The Ennui of a Dying Civilization

Yesterday there was a terrorist attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. The perpetrator, according to his own manifesto, was a white nationalist, possibly socialist, maybe even an eco-terrorist, depending on how much of the manifesto is true and how much is simply ironic meming. As usual, the media is following its normal playbook of attacking white people, Christians, and guns in response to the shooting. When Muslim terrorists attack, the playbook is instead to focus on backlash, mental illness, and how the attacker was a “lone wolf” with no connection to any group or ideology. It is always so predictable.

This week I quickly read “Submission,” Michel Houellebecq’s novel about a peaceful Islamic takeover of France in 2022. Written in 2015, the book makes several interesting predictions about the direction of French and European society. At one point early in the novel, characters fear that the most extreme elements of the National Front are trying to instigate a civil war, confident that victory is more likely the sooner the war begins. As I read the news about the New Zealand mosque shooter and his manifesto I could not help but be reminded of this. It seems like extremists on both sides of the national issue are eager for war with the other, as well as for the opportunity to destroy the moderates on their own sides.

In the novel, the Islamic takeover itself does not happen through force, but through politics. A moderate Muslim party narrowly takes second place in the primary elections, behind Marine le Pen’s National Front, and fear of a nationalist victory leads the Socialists and moderate conservatives to support the Muslims, leading them to victory. Polygamy and hijabs are encouraged while Middle Eastern princes pour millions of dollars into the newly-islamized national universities. Elite bureaucrats convert to Islam in order to enjoy the benefits of the new regime. Houellebecq does a great job of presenting early 21st century Europe as a dying culture, ripe for assimilation into a superior Islamic one.

The main character is a microcosm of the decline of European Christendom. Having devoted his life to a study of the 19th century French author J.K. Huysmans, Francois finds himself absolutely bored with life. Unmarried, he goes from one unfulfilling relationship to another, with his only satisfaction being food and drink. He has no friends, is estranged from his family, and has nothing to live for. Several times throughout the novel he contemplates suicide. He thinks about his hero, Huysmans, and how he converted to Catholicism near the end of his life after a religious experience at a monastery. Francois attempts to replicate the experience himself, but fails, unable to grasp the fleeting sensation of the mystical and the eternal. In the end, he chooses to follow the crowd and convert to Islam. Conversion promises him a fulfilling job in the only field he knows, as well beautiful young wives without having to worry about any of the nihilist modern dating rituals.

I believe that Houellebecq accurately identifies the sickness that has infected western civilization. Once secular rationalism banished Christianity from the public square there was nothing to replace it. Humanism and atheism are not ideologies that make life worth living; rather they are the absence of life. Nature abhors a vacuum, and the successor to Christianity will not be an atheist utopia like Star Trek but either anarchic paganism or militant Islam.

There was a time when Christians were confident in their beliefs and their culture. Explorers and missionaries traveled the world with support from the Christian kingdoms of Europe, spreading the gospel and western civilization across the farthest seas. Craftsmen and their wealthy patrons spent time and money on cathedrals and other monuments to the glory of God. Today, however, churches are being torn down, or converted for secular uses. The great cathedrals of Europe are little more than tourist attractions. The home church of George Washington, the father of our country, is now run by lesbian ministers who find his biography “problematic”.

Islam, on the other hand, is expanding, as it has been for nearly fifteen hundred years. It was defeated by Charles Martel at Tours, and stopped at the gates of Vienna, but it never gave up. New mosques are being built in France, Britain, the US, and apparently New Zealand, even in a city called “Christchurch”. Saudi Arabia uses its massive oil profits to fund Islamic propaganda and education throughout the west. International organizations such as CAIR and the Muslim Brotherhood advance the cause of Islam in Europe and America. One cannot necessarily blame them for doing so, however. It is up to the Christian West to defend itself, as it did at Tours, Vienna, and countless other places. If western civilization is lost in the end, it will have been through suicide.

There is an old saying that a liberal is someone so open-minded that he won’t take his own side in an argument. Western civilization has become so open-minded that it cannot conceive of defending itself against invasion, subversion, and destruction. Media, academia, and politics are all united in proclaiming that diversity is our strength, that we must become more multi-cultural, and that the diminishing of Christianity and western tradition is a good thing. Questioning this propaganda gets you labeled a racist bigot, shamed, and even censored. We do not have the confidence in our beliefs and traditions to defend them from destruction.

What are we doing instead? We spend countless hours watching TV, sports, and playing games. Christian parents send their children to public schools assuming they will turn out just fine despite thirteen years of constant propaganda. We are not building or expanding like we once did. Megachurches look more like prisons than cathedrals, as modern architecture seems designed to instill despair rather than awe. Houellbecq’s portrait of aimless people doing things that bring them no lasting pleasure for no real reason is spot on. Christendom is not dying in a blaze of glory, but in a long protracted spell of ennui.

Where is the Charles Martel who will fight to keep Islam from overrunning our lands? Where is the Johann Sebastian Bach or the Michelangelo who will create great music and art for the glory of God? Where is the Christopher Columbus who will sail into the unknown carrying the banner of western civilization? Where is the George Whitefield, the Jonathan Edwards, or even the Billy Graham who will fearlessly proclaim the Gospel of Christ? Take a look around you and see a dying civilization for what it is. Stop pretending that everything will simply be ok and begin taking the necessary steps for rebuilding civilization, starting with yourself and your family. The Reconquest of Spain began with the tiny Kingdom of Asturias against the mighty Muslim Umayyads. The spread of Christianity itself began with twelve men hiding in Jerusalem. As long as the knowledge and traditions of Christendom exist in the hearts of men then it can be reclaimed. As long as the Great Books of western civilization are on a shelf for your children to read then it can be rebuilt.

The decline and fall of the United States seems inevitable, but it need not be the end of our culture. Don’t let the heritage of your fathers sink further into the swamp of ennui. You are the heir of the greatest civilization that the world has ever seen; live in such a way that your great-grandchildren can inherit it too.

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