Sunday, January 08, 2006

Who Are We?

Sam Huntington is one of our foremost public intellectuals. His latest work, "Who Are We?" is a well-researched and generally insightful work. Additionally, Huntington has made it respectable within academia to oppose mass immigration.

Huntington’s primary thesis in “Who Are We” is that the United States has an Anglo-Protestant core culture, a controversial statement in and of itself. Huntington posits that American "identity" is threatened by other national identities, sub-national identities, globalization, and the multicult idol.

All true enough. But in the preface Huntington writes, "This is, let me make clear, an argument for the importance of Anglo-Protestant culture, not for the importance of Anglo-Protestant people. I believe one of the greatest achievements, perhaps the greatest achievement, of America is the extent to which it has eliminated racial and ethnic components that were historically central to its identity and has become a multiethnic, multiracial society in which individuals are to be judged on their merits. That has happened, I believe, because of the commitment of successive generations of Americans have had to the Anglo-Protestant culture and the Creed of the founding settlers. If that commitment is sustained, America will still be America long after the WASPish descendants of its founders have become a small and uninflutential minority."

These comments raise a number of questions.  First, how is it possible to maintain an "Anglo-Protestant" culture, without Anglo-Protestant people? Clearly, the Anglo-Protestant culture described by Huntington did not spring from the ground or appear magically out of the air, but developed from a people. Second, can a secular "creed" really be the basis of a nation? Can it replace a people?

Others have made a case similar to Huntington.  Renowned liberal scholar Nathan Glazer, arguing that we are all multiculturalsists now, says, "The United States is unique among the great nations of the world in the degree to which it refuses to define itself in ethnic or religious or national terms, as our basic founding documents make clear."

Libertarian Tom Lehman, from the Foundation for American Education, similarly argues that "the American traditions of limited government and free market economics are not based upon ethnic or racial origins. They are based upon ideas. Western cultures cannot suppose themselves to have a monopoly on the philosophy of liberty, nor can Americans argue that the political values of the limited state cannot be inculcated in non-American immigrants. The ideas of freedom that have created the American tradition can apply to any ethnic or racial make-up."

Is it really possible to have a nation that isn’t defined "in ethnic or religious or national terms" but is merely an ideological construct? Did the American understanding of limited government, ordered liberty, and free market economics spring from the mind of Adam Smith like so much manna from heaven? Are we, as Ben Wattenburg says, "The First Universal Nation?" Can one even speak of a "universal nation?"

Well, first, we have to define the characteristics of nationhood. Writing in The Federalist, John Jay emphasized ethnic  and religious unity as the source of American strength, giving thanks that, "Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people, a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, without which a common and free government would be impossible."

Political scientist Francis Lieber offered a definition similar to Jay:
"The word 'nation' in the fullest adaptation of the term, means, in modern times, a numerous and homogeneous population, permanently inhabiting and cultivating a coherent territory, with a well-defined geographic outline, and a name of its own—the inhabitants speaking their own language, having their own literature and common institutions, which distinguish them clearly from other and similar groups of people, being citizens or subjects of a unitary government, however subdivided it may be, and having an organic unity with one another as well as being conscious of a common destiny."
Anthony Smith identified six criteria for the formation of the ethnic group, or nation, as:
1. A collective identity.
2. A common ancestry.
3. Shared myths and common historical memories.
4. An attachment to a specific territory.
5. A shared culture based on common language, religion, traditions, customs, laws, architecture, institutions etc.
6. An awareness of ethnicity.
Using these various definitions it is possible to characterize elements that define a nation. A nation has a homogeneous population with a common identity; occupies a contiguous territory; speaks the same language; has a common religion, literature, manners, customs, literature, and mythology; is governed by the same principles and traditions; and is conscious of common destiny and solidarity. In short, it is an ethno-cultural entity.

As a Christian, however, Scripture must define my view of nationhood. And it is clear from Genesis to Revelation that division and nationality are part of God’s plan even though we are all descended from Adam and share a common sinful and depraved nature.

God’s revelation recorded in Genesis 11 demonstrates that the desire for a total oneness of humanity stems from pride and rebellion. In verse 4, man attempts to build a city and tower to "make a name for ourselves." Genesis 11:5-8 provides God’s response: "And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.’ So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth."

