THE CURRENT CONFRONTATION BETWEEN CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM:
By Paul Merkley.
Some Historical Perspective.
There is no escaping the conclusion that before Islam began bringing Christians to their knees throughout most of the Middle East in the 7th and 8th centuries most of them had lost vital interest in their inherited faith.
Over the three centuries since Constantine had set Christianity on the way to becoming the only legal religion (Edict of Milan, 313 AD) serious Christians in the eastern parts of Rome’s Empire had been divided into mutually hostile camps by bitter doctrinal disputes. Then as intellectual commitment to the creeds succumbed to a secular spirit among the ruling elites, residual loyalties kept these divisions alive, so that what had begun as a partisan spirit had become a tribal sprit (as in Northern Ireland in our own time.) This partisan tribal spirit prevented the taking of united measures of moral and intellectual defense when the existential challenge emerged from the deserts.
Intellectual vagueness made for easy compromise on the teaching of Scripture. Pride in “openness” to alternative religions added to weakness for religious novelty and superstition characterized the nominally Christian world precisely as the rigorous unbending doctrines of Islam appeared in their midst.
The Contest Today: Islam is Growing – and So Is Christianity
In Canada today, some 30-odd percent of persons identify themselves to pollsters as regular church-goers. An unscientific survey of traffic on Sunday mornings suggests that a good number of these are lying – or (which may be worse) terribly confused about the minimum qualification of being a Christian – which is simply to show up. Muslims, for the most part, have a clearer appreciation for the connection between declared belonging and showing-up.
Islam is growing dramatically throughout the world. We need a bit of perspective, however, before conceding the palm to Islam. Globally, Christianity is growing more rapidly than is Islam or any other religion – and certainly Christian faith is growing more rapidly than is agnosticism or atheism and all the “New Age” products combined.
Christianity is growing more rapidly than Islam throughout Africa and throughout Asia. In Africa, between 1965 and 2000, Christian numbers grew from about 25% to just under fifty percent – a net increase of about 20,000 new Christians a day – with the result that Christians now outnumber Muslims on that continent.
All in all, Christianity today has the allegiance of about one-third of the world’s people — three Christians for every two Muslims worldwide. (See, Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom (New York: Oxford, 2002.) Thus, taking account of the flight from the church in our part of the world and the advance of the faith on all the other continents, the two religions (Islam and Christianity) should stand at mid-century about as they are today — worldwide.
The Alternative Is Islam.
Our perception that Islam is growing at an irresistible pace relative to Christianity is a trick of perspective. From our point of vision, here in North America, without any doubt, Islam is gaining rapidly – much more rapidly in our midst than it is anywhere else in the world – and it does so as Christian belonging declines. This reality follows from two connected matters: immigration and a much larger birthrate among Muslims than among non-Muslims.
People forget that migration is like a coin with two sides. On the one side is the massive movement into our world – a much-discussed phenomenon. On the other side of the coin is the complete lack of migration the other way. Emigration into Muslim countries from non-Muslim countries simply doesn’t happen in the real world! This profoundly telling circumstance is like the elephant in the room that all the commentators ignore.
Despite the vagueness of their allegiance to religion as well as to other aspects of their cultural legacy (except, of course, hockey), major media commentators are prevented by political correctness from asking why we are not discussing migration the other way – from the so-far-non-Muslim world into the Muslim world.
One would never guess it from the constant denigration and bellyaching about our own failings, but nobody on earth is interested in moving from the non-Muslim world into the Muslim world and making a new beginning. The reason, of course, is that people in our part of the world are aware that there would be a loss of freedom involved in moving to any part of the Muslim world. The bottom line for most is simply that there are far fewer creature comforts and there are no opportunities for any but a tiny handful of entrepreneurs, who clutch tightly to their Canadian passports before entering into life in the Muslim world.
But there are other more lofty considerations. According to the authoritative survey conducted by Freedom House, twenty-eight of the forty-eight countries which are “not free” (that is, with respect to freedom of speech, expression, religion, etc.) are Muslim countries — which are likewise the largest bloc of countries experiencing negligible or negative economic growth.
