But liberal fundamentalists are unconcerned with getting a true and balanced understanding of these scriptural passages, just as they are unconcerned with the real-world results of putting their altruistic beliefs into practice. They seem to believe that acting on their religious principles makes it unnecessary to heed ordinary rules of prudence—an attitude that Jesus famously rejected. After he has been fasting in the wilderness for forty days, the devil tempts him to throw himself down from a high cliff, so as to prove that God's angels will rescue him, as promised in Psalm 91, which the devil, who evidently reads Scripture, quotes:
He shall give his angels charge over thee,
and in their hands they shall bear thee up,
lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Jesus answers Satan: "Thou shalt not tempt [that is, test] the Lord thy God." What Jesus is saying here is that you must not apply the words of Scripture mechanically. Having faith in God does not mean that you can ignore physical laws. You cannot jump off a cliff in the expectation that God will come to your rescue. To do so is to "tempt" God.
The same analysis applies to liberal fundamentalism and open borders. Liberal Christians argue that since God created all men, therefore all humanity is one, and therefore cultural, ethnic, and national differences don't matter and we should all be mixed into one society. But to believe that such a blending of humanity can be practically and safely achieved in the present stage of human development—to turn America into an extravagantly multi-ethnic and multicultural society, shorn of its historic majority culture, in the expectation that God will save us from the consequences of this insane experiment—is to "tempt God." It is a suicidal act of arrogance. If we ignore the laws of cause and effect that operate in this world, believing that our good intentions will protect us from the operation of those laws, we will only succeed in bringing ruin on ourselves.
Here is yet another illustration of the literalist fallacy. The highest human state, the goal of Christianity and of all true religion, is self‑forgetful love. Yet it would be madness to adopt such love (which even in the best of circumstances is consistently practiced by very few human beings), as the organizing principle of society. James Madison in the Federalist warned against the error of idealizing mankind: government, he said, is designed for men, not angels. Jesus also warned against idealizing mankind when he told his disciples to be wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove. To be wise as a serpent means that you guard yourself against the evils in human nature. Unlike the liberal Christians, Jesus did not indulge in vain Rousseauist fantasies about the innate goodness of man, or try to force such fantasies on society. The second chapter of the Gospel of John pointedly tells us that "Jesus did not trust himself to them ... for he knew himself what was in man." [Emphasis added.] But liberal fundamentalists only heed the part of Jesus' message that fits their liberal preconceptions. They tell everyone to be gentle as a dove, while conveniently forgetting the business about being wise as a serpent. They distort the Christian teaching of faith and salvation into a politics of indiscriminate global charity.
The Christian belief in a common humanity under God should not tempt us to weaken or eliminate national borders. The division of mankind into distinct nations provides indispensable human needs, including stable social settings and systems of shared habit and culture. Equally importantly, national boundaries help keep human hatreds at bay. Common sense tells us that humanity tends to certain vices, and we should therefore not gratuitously remove the obstacles that impede those vices. It tells us that to adopt unconditional love as a political principle and to erase all boundaries on human behavior is to license unlimited aggression. But the liberal fundamentalists, having rejected the doctrine of man's innate sinfulness and even the cautions of ordinary common sense, cannot grasp these obvious facts. They condemn racism, while fanatically spreading the very conditions of unassimilable diversity that increase racial conflict. They have no qualms about the effects of immigration on the host society because they regard openness to immigration as a religious obligation, not as political choice governed by prudence.
Let us also remember that while both Christian and secular liberals may urge open borders for reasons of love, human motivations are always mixed. Much of the support for open immigration is plainly self-interested. Corporate executives do not want mass immigration in order to spread Christian charity, but to assure the presence of a low-wage work force. Ethnic activists do not call for amnesty to spread compassion, but to increase the power of their own racial group. Democrats and Republicans do not seek open borders out of love, but out of a desire to swell their respective party ranks (a deluded hope in the case of the Republicans) and gain political advantage over the other party.
Nevertheless, in this welter of contradictory motivations, by far the most effective remains the moral and altruistic. As far back as 1957, the liberal Protestant journal The Christian Century stated in an editorial:
We are in danger of preaching freedom and reveling in it ourselves but denying it to those who knock on our doors.... The denial borders on blasphemy in Bethlehem. Fling wide the gates and let some glory in.(3)
America is not seen here as an earthly society, with earthly responsibilities to its citizens. It is seen as Bethlehem—a symbol of Heaven. From this perspective, to admit immigrants into our country is not to let in concrete human beings with their concrete good and bad qualities. It is to let in "glory"—a divine attribute. By erasing the distinction between the spiritual and temporal realms, and thus the distinctions among relative temporal goods, the liberal Christian view makes rational discussion of the immigration issue impossible.
