Europe is facing mass migration, plunging birthrates and the grip of a cultural illness that is sapping its will to live. Will Europe survive?
In a recent speech about the state of the EU, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker posed a good question to Europe’s ruling class: “What Union will we pass on to our children?” Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, is widely known as “Mutti,” or compassionate Mommy to her nation. Emmanuel Macron won election to France’s presidency heralding the “revival of Europe.” Ironically, despite the “children are our future” overtones, Juncker, Merkel and Macron have no children of their own.
In fact, there have never been so many childless politicians leading Europe as there are today. Britain’s Theresa May, Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni, Holland’s Mark Rutte, Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon, and Sweden’s Stefan Löfven—as well as the leaders of Luxembourg, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania—all have no offspring.
For each of these leaders the cause of childlessness may be different, and may, in some cases, be attached to heartbreaking sorrow. But Europe’s elites are a reflection of Europe’s larger demographic trends.
The stark fact of so many childless European leaders has some questioning whether being childless changes the way a leader views his or her country’s future. Why are the childless leaders of Europe making such sweeping and permanent demographic changes to the Continent?
A continent self-destructs
“Europe is committing suicide. Or at least its leaders have decided to commit suicide.” Those are the opening words of British author and political commentator Douglas Murray’s bestseller, The Strange Death of Europe, in which he describes a continent and culture caught in self-destruct mode. “Those in power,” he writes, “seem persuaded that it would not matter if the people and culture of Europe were lost to the world” (2017, pp. 1-2).
“The world is coming into Europe,” warns Murray, “at precisely the moment that Europe has lost sight of what it is. And while the movement of millions of people from other cultures into a strong and assertive culture might have worked, the movement of millions of people into a guilty, jaded and dying culture cannot” (p. 7).
No babies, please, we’re European
Europe is quite literally not reproducing itself—not having enough children to keep population levels steady, much less to grow. Author George Weigel has chronicled how Europe’s systematic depopulation is nothing less than a “demographic suicide,” while historian Niall Ferguson called the Continent’s flatlining fertility “the greatest sustained reduction in European population since the Black Death in the fourteenth century.”
A current research report financed by the EU is blissfully titled “No Kids, No Problem!” but it ignores how deep the Continent has descended into a demographic winter:
- In 1950, four of the world’s 10 most populous states were in Western Europe alone, but by 2017, Europe’s most populous country, Germany—which just overtook Japan by having the world’s lowest birthrate—ranked just 16th globally and is now projected to shed population from 83 million to 68 million in 2050 without migration (Economist).
- The birthrate is now well below replacement level in all 28 EU countries, highlighted by France, which hit its lowest level in 40 years (Irish Times and Newsweek).
- Eastern Europe now has “the largest loss of population in modern history,” shrinking, according to the United Nations, to about 292 million people last year, 18 million fewer than in the early 1990s. The number is equivalent to the disappearance of the entire population of the Netherlands (Financial Times).
- If current trends continue, every new generation of Spaniards will be 40 percent smaller than the previous one (The Guardian).
- By the middle of this century, if present fertility patterns continue, 60 percent of the Italian people will have no personal experience as a brother, a sister, an aunt, an uncle or a cousin (American Diplomacy).
Such a self-imposed childlessness, throughout an entire continent that is wealthier, healthier and more secure than ever, betrays symptoms of a deeper problem that is at the root of many of Europe’s dilemmas, including its difficulties assimilating immigrants and its fiscal turmoil.
Expecting a tired, bleak future
When people are optimistic about the future, they tend to be more enthusiastic about having children, but a Europe-wide poll by Project28 in August 2017 shows a growing pessimism about the Continent’s future. A majority of respondents expect their children to have a worse life than they have. Such pessimism has its roots in the loss of belief and faith, which means that Europe has lost its foundational story.
Douglas Murray describes life in the liberal democracies of modern Western Europe as thin or shallow, adrift without a sense of purpose. “Europe,” he writes, has “lost faith in its beliefs, traditions and legitimacy.”
Europeans, continues Murray, sometimes fall into “terrible doubts of our own creation.” He adds, “More than any other continent or culture in the world today, Europe is now deeply weighed down with guilt for its past. … There is also the problem in Europe of an existential tiredness and a feeling that perhaps for Europe the story has run out and a new story must be allowed to begin. Mass immigration … is one way in which this new story has been imagined” (The Strange Death of Europe, p. 3).
