God's Continent: Christianity, Islam and Europe's Religious Crisis
Oxford University Press, 2007
340 pages, $28.00, hardcover
Though few today would think of Europe as “God’s Continent,” Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State University, does. He devotes his book of that title—with The Next Christendom and The New Faces of Christianity, the third in a trilogy about global Christianity—to explaining how the religious situation in Europe is different from what most of us suppose. The title is the first of many surprises that await the reader of this well-researched, thoughtful book.
Jenkins covers so many angles that his argument is easily misunderstood. I have read short reviews that misrepresent him as saying that all is well with Christianity in Europe. Which is to get one point wrong and miss a lot of others.
European Christianity, he admits, is in a bad way. Ever greater numbers of old-stock Europeans (Europe’s nominal Christians) are remaining childless, and their median age is predicted to reach 52.3 by 2050, up from the already dangerous figure of 37.
Church attendance is low. In Scandinavian countries it is under five percent, even when the higher Muslim rates of mosque attendance are included. Churches and seminaries are closing; vocations are declining.
Europe’s long tradition of tolerance and its new adherence to multiculturalism make it a fertile ground for radical Islam. Jenkins points out that it is easier to practice radical Islam in Europe than in most Islamic countries, and that “London has more radical Muslims than anywhere in the Muslim world.”
Currently, Britain alone has about 1,600 Muslim militants under surveillance. That may not sound like too scary a figure—until you remember that the Irish Republican Army caused decades of havoc in Britain with never more than 500 committed fighters, and that Spain’s infamous Basque ETA has barely 100. As many as 200 mosques across the continent may be centers of revolutionary organization.
Read the entire article on the Touchstone Magazine website (new window will open).