THE TERRORISM-RELIGION NEXUS
The connections between religion and terrorism can be complex and as twisted as the versions of religion that terrorists promote. Click here for an interesting look at how that has played out in the recent arrests of alleged terrorists in Canada.
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A REASON FOR EUROPE'S EMPTY CHURCHES
Yesterday I wrote about the declining membership of Mainline Christian denominations in the U.S., especially my own, the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Today I want to share a possible new insight that has come to me about even more precipitous declines in church attendance in Europe. My theories about this aren't fully formed yet, but I wanted to share them with you in case one of you had some insights to add to what I'm beginning to conjecture.
Experts who study religion tell us that the churches of Europe these days are essentially empty at times of worship. Increasingly Europe has become a secular land. Growth in religious membership may be happening there in such religions as Islam and Buddhism, but not in Christianity.
I have long speculated that part of the reason is that so many of the churches of Europe are state institutions -- official religions of this or that country. That is a good way to suck the life out of churches, I believe. So I think that's part of the answer.
But there's more.
I've recently been reading an insightful but distressing 1975 book by Franklin H. Littell, The Crucifixion of the Jews: The Failure of Christians to Understand the Jewish Experience. It is out of date in some ways (to say nothing about being out of print) but still offers profound ideas about this subject.
Littel makes the point that even though the church in Europe, especially Germany, can point to a few heroes who stood up to the Nazis, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "the purveyors of cheap grace are beginning to use the faithfulness of a few christians like Dietrich Bonhoeffer to boast of the church's record of courage in the face of the spiritual enemy."
He says that "Adolf Hitler, the Third Reich, the Aryan paragraphs and the Death Camps -- these were not accidental appearances in the heart of Christendom. . .They were the legitimate offspring of a 'Christian civilization,' which, underneath the cosmetics of official creeds and public displays of piety, was formless and heathen at heart. As Alexander Donat, a Jewish survivor, reported the question raised in a Death Camp: 'How can Christianity survive the discovery that after a thousand years of its being Europe's official religion, Europe remains pagan at heart?' That is the key question, and it has not yet been answered because the churches have not yet lifted it up to discussion, prayer and fasting. Therefore, among other things, it is not yet certain that Christianity can survive."
As I say, this is 1975 writing, but it strikes me that the profound failure of Christianity to prevent the Shoah has had ripple effects in the decades since then -- ripple effects that include dispirited and disheartened disciples of Jesus, disciples who have witnessed, or at least heard about, this stupefying church failure and want nothing to do with so flawed an institution.
Tell me if you think I'm on to something here.
And for another blogger's view of Catholic history in the Holocaust that emphasizes the good things Pope Pius XII did, click here and scroll down to the item headed "Remedial Catholic History 101."
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My column for tomorrow will be about hand-written and hand-illustrated Bibles. In addition, I'll have an interview with the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church as his denomination prepares for its national meeting next week.)