SOCIETY: Courting Danger Online—Teenagers and the Internet (051201) 1

CHURCH: Lay Liberalism and the Future of Evangelicalism (Mohler, 060203) 3

CHURCH: Why Are Conservative Churches Growing? (050519) 5

SOCIETY: Politics Without God—Europe’s Secular Crisis (050601) 8





SOCIETY: Courting Danger Online—Teenagers and the Internet (051201)


As Janet Kornblum of USA Today remarks, America’s teenagers are growing up “with a mouse in one hand and a remote control in the other.” The generation Microsoft founder Bill Gates calls “Generation E” has never known a time when information was not instantly accessible on the internet, or when communication was not available at warp speed through instant-messaging, e-mail, and Internet websites.


Make no mistake—teenagers are wired and highly active online. According to the Teenage Life Online report released by The Pew Internet and American Life Project, over seventeen million teenagers use the Internet. According to the report, that represents 73% of all teenagers. “Teenagers’ use of the Internet plays a major role in their relationships with their friends, their families, and their schools,” the report explains.


All this leads to new opportunities, and to new dangers. One of the latest challenges faced by parents is the development of teenage blogging. Taking advantage of Internet websites such as MySpace, Facebook, and Xanga, many teenagers and college students are creating personal blogs, which are essentially online diaries accessible to the public. As Kornblum explains, these teenagers “now pour out their hearts, minds, and angst in personal online diaries.”


She also describes the problem this way: “And anyone with a connection—including would-be predators—can have a front-row view of this once-secretive teenage passion play.”


Kornblum is correct. Teenagers are using blogs in unprecedented numbers. What was once communicated through phone conversations is now handled by instant-messaging. The content once secreted in the pages of hand-written diaries is now out for public consumption, and often with intimate details and personal information.


Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future in Menlo Park, California explains, “This is the new way kids interact. Fifty years ago, they borrowed their parents’ phones or made their own phones out of string and Dixie cups. Today they have their own cell phones, and they have their own computer accounts and Web pages, and they have their own blogs. It’s part of life in the cyber age.”


The Pew study estimates that at least four million teenagers now blog. These numbers do not even include pages found at some of the most popular Internet sites where young people are posting personal information and putting up personal Web pages.


Most observers agree that girls dominate blogging, even as in previous generations girls were far more likely than boys to keep personal diaries. Far too many parents are unaware of the dangers that lurk on the Internet.


Others are keeping a watchful eye on their children and their blogs. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that increasing numbers of parents have resorted to “spying” on their teenagers by visiting their blogs. Reporter Kevin J. Delaney took a look at this issue through the lens of one mother and her teenage daughter. This mother discovered that the daughter had lied about going to a high school football game with friends. By reading the girl’s blog, this mom discovered that her daughter had actually gotten into the car of a boy the mother did not even know and had gone to an ice-cream shop without permission.


Her daughter quickly figured out that her mother had traced her activities through her online diary and blog. Since then, this mom has attempted to use software programs to snoop on her daughter’s Internet use and the revelations of her personal life. According to Delaney, the mom spends approximately thirty minutes a day monitoring her daughter’s activities on and off the Internet.


“If my daughter had a diary in her room, I would not read it. But what she posts on the Internet is posted to the entire world,” the mother reported. Amazingly, some claim that teenagers’ blogs should be off-limits to parents. As Janet Kornblum reports, “Experts are divided about whether and how parents should treat the journals—especially when it comes to teens over 13.” Some argue that, since the material is published in public view, there should be no assumption of privacy. Others, Kornblum reports, “argue that reading journals is no different from eavesdropping on their kids.”


This debate tells us a great deal about how American culture has shifted authority from parents to teenagers. How can a concerned and loving parent not follow their teenagers’ online activities? No doubt, it’s a dangerous world out there. Furthermore, Christian parents should be very suspicious about any claims to “privacy” on the part of their teenage children.


The emergence of teenage blogs has created problems, not only for parents, but for high schools and colleges. Officials at North Carolina State University brought charges against several underage students when a residential advisor found on their Facebook blogs a picture of them drinking. “There is no reasonable expectation of privacy,” said Paul Cousins, director of the office of student conduct at the university. “So I have no concerns about any university becoming aware of an issue via Facebook and then following up on those concerns.”


