Good Fences, Shared Bounty
Can it ever be wise to separate compassion, reasonable limits and common sense?
If you have seen the movie Syriana you will have gotten a glimpse of the fears, greed and fanaticism which, often enough, make many peoples both in the West and the Middle East more than a little uneasy of each other. Everyone is afraid of the loaded Trojan Horse slipping into the City in the form of exotic gifts.
This Trojan Horse fear in the West, while not entirely irrational given historical and geopolitical realities, is also grounded in our own angst about certain ill-defined notions like “freedom” and “democracy”. We are afraid that people who do not think like us will use precisely these democratic principles to grow in number in order to jockey for positions of power within the borders.
Europe and the Contraceptive Mentality
In the West today we face a crisis of identity and thought. But do we really think much at all anymore? Or have we surrendered thought itself to the pleasure principle which is infesting us and eating away our very souls? Chesterton said we must “rethink our way back to thought”. Indeed. If we in the West do not return to a moral conception of the dignity of the human person who, unlike mere animals, is capable of saying “No!” to his unruly impulses and passions, then we may certainly end as prey for more disciplined rulers.
In the West the contraceptive mentality, after 50 or more years, is bearing its bitter fruit, and many look around and wonder who will be ruling Europe in a hundred or so years (and, indeed, who is increasingly running it now). And while the West may have [mere] military superiority even for a long time to come, it is in the realms of spiritual depths and thought that battles are really won or lost. The WASPS under the influence of men like John D. Rockefeller saw Catholic thought and influence in America as a threat to their own power, so instead of dialog and political compromise they pushed eugenics, population control, the Pill and abortion. But now the old WASP elites, having fallen with us into the contraceptive ditch which they dug with their own hands, have largely in consequence ceded power to others, mainly to media moguls in New York and Los Angeles. Both media and banking interests are for the moment out of Christian control and decadence reigns across the West.
If the only thing that matters to us now is the pleasure principle, the almighty Self, and if we are morally unconcerned about the future of our fewer and fewer children, then the future may be in for a seismic shift indeed. It happened to ancient Rome, as there is no end of telling, and it can certainly happen to us. We need to return to the spiritual and economic foundations that can sustain a culture worthy of the dignity of human beings made in the image and likeness of God. If we Christians contracept ourselves into minority status, it is only natural that others, alien to the European Christian tradition, will maneuver and compete to fill the breach. It’s what we are woefully living through today.
Birds of a Feather
Having said that, it is not wrong for birds of a feather to want to flock together, and, at the same time, to reserve a measured and reasonable sacred space of hospitality, regardless of race or creed, for the truly persecuted and weak of other nations who have been rejected by their own peoples or circumstances. In fact it is natural and wise. This is not the same, however, as simply and thoughtlessly inviting everyone, regardless of world views, to come and compensate for our contraception on utopian grounds.
When myopia and utopia combine, trouble looms. Alas, even in the Church today there are not a few who have lost sight of this age-old common sense Catholic tradition. The constant drumming of corporate media propaganda is doubtless largely responsible for this. But wisdom looks to the likely consequences of political positions. Those who shun this common sense risk being responsible for much suffering and conflict.
Borders: Good Fences, Shared Bounty
Love believes in good fences as well as shared pastures. Peoples who do not think alike can still care for one another across different secured borders. We do this by, as St. Thomas defined love, “willing the good of the other”. Peoples who do not think alike and who could not likely live well together can still share much to the benefit of all: their goods through trade, education exchanges (both academic & in the trades), the best and most non-offensive parts of their respective cultures. They can help one another lovingly in times of disasters, natural or otherwise. They can work in concerted efforts to save our beautiful and very wounded earth—especially our precious water supplies and forests and other open spaces, and without dislocating the poor through draconian population control measures.
We can invite the sick to our hospitals for healing so the infirm can return to their own countries whole and with kind thoughts for the “foreigner” who, like the Good Samaritan in the Gospel, tended their wounds as brothers and sisters.
We can share scientific and artistic accomplishments and open our countries to tourism. The works of mercy know no borders, even if political realities must. Borders should never be absolute walls, or provocations, but merely a realistic recognition of very serious difference. As I wrote years ago elsewhere,
“Clearly, from a Catholic Christian point of view, hospitality toward “strangers” (of whatever race or religion) is a duty of charity. And any kind of arbitrary discrimination based solely on race or ethnicity is incompatible with the Catholic Faith. For we are all God’s children in Adam, whatever our race or ethnicity, even before we are adopted into that greater Community of the redeemed through baptism into Christ. We must especially be solicitous for the poor, the sick, the weak and heavy laden.