Yet the liberal Christianity of the 1950s was a model of reasonableness compared to the aggressive open‑borders policy of the Roman Catholic Church under Pope John Paul II. Like any alienated liberal or one-world capitalist, the Pope sanctified non-Western immigrants while delegitimizing the Western nations he was ordering to include them. He deliberately undermined U.S. law when he came to Texas in 1987 and endorsed the Sanctuary Movement, a network of organizations that transport and hide illegal aliens who come here from Central America. Most appallingly, he repeatedly equated immigration restrictions with abortion, arguing that to refuse to admit a prospective immigrant into your country is as sinful as to kill an unborn child. Both acts, the Holy Father declared, are part of the "Culture of Death," which, he said, also includes such practices as contraception and euthanasia. His proposed "Ethic of Life" enjoined Christians to stand in "solidarity with society's weakest members"—the elderly, the infirm, the unborn, and the illegal immigrant.(4)
In portraying immigration restriction as a moral crime, but only when it is practiced by Westerners, the Pope would have effectively denied Western countries any control over their own borders. In his trip to the U.S. in October 1995 he further intruded himself into American domestic politics, declaring that any attempt to control legal or illegal immigration or to ban public assistance to illegal aliens was a sin. Speaking of Third World immigrants who want to get into the West, he told American audiences that we must treat our neighbor as ourselves, and that "everyone in the world is our neighbor."
As immigration expert David Simcox summed up the Pope's policy, "Church pronouncements now affirm immigration as a virtually absolute right, while they have qualified the regulatory rights of states to the point where they are emptied of any legitimate scope of action." A Church official has written: "Catholic citizens are required to work to see that as far as possible the laws of their countries adhere to this universal norm [of open borders]."(5)
We can't help wondering, what does the Church's open-borders posturing have to do with Christianity? Jesus preached the Gospel to the poor in spirit, telling them to open their souls to the love of God. John Paul II preaches liberalism to materially prosperous Western peoples, telling them to open their pockets, their borders, and their national identity to foreign peoples. True, Jesus told a rich young man to give all his wealth to the poor. But he did not give that counsel to everyone he met. He said it to a particular individual, who, it is apparent from the Gospel text, needed that particular advice if he was to enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus did not, as John Paul has done, tell an entire political society to sacrifice its goods, which in the modern context would mean the government sacrificing the goods of all the people in that society, whether they wanted their goods to be sacrificed or not.
Efforts by Catholic intellectuals to explain the Pope's open borders policy have only revealed how extreme it really is. The Catholic neoconservative George Weigel, after saying he agreed with immigration restrictionists that "national identity is important and that patriotism is a virtue," added the qualifier that "patriotism is not an absolute virtue and national identity is a secondary, if honorable, definition of one's self. Our national identity is subordinate to our identity as members of the Body of Christ, the Church." Weigel's remark that patriotism is not an absolute virtue seems unexceptionable from a Christian standpoint, until we realize that our "identity as members of the Body of Christ," which Weigel upholds as the highest value, translates in practical terms into his preference for open borders. "The general rule [concerning immigration]," he continues, "ought to be generosity." But if the general rule is generosity, what happens to the national identity that Weigel said is important? Under the existing open borders policy that Weigel supports, our national identity is not being properly subordinated to a higher value, it is being steadily eliminated by the mass intrusion of foreign cultures.
Thus Weigel pretends to subsume the secular value of nationhood under the spiritual value of membership in the body of Christ, an idea to which no Christian could object. But what he is really doing is subsuming the secular value of nationhood under his own secular value—mass Third‑World immigration. Weigel, as a devout Catholic, speaks of the Body of Christ. But what he really has in mind is Ben Wattenberg's Universal Nation.(6)
Contrary to the liberal and neoconservative strands of Catholicism which regard the nation as dispensable, traditional Church teachings acknowledge the desirability of organizing mankind into subsidiary units, the largest of which is the nation. The writings of the Church Fathers say nothing about an obligation of a national community to sacrifice itself for other national communities. As the Catholic historian Thomas Molnar points out, Catholic doctrine has long recognized that the nation, like the family, is an entity possessing inherent rights and serving indispensable functions. Like the family, the nation has special claims on the individual's love and loyalty, and promotes important virtues that can be promoted in no other way. And the nation, like the family, needs protection. The sovereign's first duty is the care of his own people. He must attend to the good of his own subjects before he concerns himself with foreigners. The idea that there is some unlimited right of foreigners to immigrate into a country is not in Christianity. "Unconditional love"—particularly unconditional love for all foreigners—is strictly a New Age concept.
