In Hungary last October, U.S. diplomat André Goodfriend noted that Americans’ “right to express their views would be protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” Making clear that his sympathies lay not with U.S. citizens arrested in Budapest but with the Hungarian officials who had arrested them, he hastily added, “We’re glad to see that the government of Hungary shares our concerns that messages that a group like this promotes are abhorrent.”
The group in question was not an affiliate of Pussy Riot, which may rest assured of Western governments’ protection whenever it desecrates Orthodox and Catholic churches in Russia or France. The target of Hungarian President Viktor Orban’s ire was the National Policy Institute, a Colorado-based right-wing think tank. With assistance from Hungary’s conservative Jobbik Party, NPI had organized “The Future of Europe”—a conference dealing with the effects of uncontrolled Third World immigration upon European cultures and peoples.
Urged on by leftist watchdog organizations, Orban’s government declared the event racist and had NPI’s Budapest hotel reservations canceled. Unwilling to face the political heat, Jobbik withdrew support. Police took into custody NPI president Richard Spencer, who was then deported. Using social media, the remaining attendees arranged for a clandestine rendezvous and went ahead with the conference. The dust having settled, NPI can thank the Hungarian government for free publicity and a starring role in a David versus Goliath melodrama: The BBC compared the atmosphere of the NPI meeting to that “of a 1980’s, communist-era protest meeting,” while Jamie Kirchik of The Daily Beast proclaimed that he “may loathe what Richard Spencer has to say,” but he “will defend, unequivocally, his right to say it.”
Whatever U.S. ambassadors and cliché-ridden journalists say usually points directly away from the truth. The problem here is hardly that the Hungarian government violated any mythical freedom of speech. (It is, after all, very much a sovereign government’s business as to who enters its territory, and why.) Rather, the point is that the messages most abhorrent to any decent, sane person are those promoted by Western governments, which damn as racist the desire to keep Europe somewhat European. Insofar as NPI and its identitarian allies object to the liberal goal of dissolving all national identities in the ideological acid of diversity, they are entirely in the right.
Yet the case resists Manichaean treatment. Spencer is a Nietzschean, and has long made clear his conviction that the survival of the West demands that Christian influences upon it be either marginalized or subverted. Nor are such sentiments unusual for what is sometimes called the New Right. Another prominent speaker slated for the Budapest conference was Croatian intellectual Tomislav Sunic, who has speculated with enthusiasm about Christianity’s eventual disappearance from the scene:
Who knows, with the death of communism, with the exhaustion of liberalism, with the visible depletion of the congregations in churches and synagogues, we may be witnessing the dawn of neopaganism, a new blossoming of old cultures, a return to the roots that are directly tied to our ancient European precursors. Who can dispute the fact that Athens was the homeland of Europeans before Jerusalem became their frequently painful edifice?
Neopagans regard the deracinated liberal as the ultimate Christian, and from this conclude that Christianity is the true enemy of Western man. Those who recognize Athens’ complementarity with Jerusalem should never forget the assumptions driving Spencer’s project. Naive overemphasis on common ground has in the past led to the appropriation of Christian universities by deconstructionist perverts, and of the conservative movement by Straussians.
The analogy between neopaganism and leftist movements works another way, too. Whenever spirited men perceive injustice, they flock to the camp promising to battle it—and scorn those who toady to power. Whence came communism’s power and appeal? In part, from industrialists’ shamelessness. People outraged by wrongs done to themselves or others saw in Marx a beacon of hope. Likewise, neopaganism appeals to those who find revolting the injustices of egalitarian multiculturalism, a regime too often treated as sacrosanct by Southern Baptist theologians and Catholic pundits alike. To check neopaganism’s spread, we must emphasize that the Christian tradition does indeed transcend political correctness.
Consider C.S. Lewis, whose Abolition of Man is justly famous for lucidly articulating the idea of natural law—the “Tao.” In a key passage, Lewis warns of the ideologue who would obsess about one facet of the truth at the expense of all others:
What purport to be new systems or (as they now call them) “ideologies” all consist of fragments from the Tao itself arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to the Tao and to it alone such validity as they possess. If my duty to my parents is a superstition, then so is my duty to posterity. If justice is a superstition, then so is my duty to my country or my race. If the pursuit of scientific knowledge is a real value, then so is conjugal fidelity. The rebellion of new ideologies against the Tao is a rebellion of the branches against the tree: if the rebels could succeed they would find that they had destroyed themselves.
Nowhere does Lewis say that my duty to my country or my nation actually is a superstition. To the contrary, he asserts that “a duty to our own kin” is very much “a part of traditional morality.” What “respectable” Lewis boosters carefully ignore, time and again, is that the passage implies that every obligation of natural law demands recognition. The myriad elements of the Tao stand or fall together. With all due respect to neopagan theorist Alain de Benoist, there really is a human nature, which is precisely how we can know that the leveling of ethnic and national identities via globalism is monstrous.
Why do few intelligent people take seriously the p.c. “family-values” conservatism that has appropriated Lewis as its corporate mascot? Because there is no argument against “irrational” loyalty to nation, tribe, or clan that cannot be effortlessly redirected against “irrational” loyalty to the nuclear family itself. More than one of my Philosophy 101 students have denounced Antigone, and rightly so, given liberal premises: Didn’t Antigone discriminate on behalf of her fallen brother, while ignoring the corpses of all those poor foreigners lying outside the walls of Thebes? And doesn’t basic justice refute Confucianism’s claim that one owes special honor to one’s parents, since we should treat a person not according to his relationship with us but according to the content of his character? Whatever problems they have from growing up in a botched society, these kids could teach Robert George a thing or two about intellectual consistency.
The Catholic intelligentsia has less excuse than anyone for promoting the subversion of real nations, as Pope Pius XII makes clear in On the Unity of Human Society:
The Church of Christ, the faithful depository of the teaching of Divine Wisdom, cannot and does not think of deprecating or disdaining the particular characteristics which each people, with jealous and intelligible pride, cherishes and retains as a precious heritage. . . . The Church hails with joy and follows with her maternal blessing every method of guidance and care which aims at a wise and orderly evolution of particular forces and tendencies having their origin in the individual character of each race, provided that they are not opposed to the duties incumbent on men from their unity of origin and common destiny.
Nor does St. Thomas Aquinas conform to 21st-century progressive sensibilities regarding kith, kin, patria:
Man is debtor chiefly to his parents and his country, after God. Wherefore just as it belongs to religion to give worship to God, so does it belong to piety, in the second place, to give worship to one’s parents and one’s country. The worship due to our parents includes the worship given to all our kindred, since our kinsfolk are those who descend from the same parents.
Elsewhere, Saint Thomas explains that prohibitions against consanguineous marriage should not be extended too far, because it was found that with excessive exogamy “charity waxed cold in many hearts so that they had scarcely a greater bond of friendship with their more remote kindred than with strangers.”
Each society has its characteristic flaws. Modern America’s error is encapsulated by the mechanistic ideology masking itself as antiracism. This ideology accords no moral significance to close or extended familial ties and logically suggests transhumanist fantasies of turning away from organic life altogether. Perhaps the most bitter irony of our time lies in the fact that celebrity apologists who purport to defend an incarnational religion have joined the chorus of those who deny the importance of flesh and blood. The bloodless creed such gurus peddle is a cold, ineffectual abstraction, one which the great Christian teachers of yesteryear would find alien.
If we are serious about combating the neopagan temptation, we need to remember our ancestors—spiritual as well as biological.