All of this is the only serious long term and moral solution to the problem of hostility to the West.
“But some liberals and secular humanist globalists have coined the term Xenophobia as a ruse to go beyond merely showing love to the “stranger” in his time of need, and would make it, rather, an all inclusive mandate for a purely naturalistic world order, amounting to the abolishing or blurring of the natural sovereignty of nations (not to be confused with extreme, exaggerated forms of nationalism) toward an artificial and socially constructed homogenization of all peoples according to —one must say it—antichristic values (rejection of the Natural Law, lethal definitions of “compassion,” as in abortion and euthanasia, etc). This is unacceptable to the Catholic mind.”
Putting Aside Utopian Schemes Without Loss of Love
All of this can be done without naive utopian dreams of mixing world views and beliefs which simply do not mix at the end of the day. It is not a sin to be soberly realistic in this regard. Most Muslims or Hindus, for instance, feel more comfortable in lands where Muslim and Hindu belief is honored as the law of the land. Look also at Israel.
We must choose an imperfect peace today over no future at all. And in the West, the thought of both Jerusalem and Athens seeks its own, regardless of the denominations which share these general values, each in their own way.
The American model with its sometimes naive (sometimes vicious) conceptions of multi-culturalism (whereas once, hardly long ago, America was peacefully multi-ethnic!) is itself showing grave signs of strain, as witness Messrs Bush’s and Obama’s national “war on terrorism”.
While some of us argue that Mexicans and other Latin Americans could more easily be welcome across our borders (within measured and reasonable limits) since these generally share the same Christian world view Americans traditionally have, Islam is a far more complicated matter. This is evident especially relative to our understanding of religion, church, and state. The differences are much wider between Christianity and Islam than on first appearance, despite the Abrahamic connection .
See Caesar Chavez represented a dying breed: A once-principled pro-working class, pro-border Left
In any case the West must recover its spiritual moorings and not allow naive or mischievous Utopian schemes to breed conflict and division. The pleasure and profit-for-profits-sake principles have not served us well, but have rather served to weaken our collective spiritual and philosophical immune systems, and exposed us to many potentially lethal ills. And it does little good for the souls of those who are invited here by the Corporatocracy who seek to create a new permanently exploited underclass of docile laborers as it distributes more and more Birth Control and abortion to one and all.
And all of this is to say nothing of illegal Drug Running, the #1 form of terrorism in this nation which kills many, many thousands every year and destroys many more thousands of lives decade after decade. It makes no sense to complain of terrorism threats or cross-border Drug Running operations while advocating a practically borderless nation.
We must recover our souls, put our clothes back on in defiance of the hedonist moguls who weakens us and our families, and—critically important—welcome babies into our hearts and homes again—this is our very future. It may be hard medicine, but when the patient is very seriously ill, it is precisely what the divine Physician orders. Realism is not the enemy of charity. Good fences make good neighbors it is wisely said.
 Consider the difference between Christianity’s exaltation of love, even for one’s enemy in principle, its emphasis on reconciliation, etc., in contrast to Islam’s exaltation of honor as one example, and what the latter has meant for far too many Islamic women across the globe, or families entangled in blood feuds etc. One might also reference unacceptable infringements—as we in the West see it—relative to the Western tradition regarding personal liberty, e.g., the severe penalty in Islam for changing one’s religion, differences in marriage laws, traditional attitudes towards women-booty in war, amputations, etc., in Sharia law, etc., etc.
One has no choice but to respect Islam’s right to differ with Christian views on such matters without desiring that they incubate them within our own borders and traditions. Such radically different understandings are best respected across borders in the interest of the peace of all, Christian, Jew, and Muslim, even as dialogue, hopefully, advances. Radical differences in worldview, history shows, can breed dire crises within a nation. To urge this temptation in the interests of dreamy Utopian schemes is neither wise or loving.
The Good Samaritan: Christians and Muslims
”But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came across a wounded man; and when he saw him, he took pity on him”.
It is a parable of Our Lord, Jesus of Nazareth, which is instructive in so many ways. When the despised Samaritan saw the wounded man who had fallen into the hands of robbers, he “took pity” on him.
This is at the heart of our religion. The Samaritan did not quiz the man theologically, nor consider ancient quarrels. He simply saw wounded humanity before him and was moved with pity for a brother in grave distress. When we lose this capacity for pity we lose the heart of our humanity and put our religion to shame.
