Faithless New World

After Jesus cleansed the Temple of the moneychangers, children cheered Him, saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” That prompted Jesus to quote the Psalm: “From the lips of children and infants, you have ordained praise.”

Not only praise, but wisdom and perspective, as well.

Neither of these is display in the British TV series Survivors, airing on BBC America. In Survivors, a flu pandemic has killed 99 percent of the human race. The series tells the story of those who are left as they try to adjust to the frightening new world.

The principal characters are intended to represent a cross-section of British society: a housewife and mother-turned leader, an 11-year-old boy, a doctor, a millionaire playboy, and even a convicted murderer. They are of different races and ethnic background, and their accents indicate that they come from different parts of Britain.

There’s only one thing missing in all this carefully thought out diversity: Christianity. Islam is represented by the 11-year-old boy. He is always expressing his faith in God, saying his prayers and asking which way is east. He defends his faith in conversations with the playboy, himself a non-practicing Muslim. In fact, apart from the housewife-turned-leader, he is the most well-grounded and sympathetic person on Survivors.

There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is that watching the show, you would infer that Islam was Britain’s native faith and that the alternative to the depressed nihilism of the survivors was Muhammad, not Christ.

At the same time the BBC was depicting a Christianity-less Britain, a Saudi embassy official in Washington was being asked to explain Christianity’s absence in his country. What made the inquiry noteworthy was that the people asking for the explanation were children.

Specifically, they were sixth-graders from the Friends School in Baltimore. They’ve learned about world religions, including Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. As National Public Radio put it, “These kids are well-versed in the basics of Islam and more.”

Just how “well-versed” became apparent on a recent field trip to the Saudi embassy in Washington. After watching a video about Saudi Arabia, the kids asked the official some polite but pointed questions about the status of religions other than Islam in the kingdom.

The official hemmed and hawed about how Saudi Arabia was the home of Islam, and the inseparability of Islam from Saudi identity, but the sixth-graders weren’t fooled. They knew he was being evasive and they planned to talk about it afterwards.

It’s telling that a group of children could imagine an alternative to Islam in Saudi Arabia—while the BBC couldn’t imagine one in Britain. What is often called “secularism” in Britain and the rest of Europe is actually a rejection of Christianity, especially on the part of its elites and opinion-makers. Having forgotten Christianity’s central role in Britain’s past, they can’t imagine a role for it in the future, even an apocalyptic one.

The biggest threat to Britain isn’t plague or terrorism—it has survived both before. It the loss of the faith that shaped it. That’s something that should really frighten our British brethren—and serve as a warning to us on this side of the Atlantic. For in recent history, what has happened there soon spreads to us.

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