So it was God who "confuse[d] their language" and "dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth." But Babel is being rebuilt today by New Agers, eco-freaks, globalists, and mushy one-worlders--including many who claim to follow Christ. Such Christians adopt a Unitarian anthropology and spout half-truths such as, "There is only one race--the human race."

They are correct to a point, for Luke writes that God "made from one man every nation of mankind" (Acts 17:26). Likewise, Paul says that our justification and our reconciliation with God is independent of ethnicity and is a "gift of God" because of Christ’s atoning death at Calvary and those "baptized into Christ have put on Christ" and in Jesus, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28). Finally we see a picture of worship in heaven that includes "a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands" (Rev. 7:9).

Nevertheless, Scripture affirms division as well as unity. Deuteronomy 32:8 says, "When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples." Also, reading farther in Acts 17:26-27, one finds that God "determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their (the nation's) dwelling place, that they should seek God."

So there is unity and diversity in God’s good creation. Biblical analogies are not hard to find. The Trinity, to take one example, shows us that God is one and many—unity and diversity. If humans are created in His image shouldn’t we expect mankind to demonstrate elements of the one-many dichotomy? Likewise, the primary New Testament metaphor for the church is a family. We are one in Christ, and yet we are distinct. Though there is one body, there are many members, with different functions and identities (I Cor. 12:14-31). In marriage, a man and woman become one flesh, yet Scripture is abundantly clear that there are distinct, different functional duties for husbands and wives. Finally, Jesus Himself was a unitary being and yet fulfilled three functions—prophet, priest, and king.

Nations or ethnic groups are not merely arbitrary human creations or social constructs, but divinely ordained entities that reflect the good purpose and glory of God.

Having established the principle of division, do the various characteristics of nationhood discussed earlier have a Biblical basis? From the accounts in Genesis 10 and 11, it would seem clear that language and connection to land are indeed elements of Biblical nationhood. The passages in Deuteronomy and Acts referenced above appear to endorse ethnicity as a component of nationhood as well. Luke writes that God "fixed the borders of the peoples" and the word translated "nation" in Acts 17 is the Greek word "ethnos," the source of the English word ethnicity. Finally, a common religion provides for a framework or blueprint for legal codes and penal sanctions, customs, and principles of government.

Moreover, contrary to multicultural faddishness, God does not regard all nations and their cultures as equal. The Hebrews were the apple of God’s eye and Israel was to be a light to the nations and, through Jesus Christ, bring redemption to the ends of the earth.

Yet Christians have swallowed Enlightenment presuppositions and become functional egalitarians. But egalitarianism is heresy, for it denies the very principle of order itself and attempts to arrange creation on its own terms. Equality thus becomes a philosophical and religious faith that demands the fidelity of every individual and institution.  As importantly, radical equality is simply a manifestation of envy. Its root is in Satan’s rebellion against God, and those who seek to diminish excellence and achievement, thus reducing the glory of God, replicate the sin.

Do the universalist implications of Christian soteriology demand egalitarianism and forbid the believer from making any distinctions? To paraphrase Paul, "May it never be!" Paul says that we have particular obligations, for example, to our natural families (I Tim. 5:8) that supersede other duties. Likewise, Paul said he would willingly be cursed by Christ if it could bring salvation to his ethnic kinsmen (Rom. 9:1-3). Such examples could multiplied, suffice to say that while Christians must endorse the universal sinfulness of man and need for a savior that in no way implies a radical egalitarianism in personal and social relationships.

Huntington is correct that there has been a steady decline in ethnic identity in the United States, particularly among whites. The sentiment has largely been shaped by our elites. Running to secure the GOP nomination in 2000, George Bush welcomed the coming demise of European influence in the United States. Mr. Bush said:
"America has one national creed, but many accents. We are now one of the largest Spanish-speaking nations in the world. We're a major source of Latin music, journalism, and culture. Just go to Miami, or San Antonio, Los Angeles, Chicago, or West New York, New Jersey... and close your eyes and listen. You could just as easily be in Santo Domingo or Santiago, or San Miguel de Allende. For years our nation has debated this change - some have praised it and others have resented it. By nominating me, my party has made a choice to welcome the new America."
Bush's predecessor likewise embraced the coming demographic revolution. Bill Clinton said, "We want to become a multiracial, multiethnic society. This will arguably be the third great revolution .... to prove that we literally can live without ... having a dominant European culture."