The other factor contributing to Muslim growth in our midst is the much higher birthrate among our Muslim than our non-Muslim residents and citizens. According to the National Household Survey, taken in early 2013, the Muslim population in Canada now exceeds the one million mark – having almost doubled its population for a third-consecutive decade. At this rate, Muslim population of Canada will be 1.42 million by 2017.
Forty-three percent of live births in Canada today are to Muslims, who are only 5% of the population. (National Post, May 8, 2013.)
Islam’s Imminent Triumph in Europe.
In Europe, the trend away from the Church and the companion trend towards Islamic majority is much further advanced. Sheer inertia seems to be handing victory to Islam in Europe. Several authorities have already posited that if Muslim immigration into Europe continues at the present rate, and if the present disparity between growth rates of Muslim and non-Muslim Europeans also continues, Europe will have become Muslim by mid-Century – Holland and France as early as 2040. [Robert Spencer, Onward Muslim Soldiers (Washington, D.D.: Regnery, 2003), p. 60.]
Today there are 20 million Muslims in Europe, about 5% of the total population, Of these, 5-6 million live in France (about 7% of its population), 3 million in Germany, 2 million in Britain, 1 million in Holland, 1 million in Italy. The last figure is interesting: the number of Muslims in Italy has doubled over the last ten years or so; there about 10,000 Italian-born converts, and the number of mosques and Islamic cultural centers has grown from 12 to 400 over the past 16 years.
Throughout Europe, the growth of Muslim associations, including pressure groups and lobbies has been exponential. At the same time, European intellectuals are working hard to accommodate the Muslim point of view — behaving, in this respect, much as their grandfathers did with respect to Soviet Communism in the fellow-traveling spirit of 1930s — rushing to the defense of rabid Muslim preachers in the name of “free speech,” joining in public protests against “Zionism.” Mainstream British cultural organizations (including the BBC) effectively prohibit unfriendly expressions of view regarding Islam. In Denmark, meanwhile, the Qur’an (but not the Bible) is now required reading for high school students.
Bat Ye’or, an acknowledged authority on the subject of Dhimmitude in Muslim empires of the past, suggests (in her book, Eurabia, 2005), “Europe has evolved from a Judaeo-Christian civilization with important post-Enlightenment/secular elements to . . . a secular/Muslim transitional society with its traditional Judaeo-Christian mores rapidly disappearing.” [See David Pipes, “The Islamization of Europe?” Commentary, December 31, 2004.]
Do People Really Want to Trade Christianity for Islam?
How can we explain this generation’s indifference to the potential demise of Christianity? Indeed, most people today look at persons who raise the matter of the Christian faith in discussion as zealots and make clear that they wish they would go away!
While nominal Christians of the generation now entering their child-bearing years persist in the mindless hope of being left along, the demographic inevitability continues to unfold that their great-grandchildren will live under Islam.
Public opinion polls suggest a substantial majority (up to about 80%) indicate adherence (in some form of words) to Christian faith; most nod in agreement when reminded of such doctrinal matters as the existence of God, of Heaven and Hell – even of the Resurrection (a matter sedulously skirted in the seminaries of most denominations!) Yet this same vast majority takes a light-hearted attitude towards the obligations that follow from faith, assuming no responsibility for its continuing.
Standing aside from active participation in the Christian option, most imagine themselves as generous, free, inquiring spirits able to admire and even celebrate the Muslim faith, never contemplating the possibility of ever belonging to it, voluntarily or involuntarily.
I do not believe that the majority of Canadians are wittingly hostile to Christian faith, although a keen and well-located vanguard works ceaselessly to defame Christianity – through the media, through movies, television and the entertainment culture, and through aggressive civil liberties lawsuits intended to curtail public expression of the doctrines of the Church. The real problem is that we have acquiesced in a state-run educational system that teaches children to despise what they belong to and disposes them to be entertained by a popular culture that distracts them from the pain of consecutive thought.