Lawrence Auster understood the link between liberalism and the seemingly irrational waves of sympathy towards third world peoples which seems to overwhelm so many Europeans today.
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.
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.
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.
This is the reason why the leadership and higher class people in the West are so difficult to reach through appeals to reason. Progressives worship foreign people regardless of who those people are — it’s their foreignness that makes them holy and worthy of service. It’s not about these particular groups of people, but about the worship of the other. The foreigners seem like God in the minds of the progressives, so to criticize them is to blaspheme against the Godlike imprint in their minds.
Faith in the ability of rational argumentation to move minds is radically misplaced when it’s applied to the masses in a mass political system. It’s insane to think that this new wave of religious belief can be suppressed with logical appeals, because the enthusiasm is illogical and immune to rational persuasion. It would be comforting if there was a rationalistic evil conspiratorial agenda behind it, because then you’d at least be dealing with sane but evil people who might be persuaded out of their political positions.
So, it’s wrong to think that this is a rational debate problem to be resolved with charts, statistics, and rhetoric. It’s a wave of heretical madness type of problem, which requires different methods to contain.