A Christian in France suggests one might be in the works:
On a recent Sunday, my family and I only showed up 10 minutes early for Mass. That meant we had to sit in fold-out chairs in the spillover room, where the Mass is relayed on a large TV screen. During the service, my toddler had to go to the bathroom. To get there, we had to step over a dozen people sitting in hallways and corners. This is business as usual for my church in Paris, France.
I point this out because one of the most familiar tropes in social commentary today is the loss of Christian faith in Europe in general, and France in particular. The Wall Street Journal recently fretted about the sale of “Europe’s empty churches.”
Could it be, instead, that France is in the early stages of a Christian revival?
Yes, churches in the French countryside are desperately empty. There are no young people there. But then, there are no young people in the French countryside, period. France is a modern country with an advanced economy, and that means its countryside has emptied, and that means that churches built in an era when the country’s sociological makeup was quite different go empty. In the cities — which is where people are, and where cultural trends gain escape velocity — the story is quite different.
But back to our parish. Is our pastor some outlier with megawatt
charisma? In terms of flair, he would win no public speaking contests.
But there is something that sets him apart from many of the Catholic
priests my parents’ generation grew up listening to: he is
It may seem strange to suggest this at a time when liberalism in the mainstream churches and secularism without appear dominant. The Anglicans have made women bishops, the Pope is a demi-socialist, and everyone expects the Supreme Court to declare, ex nihilo, that the abominable parody known as “gay marriage” was magically written into the U.S. Constitution in hitherto undetected invisible ink.
But consider the logic of the situation. First, as with a market at its peak, there is no one left to buy into the mainstream denominations’ liberal quasi-Christianity. The pews, as they say, are already empty. The 60’s-era notion that being more tolerant, more accepting, more accommodating of the world would strengthen the Christian Church and bring in more believers had precisely the opposite effect. After all, if the Church is not only in the world, but of it, what purpose does it have?
At the same time that its intellectual bankruptcy has resulted in the undeniable material failure of inclusive, liberal, and tolerant Churchianity, the material and spiritual failures of secularism are being more apparent as well. People are beginning to realize that asserting a belief in nothing is not going to save them from either the fires of Hell or the bullets of a resurgent Islam.
Add to that the fact that the apparent wealth of the longest credit boom in world history has turned out to be mostly illusionary, and what we are seeing is the potential for a perfect storm of a return to the faith of an intensity that may be unprecedented. For decades, only prophets saw the danger. For years, only extremists were willing to speak out. But now, one has to have one’s head lodged firmly in the sand, or in one’s posterior, to fail to recognize four things:
- The failure of liberal Christian heresy
- The spiritual and material failures of secularism
- The danger of the third great wave of Islamic aggression
- The peril of the Christian West
Now, none of this means a revival is inevitable. It is not. But God works in mysterious ways and in His own time. He appears to enjoy waiting until the moment is dire, and then, using the most unlikely of sources. We cannot make it happen, but we can raise our voices and pray that He will make it happen, and that He use us as His weapons against those who have proclaimed themselves His enemies.
We are all sinful, corrupt, and fallen. I do not exempt myself from that, being worse than many, if not most, in those regards. But even I can see that something is stirring, something appears to be rumbling under the ground to which the flimsy secular chains that cover the inert corpse of Christendom are attached.
I know that there are those who believe that we are living in a permanently post-Christian era. But I suggest it is far too soon to count out a faith that began with nothing more than eleven frightened men. If Christians do not serve and worship a Living God, then Christianity should, by all reason and logic, continue to dwindle and fade. But if that does not happen, if there is, instead, a great revival, that will be meaningful evidence to the contrary.