According to historian Arnold Toynbee, civilizations grow and survive by overcoming successive challenges, and break down when they fail to meet some new challenge. With regard to mass non-European immigration and its attendant problems of multiculturalism, Islamization, and globalism, America and other Western nations face a challenge unique in history: to save ourselves from open-borders chaos and cultural destruction without becoming, in our own eyes, "racist," "mean," "exclusivist," and "un‑Christian." This is a moral and intellectual dilemma that most contemporary Westerners—if we bother thinking about it at all—find paralyzing. Unable to solve it, we have opted for a state of active or passive surrender—a condition from which we are only intermittently stirred by shocking acts of violence such as the September 11 attack on America or the jihadist slaughter of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh.
In fact, the moral dilemma described above is illusory. It is based on the false premise, unique to Western and especially modern Western society, that to preserve one's own nation or culture is somehow to be unjust toward other nations and cultures. Whenever this sentiment has gained ascendancy, as under the influence of ancient Stoicism or of modern leftism, it has led men to believe that the only just social order is a world state, in which there is no Other because everyone belongs to the same society. The problem with this idea is that a world state can only exist by depriving individual nations of their right of self‑government, indeed of their existence, and by subjecting all mankind to the rule of a distant and unaccountable regime. Therefore, based on all our experience of politics and human nature, a world state could not be just either. Traditional Christianity resolved, or at least managed, this conflict between the particular and the universal by locating true universality in the City of God, while recognizing the limited but real value of distinct societies on earth.
But a moral tension that remains manageable so long as different peoples with their respective cultures are living in different societies, becomes insoluble when radically different peoples and cultures are living in the same society, especially if it is a democracy. If a democratic country has a large and culturally different immigrant minority, the native majority cannot readily announce that they are against the continuation of more immigration, because if they did so, the immigrant group, who are now the majority's fellow citizens, would feel that the natives regard them as undesirable. As civilized, democratic people, the native majority do not want to insult the immigrant minority, or to deny their equal humanity, or to create even the slightest appearance of doing those things. So instead they—meaning we—surrender to the situation, accept continued mass immigration, and allow their country to be steadily transformed by an ongoing influx of unassimilated peoples and incompatible cultures.
Our challenge—the Toynbean challenge we must meet if we are to save our civilization—is to understand that the moral assumptions that have led us into this paralysis are false, and to break free of them. But this is extraordinarily difficult for us to do, because these assumptions, which are liberal assumptions, have over the past century become closely bound up with the Christian religion, the spiritual core of Western culture and identity. To work our way out of the present crisis, therefore, it will be necessary to criticize certain aspects of modern Christianity. This may offend some readers, particularly Christian conservatives who have come to identify Christian belief with American political virtue itself.
The problem would be lessened if people understood that Christianity is not a governing ideology, and that it is distorted when seen as such. The path and goal of Christianity is life in Christ, not the organization of society according to any particular scheme. Over the last two thousand years, Christianity has been compatible with any number of political forms, ranging from the Roman empire to medieval feudalism to modern democracy, so long as they have been reasonably benign and compatible with a Christian life. And here lies the paradox: though Christian faith is the center of the West's historic being, it cannot by itself provide the enduring structure of Western society or of any other concrete society. As indicated by Jesus in his distinction between the things of Caesar and the things of God, religious faith must work in a proper balance with worldly concerns—among which are considerations of political power and of culture. The balance is delicate and many things can go wrong with the spiritual-secular partnership. For example, if the Christian community breaks free of the surrounding earthly society and ignores the ordinary dictates of political prudence, or if it becomes corrupted by bad ideas emanating from the society itself, such as those of modern liberalism, it can become destructive of the surrounding society and culture. It can easily spin off into utopian universalist notions, such as the open-borders ideology, that spell the death of any culture.
In the remainder of this article, we will first recount the process by which Christianity has become liberalized. Then we will look at the doctrines, particularly the "cult of man," that define this liberalized Christianity and help engender the cultural radicalism that so threatens our society. Finally we will consider the role this liberalized Christianity has played in advancing open immigration and one-worldism, especially through its literalist reading of the Scriptures.