In some cases, online blogging has led to real danger. Taylor Behl, a seventeen-year-old freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University was murdered this fall. Though officials are not certain whether her online activities had any direct relation to her death, Behl had used MySpace and similar sites and had posted intimate details and personal information. Pam Lepley, a spokeswoman for the university, told reporter Alorie Gilbert of, “In the course of the investigation it became very apparent to university officials just how much information she had put out about herself online. She and thousands of other people her age put out these Web pages and may not know how vulnerable it could make them.” Lepley further explained, “In their own minds, they’re sitting in their dorm room or at home, and they have a sense of privacy—and they really don’t have it at all.”


Furthermore, parents are often shocked by what they find at their kids’ blogs. As one report summarizes: “Teens complain about parents and homework, using language that will make Tony Soprano blush. They share daily dramas, post songs from the latest bands, display pictures of themselves, sometimes wearing next to nothing or taking bong hits. They write angst-ridden poetry, detail supposed sexual exploits and complain about each other or offer support. But mostly they simply relay the details of their everyday lives.”


Some school officials have discovered further grounds for concern. Vauhini Vara of The Wall Street Journal reports that school principals now monitor many blogs. In this report, Vara told of one sixteen-year-old girl at Paramus High School in Paramus, New Jersey who was suspended after teasing a classmate during school and implying he was homosexual. At home, even during her suspension, she posted some comments on her blog, including a post in which she heaped further scorn upon the boy. The school considered these comments to constitute harassing behavior, and the girl was suspended for three more days. The girl’s parents have complained to school officials. “It’s inappropriate that they’re telling my daughter how to behave when she’s not at school,” said her father. “It was such a violation of the First Amendment.” Once again, this development indicates how the pattern of authority has been radically changed. Many parents now fight for their children’s “right” to harass fellow students, to criticize school officials, and to make virtually unrestricted comments online.


Christian parents must see the fallacy in this argument and the danger in forfeiting their parental responsibility. This generation of teenagers desperately needs parents who will reassert their authority and fulfill their responsibility to protect, monitor, and supervise their children.


Responsible Christian parents will establish clear boundaries and rules for their childrens’ use of the Internet. There should be absolutely no expectation of privacy when it comes to what their teenagers are doing and writing on the Internet. The stakes are simply too high.


A sixteen-year-old girl in Port Washington, New York was molested by a man who had tracked her down because she had listed personal information on her MySpace profile. Many teenagers claim to understand the danger. One seventeen-year-old girl retorted, “I watch Oprah. I know what happens.” Maybe so—but maybe not.


Parents would do well to limit all Internet access by teenagers. In general, teenagers are spending far too much time online and less time engaging in interaction with friends, parents, siblings, and other family members. To a great extent, the emergence of an online teen community means that teenagers now have a new and powerful mechanism for retreating into an adolescent-only world, cut off from adult contact and supervision.


This is neither healthy nor safe, and parents who neglect to protect their children online are putting their teens at risk. Teenagers with unrestricted access to the computer and the Internet are as vulnerable as adolescents who would be given an automobile with unrestricted access and virtually limitless speed. In reality, the situation is even worse, for there is no adequate police force on the Internet. It’s a dangerous world out there and America’s parents need to act before these dangers hit close to home.




CHURCH: Lay Liberalism and the Future of Evangelicalism (Mohler, 060203)


With amazing regularity, the national media take notice of the fact that, generally speaking, America’s conservative churches are growing while the more liberal churches are losing members. If this is news, it is almost a half-century old by now. What is going on?


Observers of American church life notice this striking phenomenon—the high levels of lay involvement in evangelical churches. Against the backdrop of decline and membership losses in the more liberal denominations, trends related to attendance, giving, and active participation among church members are setting evangelical churches apart from larger trends. Why?


Liberal churches and denominations are suffering massive membership losses and the evacuation of active church members from congregational life. While some observers are interested only in the levels of church attendance and membership, others note that active participation in the life and ministry of the church is directly linked to long-term involvement and attendance.


Researchers have offered various sociological and demographic arguments for this pattern, but the most salient factors related to this issue are deeply theological. Churches that expect much of members tend to receive much in terms of active participation—and those expectations are directly related to doctrinal commitments and theological motivations.


The involvement of laypersons in church life is directly related to evangelism and the health of congregations. At one level, the evangelical understanding of ministry is poles apart from what is customary in many mainline Protestant churches and in Roman Catholicism. Put simply, evangelicals have historically offered greater resistance to the professionalization of the clergy and the sacredotalism or clericalism that shifts the work of the ministry from the people of God to pastors or priests. Where ministers are understood to bear sole responsibility for the fulfillment of the church’s ministry, church members naturally feel no obligation or motivation to be highly involved in the life of the congregation and its work. Church participation is largely linked to the level of the spectator, or directed toward community involvement that is unrelated to evangelism and church outreach.


