Once the heart of Christendom, Europe now is increasingly a secularist culture. While many states retain Christian symbols on their flags and official sports team uniforms, and references to Christian beliefs remain in some constitutions, many Europeans are leaving the religion. Earlier this decade, in considering the ratification of a European constitution (an effort that ultimately failed), the EU omitted from the preamble any historical reference to Europe’s Christian roots, though it duly noted its ancient Greek and Roman heritage.
Recently, the question of European identity has been brought into sharp focus over issues of Muslim immigration and integration. This fall, German Chancellor Angela Merkel asserted that the “multikulti” concept—where people would “live side-by-side” happily—was not working, and immigrants needed to do more to integrate. This followed initiatives to ban some symbols of Islam, such as minarets in Switzerland and burkas in France, as well as gains at the polls by anti-immigration parties throughout the Continent. How necessary to European identity is its Christian heritage? Do these developments indicate a trend toward reclaiming Europe’s Christian identity? How might Christianity be relevant to Europe’s future?
Hudson Senior Fellows Nina Shea and Paul Marshall introduced and moderated the event.