Radical ideas, disastrous repercussions
At the dawn of the 20th century, Europe was the center of world civilization as the result of scientific, cultural and political achievements. But within a few decades, Europe had produced two world wars, several totalitarian systems, a cold war that threatened global holocaust, the gulag, Auschwitz and millions of corpses.
What went wrong so fast for the Continent? The answer is unprecedented cultural and theological upheaval. Even before the devastation of two world wars, Europe received two seismic blows from which it never recovered.
The first punch, as Douglas Murray details, was delivered by the wave of scholarly biblical criticism that swept through German universities in the 19th century. For many believers and clergy, this turned the Bible from the inspired Word of God into just another interesting but flawed literary text.
This was followed in 1859 by the knockout punch to the Christian narrative of European history—Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. For many, his theory of evolution seemed to eliminate the need for a Creator God, allowing atheism and secularism to flourish.
Britain’s former chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, has warned that the secularization of Europe is leading to its demographic, moral and ultimately civilizational downfall. Sacks claimed in an interview with the Daily Telegraph in 2016 that there is no “historical example of a society that became secularised and maintained its birth rate over subsequent centuries.”
The future belongs to the fertile
Against this secular and infertile Western culture stands Islamic culture, which places an emphasis on large families. Turkish President Recep Erdoğan exemplified that culture when he recently called for all Turks residing in Europe to have five children each. “This will make the future of Europe yours,” he declared.
While the high tide of recent mass immigration appears to have passed, the influx continues at a lower level and could rise again dramatically in response to another crisis in the volatile and rapidly growing Middle East.
In February 2016 President Erdoğan, angry at EU political maneuvers, threatened to send millions of migrants to Europe. “We can open the doors to Greece and Bulgaria anytime and we can put the refugees on buses,” he told European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos verified that there are approximately 3 million migrants waiting to cross into Greece from Turkey in an effort to reach Western and Northern Europe.
The great replacement
While most political leaders in Europe go along with Chancellor Merkel’s attitude regarding the massive immigration surge, some have fought back. The controversial Catholic archbishop of Strasbourg, Luc Ravel, nominated by Pope Francis in February, recently warned that “Muslim believers know very well that their birth rate is such that today, they call it ... the Great Replacement. They tell you in a very calm, very positive way that ‘one day all this, it will be ours.’”
“Muslim believers know very well that their birth rate is such that today, they call it ... the Great Replacement. They tell you in a very calm, very positive way that ‘one day all this, it will be ours.’”The even more controversial prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, has called for solving Europe’s demographic problems by “renewing ourselves spiritually.” He has also directly challenged the prevailing political winds: “At last, the peoples of Europe, who have been slumbering in abundance and prosperity, have understood that the principles of life that Europe has been built on are in mortal danger. … Mass migration is a slow stream of water persistently eroding the shores. It is masquerading as a humanitarian cause, but its true nature is the occupation of territory.”
Europe to rise again
For years, proclamations of Europe’s demise have been a staple, and the subject of a “European identity crisis” has filled the pages of many books and articles. But the Holy Bible shows that Europe, despite the current state of affairs, will play a major role in end-time events.
But the longer the “clash of civilizations” in Europe is allowed to go on, the more likely it is that a strong reaction will emerge. It must be remembered that Europe, and especially Germany, has a long history of turning to strong leaders to address deteriorating conditions.
One of the hallmarks of European history has been the repeated attempts to coalesce religious authority and political power to dominate the Continent. Though it would seem improbable when one views the current mayhem of the European cultural landscape, the stage is being set.
The revealed Word of God describes a time, yet in the future, when another adaptation of the Holy Roman Empire will ascend from the core of Europe to be a powerful force once again (Revelation 13:1-18; 17:9-14; Daniel 7:17-18).
A dynamic and ferocious political leader, described as a beast, in tandem with a powerful religious system headed by a mesmerizing figure, will lead to a monumental conflict between historically Christian Europe and an Islamic power bloc to its south (Daniel 11:40-42).
Learn more about the future for Europe and the world in our free booklet The Book of Revelation: The Storm Before the Calm.