When the liberal order was born in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it did not immediately appear, at least in America, as a social force hostile to religion. Far from attacking or banning religion, liberalism marked out a religiously neutral public space where religious conformity would not be demanded and a person's religion could not be used against him. The various Protestant denominations plus Catholicism and Judaism were tolerated, and a generic—and rather strict—Protestant morality was authoritative throughout the society. In his journey through America in the 1830s, Toqueville was deeply impressed at how in America, more than in any other country in history, religion and liberty worked in harmony.
But over the past two centuries, as the demand for individual freedom has become ever more insistent and far-reaching, the respect accorded religion and religious morality in American public life has steadily diminished, a process that has reached an extreme stage in recent years. Education, the arts, entertainment, architecture, public monuments, and many other areas of society in which religion was once honored or deferred to, or which were at least open to a religious sense of life, have become thoroughly secularized, as has the Christmas holiday itself. For the first time in American history, prominent individuals and established political movements, not to mention many movies and television programs, are openly atheistic and hostile to religion, seeking, in the name of liberal tolerance, to drive religion out of the public sphere altogether. Or, to be more precise, they seek to drive Christianity out of the public sphere, while welcoming non-Western religions such as Islam. The only Christianity tolerated by these left-liberals is a desiccated Christianity that keeps up the external forms and formulae of the faith but no longer adheres seriously to any Christian beliefs that are distinct from those of liberalism. Even conservative Christian leaders have given up the traditional idea of America as a basically Christian society and now subscribe to the liberal view of America as a level playing field where different beliefs, including non-Western beliefs, can strive for influence.
The effects of this leftward drift on the mainline Protestant churches and on significant parts of the American Catholic Church have been profound. No longer looking for the meaning of life in God and Christ, but in the celebration and achievement of human rights and equality,—or, rather, defining God and Christ in terms of human rights and equality—these liberal Christians tend to look at every issue through the lens of social justice, one‑worldism, and U.S. guilt, and are deeply committed to diversity, multiculturalism, and open borders. The liberal belief in the equal freedom of all human beings as the primary political and spiritual datum leads inexorably to the idea that our nation should open itself indiscriminately to all humanity. President Bush's proposal to give a green card to every person on earth who can underbid an American for a job is an example of this utopian attitude, and is plainly motivated, at least in part, by the liberal evangelicalism to which he subscribes.
The Church and the cult of man
In America, as we've said, a moderate liberalism that deferred to Christianity gradually became more secular and radical over time and brought much of the Church along with it. In Europe, by contrast, the left was in open rebellion against Christianity from the eighteenth century onward, seeking to create a new, materialistic society in which all human needs would be met without reference to anything higher than man. Catholic Popes thundered against these developments. Pope Pius X declared in 1903: "[W]ith unlimited boldness man has put himself in the place of God, exalting himself above all that is called God. He has ... made the world a temple in which he himself is to be adored ... "(1) The Church was fighting a losing battle, however. With the ever-advancing march of secularization and the seeming triumph of human technological power over nature, the belief in man's spiritual and material autonomy had become so well-established by the mid-twentieth century that the Church felt it had to adjust itself to these new developments instead of condemning them.
This momentous event was announced by Pope Paul VI in his closing speech at the Second Vatican Council, in December 1965. The Council, the Pope declared, had not been content to reflect on the relations that unite her to God.
[The Church] was also much concerned with man, with man as he really is today, with living man, with man totally taken up with himself, with man who not only makes himself the center of his own interests, but who dares to claim that he is the principle and [the] final cause of all reality. Man in his phenomenal totality ... presented himself, as it were, before the assembly of the Council Fathers.... The religion of God made man has come up against the religion—for there is such a one—of man who makes himself God. [Emphasis added.]
And how did the Council respond to this heretical specter of godless, secular man, of "man who makes himself God"? Far from condemning this monstrous falsehood and asserting the superior claims of the Christian faith, the Council, said the Pope,
was filled only with an endless sympathy. The discovery of human needs—and these are so much greater now that the son of the earth has made himself greater—absorbed the attention of the Synod.... [W]e also, we more than anyone else, have the cult of man...
