We can rightly ask: whither the West?
As is so often remarked, civilisations can die from at least two things: external attack or internal decay. The West has experienced its fair share of both, and one can rightly ask how much longer it can survive. Indeed, we see both things combining today to undermine the West.
Hostile ideologies like militant Islam have today replaced godless Communism as the main external threat to the West, with things like unchecked immigration and failed multiculturalism policies meaning that Islam can soon enough take over the West with no shots needing to be fired.
Couple that with the increased de-Christianisation of the West, and all that this entails – an explosion of immorality, the collapse of marriage and family, the decline of community, the rise of identity politics, the war against the free market, the rise of unchecked Statism, and the loss of hope in the future – and we see a perfect storm developing.
In the past at least when war was declared on the West – usually from hostile outside powers – people were willing to rally to the cause and defend what needed to be defended. But today most Westerners are so demoralised and indifferent to their own culture – if not now downright hostile to it – that the will to fight and stand up against the enemies of the West is quickly disappearing.
All in all things are looking rather grim indeed. Many have commented on this over recent years. Think of just a few important titles (of many) that have addressed these matters:
–Suicide of the West by James Burnham (1964)
–Warning to the West by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1975)
–The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama (1992)
–The Clash of Civilizations by Samuel Huntington (1996)
–The Death of the West by Patrick Buchanan (2002)
–The West Versus the Rest by Roger Scruton (2002)
–The West’s Last Chance: Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations? by Tony Blankley (2005)
–How Civilizations Die by David Goldman (2011)
–The Strange Death of Europe by Douglas Murray (2017)
You get the drift, simply by the titles. Many are rightly concerned about whether things will continue – whether the West has a future. They wonder, following Yeats, whether the centre will hold. See more on this here: billmuehlenberg.com/2021/05/03/things-fall-apart-but-work-remains/
Let me remind the reader of just two examples of external threats to the Christian West, and then close with yet another example of internal decay. As to forces from without seeking to overrun the West, there have been various close calls that come to mind. Let me mention two of them that both involve Islam.
Both involve decisive battles that took place in Europe. Had the outcome of either one gone the other way, history would be radically different, and there would likely not be such a thing as the ‘Christian West’. Both were crucial contests to keep Islam from overrunning Europe. Both were fought to keep the West Christian and civilised.
The first of these was the Battle of Tours (732) which halted the Islamic advance into France and beyond. Very briefly, Islam had been on the move – big time. Plenty of territory was being taken by Muslim armies in the first hundred years after Muhammad, and by 714 Spain had been occupied.
Muslim forces began moving north to take the rest of Europe. Militant Islam seemed to be unstoppable. The Battle of Tours (also known as the Battle of Poitiers since it was actually fought between these two cities in north-western France) was an utterly crucial and decisive turning point in all this.
Charles Martel (Charles the Hammer), the Frankish military leader, was the hero of the day, defeating the invading Muslim forces of the Umayyad Caliphate which was twice the size of his own forces. The result was to stop Islamic expansion into the rest of Europe. See more on this here: billmuehlenberg.com/2016/07/17/islam-versus-western-civilisation-lessons-history/
The second key battle occurred a millennium later: the Battle of Vienna. It took place on September 11-12, 1683. This also was a key battle which would have changed the course of history had it gone the other way. Again, only a brief outline can be offered here:
Islam was again on the march – this time in the form of the Ottoman Turks. A 1529 siege of Vienna had failed, but this siege looked to succeed. The Turks came with an army of around 150,000. As they approached the city, King Leopold and most of the residents fled the city, leaving only around 15,000 men to defend it.
The Ottomans decided to simply starve the city into submission, and they nearly succeeded. Thankfully at the last moment deliverance came from a few other Christian armies, primarily the Poles. Jan III Sobieski, the King of Poland, arrived with 40,000 troops, along with German and Austrian allies, and within a matter of hours the siege was ended and the Turks were routed.
Around 4000 of the defenders died, while perhaps as many as 20,000 Turks lost their lives. This stopped the Islamic incursion into Europe and was the beginning of the end of the Ottoman Empire in terms of its expansionist goals in Europe. More details on this are found here: billmuehlenberg.com/2016/07/18/islams-long-history-targeting-europe/
Phew, those were two close calls indeed. But as mentioned, the internal white anting of the West continues apace. This site features hundreds of examples of this. I offer here just one recent case in point which I just read about today. I have long been discussing how Islam is on the rise in Europe (via immigration and the like) while Christianity is taking a nosedive.
A new report about the situation in France makes this quite clear. It begins:
One religious building is disappearing in France every two weeks. That is the conclusion of Edouard de Lamaze, president of the Observatoire du patrimoine religieux (Observatory of Religious Heritage) in Paris. He is raising the alarm in the French media about the gradual disappearance of religious edifices in a country known as the “eldest daughter of the Church” because the Frankish King Clovis I embraced Catholicism in 496.
Lamaze told CNA in an interview that in addition to one religious building disappearing every two weeks — by demolition, transformation, destruction by fire, or collapse — two-thirds of fires in religious buildings are due to arson. While these statistics include buildings belonging to all religious groups, most of them concern Catholic monuments, which still represent a large majority in France, where there are roughly 45,000 Catholic places of worship.
“Although Catholic monuments are still ahead, one mosque is erected every 15 days in France, while one Christian building is destroyed at the same pace,” Lamaze said. “It creates a tipping point on the territory that should be taken into account.” www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/247514/why-france-is-losing-one-religious-building-every-two-weeks
You can do the math. One new mosque versus one lost church structure every two weeks in France. Things are likely similar in other parts of Europe. Christianity is on the decline while Islam is on the rise. Sure, church buildings alone of course do not make Christianity, and there are other ways one can measure these things.
But plenty of surveys and national censuses tell the same story: there are fewer and fewer Christians in Europe, but more and more Muslims. That just will not end well. Again, for the committed Christian, even numbers like these do not tell the whole story.
We know that Christ WILL build his church. But in some places things really are looking quite bleak. While the church is growing in places like Africa and Asia and Latin America, it is in steady and serious decline in the West. God’s church on earth will not disappear, but it may well come close to vanishing in the West if current trends continue.
So from a purely non-religious point of view, things are not looking very good at all for the West. And we all should be concerned about this, and do what we can to turn things around. Sites like this one have been sounding the alarm for decades. Whether others will take heed is another matter.
But for those who are biblical Christians, we do know who wins in the end, and we do know that these sorts of battles will certainly continue. We take heart of course by recalling the reassuring words of Jesus when he told us that the gates of hell would not prevail against his church (Matthew 16:18).
And we can also take heart at the famous words of Chesterton who once put it this way: “At least five times the Faith has to all appearances gone to the dogs. In each of these five cases, it was the dog that died.”
Quite so. Let us soldier on, while we still have the chance to do so.