While evangelicals have been sorely tempted by market-driven models of professionalism, congregations demonstrating the highest levels of lay involvement are most often led by pastors who see the teaching and preaching of the Bible as central to the task of mobilizing church members for ministry, mission, and action. These pastors put their priority on the teaching ministry of the church and on biblical preaching as the means by which God equips His church for action and witness.


Faithful preaching has always been the central means through which God has energized His people. Preaching the word “in season and out of season” requires that the pastor present biblical truth with clarity and courage, establishing clear boundaries between belief and unbelief, faithfulness and unfaithfulness, truth and error.


This is in stark contrast to what sociologist Nancy Ammerman identifies as the “lay liberalism” found in many more liberal churches and denominations. These “lay liberals” have only a weak grasp of a diluted Gospel, and tend to see doctrine as a matter of little or no consequence. For them, Christianity is reduced to a vaguely positive way of life that often comes down to little more than being kind to others. Ammerman and her team have identified this as “Golden Rule” religion, and it goes hand in hand with low levels of lay involvement.


This correlates directly with research undertaken by Dean R. Hoge, Benton Johnson, and Donald A. Luidens, who looked at the religious patterns of mainline Protestant baby boomers. In Vanishing Boundaries, these sociologists argued that members of more liberal Protestant denominations—especially baby boomers—understood Christianity to require very few beliefs that would put them at odds with the larger secular culture. On matters ranging from the identity of Jesus Christ and the nature of the Gospel to the Bible’s teachings on sexuality, these mainline baby boomers saw no firm boundaries between the church and the world, belief and unbelief. Unsurprisingly, they were not highly involved in the life of any church or Christian movement. Why should they be?


Evangelicals should look to this research as a warning of what can and will happen if Christianity is redefined at the expense of biblical doctrine and a clear affirmation of Christian truth. The transforming power of the Gospel is what energizes Christ’s church—and biblical preaching is its Spirit-blessed fuel.


A look across the evangelical world indicates that lay Christians are most involved in the life of congregations and in the work of ministry when they are continually confronted with clear and convictional biblical exposition, and when the congregation takes the formation and fulfillment of a comprehensive Christian worldview as one of its central tasks.


Bold beliefs lead to bold action, and church members are energized to ministry and motivated to greater faithfulness and deeper discipleship when they can see biblical truth as it is presented to them by the church’s commissioned teachers, and when they are then able to “connect the dots” between Christian truth and the demands of everyday life.


In these churches, members are motivated and mobilized precisely because they come to understand the demands of the Gospel and to understand the New Testament’s vision of a church fully deployed for the cause of the Gospel. Christians are confronted with a biblical call to action and involvement. A commitment to Gospel priorities is produced by the prophetic preaching of God’s Word—and a passion for the glory of God will animate the congregation to action.


Churches hoping to energize members by the use of faddish programs and slick motivational messages should think again. The saints are not slumbering for lack of public relations and programming.


The development of “lay liberalism” among the mainline Protestant denominations should remind evangelicals that without clear biblical preaching, serious commitment to doctrinal fidelity, and passionate commitment to the Great Commission, the same phenomenon could arise in our midst. Indeed, studies of evangelical young persons suggest that such developments could be fast upon us.


This much is clear—resistance to “lay liberalism” will be found only among those with deep conviction. The preaching of the Word and the church’s confidence in the Gospel will, over time, produce a congregation of motivated members who are mobilized for ministry. But then, we shouldn’t need a team of sociologists to tell us that.




CHURCH: Why Are Conservative Churches Growing? (050519)


Judith Shulevitz wants to know why conservative churches are strong and growing. Writing in the May 12, 2005 edition of Slate, Shulevitz shares the confusion of many on the secular left in wondering why strict religious movements appear to be growing while more liberal movements decline.


In recent months, many observers have awakened to the fact that conservative Christianity is a major force in America. Driven by basically secular assumptions, most seem to assume that this phenomenon should be explained by sociological or psychological factors. As Shulevitz acknowledges, the kind of piety and conviction commonly found among evangelicals “is often dismissed as a social pathology.”


