“Love thy neighbor” is the common refrain of many Christians who call for open borders, and though their motivations may be honest, their arguments are marked by a palpable ignorance of Christ’s words. In their eagerness to love all immigrants, they forget about the circumstances in which they live and neglect their next-door neighbor.
This last fall, there was an article written in Commonweal magazine by several prominent Christian academics and priests entitled “Against the New Nationalism.” In this letter, the authors called for all Christians to reject nationalism and invoked the parable of the Good Samaritan; they wrote, “created in the image and likeness of God, all human beings are our neighbors regardless of citizenship status.” Later, in an America magazine article, two of the authors, David Albertson and Jason Blakely, argued that multiculturalism is the truly Christian form of society, and that “ethnonationalism,” which draws “boundary line(s)… in biological, cultural or religious terms,” runs contrary to the Christian faith.
Albertson, Blakely, and all the authors of “Against the New Nationalism” champion this view of society that is best described as Christian multiculturalism. While they, along with many other Christians, claim that their faith is at the root of their political convictions, after slashing through the jungle of eager activism and SJW catchphrases it becomes clear that the foundation of their arguments is not Christian virtue, but instead a corporal, secular view of the Church.
The first reasonable question to ask these impassioned activists is, “Who is thy neighbor?” “Everyone is!” they respond, and while their answer is admirably laconic, it lacks a level of understanding that would be preferable.
Trite phrases often are entirely too broad, and while imagining everyone as one’s neighbor may be nice to think about, it ignores the particularity of human nature—that human beings have individual circumstances that make them who they are and limit their abilities. There is this misconstrued idea formulated by the Albertsons and the Blakelys of the world that they must break free from their particular cultural and political bonds (i.e., “boundary line(s) drawn in biological, cultural…terms”) in order to be one with their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. And this quite simply is an overextension of the human condition; it ignores the basic truth that people must prioritize whom they love.
The word “neighbor” denotes proximity, and it implies a bond between two people that excludes others. Most often a person’s neighbor is someone who shares his street, and the closer they are the more of a neighbor they become. The word is fundamentally selective and admits of degrees, and when Our Lord uses it in Scripture concerning how we ought to love, He is showing that our love inherently must be ordered to people according to how proximate they are to us.
This is something that in our day-to-day lives is rather obvious. As human beings we have a closer bond to our family members and love them more deeply than, for instance, the homeless man at the food bank. This is not seen as un-Christian, but rather the opposite. The primary way we learn to love that homeless man is through our love of our family; we come to see him as a brother in Christ.
Just as our bond of blood and upbringing gives us a deeper love of our family, so, too, the bonds of culture, language, laws, and common land should give us a deeper love for our fellow countrymen. This is due to human nature; we have a finite comprehension and can only love what we know. In The City of God, Saint Augustine says, “First of all, then, [a Christian’s] care will be for his own people, for, by the order of nature or of human society itself, he obviously has a readier and more immediate opportunity to care for them.”
Christ showed through the parable of the Good Samaritan that our neighbor may be someone we may not expect, and that life’s circumstances may bring us closer to anybody. But this does not mean we should jeopardize the safety of the people who are already our neighbors for the sake of someone who may be our neighbor eventually. God has given us particular political and cultural bonds, and to reject these bonds as “exclusive” and “intolerant” is to deny His Providence. We ought to desire Heaven for all men, but the way our love manifests itself daily must be proportionate to our relations with people. Only through our love of our countrymen can we learn to love the immigrant and the foreigner.
Christian multiculturalists, nevertheless, spurn proximity. They mask their contempt with a noble desire to help those in need, but their scorn is exposed when they sanctimoniously label cultural loyalty as “xenophobic.” They neglect their Christian duty to first love those who are truly proximate to them, and instead take to Facebook and Twitter where they spend their time “loving” an ethereal and superficial concept of their neighbor. It might seem that Christian multiculturalists’ fault lies in being too magnanimous, aiming for a love that is beyond human nature, but in fact it is because of their pusillanimous view of the Church.
In “Against the New Nationalism,” the authors state that “the Church cannot be itself unless filled with disciples ‘from all nations’.” Nationalism, they say, creates walls and establishes cultural barriers between the members of Christ’s Church; it has the power to “narrow the Church to a single ethnos.” Hidden in this statement is an assumption as to which realm the Church belongs to. In order to see nationalism, a political ideology, as a threat to the universality of the Church, they must see the Church itself as fundamentally political: the Church is not truly herself unless all her members are united through bills, visas, and rights of sanctuary.
In The City of God, Saint Augustine says, “For the city of the saints is on high, even though it brings forth citizens here below, in whom it is on pilgrimage until the time of its kingdom arrives.” Of the city’s first citizen, Abel, he writes, “[he was] by grace a pilgrim below and by grace a citizen above.” According to Saint Augustine and all Christian tradition, the members of the Church are sojourning in a foreign land, seeking the path to eternal glory in the next life. What binds them together is not the laws of this world, but the grace of God, and while they live this life as the Church militant, they will seek to do God’s will through prayer and worship. Christ is the exemplar of the pilgrim, helping those around Him through miracles and teaching, but always turning His thoughts towards the Father and His final end.
Christian multiculturalists, however, are steeped in the world of politics, and they drag their concept of the Church down with them, saturating its moral dictates in a soup of secularist ideologies. While the Church prepares us for peace and unity in Heaven, multiculturalism instead tries to achieve total unity on earth and in earthly ways. When the devil tempts Christ in the desert, he tempts Him with earthly power, and this is a temptation that the Church must always fight against. The authors of “Against the New Nationalism” have succumbed to this temptation. Instead of looking for unity among the faithful through grace, they seek to unify all people culturally and politically, subjugating their faith to their political ideologies. It is their sordid view of the Church that adulterates their understanding of the command “love thy neighbor.”
They may truly be regarded as disciples of progressivism rather than of Christ. Saint Paul pleaded for his “brethren according to the flesh” (Romans 9:1-5), and Christ wept for Jerusalem, the city of His people (Luke, 19:42-4), but Christian multiculturalists are upset that they should even have a city, or a culture, that they could call their own. They want an indiscriminate unity among all people, a full recognition of Marx’s “species being,” and a perfection in this life achieved through Hegel’s world spirit.
This is not to say that the authors of “Against the New Nationalism” are malicious, or that they are consciously subjugating the Church to the political progressive view. But, objectively, they are espousing views that are unequivocally unchristian. Superficially, they propose an all-inclusive love for mankind, but, in reality, they degrade the Church, and their devotion to their “neighbor” is spread thin through the world of Facebook posts and hashtag campaigns.
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