A current of affection and admiration overflowed from the Council over the modern world of man ... [The Catholic religion] proclaims itself to be entirely in the service of man's well-being. The Catholic religion and life itself thus reaffirm their alliance, their convergence on a single human reality: the Catholic faith exists for humanity ... [Emphasis added.]
Thus, alongside God, the Church seemed to have added a second Lord, man, with everything ultimately focusing on man instead of God.(2) In so doing, the Church adopted the very heresy of modernism that Pope Pius X had warned against sixty years earlier.
Pope John Paul II, a twentieth century Christian humanist who is mistakenly believed by many to be a staunch traditionalist, fully subscribed to the Vatican II doctrine, having been one of its leading framers. In his first encyclical after becoming Pope in 1978, he declared that human nature has been permanently "divinized" by the advent of Christ—a startling departure from traditional Christian understandings of the distinction between God and man. He has repeatedly put man on a pedestal, as when he spoke of his "gratitude and joy at the incomparable dignity of man." While in keeping with the spirit of Vatican II, this extravagant praise of man is very far from the language we would expect to hear from traditional Catholics or Protestants, who adhere to the Augustinian belief in man's basic sinfulness and his continuing need for God's mercy.
Under the post-Vatican II Popes, including John Paul II, the cult of man has worked itself into the body and practice of the Church. In place of the Creed, which begins, "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth," a diocese in France sings a hymn that begins: "I believe in God who believes in Man." In another diocese, instead of the Creed a poem is read which begins:
I believe in me—son of an almighty Father,
creator with him of a more human world...
I believe in me because he believed in me ...
Equally important in lowering Christianity toward the human level are the radical liturgical changes that were initiated in the 1960s. In the traditional Eucharistic service, the priest faces away from the congregation, toward the altar, toward God, so that both congregants and priest are communing with God. In the New Mass, the priest faces the congregation as he consecrates the host and chews it in the sight of all. This democratization of the Liturgy of the Eucharist destroys its sacramental nature, turning it into a celebration of human, instead of divine, community. And, of course, in many Catholic and Protestant churches in the United States, folk songs, "singalongs," electronically amplified contemporary music, and other pop culture manifestations have replaced sacred music and liturgy.
Cultural radicalism and the cult of man
Some readers, especially those who are not religious, may wonder what all the fuss is about. Why is the cult of man a problem, they may ask. Why is it a bad thing to make humanity the ultimate focus of our religious as well as of our secular concerns? What harm does it do if we honor "man who makes himself god," and so free ourselves from the weight of the traditional, judgmental God hanging over us? My answer is that the cult of man is harmful because it does not (as it promises to do) ennoble human beings, but degrades them. It is, in fact, a principal source of the cultural radicalism that is dragging down our whole society and making it incapable of defend itself from evil and from enemies. Three aspects of this cultural radicalism are relevant here: moral liberationism, cultural egalitarianism, and the worship of the Other.
- Moral liberationism
From the traditional Christian perspective, God is our father, as well as the archetypal "father figure," the source and structuring principle of our existence. Other and lesser "father figures" include our country, our culture, our government and laws, even the laws of nature. These are the biological, cultural, and spiritual givens of our existence. They place limits on what we can be, even as they provide us with the very world in which we can live and realize ourselves. To put man in the place of God implies a rebellion, not just against God as traditionally understood, but against all "father figures" and the structuring order of reality that they represent. If there no reality higher than ourselves, then there is nothing preventing us from releasing our lowest tendencies.
Thus the humanistic distortion of religion is only one part of the picture I am describing. The rebellious cult of man may begin with the denial of God's supremacy, but it doesn't end there. It ends with the denial of all things higher than human desire—law, morality, culture, nation, and even nature itself.
- Cultural equality and the double standard
Another consequence of the cult of man is radical egalitarianism, particularly in the area of culture. If there is no truth higher than humanity, then there is no objective basis on which to determine the relative value of various human things. All human things—all cultures—must be of innately equal value. But if all cultures are of innately equal value, how then can we explain the persistently backward state of some cultures? At bottom, there is only one answer to that question: the backward cultures must have been artificially placed in their inferior situation by the better-off and more powerful cultures, namely our own.