Shortly after these comments, Clinton headed west to exult in the fact that California's white folks were soon to lose their majority status: "Within the next three years here in California, no single race or ethnic group will make up a majority of the state's population. ... A half century from now, there will be no majority race in America."

The shift in the origins of the U. S. population is indeed significant. In 1950, 90% of Americans were of European descent. By 2000, it was impossible to speak of a typical American. Last month, Texas became the fourth state with a non-white majority population, joining California, New Mexico, and Hawaii. Five other states have populations that are 40% or more non-white.

As with ethnic homogeneity, religious unity is beginning to wane as well. According to the American Religious Identity Survey, "The proportion of the [American] population that can be classified as Christian has declined from 86% in 1990 to 77% in 2001." Meanwhile, the number of Protestants dipped from 63 percent of the national population in 1993 to 52 percent in 2002, while the number of professing secularists skyrocketed to 14% of the population.

Polytheism, under the guise of religious tolerance, is the new American religion. The interfaith service at the National Cathedral after the September 11 attack is one such example. The worship was self-consciously polytheistic. The only “god” being worshiped was the civil deity known as America.

As Doug Wilson pointed out, even the diversity of the American marketplace has an implicit unitarian god—the cash box. Wilson writes:
"This also reveals why the theological currents within the Church have been running the way they have throughout the course of the last century. Despite all Her problems, the Church in America is still a thriving force in our public life. It is therefore important to do something that will prepare our nation’s millions of Christians for their assigned role in the empire. That “something” is to neutralize the Faith by making it just one more item in the yard sale. What is the unifying principle behind our current theological battles? What do openness theology, seeker-sensitive worship, and dumb evangelical T-shirts all have in common? All of them represent a shift from the worship of Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords, to Jesus, competitor for market share. Modern evangelicals want the shoppers to buy Jesus instead of the old lampshade, and they do not care who runs the cash box."
Lacking religious and ethnic homogeneity, what happens when the cash box runs dry, when the coming economic retrenchment hits like a ton of bricks? What will hold everything together? Force. Rushdoony writes, "From Alexander the Great to the present, the world of polytheism has no means of a common truth and order except by imperialistic conquest. In such a world, neither order nor meaning have a universal sway; hence, force tries to bind those factors which are held to lack the cohesiveness of truth and a common Creator."

Polytheism and multiculturalism lead, as night follows day, to statism. As Americans syncretize race, culture, and religion, we became imperialists and collectivists. Even a liberal like John Stuart Mill knew that free institutions are "next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities." The inevitable result is a bureaucratic order governed by social engineers. States with diverse populations require authoritarian governments as the only alternative to anarchy.

Political elites naturally welcome increased diversity as a justification for further meddling in the lives of citizens. The management of racial, ethnic, and religious strife is bread and butter for the State.

Conversely, a social order constructed on a foundation of broad ethnic and religious unity provides a framework for trust, fraternity, and security.


Blogger Lawrence said...

Very good article! This is so important.


9:16 AM  
Anonymous mskee said...


I'll need to read it a few more times.

I'm not sure about using Israel as an example, since it was not a typical nation.

However, yes, the church is being marginalized and absorbed into paganism.

This is a good time to mention professor Jones's book, "Capturing the Pagan Mind."
The first half chronicles the pagan takeover of the church around the time of Rome.

The second half is a study of Paul's methods of evangelism in this very type of culture.

It was helpful in giving a Christian strategy/response to this phenomenon, and encouraging in that finally a reformed scholar took a look at all of this and then applied the Scriptures.

And another thing: how will God respond this time, as the tower of Babel incident is repeated on a world-wide scale?


1:38 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Lawrence and Mark,

Thanks for the kind remarks. In truth, I think the essay leads to more questions than it actually answers and it may be easy to read more into it than is actually intended. In truth, I'm looking for a rational discussion about issues where reasoned discourse appears to be virtually impossible.

8:26 PM  

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