The above thoughts lead to a surprising conclusion. Most liberal Christians today affirm that creating culturally diverse societies is the moral, Godly, and just thing to do—the more diverse, the more just and Godly. But if it is our purpose to discern God's purpose, doesn't it seem far more likely that God would oppose the creation of multicultural, majority-less societies? He would oppose them, first, because they rob human beings of the stable cultural environments and the concrete networks of belonging that are essential conditions of personal and social flourishing; and, second, he would oppose them because they lead to unresolvable conflict and disorder. In opening America's borders to the world, our political leaders are not following any divine scheme, but are indulging an all‑too‑human conceit: "We can create a totally just society," they tell themselves. "We can stamp out cultural particularities and commonalities that have taken centuries or millennia to develop. We can erect a new form of society based on nothing but an idea. We can ignore racial and cultural differences and the propensity to inter‑group conflict that has ruled all of human history. We can create an earthly utopia, a universal nation."
All of which brings us to the biblical account of Babel. The comparison of multicultural America to the Tower of Babel has become such a cliché in the hands of conservative columnists over the last 20 years that a true understanding of this parable has been lost. Indeed, as I will show, the conservative, or rather the neoconservative, understanding of this parable is the exact opposite of its true meaning.
As told in the eleventh chapter of Genesis, the human race, in a burst of arrogant pride, attempts to construct a perfect human society purely by their own will—a tower "with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." Mankind hopes that this one‑world society will prevent them from being divided into separate societies. But this is not what God wants. "The Lord came down to look at the city and tower which man had built, and the Lord said, 'If, as one people with one language for all, this is how they have begun to act, then nothing that they may propose to do will be out of their reach.'" God does not want man to build a universal city, because that would lead man to worship himself instead of God. So God confuses—that is, he diversifies—men's language so that they cannot understand one another, and then he "scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth."
It becomes clear that the Tower of Babel is not, as neoconservatives have often said, a multicultural society which breaks down because it lacks a common culture based on universalist ideals. On the contrary, the Tower of Babel represents the neoconservatives' own political ideal—the Universal Nation. And the moral of the story is that God does not want men to have a single Universal Nation, he wants them to have distinct nations. "That is why it was called Babel," Genesis continues, "because there the Lord confounded the speech of the whole earth." But that's not all. Having divided men's language into many different languages, God does not want these many languages to co‑exist in the same society: "And from there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth."
Thus God rejects the universal society, where the whole human race lives together speaking the same language, and he also (implicitly) rejects the multicultural society, where the whole human race lives together speaking different languages. God wants the human race to belong to a plurality of separate and finite societies, each with its own culture and language. This providential system for the organization of human life allows for the appropriate expression of cultural variety, even as, by demonstrating that human things are not absolute, it restrains and channels man's self-aggrandizing instincts.
And this view of mankind is not limited to the Book of Genesis, as a supposedly primitive account of an early, tribal period of history when mankind presumably needed a more rudimentary form of social organization. If we go from the first book of the Bible to its last book, The Revelation of John, we find, to our astonishment, that God's plan still includes separate nations. In Chapter 21, after the final judgment on sinful humanity has occurred, after the first heaven and the first earth have passed away and a new heaven and a new earth have appeared, after the holy city, New Jerusalem, has come down out of heaven, a dwelling for God himself on earth, and after the total transformation of the world, when even the sun and moon are no longer needed to light the city because the glory of God is the light of it, and the Lamb is the lamp of it, even then
... the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it....
And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.
In the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city, there are still distinct nations, and kings of nations, and these are the glories of humanity which are brought before the throne of God, and there transfigured in the light of Christ. Mankind, following the end of the world, is still providentially constituted of separate nations, which give it its character and distinctiveness, even as, for example, our earth is constituted of separate continents, islands, mountain ranges, and valleys, which give it its shape and its meaning. The physical earth is not a homogenous mass consisting of nothing but "equal" individual particles, and neither, in the biblical view, is mankind.
