As refugees and migrants pour into Europe in ever-greater numbers, some commentators have been expressing wonder that so much of this was foretold in an amazing 1973 novel, “The Camp of the Saints.”
But the commentators are generally secular in outlook and so fail to note something else – that the novel is also, in some respects, a Christian parable that points to an “end-times” view of the end of civilization.
“The Camp of the Saints” was written by French Catholic novelist Jean Raspail and portrays a liberal Europe so stricken by guilt over its own perceived racism and past injustices that it is simply unable to resist when a million-or-so Asian migrants arrive in boats and declare their intention to stay.
Among many incredible parallels with today’s unfolding events, there is even in the 1973 book a Latin American pope intent on proclaiming his humility and preaching universal love.
Raspail’s thesis is quite clear: our Western liberal society – church included – has lost the will to defend itself.
The book, right from the start, injects an apocalyptic Christian theme. It actually begins with a revealing quotation from the Bible, which also provides its title:
And when the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison. And he will go forth to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for war, whose number is as the sand of the sea. And they went up over the breadth of the earth and encircled the camp of the saints and the beloved city. – Revelation 20:7-9
Does Raspail suggest that his book’s third-world “invasion” is part of the last battle of Satan? It would surely seem so.
So what is the proper Christian attitude to the escalating crisis? I live far away in Australia, and hesitate to voice a view. But certainly I wonder how Europe can possibly hope to integrate so many men and women from such different cultural backgrounds. I even wonder how many of them are genuine refugees.
But numerous Christians see only one valid response. The pastor of the church where, until recently, I was a worshipper, posted on his Facebook page a link to an article from Britain’s The Guardian newspaper that carried the headline: “Christian politicians won’t say it, but the Bible is clear: let the refugees in, every last one.” My ex-pastor added a comment: “Oh yeah! Wish I’d preached that.”
Here in Australia our previous government relaxed its enforcement of laws on illegal migrants, and suddenly we were hit by waves of tens of thousands of Asian boat people. More than one thousand are known to have drowned.
So two years ago a new government began intercepting and sending back all new arrivals, and within a remarkably short time the boats stopped. We still take thousands of refugees each year, but they come legally, systematically and safely. It is a stand that makes sense to me.
Other rich countries in this region like Japan and South Korea take virtually no refugees at all. My wife is Korean, and she recently read out to me a telling newspaper report. Some Asian countries, including hers, have just celebrated the annual Moon Festival, when families traditionally feast together. In Seoul a group of students, inspired by humanitarian activists in Europe, decided to organize a special meal for refugees in their country. But there was a problem. They could find only a dozen of them.
Perhaps the Bible is explicit in affirming that we must allow into our countries every last one of those seeking refuge. I am not so sure. But I do feel that, when I watch on television the heart-rending images coming from Europe, I am witnessing hints of the apocalyptic ending of our civilization. Surely I am not alone in retiring to bed at night thinking, “Come, Lord Jesus.”