Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Jun/11

5

Multiculturalism: Christianity (partly) to Blame?

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Getting to grips with the pathologies of multiculturalism is no easy task, but here from the Wall Street Journal is retired (center-right) Dutch politician Frits Bolkenstein having a go. This, in particular, caught my eye:

The other foundation of our current masochism is, ironically, the very Christianity that modern generations have been so eager to cast off. Whether we like it or not, our civilization remains deeply marked by Christianity. Consider the Gospel of Saint Matthew, which states that “whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (23:12). Friedrich Nietzsche characterized this as “slave morality.” But one does not have to go that far to realize that this saying, along with instructions to “turn the other cheek” and “go the extra mile,” do not exactly prod people to stick up for their own.

If Islamic civilization may be described as a shame culture, Christianity is a guilt culture. Listen to Bach’s “Passion According to Saint Matthew.” The chorus—that is to say the people—sings, “I shall be punished for what you [Christ] have suffered,” and, “You are no sinner, like we and our children.” Pride joined guilt and we in Europe soon came to believe that the mote in our eye was heavier than the beam abroad.

This would not be a problem if the burden of a bad conscience came with atonement, forgiveness, confession, expiation or any of the other theological or liturgical forms for purging guilt from the sinner. Formerly, Catholicism and Lutheranism provided for the atonement of guilt. But these traditions no longer have credibility in Europe. Feelings of guilt are not sublimated. This also goes for Calvinism, which in its purest form knows no remission of guilt in this life. Its effects have been deep in Europe and outlast the doctrine.

Thus in 1996 the Dutch government declared that its “debate about multiculturalism must be conducted on the principle that cultures are of equal merit.” And so it has gone, for years.

A stretch, I feel, but intriguing…

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5 comments

  • Frederick Santal · June 5, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    Multiculturalism is one of the great false idols of our era. It’s original name is the myth of the noble savage. Or worship of the noble savage. This false idol gives leftists expiation for their inherent guilt. The noble savage can do no wrong. If he burns down their neighborhoods they don’t complain.

  • John · June 6, 2011 at 2:01 am

    I find this to be believable. One important thing about Christianity (and Islam) is that it is universal. Anyone can decide to be a Christian. The monotheism means that there are not superior and inferior gods for different groups of people. One God rules all. This a a large part of the reason why Christianity (and Islam) have been so successful. They are not particularly tribal, so the religion has expanded to include many groups of people.

    If you ask people like George W Bush why he is in favor of lots of Hispanic immigration, one of the reasons whould be that Hispanics are Christian. The Catholic activists who help people cross the border illegally feel the same way.

  • Tom Piatak · June 6, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Bolkenstein’s argument is not against Christainity, but against its decline. When Christianity, in his words, had “credibility” in Europe, guilt was treated appropriately. Now that Christianity no longer has “credibility” in Western Europe, the faux religion of multiculturalism has arisen to replace it.

  • NGPM · June 6, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    For a center-right politician to be arguing that Christianity is the de-virilizing force of Western Civilization is ironic, considering that it was the center-right, the Christian Democrats, who disarmed the monarchist Catholic right wing in many European countries. These are the people who encouraged and abetted the rapid effeminization of Christianity in the early twentieth century to be more appealing to leftist voters.

  • paine · June 8, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    I’m an atheist independent who usually has voted liberal mainly because of the spooks and demons that religious conservatives have crazy-glued onto politics. That was ramped way up with the Reagan election and has gotten worse and worse.

    Interesting piece, thanks very much. It misses an essential point. Multiculturalism was never a grass roots endeavor. It was always a policy agenda, inflicted top down. It comes from the kind of people whom the late Molly Ivins liked to call Methodist Church Ladies (there’s that Christian connection, though not all of them were Methodist, churched, or ladies/women).

    In my experience, multiculturalism occupies the same structural place in the primate psyche that racism, etc., used to: the creation and inflicting of cultural and clan rules for power and profit.

    I was raised in freethought and encouraged (by my Republican father) to come to my own conclusions about all that. It has turned out to be a marvelous inoculation against all forms of nonsense, particularly religions posing as social policy. This inflicts all parties, all “sides.” The only safeguard against it is true liberalism of thought, and that means Reason willing to follow an argument to its best rational and compassionate conclusions. By compassionate I don’t necessarily mean something squishy.

    Frits Bolkenstein is no doubt watching the Geert Wilders affair very closely, and has no doubt read the marvelous Paul Berman on liberal guilt, and Pascal Bruckner on western masochism.

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