The Bible and the American Founding
Coming back to earth after that visit to the New Jerusalem, we realize that we do not need to rely only on the Bible to establish the importance of nationhood. The Scriptural view of God's plan for human society turns out to be in accord with the natural rights tradition that underlies our own Declaration of Independence. Before we conclude this article, let us look at how nationhood is supported by philosophy as well as by revelation. As Locke wrote in his Second Treatise of Government, man receives his existence from God, and therefore has a natural right to preserve his existence, as well as a natural right to the liberty that is needed in order to preserve it. The Declaration of Independence took these Lockean rights of man in his individual capacity and applied them to man in his social or national capacity, when it affirmed that the American people are endowed by God with the rights of liberty and sovereignty, such rights being necessary for their collective preservation as a political society.
In our hyper-individualism, we modern Americans have lost sight of the idea that the universal rights of man are not just individual but social. As the philosopher Leo Strauss observed, it is the hierarchical order of man's "natural constitution"—the order of man's natural wants and inclinations as a being created in God's image—that supplies the basis for natural rights such as liberty and property.(7) Furthermore, since man is not only an individual being, but a social being, the hierarchy of man's natural wants includes his need for membership in a coherent political community. Among other requirements, such a community cannot exist without organic links joining the members to each other and to the past; in other words, it cannot exist without a degree of cultural homogeneity.
There is therefore a universal right, proceeding from divine and natural law, to preserve our own particular society, including its inherited cultural characteristics, the kinds of distinct qualities that, for example, make the Irish different from the Italians, and that make both of those national groups different from Indians or Indonesians. While the right of cultural preservation may not be absolute, it is nevertheless derived from the same transcendent moral order that is the source of our other political and civil rights. Indeed, it is part of what makes it possible for human beings to participate in that order. As C.S. Lewis put it, "If justice is a superstition, then so is my duty to my country or my race." When Lewis said "race," he wasn't thinking of biological race in our contemporary, reductive sense of the word, but of the historic fact of the English people, as an extended family sharing a common descent and a common history.
In conclusion, whether we look to the Bible or to the American Founding tradition, we find that the dream of erecting a single, undifferentiated global society violates God's plan for humanity. And, as Genesis tells us, God punishes this universalist society by converting it into a Babel—that is, he destroys it.
The heart of our civilizational crisis
That the Christian churches have nevertheless urged this universalist project on the West leads us to a terrible paradox. On the one hand, Christianity is the historic and spiritual foundation of Western civilization and of the nations that have constituted it. On the other hand, much of organized Christianity as it actually exists today—Christianity infused with liberal One‑Worldism—is the avowed enemy of the West and its historic peoples. This One-World Christianity is a distortion of true Christianity, it is what Christianity has become under the influence of left-leftist ideology. A more sane and balanced Christianity is possible, which gives due regard to the subsidiary values of culture and nation.
An example of this healthier Christian attitude was the reverence that Pope John Paul II expressed toward the Polish nation during his epochal first papal visit to that country in 1979. During that extraordinary journey, which played a key role in the ultimate defeat of Soviet Communism, he spoke of Poland, not as a political and economic project or as an abstract idea, but as a distinct historical and spiritual entity, as a collective personality whose life has extended over centuries. Unfortunately, the Pope throughout the rest of his papacy gave such recognition only to his native Poland, and, apparently, only because Polish culture was struggling to survive under Communist oppression. When it came to the United States, he took the opposite tack. America as the Pope saw it (and indeed as American liberals and mainstream conservatives themselves see it) has no national culture of its own, but exists only as a charity service for the world (the left view) or as the generator of a global democratic-capitalist ideology (the neoconservative view).
Nevertheless, John Paul II's magnificent, if too narrowly applied, evocation of national culture as the vehicle through which a historical people express their relationship with God can be seen as the model for a restored, pro-Western Church. Liberal Christianity's denial of the identity and sovereignty of the historical Western peoples has led many Western patriots to be deeply suspicious of Christianity, even to reject it altogether, when what is most needed is a comprehensive renewal of the Christian faith, the religion which glorifies God and his truth, not man and his desires, and which provides a place under God for all peoples.
Lawrence Auster is the author of Erasing America: The Politics of the Borderless Nation. He offers a traditionalist conservative perspective at View from the Right.
1. Pope Pius X, E Supremi Apostolatus, 1903.
2. Abbé George de Nante, The Catholic Counter‑Reformation in the XXth Century, August 15, 1997, p. 10.
3."Fling Wide the Gates," The Christian Century, September 4, 1957, p. 1028.
4. David Simcox, "The Pope's Visit: Is Mass Immigration A Moral Imperative?" The Social Contract, Winter 1995‑96, p. 107.
5. Alfonso Figueroa Deck, S.J., quoted by Simcox.
6. George Weigel, "Why the New Isolations are Wrong," American Purpose, January 1992.
7. See Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History, 1953, p. 127.