Thus the denial of higher truth makes all things seem equal, which in turn requires an explanation for why things are not actually equal, which in turn leads to a belief in some all-pervading oppression to account for the actually existing inequalities—an oppression that is always blamed on the West, or America, or Christianity, or capitalism, or the white race, or white men, or the patriarchal family, or George Bush, or what have you. And the attack on the West does not end there. Since the less advanced condition of certain other peoples and cultures is our fault, we must, in order to raise them up, excuse them from normal standards while subjecting ourselves to the harshest standards. This is the leftist double standard, of which I've written about previously at FrontPage Magazine.
- Worship of the Other
Finally, and most dangerously, the cult of man leads us, not just to put down our own culture and sympathize inordinately with other cultures, but to worship other cultures. Again, we need to think about why this is so.
Central to Western culture, in both its Jewish-Christian and its Greco-Roman forms, is the experience of God or truth as transcendent, beyond the material, beyond man. A similar experience is central to other cultures. Man partakes of, and is perfected by, a truth whose source lies beyond himself. If we lose or reject this experience of transcendence and start to glorify human rights and human desires as our highest value (an attitude that the ancient Greeks would call hubris and that traditional Christians and Jews would call idolatry), we will still feel the need for the divine quality of "beyondness," but, since man has now become for us the highest value, we will inevitably begin to seek that quality in human beings.
But what quality do human beings have that can stand in for God's transcendence, his quality as beyond and wholly other? Simply this, that other human beings are other and different from us. If we combine this divinization of man (which is already harmful enough) with the liberal belief in the equal freedom of all persons, or, even worse, if we combine it with leftist notions of Western guilt and multicultural equality, then the more "Other" the others are,—that is, the more different, foreign, alien, incomprehensible, or even dangerous and evil they are—the more "transcendent" they will seem to us, and the more we will worship them. In the most extreme form of this attitude (though it is terribly common today), secular or Christian liberals laud a terrorist murderer like Yasser Arafat and cast a sacred glow around everything connected with Islam, while reviling conservative Christians as a monstrous threat, simply because Arafat and Islam are radically Other from America and therefore seem to stand beyond the suffocating confines of our radically secularized society.
To put this idea another way, as human beings we are free to deny God, but we are not free to do away with our need (because it is built into our nature) for something that is beyond us, that transcends us and provides the meaning of our existence. So, when people deny God, who is, as it were, the "vertical" transcendent, they start to look for a "horizontal" transcendent as a substitute. This horizontal transcendent is, pre-eminently, other people. Furthermore, as I said, since God is that which is most Other from ourselves, the more different other people are from us, the more they seem like God or fulfill the function of God in our psyches. Thus the worship of man devolves into the worship of other men, other cultures, other peoples, combined with a contempt for our own. This is the mystical cult of multiculturalism—the uncritical identification with the Other, whoever the Other may happen to be.
For Catholics, the ultimate authority for the idea of unconditional openness to foreigners is the pronouncements of Pope and the Church hierarchy. For liberal Protestants, it is the Bible, namely a literalist interpretation of certain scriptural passages. One of the most important of these is Jesus' parable of the Final Judgment in the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, when the Son of man comes and gathers all nations before him:
Then shall the king say to those who are on his right: Come, you who are the blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom which has been made ready for you from the beginning of the world. For I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.
When the just people ask when they did these things, he answers:
Truly I tell you, inasmuch as you have done it for any one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it for me.
As author and immigration reformer Roy Beck has pointed out, a literalist reading of this parable gives Protestants the idea that every prospective immigrant to America—indeed every needy person in the world—is, literally, Jesus. I myself have seen evangelicals who, on hearing arguments for reasonable immigration controls, replied: "Would you turn away Jesus if he was at the border?" The notion that everyone trying to get into America is Jesus obligates Christians on pain of hell to give every prospective immigrant what he wants, or rather to get the U.S. government and taxpayers to give him what he wants, even though the great majority of immigrants come here not because of persecution or misfortune but simply because they desire the greater opportunities (and the cornucopia of government benefits) available to them here.
