In official eyes, then, Muslim is an ethnic label loosely applied; Christian is a religious classification that demands some knowledge of the individual’s personal belief system. If we are to count as Christians only those individuals who have demonstrated allegiance to the faith, then logically we should apply the same more stringent standards to Muslims. But if we apply to Christians the loose cultural/ethnic definition used for Muslims, then Europe’s Christians presently outnumber Muslims by over twenty to one, and will continue to form a substantial majority for the foreseeable future. In cultural terms, Europe remains a much more Christian place than we often assume.
We could imagine a Western Europe late in the present century in which 15 to 20 percent of the people were of newer, nontraditional stock, derived from predominantly Islamic nations. But it is quite possible that these minorities would largely share the values and outlook of their white European neighbors. A continent with several million Tariqs would not be a spiritual powerhouse, but neither would it be a cauldron of religious fanaticism. And the culturally Muslim Tariqs would still be massively outnumbered by the culturally Christian Tonys.
For the churches, the great task of the next generation is to try and reconnect those Tonys with mainstream faith that goes beyond the merely cultural.
Philip Jenkins is a Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University and author of The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade.