Fatal Attraction: The Church and Multiculturalism

As any number of observers have pointed out, multiculturalism is the Trojan Horse by which militant Islam entered the West.  The spread of the more extreme manifestations of Islam only became possible when the West capitulated to the doctrine that assimilation to Western values was no longer desirable and criticism of Islamic practices no longer permissible.

A comprehensive new study in the UK shows one of the consequences of embracing the otherness of the “other” without qualification. Easy Meat:  Multiculturalism, Islam, and Child Sex Slavery reveals that for more than two decades Muslim gangs in England and Wales have been grooming and sexually exploiting British children on a large scale.  According to one estimate, at least 10,000 girls, most of them between the ages of 11 and 16, are kept as virtual sex slaves by the gangs at any one time.  The study is unusual for explicitly and emphatically blaming the doctrine of multiculturalism for enabling the growth and spread of the crime wave:

Because the predators were Muslims, the agencies responsible for child-protection have almost entirely failed in their job to protect vulnerable children.  From a fear of being called ‘racist’, police forces across the country have buried the evidence … Political correctness would be used to make sure that people did not speak about this phenomenon, enabling the perpetrators free rein to sexually abuse school girls for decades.

In view of the actual and potential destructive effects of non-assimilation, it’s more than a little disconcerting that the Catholic Church seems to have unofficially adopted much of the multicultural agenda—particularly in respect to immigration.  American and European bishops have, on the whole, taken a very welcoming stance toward immigration, and, in general, they have put the emphasis on the duty to welcome the stranger, rather than on any duty the stranger may have to assimilate. Moreover, two popes have singled out Muslims for particular attention.  In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis said that “Christians should embrace with affection and respect Muslim immigrants.” Francis also called on Muslim countries to respect and uphold the rights of Christians, hoping that his goodwill toward Muslims in Europe will be reciprocated by leaders of Islamic nations toward persecuted Christian minorities. Furthermore, Pope Benedict, who initially opposed Turkey’s inclusion in the European Union on the grounds that Turkish culture was incompatible with Europe’s Christian culture, eventually reversed his position and became a supporter of Turkey’s entry into the EU—perhaps to avoid reprisals against Turkish Christians. (Indeed, every time Benedict called on Muslims to respect reason or behave in a civilized manner toward their Christian neighbors, protests soon followed.)

But, as Geert Wilders, a member of the Dutch Parliament has pointed out, while Turkey can be a “good neighbor” to Europe, it would not be wise to make it “a member of the family.”

If the 72.5 million Turks join the EU, Turkey will be the second most populous EU state after Germany and will probably be the most populous by 2020.  Turkey will then have the most seats in the European Parliament and will profoundly influence the EU’s agenda from within, including through the new flood of Turkish immigration that EU membership will make possible. (Marked for Death, p. 173)

It would be nice to think that Turkish immigrants would assimilate, but there are a couple of reasons to think that they won’t—one being that they have not on the whole done so, and the other being that European and Turkish elites don’t believe in assimilation.  As Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan told a crowd of twenty thousand Turkish immigrants in Cologne in 2008, “assimilation is a crime against humanity.”

There are a number of good reasons why the Church ought to rethink the multicultural program.  The primary reason is that multiculturalism is a form of relativism. It’s based on the belief that all cultures and religions are of equal value and, for that matter, that all values are of equal value.  If that’s so, then societies shouldn’t endorse one set of values over another.  Most Catholic authorities can see the problem with this position in regard to sexual ethics in the West, but are often reluctant to criticize relativism when it comes clothed in a dashiki or a burqa.  While Church leaders have no difficulty in rejecting the notion that same-sex marriage is equal to heterosexual marriage, they are more hesitant about raising their voices against practices that fall under the multicultural shield of protection, such as the killing of apostates or the stoning of adulterers.

