Blog Template Theology of the Body: Robert Wilken on This Sanguine Narrative: Christianity Face to Face with Islam

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Robert Wilken on This Sanguine Narrative: Christianity Face to Face with Islam

... being discussed today at the Union League Club in New York:

"Set against the history of Islam, the career of Christianity is marked as much by retreat, decline, diminution, and extinction as it is by growth, expansion, and triumph. By a selective choice of periods, events, and geographic regions, the conventional account, i.e., one imagined from the perspective of Europe and North America, gives the impression of continuous progress. But seen in global perspective, that may be illusory. To state the obvious: most of the territories that were Chrisian in the year 700 are now Muslim with at best declining and besieged Christian minorities in their midst. Nothing similar has happened to Islam. Christianity seems like a rain shower that soaks the earth then moves on, whereas Islam appears more like a great sea that constantly overflows its banks to inundate new territory.

...Christianity has had an abiding physical presence in Europe... (where) the bonds of affection are attached to places... the demise of Christianity in Europe and the ascendancy of Islam would be a crippling blow to the continuity of Christian memory and the sense that the Church is the carrier of an ancient, unbroken, living tradition that reaches back through time to the apostles and to Jesus. Memory is an integral part of the Christian faith, but unattached to things it is inifinitely malleable and even evanescent, like a story whose veracity is diluted as its particulars are forgotten."