrated into Europe over the centuries—and virtually every European state happily packed them off to Bergen-Belsen.
V&V: You are a military historian, and a talented and insightful one whose predictions are often right on the mark. So, I will ask this bluntly: Could there eventually be a war in Western Europe between native Europeans and Muslim immigrants? What type of war—wars of jihad in certain countries, continental-wide war? I’m a student of history, but would not presume to call myself a historian. I’m interested in how history works, not in compiling footnotes.
There may be abortive, if lurid, Muslim uprisings in Europe—it all depends on how a very complex equation plays out—but if there are, they will fail miserably and swiftly. There will be no Eurabia. Jihad in Europe is doomed. There will be no continent-wide war, although each country would be glad for an excuse to participate in continent-wide repression. When their welfare is sufficiently threatened, Europeans will return to form as heartless killers and ethnic cleansers.
Perhaps Europe will muddle through. Historically, muddling through is humankind’s usual response. But the portents are not good—and the demagogues on both sides are at work. Overall, I see the behavior of Muslim radicals in Europe as suicidal. But, then, we’re dealing with a fanatic fringe whose members regard death as a promotion. They’d be perfectly happy to take innocent Muslims—and there are many innocent Muslims—with them.
V&V: Do you feel that the characterization of 21st century Europe as a kind of eventual “Eurabia” is apt? Could parts of Europe one day be governed by Sharia law? There is zero chance of Europe becoming Eurabia or of parts of Europe being governed formally by Sharia law. The whole Eurabia/“the-Muslims-are-taking-over” hysteria is nuts. Even if Swedes will no longer fight for Lutheranism, by God, they’ll kill without remorse to keep their saunas.
V&V: Ralph Peters, as always, you’ve given us a lot to think about. We look forward to hearing more from you at the conference.