Christians and Muslims, if we are to get along, even across reasonable and necessary borders, must see one another through the prism of this parable. Empathy reflects the presence of the divine in the human heart, reaching beyond strict justice.
The Samaritans were despised among the Jews along with the tax collectors and prostitutes. The Jewish religious authorities made certain that these would be excluded from all fellowship and even eternal life. But when Jesus appeared on the scene, He revealed God’s true heart for all mankind. He was not ashamed to transcend earlier traditions. As is noted,
“He touched lepers, even though they were considered unclean.
He talked to the Samaritan woman, which was considered illegal.
He passed through Samaria, even though everyone else went around.
He made companions of tax collectors and sinners, even though they were hated and despised.
“Jesus, by the look in His eye and the tone of His voice, gave every man and woman hope. Those who had been looked down upon previously, when they heard the words of Jesus, were suddenly transformed and knew that they had been accepted by God. The attitude of Jesus toward sinners and the forgiveness that He offered was a treasure that could only be found by those who had truly realized that they were in desperate need of salvation.” —Bible History Online, http://www.bible-history.com/
N.B. It is true that birds of a feather naturally flock best together. But in the final analysis it is most important that people think alike in terms of basic morals and traditional values than look alike(*). People should love their own races and tribes—God made us many wonderful colors— but always without prejudice to other races and good nations. The universalism of Christ and the particularity of nations were never seen as opposites throughout Christian history. Cooperation and peacemaking between truly sovereign nations is also a moral imperative whenever possible. To desire and foster conditions under which all will prosper.
Birds of a feather flock best together. Let Israel be a model. Jews around the world for their own protection and to preserve their Jewish identity founded the modern nation of Israel after World War II. Who can blame them? It is the same with Islamic nations and with all peoples. It is only natural that nations and peoples determine to preserve their own unique identity while cooperating with other peoples for the good of all. Catholic bishops lay down principles concerning compassion to the strangers of good will amongst us and this is only right, but in the final analysis it is the people who forge their own nations by ties of tradition and values, and this is the way it will always be.
The Irish writer, John Waters, writes in First Things,
“I can understand a certain opening of boundaries so as to improve economic exchange. But the libertarian liberal ideology is nonsense. Europe is dying of this selfish delirium.
“Cardinal Sarah’s elucidation of Church teaching on mass migration appears to align with that found in Aquinas and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In his Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas discusses the Israelites’ laws regarding foreigners. He divides relationships between natives and outsiders into two categories: hostile and peaceful. On the first he was unambiguous: Hostile outsiders—those belonging to tribes or nations opposed to the culture and creed of the Jews—should never be welcomed. The Jews, he declared, did not admit visitors from all nations equally, since peoples closer to them were more quickly integrated into the population than those from farther away.
“Regarding peaceful relationships, Aquinas identified three categories of “strangers”: 1) Travelers (in today’s parlance, tourists); 2) Those who “came to dwell in their land as newcomers” but without full citizenship, like part-time resident aliens who come for work or other purposes; 3) Those seeking full admission to the nation, who, having pledged their allegiance to it, were required to wait for two to three generations before being regarded as fully integrated. The reason for this, he made clear, was that if foreigners were allowed to “meddle” in the affairs of a nation soon after arrival, “many dangers might occur, since the foreigners not yet having the common good firmly at heart might attempt something hurtful to the people.” For Aquinas, total integration into the creed, life, culture, traditions, and language was essential for full acceptance of the “stranger.” In other words, the “stranger” bore the greater part of the burden for ensuring that he ceased to be such.
“In this, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is ad idem with Aquinas, placing equal emphasis on “welcoming the stranger” and the responsibility of governments to protect their own citizens. Countries are obliged “to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin.” But a nation is not required to accept numbers of migrants likely to impose an excessive burden on its own citizens—and migrants themselves have responsibilities to their host nations.
“The Catechism also states that political authorities, for the sake of the common good, may make immigration subject to various juridical conditions, “especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption.” Immigrants are obliged to respect “with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.” The Catechism also emphasizes the primacy of subsidiarity, which implies that loyalty to the nation is superior to loyalty to a global ethic.” — On Loving Thy Neighbor, First Things, March 2020
(*) Racism The Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it: ‘Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design’ (CCC 1935).”
“The development of peoples depends, above all, on a recognition that the human race is a single family working together in true communion, not simply a group of subjects who happen to live side by side (Benedict XVI, Caritas in Vertitate, par. 53).”
— March 7, “UK rejects opening borders to Ukraine war refugees’. (This is wrong).