Throughout most of history there was little if any sense of moral obligation to those outside of one’s tribe, however that term is defined. The priest and the Levite felt not a twinge of guilt about passing by the traveler who had been left half dead along the road from Jerusalem to Jericho after being attacked by robbers.
It was Christianity that brought charity to the ancient world, an action that so impressed ordinary people that Julian the Apostate’s effort to replace Jesus with Jupiter ended in failure. That is why Indian writer Mari Thekaekara wrote in The Guardian in 2016 that she was unable to join in the criticism of Mother Teresa because “I cannot in conscience criticize a woman who picked people off filthy pavements to allow them to die in dignity. To my knowledge, there’s still no one else doing that.”
Creating a sense of moral obligation to outsiders is one of Christianity’s singular achievements. But the full genius of historical Christianity was shown by its ability to do this without falling into a suicidal universalism. Historically, Christians understood that while they had duties to outsiders, their principal duties were to those closest to them. No sane person would trust a mother who claimed to love all the children in the world as much as she loves her own. Nor should anyone trust a politician who claims to love all the people of the world as much as he loves his own.
These distinctions have dominated the ongoing controversy over Stephen Wolfe’s book, The Case for Christian Nationalism. Wolfe has been savagely criticized by his fellow Protestants for reminding them that universalism untethered from historic Christianity is suicidal, and for having the effrontery of citing this quote from Sam Francis:
Tribal behavior is what makes human beings human. Take it away from “man” or “humankind” and what you get is not “pure man” or “liberated man” but dehumanization and, from that, tyranny.
If Europe and the United States were simply to let in everyone who wanted to come, as the Biden administration is more or less doing along the United States’ open southern border, both places would soon be populated primarily by recent arrivals from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The United States and Europe would thus be completely unrecognizable to the great geniuses who made Western civilization the envy of the world, as well as the generations of ordinary Europeans and Americans who naturally imbibed what those geniuses created.
America can, and indeed should, take in small numbers of genuine refugees from all over the world, but we simply cannot keep on taking in millions of ordinary economic migrants year after year, ad infinitum, and retain any semblance of being a nation.
Yet that is precisely the course urged by our leaders, both temporal and spiritual.
Those leaders know that the globalization that has enriched them has costs, and those costs have fallen disproportionately on working-class whites throughout the West. They do not seem to mind. To add psychological insult to economic injury, all whites are now deemed to possess an unmerited “white privilege” that no non-white enjoys. Thus do residents of West Virginia hollows get counted among the “oppressors” while occupants of multimillion-dollar homes in Silicon Valley join the ranks of the “oppressed.”
These abstractions became concrete last week when I had a nonimmigrant driver take me to a specialized medical appointment. Chuck was perhaps 10 years younger than me and he described a personal downward economic spiral that is not uncommon in his native city of Lorain, Ohio—a city whose residents used to pour steel and build ships, but who now spend their time on lottery tickets and drugs. The policies that devastated Lorain and the many other places like it would never have been put in place if American politicians still knew that their primary responsibility was the welfare of their fellow Americans, not the global economy.
We talked about genealogy, and Chuck hoped to find out where precisely in Europe his family had come from. That was the same desire that sparked my own interest in genealogy. But there was nothing Chuck, who was Scots-Irish on one side and German Protestant on the other, was going to find that would impress the powers that be, even though it was people like Chuck who created America out of wilderness. I know from my brief forays in politics that no one of importance in America cares a bit about Chuck and the millions like him.
It is certainly not through a Christian love of one’s neighbor that Chuck is treated as he is by this country’s elites. It’s “The Great Betrayal,” as Pat Buchanan put it in his 1998 book. Or, in even simpler terms, treason.