On 15th April 2019 a prized piece of old Europe went up in smoke. The tragic destruction of Notre Dame is highly symbolic of the demise of Christianity in the West. Billionaires’ donations are pouring in, and surely the great cathedral will be rebuilt—but for what purpose?
To the secularist establishment, Notre Dame has the status of a historical asset, as in the status of a UNESCO world heritage site. For cosmopolitan liberals, (the rootless ‘Anywheres’ defined by David Goodhart in The Road to Somewhere), this Gothic pile was a Paris ‘icon’.
Yet they are iconoclasts. They care little for our Christian foundations, and religious edifices such as Notre Dame are regarded not as profoundly humbling places of worship and magnificent devotions to God, but as a selfie backdrop on a tourist tick-box.
Douglas Murray, author of the The Strange Death of Europe, was one of the first to realise the full meaning of this loss. An atheist, he reminds us of the importance of preserving our Christian monuments and mores:
‘The future of civilisation in Europe will be decided by our attitude towards the great churches and other cultural buildings of our heritage standing in our midst. Do we contend with them, ignore them, engage with them or continue to revere them? Do we preserve them? Though politicians may imagine that ages are judged on the minutiae of government policy, they are not. They are judged on what they leave behind: most of all on how they treat what the past has handed into their care. Even if today’s disaster was simply the most freakish of accidents, ours would still be the era that lost Notre Dame. We would have to tell future generations what it was like, this treasure that we lost.’
Billionaires’ donations are pouring in, and surely the great cathedral will be rebuilt—but for what purpose?
While politicians and the intelligentsia publicly express their sadness, the ordinary French people quietly dig deep into their pockets. They are contributing to a cause; indeed, almost (but not quite) a lost cause. In their hearts, they want Notre Dame to rise again from the charred remains, but the fire has also jolted them into a sense of urgency. Christianity is threatened, and with it the bedrock of European civilisation. It is assailed by the forces of secularism and invasive Islam, aided by learnt apathy.
For decades, progressive politicians have neglected the indigent people and their traditions. While Emmanuel Macron has Napoleonic pretensions to a pan-European multicultural utopia, masses of gilets jaunes marching in cities throughout France reject his hubristic detachment from the adversities of ordinary lives. Against the wishes of the electorate, the arrogant political class invited mass immigration, undercutting wages and fragmenting social cohesion. Macron rushed to the scene, but he is one of the guilty men.
As Quentin Letts argues in The Sun, ‘these political leaders have imposed education systems that fail to teach youngsters to be proud of Western art and tradition.’ In a report on the preceding page of that newspaper, a Christian teaching assistant was sacked for opposing LGBT ‘brainwashing’ lessons, which she perceived as ‘totalitarianism aimed at suppressing Christianity.’
Many West African and East European incomers are Christian reinforcements, but the largest growth is of Mohammedan faith. While most Muslims simply want to live in peace, working and raising their families as best they can, undoubtedly militant Muslims are gaining ascendancy. The burqa, rarely seen ten years ago, is now an everyday sight in European capitals, and it is hard to find meat that isn’t halal slaughtered.
Such practices are the thin end of the wedge, and as France is set to become majority Muslim by around 2060, the dystopian novels of Michel Houllebecq seem a realistic warning. Meanwhile the white middle-class, whose virtue-signalling and contempt for the lower social orders has caused so much damage to Western society, is literally a dying breed – their procreation is slightly over half the replacement level.
There is no evidence of foul play in the Notre Dame fire, although it was sickening to see the disaster celebrated by Middle-Eastern morons on social media. Ignore them, but the danger is real. An increasing number of churches are attacked by religious bigots across Europe, although such incidents are rarely reported in the news. Unlike a scratch on a mosque door, which will alert the authorities to far right terrorism, Arabic script daubed on church stone is classed as ‘vandalism’. I know a Church of England minister in the East End of London who has given up reporting incidents to police.
The current Pope is keen to embrace and Islam and open borders, but his successor may be of more rational mind. A leading African cardinal, tipped for the papacy, has warned that Europe is destroying itself, and that soon there will be nothing left to save. The lack of respect for native European ethnicity, while all others are lauded, is as nonsensical as it is nihilistic (I recommend an excellent essay by Will Jones, on Rebel Priest earlier this week).
Let us hope that the Notre Dame fire is a cloud with a silver lining. Belatedly, a Christian revival may be sparked by the realisation that not just consecrated buildings but the whole of European civilisation is at stake. As people take their Easter holidays and indulge in a chocolate fest, perhaps something more meaningful will stir, lodged in our collective spirit. A Phoenix may yet rise from the ashes of secularism.
(Dr Niall McCrae is a lecturer in mental health, and a writer on social and political affairs. He regularly contributes to The Salisbury Review and Bruges Group website, and has written two books: The Moon and Madness, and Echoes from the Corridors: The Story of Nursing in British Mental Hospitals).