Sunday, October 01, 2006

Books of interest...Without Roots, by Joseph Ratzinger and Marcello Pera

Europe faces the crisis of its life: birth rates are declining, immigrant Muslim populations are exploding, and the cradle of Christianity seems to have lost the will to live. In Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) and Marcello Pera detail just how bad things have become. Europe, they say, has become hollowed out from within, paralyzed in its culture and its public life, unable to face the life-and-death challenges that now confront it. These considerations, obviously, have implications much larger than Europe - many of the same challenges are being played out by aggressive proponents of secularism and relativism in our own culture wars.

Pope Benedict notes that plummeting birth rates show that "Europe is infected by a strange lack of desire for the future. Children, our future, are perceived as a threat to the present." Generation after generation of below-replacement-level birthrates have created a demographic vacuum which is now being filled by transplanted populations whose presence in Europe is a challenge to Europe's identity, and could become a threat to European democracy. Yet in the face of the growing challenge of Islam, Europe's adamant secularism and rejection of its own Christian heritage have left it helpless: unable to formulate any reasons for saying that Christianity is better than Islam or for resisting Islam at all. The West's boredom with its own principles and values couldn't come at a worse time: at the very moment in which it has been targeted by a deadly war declared and conducted by Islam.

Pope Benedict and Professor Pera argue that Europe is much more than just a great technological, economic, and political power. What gives a civilization its real identity and vitality, they argue, is its sense of the sacred. They explain that what men and women honor, cherish, and worship is the most dynamic element in human affairs, at least over the long haul, and that Europe can only survive by recovering the preciousness of its Christian heritage. It is time, they maintain, for Christian believers to help Europe reclaim what is best in that heritage and thereby place itself at the service of all mankind.

Among the insights of Pope Benedict XVI and Marcello Pera:

  • Why Europe is much more than merely a geographical entity

  • The false premises of relativism that led it to the erroneous and disastrous consequences we are seeing in the world today

  • How Europe's Christian identity emerged -- and why it unraveled in such a relatively brief span of time

  • Why neither "European civilization" nor any other civilization can be understood simply by looking at its technological and aesthetic achievements

  • Why Europe is in such deep crisis despite being healthier, wealthier, and more secure than ever before

  • What Europe's declining birthrates and disinclination to create the future have to do with its rejection of its past -- of the spiritual roots of European civilization

  • How Europe's relativism and rejection of Christianity threaten its commitment to human rights and equality before the law, and even to tolerance and civility among peoples of diverse convictions

  • How Europe's loss of values and of its sense of self even explains why so many Europeans opposed the second Iraq war and George W. Bush's Middle East democracy initiative

  • Why Europe commits such a grave error in believing that its institutions and values have no right or basis to be proclaimed as universal

  • How to oppose cultural relativism and relativism in terms of civilizations effectively

  • How relativism has even begun to infiltrate Christian theology, challenging both its exclusiveness and its inclusiveness

  • Why Catholics must admit that the inter-religious dialogue promoted by Vatican II has borne little fruit

  • Similarities - and key differences - between President Bush's democracy project and Woodrow Wilson's utopian vision

  • Why Europe cannot speak with a single voice or affirm a single strategy even when it comes to trying to secure its own survival

  • Why America, for all the virulence of our culture wars, is not as far gone as Europe
  • (Book description from Human Events Book Service)


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