Home/Daniel Larison/Multiculturalism: Abandoning and Denying Our Own

Multiculturalism: Abandoning and Denying Our Own

Multiculturalism is “an abandonment and denial of that which is one’s own,” and, for Americans of European descent, Christianity is at the center of what is being abandoned and disavowed. Despite President Bush’s profession of faith, his administration is, like the America it represents, at best post-Christian, and perhaps anti-Christian. With Christianity on the retreat in Europe and in America, it is no surprise that insurgent Islam is once again on the rise. If Americans truly believed in the Faith of their fathers, how likely is it that there would be an Islamic school in Rockford or an Islamic academy near Mount Vernon? The presence of these foreign elements is as much an indication of a failure of nerve on the part of Christians as is the mosque that has been erected in Rome. Until we abandon and deny the multiculturalism of our postmodern world, until we rise above our pathological self-hatred and return to the certainties of tradition and kinship and soil and memory, our faith will never match theirs in its intensity, and the Dar al Harb will, gradually but inexorably, be absorbed into the Dar al Islam. ~Scott P. Richert

Mr. Richert’s article is one of many fine pieces of commentary from the truly excellent October issue of Chronicles (and I don’t just say that because it happens to include my first published article). His specific and focused attack on multiculturalism and its practical consequences is far more telling and compelling than my rather general response to Patrick West’s little pamphlet on the same subject. Here he has described some of the consequences of the moral insanity and the cultural death-wish of Westerners who either actively turn upon their own traditions or permit renegades and newcomers to dethrone their traditional authorities.

I would observe that if Westerners have lost the Faith of their fathers it is no small part because they long since neglected the Fathers of the Church for their instruction in the Faith. Obviously, that is inevitably less true for Orthodox and Catholics, but especially for American Christians there is a dearth of knowledge of patristics. The abandonment of the study of Greek and Latin, which became effectively universal in all institutions of higher education (to say nothing of secondary schools) 40 years ago, is instrumental in the loss of our inheritance, both classical and patristic.

When I first took a serious interest in Byzantine history, I was soon embarrassed at my own lack of necessary language training, a good part of which has now been remedied. However, I am acutely aware that my knowledge even of Greek is spotty compared to someone in my position a generation ago–I am doubtful that I would have been accepted with my qualifications into a similar graduate program in my grandfather’s time. But it brought home to me just how incomplete my prior education was–and I cannot say that I went to anything but serious and fairly rigorous schools–and how cut off I was from most of my own history. What was worse was that none of my teachers ever gave me any reason to think that I was missing out on anything by neglecting the study of these languages. That this was possible in generally well regarded schools is a measure of how far we have all fallen.

If the dead, the living and the unborn are bound up together in profound obligations to one another, how can we fulfill those obligations if we cannot read or understand many of the things that were accessible and meaningful to our ancestors? How do we honour their ways unless we embrace the same true teachings that they embraced? The idea of Progress, as modern man understands it, is that of fleeing from the origin, from the home, from that which is one’s own towards something always “new,” but something which is always unsatisfying and which compels the progressive to go farther on down the road. Unlike the sweep of salvation history, which is the only true progressive narrative in existence, the lie of Progress does not offer an end, cannot offer perfection or fulfillment, because it premises our perfection on our own self-improvement (measured by increasing alienation from our own past and identity), which is doomed to fail. Our Whigs are little better than runaway teenagers on the road, going they know not where, but they have managed to drag many of us along in tow without our fully realising it. Rather than following the Heir to the Vineyard, we have walked in the paths of the Prodigal and called it wisdom.

Short of awaiting the translation of the full patristic corpus, which is still a long way off, there is nothing for it but for each of us to learn the classical languages of our civilisation if we are to have any hope of restoring the things that are lost. Perdita restaurans: this from an old Latin Nativity hymn from pre-Norman England, referring to the renewing effects of the Incarnation of the Logos. That phrase evokes the central inspiration of our Faith and the civilisation that it has inspired, which is God’s self-emptying redemption of man and the world, and it captures what should be our foremost goal in remedying the madness of this civilisation of ours bent on self-destruction.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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