In her article, “The Power of the Mustard Seed,” Shulevitz considers groups beyond conservative Christianity. Nevertheless, the main thrust of her argument is that conservative churches draw strength from the very strictness of their beliefs and practices, whereas more liberal groups dissipate through lowered rates of involvement and diminished truth claims.


Drawing on a significant body of sociological analysis, Shulevitz suggests that what the economists call “rational choice theory” may be the best explanation for the strength of conservative churches. According to this economic theory, individuals act as “rational agents” who make decisions on the basis of self-interest. In other words, persons join conservative churches because they believe such membership to be in their best interests.


In setting forth her case, Shulevitz draws on research conducted by sociologist Laurence R. Iannaccone of Santa Clara University. Iannaccone published an influential essay, “Why Strict Churches Are Strong,” that was published in the American Journal of Sociology in 1994. Iannaccone was convinced that rational choice theory does explain the relative strength of conservative denominations and the corresponding weakness of more liberal churches. Iannaccone’s research was also a reconsideration of the theories of Dean Kelley, whose 1972 book, Why Conservative Churches Are Growing, set the stage for later debate.


Following Kelley’s lead, Iannaccone argued that “strictness” is the clearest indicator of congregational strength and potential for growth. He defines strictness in terms of “complete loyalty, unwavering belief, and rigid adherence to a distinctive lifestyle.” Thus, the churches that require members to hold definite doctrinal beliefs and to share common moral commitments are more likely to grow and remain strong than churches who have lower expectations in terms of both belief and behavior.


Refuting those researchers who argue that the growth of conservative churches is due to demographic factors, birth rates, and socioeconomic conditions, Iannaccone suggests that doctrinal and behavioral strictness “increases commitment, raises levels of participation, and enables a group to offer more benefits to current and potential members.” Thus, these groups are able to “enjoy a competitive advantage over their opposites (who suffer from less commitment, lower participation, and fewer perceived benefits).”


How does this work? Iannaccone explains that “Strict churches proclaim an exclusive truth—a closed, comprehensive and eternal doctrine. They demand adherence to a distinctive faith, morality, and lifestyle. They condemn deviants, shun dissenters, and repudiate the outside world.” In other words, the strictness of these congregations comes down to a set of common theological and behavioral expectations and commitments.


In a fascinating analysis, Iannaccone argues that the very strictness of these groups largely eliminates what economists and sociologists call the “free-rider” problem.


Free-riders are, according to this sociological analysis, those who wish to identify with a group without accepting any high level of demand. Conservative churches have few free-riders because the high levels of conviction and counter-cultural moral standards raise the cost of membership above what free-riders are willing to pay. More liberal churches, on the other hand, are more likely to accept as members those who both believe and behave in ways that would be unacceptable in more conservative churches. Iannaccone’s sociological analysis leads him to believe that liberal Protestantism—especially as represented in the so-called “mainline” denominations—suffers from a significant free-rider problem that has led to pervasive weakness.


Iannaccone’s rational choice theory analysis clearly contains a large element of truth. After all, it just makes sense that churches marked by higher expectations of behavior and more demanding beliefs are less likely to attract persons of mild to moderate commitment. In the context of postmodern America, members of conservative churches have found themselves out of step with the larger culture and, in sociological terms, to be paying a higher price for their commitments. Can a church be too strict? Iannaccone clearly believes so, and argues that churches given to extreme eccentricities can suffer from a backlash.


Kelley, Iannaccone, and Shulevitz want to explain the strength of conservative churches in largely sociological terms. Of the three, only Kelley seems to understand that deeper theological issues are at stake. After all, why would members of conservative churches be willing to pay such a high price for membership if there is no compelling reason to do so? This is where rational choice theory runs into a direct collision with theology.


A more comprehensive analysis has been offered by researchers Dean R. Hoge, Benton Johnson, and Donald A. Luidens, who conducted a major research project directed at churches affiliated with mainline Protestant denominations. Their work, Vanishing Boundaries: The Religion of Mainline Protestant Baby Boomers, acknowledges that the basic dynamic behind church growth and decline is theological rather than sociological or economic.


These researchers argue that the most important factor making churches strong is “the presence of a compelling teaching concerning the ultimate purpose and destiny of humankind.” Dean Kelley identified this “compelling teaching” as “meanings.” These meanings make demands upon believers, and these believers are far more likely to congregate together, rather than to join more liberal churches. Holding to strong beliefs, conservative Christians are less likely to accept weaker beliefs as being equally valid.


