February 2016

Dear Friends,

     François is a professor of French literature at the Sorbonne who specializes in 19th century Symbolism. He is bored and a social recluse. Politically two parties have emerged as finalists for the 2020 presidential elections, the Nativist Front National and the Islamic Brotherhood. Fearing the worst, his Jewish girlfriend Myriam leaves him to live in Israel. “There is no Israel for me” he declared, meaning that he could find no land of promise, real or metaphorical, in his life. Mohammed Ben Abbes, the Islamist candidate, wins. He immediately begins to encourage small businesses and abolish large ones, has women leave the workforce, and he brings the Levant into a willing European Union. Crime drops almost overnight. Social benefits are nearly all withdrawn. Economic prosperity sets-in. The Sorbonne is restructured to permit only Muslims to teach there. François loses his job. Yet he is immediately courted to return upon condition of “converting” to Islam. He does and finds he is far better treated than before. The Islamists want no trouble from French intellectuals, so they buy them off.

     This implausible scenario is from Michel Houellebecq’s recent novel, Submission. The word is a translation of the word Islam. Submit and be blessed. Implausible? Yes, but undesirable? Not for everyone. Reminiscent of Mussolini’s rise to power when even skeptical Italians appreciated that the trains were running on time, there is something strangely attractive about an orderly society, closer to a theocracy than to democracy. All of this would be chalked-up as either mischievous fun or inappropriate fear-mongering, except that Houellebecq is considered France’s greatest contemporary writer. He has won every coveted prize except for the Prix Goncourt. And the novel first came out the very day of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo just over a year ago.

     It is fair to say, every French person longs for a promised land. Few would dispute the lamentable social conditions of their country. But few would pay the price for a theocratic take-over. Yet few really understand the principles of the biblical tradition that led, and still can lead to democracy. Our bold hope for 2016 is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ can be so powerfully proclaimed in our beloved France, and all over Europe, that Houellebecq’s dystopian scenario would become not only unthinkable but undesirable.

Very Truly yours,

William Edgar, President

PS Thanks ever so much to all who helped make 2015 one of our best years.