The parable of Matthew 25, like other difficult passages in the Old and New Testaments, becomes grotesque if taken in a literal sense, without reference to the full context of meaning in which it appears. For example, Jesus is certainly not telling his disciples to help law-breakers, yet liberal Christians take his words as a command to harbor illegal aliens—and not just an occasional illegal alien, but an ongoing mass invasion of them. Jesus is also not telling his followers to use the government to advance their ends. The Gospels show the way to eternal life in God through Christ. The supreme commandment is love of God and neighbor. Such love is intrinsically a voluntary, individual act, or the act of a cohesive group of believers, as when, for example, a congregation votes to send money to fellow Christians who have been devastated by a natural disaster. But what today's liberal Christians find in the Gospels is a political platform. Instead of minding their own business and practicing charity to their neighbor, they want to use the power of the state to compel their fellow citizens to hand over their country to foreigners, foreign cultures, and foreign religions—including religions and cultures that seek the destruction of Christianity and the West.
Another of the liberals' favorite biblical passages is God's command in Leviticus 19 concerning the proper treatment of foreigners:
When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. But the stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
While liberals have often quoted this passage to provide support for an open borders policy, it has little to do with immigration. The text refers to one who "sojourns," meaning a temporary resident in the land, not an immigrant. It is telling us to treat such a stranger as a fellow human being, not to vex or persecute him. It is most decidedly not telling us to open our borders to a mass immigration of such strangers, so that they can change our society from what it is into something else. If you, taking a literalist approach, believe that it is telling us that, then you must also believe that Jesus' command, "Give to him who asks of you," means that we should instantly hand over our entire national product to leftist international organizations who are demanding the global equalization of wealth and income.
But what about that command—which we can't get away from—to "love the stranger as yourself"? The main Gospel authority concerning love of others is the passage in Matthew where Jesus, asked what is the greatest commandment, quotes two verses from the Torah: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matt 22:37-39.) The key to understanding this teaching is that love of God comes first. It is the love of God that disciplines us toward the good and restrains our self-aggrandizing impulses, including the impulse to display conspicuous compassion for others. An unconditional love of neighbor apart from love of God would lead us to mad acts of do-gooderism or self-sacrifice.
To this, a liberal literalist might say that since the first commandment is to love God with our whole heart, soul, and mind; and since the second commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves; and since the second command is "like the first," therefore we're supposed to love our neighbor just as we're supposed to love God—unconditionally, with our whole heart, soul, and mind. In reality, Jesus tells his followers to love the neighbor as one loves oneself, not as one loves God. It would be an absurdity to say that God wants us to love ourselves unconditionally, with our whole heart, soul, and mind. Therefore we are not to love our neighbor that way either. We are commanded to love and follow God, and once we do that, we will feel and behave rightly toward ourselves and our neighbor as well.
Ironically, the very words, "you shall love him as yourself," which liberals take as commanding unconditional love for the Other, back up my narrower interpretation. Since it is only possible, at best, to love one person or a few people as one loves oneself, not an entire populace or the entire human race, the passage must be referring to a voluntary, personal relationship, not to some politically coerced process of national self-sacrifice.
Furthermore, as the Bible states over and over, God wants mankind to exist in separate nations. Deuteronomy 32:8 says: "When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of men, he fixed the bounds of the peoples ..." Acts 17:26-27 says that God sets "boundaries of their habitation" for every nation of mankind. The Old Testament is filled with admonitions to the Israelites to make distinctions between themselves and strangers. The most extreme instance is in the book of Ezra, Chapters 10 and 11, where the Jews are commanded to disown their non-Jewish wives and children in order to preserve the ethnic purity of the Jewish people (which if they hadn't done, by the way, the Jewish people would have gone out of existence, and there would have been no Jewish people for Jesus to be born into, and there would have been no Christianity). When so much in the Bible counsels national and ethnic exclusiveness, it is dishonest to take isolated scriptural passages as a mandate for open borders.
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