Hoge, Johnson, and Luidens are clear: “Our findings show that belief is the single best predictor of church participation, but it is orthodox Christian belief, and not the tenets of lay liberalism, that impels people to be involved in church.”


When these researchers speak of “lay liberalism,” they refer to a phenomenon they observed among mainline baby boomers, whose vision of Christianity involves very few definite beliefs or moral obligations. “Although lay liberalism has several different versions,” they explain, “its defining feature is the rejection of the claim that Christianity, or any other faith, is the only true religion. Lay liberals have no compelling truth, no ‘good news,’ to proclaim, and few of them share the views that they do have with their friends and acquaintances.”


Judith Shulevitz suggests that liberal denominations should look to this body of research and modify themselves so that their members will find deeper meaning and connection. Her answer is a recovery of ritual. Nevertheless, her concept of ritual has no specific theological content. As she argues, “the greatest religious leaders have understood [that] ritual is theater. You can use it to send any message you want.”


In other words, she missed the point entirely. Laurence Iannaccone’s rational choice theory can actually explain very little about conservative Christianity. Hoge, Johnson, and Luidens offer a much more substantial and accurate analysis. The fundamental issues are theological, not sociological. Evangelicals are willing to pay a high social cost for the Christian faith, precisely because we believe the Gospel to be true. Furthermore, Christians know better than to expect fulfillment in this world. True satisfaction will be realized only in the age to come, and a perspective focused on eternity transforms the questions of everyday life.


Just consider the apostle Paul. Writing to the Philippian Christians, Paul asserted, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” That, more than anything else, explains why churches that believe and teach the Gospel are growing, and why those who have abandoned the Gospel are dying.




SOCIETY: Politics Without God—Europe’s Secular Crisis (050601)


The continent of Europe is now experiencing a civilizational crisis. Once the cradle of Western civilization, Europe is transforming itself into a hyper-modern culture of nearly undiluted secularism. Once constituted by a sense of Christian identity, Europe is now attempting a vast experiment in secularism, and this experiment shows no signs of ending anytime soon.


George Weigel has been watching these developments closely. Weigel is a Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center [EPPC] in Washington, D.C., and is one of the nation’s most influential public intellectuals. Well known for his massive biography of Pope John Paul II, Weigel is a Roman Catholic theologian who knows secularism when he sees it—and understands what inevitably follows when a civilization rejects the very Christian worldview on which it was established.


In The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God, Weigel presents a magisterial analysis of Europe’s current plight. The title of the book directs attention to the central architectural metaphor of his thesis—the contrast between La Grande Arche de la Defense and the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. The Grand Arch was built under the direction of the late French president Francois Mitterand and was designed by modernist architect Johann Otto von Spreckelsen. The Grand Arch stands far west of the Arc de Triomphe, and is massive by any comparison, standing almost 40 stories tall and wider than a football field. Constructed of glass and white Carrara marble, the Grand Arch is a parable of postmodernism, for its grand scale points to no particular meaning.


Weigel’s interest in the arch was seasoned by an architectural guidebook that claimed that the entire Cathedral of Notre-Dame would fit within the space of the Great Arch—including the cathedral’s towers and spire.


Considering the two architectural marvels—the cube and the cathedral—Weigel saw a metaphor for the contrast between secular and Christian Europe. “All of which raised some questions in my mind, as I walked along the terrace admiring one of the world’s great cityscapes,” Weigel remembers. “Which culture, I wondered, would better protect human rights? Which culture would more firmly secure the moral foundations of democracy? The culture that built this stunning, rational, angular, geometrically precise but essentially featureless cube? Or the culture that produced the vaulting and bosses, the gargoyles and flying buttresses, the nooks and crannies, the asymmetries and holy ‘unsaneness’ of Notre-Dame and the other great Gothic cathedrals of Europe?”


Another contrast also framed Weigel’s attention—the divergence of America and Europe in the new century. “In the first years of the twenty-first century, and in a moment in history when the democratic ideal had energized much of the world, Americans suddenly seemed to be approaching a parting of the ways with many of our European friends in understanding the democratic project—its sources, its possibilities, and the threats to it.”


