I am looking for solutions these days, fresh angles on the daunting challenges of our day. So often fresh angles are the most controversial. This book offers such a new take, controversy and all.

Manent is a contemporary French philosopher. The focus of this book is the migration of Muslims into the neighborhoods of Western cities. His main focus is France. How can France, grown out of Christian roots, welcome this alien religion and culture into its midst without losing its distinctive European identity? There is a threat here—at least to Manent a danger—precisely because the West is now radically secularized. We may be, he contends, the first “people in history to give over all elements of social life and all contents of human life to the unlimited sovereignty of the individual.” In order to survive, he says, “as a community of life and of meaning,” we will need to “awaken from this vertigo of dissolution.” The Catholic Church must come out of the shadows to play a critical role in this reawakening.

The West has lost the soul, its heart, its sense of common good. From this posture, we have no way of adequately responding to the massive influx of a people who want to keep their soul, their religious and social practices, those who have a sense of their own common good. Is this the beginning of total cultural disintegration? Having eradicated religion from its center, the West does not know how to deal with a people who take their religion seriously. This ambivalence, or paralysis of response, will alter European identity. France is in danger of no longer being France. If the church can reassert its appropriate role of clarifying Europe’s deepest roots—though that remains an open question—perhaps then it can welcome Muslims into a genuinely pluralistic world where religious people once again contribute to the common good we call France. The starting point is to reclaim the Christian “mark” that has defined Europe.

Whew, a mouthful, I know, but fresh, in my opinion. Controversial, I suppose, but necessary unless we are willing to let go of what has given Western civilization its vitality for a long, long time. Renewal of our Christian roots is essential for a viable response to this rapidly changing world.