The relativistic nature of multiculturalism ought to give Catholics pause before they sign on to its agenda.  Another reason to be suspicious is that multiculturalism is rooted in Romantic notions about human nature, and Romanticism usually entails a rejection of the doctrine of original sin.  Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who was the first to fully develop the Romantic theory, held that we are born not in original sin but in original innocence. The bad that we see in people, said Rousseau, results not from a sinful nature but from the corrupting influence of civilization. We need only contemplate the innate wisdom and goodness of children to see the beauty of our nature before it becomes warped by social conventions. Consequently, Rousseau hypothesized that people who lived closer to the state of nature (i.e. “uncivilized” people) were more naturally virtuous and noble.  In the early twentieth century, the celebration of the noble savage was taken up in earnest by cultural anthropologists such as Franz Boaz and Margaret Mead.  Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa popularized the idea of cultural relativism and is widely considered to be one of the major catalysts for the sexual revolution in the sixties.  In it, Mead painted what might be called a “blue lagoon” picture of primitive society—that is, a place where people live in harmony with one another and have guilt-free sex under the palm trees.

A major implication of the noble savage philosophy is that people in less advanced cultures are superior to people in Western cultures because they have been less subject to the corrupting forces of civilization.  Thus, in any conflict between cultures, cultural relativists tend to automatically side with Third World cultures.  For example, the pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli stance of many Western elites has more to do with the Third World status of the Palestinians than with the actual merits of their case against Israel.  Likewise, the inability of Western elites to require or even request assimilation on the part of Third World immigrants stems from the guilty feeling that their culture, by merit of its more primitive nature, is superior to our own tradition.

The French call this attitude nostalgie de la boue or “yearning for the mud.”  Primitive societies may be a little muddier than Paris or London, but they are envied by some for being more natural and more fun.  Nostalgia for the mud is a yearning for the pure state of nature where one can supposedly follow one’s impulses without guilt and—theoretically, at least—without repercussions.  After all, in an unfallen world, what’s the harm in having a little fun?

In practice, however, the mixing of vastly different cultures without regard to any common, higher allegiance and without any acknowledgment of man’s sinful nature is a recipe for disaster.  For example, Marseille, which is touted as one of the most multicultural cities in Europe, is also ranked as the most dangerous city on the Continent.  Muslims, who make up 30 to 40 percent of the population, have divided the city into no-go zones that have fallen under the control of gangsters and drug dealers.  Last year, in an attempt to restore some order, the French government dispatched 250 riot police to reinforce the usual deployment of 3,000.  Yet, despite the high rate of violent crime, Marseille is variously described in media reports as “a vibrant Mediterranean melting pot,” “a stubbornly glorious melting pot of seediness and sun,” and “a rich, vibrant, colorful city which many hope can become an example of how multiculturalism can work.”  The journalists who write such nonsense can probably afford to stay in $300-a-night hotels a safe distance from the no-go-zones, so it’s unlikely that too much reality will enter into the no-go-zones of their own hermetically sealed minds.  People who live a little closer to the zones likely have a much better idea of “how multiculturalism can work” when it’s set up as an end in itself.

The Romantic dismissal of original sin is at the root of many contemporary problems.  The belief in natural goodness provided much of the justification for the sexual revolution.  The same belief now provides fuel for the equally pernicious multicultural revolution.  If you don’t believe in original sin, then it’s easier to believe that you can have mass immigration of people from disparate cultures into vastly different cultures and that, somehow, it will all work out for the best.  It’s understandable that secular utopians have fallen for this fantasy.  Why Catholics believe it will work is more of a mystery.

Editor’s note: The image above is a photo of the funeral mass of Bishop Luigi Padovese, Vicar Apostolic of Anatolia, Turkey, who was assassinated by his driver in 2010.

William Kilpatrick

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William Kilpatrick taught for many years at Boston College. He is the author of several books about cultural and religious issues, including Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong; and Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Catholic World Report, National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Saint Austin Review, Investor’s Business Daily, and First Things. His work is supported in part by the Shillman Foundation. For more on his work and writings, visit his website, turningpointproject.com

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