The European project is in trouble, Weigel asserts. The evidence is now unassailable. For some years, Europe has experienced a fall in births that now portends a net decrease in population. At the same time, the countries of Western Europe have become increasingly populated by Islamic immigrants, who are not only moving into Western Europe in large numbers, but are reproducing at rates far above the native population. Observers from many disciplines now project an Islamic future for Europe. Last week’s referendum in France, in which French citizens overwhelmingly rejected the proposed constitution for the European Union, only serves to complicate the picture. That very document had been the focus of controversy in recent months as the drafting committee had chosen to make no reference at all to the Christian sources of European civilization.


Weigel’s diagnosis of the European problem is clear and profound. He argues that Europe’s ambition to build a democratic project on a completely secular foundation is doomed to fail. In his view, Europe is now suffering a “crisis of civilizational morale” that can be directly attributed to its self-imposed decision to sever its future from its past.


In a fascinating analysis, Weigel draws upon legal scholar J. H. H. Weiler, who accuses leading European intellectuals of being “Christophobic,” and absolutely determined to eliminate or prevent any influence from Christianity.


For the most part, Europe’s intellectual class has adopted this secular project, apparently without reservation. Weigel argues his case clearly: “European high culture is largely Christophobic, and Europeans themselves describe their cultures and societies as post-Christian.”


Of course, falling birth rates and a loss of cultural morale do not emerge from an historical vacuum. Weigel traces many of the historical factors that convinced a large number of European intellectuals to see Christianity as the cause rather than the solution to civilizational crisis. Devastated by two world wars and humiliated by the Holocaust, Europe is reaping a whirlwind of cultural destruction, the seeds of which were sown early in the twentieth century.


A civilization’s historical memory is crucial in the development of its self-consciousness and its approach to the future. Weigel draws upon Henri de Lubac’s theology of history to suggest that the rise of European civilization was, at least in part, made possible by the adoption of a Christian understanding of history. Whereas the ancients understood human beings to be the toys and playthings of capricious pagan deities, the God of the Bible revealed Himself as the Lord of history, who is accomplishing his beneficent purposes in the unfolding of time. Thus, “History was an arena of responsibility and purpose because history was the medium through which the one true God made himself known to his people and empowered them to lead lives of dignity, through the intelligence and free will with which he had endowed them in creation.”


The process of secularization has affected all advanced societies, but the ideology of secularism has taken hold of the European mind. In Weigel’s words: “European man has convinced himself that in order to be modern and free, he must be radically secular. That conviction has had crucial, indeed lethal, consequences for European public life and European culture. Indeed, that conviction and its public consequences are at the root of Europe’s contemporary crisis of civilizational morale. That crisis of civilizational morale, in turn, helps explain why European man is deliberately forgetting his history.”


Europe is in big trouble precisely because it now insists that democratic values can be established without the distinctive teachings of Christianity. As Weigel understands, Christianity establishes a transcendent understanding of human dignity, a clear affirmation of human responsibility, and the elaboration of a moral order that makes civilization possible. In committing itself to the path of radical secularism, Europe is setting the stage for its own destruction.


When postmodern European intellectuals insist that European culture must be marked by “neutrality toward worldviews,” they set themselves against both history and experience. In essence, this claim is tantamount to the arrogant supposition that human beings can establish their own dignity and demand that other human beings—completely without an account of transcendent values—will then rationally recognize and respect that dignity. How, after the hard lessons of the twentieth century, can European intellectuals hold such beliefs?


In denying their past, these secular European intellectuals undercut their own future. “To deny that Christianity had anything to do with the evolution of free, law-governed, and prosperous European societies is, as I’ve argued above, more than a question of falsifying the past: it is also a matter of creating a future in which moral truth has no role in governance, in the determination of public policy, in understandings of justice, and in the definition of that freedom which democracy is intended to embody,” Weigel asserts.


Americans have a stake in this, to be sure. As Weigel warns, the European problem could “metastasize” to the United States. In any event, the close ties between Europe and the United States should be sufficient to demand the attention of thoughtful Americans.


In the end, Weigel suggests several alternative futures for European civilization and its postmodern experiment. Among these, he holds hope that Europe may reaffirm its Christian heritage and recover a lost patrimony. Evangelicals would surely insist that this is far more likely to happen at the level of common citizens, rather than as an organized redirection of the cultural elites.


George Weigel is an insightful historian whose analysis of the European crisis is largely transferable to our American context. After all, a class of American intellectuals desires and intends to move American culture precisely in the European direction—towards a sanitized and secularized culture that will attempt democracy without God. If these trends are not reversed, America could be just like Europe, but with a delayed fuse.