“I have prayed for you,” said Jesus to the apostles on the night before he died, “that you would be several, even as the Father and I are two.” For the Son, we are told, sees what the Father does, and then goes and does something else. And Saint Paul praised the church at Corinth, hearing that there were divisions among them, while Saint Peter reminded his charges to be sure that there would be a diversity of faiths and baptisms, because after all each person constitutes his own church, and what is good for one might not be good for another. “Hear, O Israel,” says Moses, “the Lord your God is one, but he is not necessarily the one and only.”
“Go,” said the Lord to the prophet Hanniba’al, “and say to King Josiah: Thus says the Lord: I have seen your zeal in tearing down the groves and the booths and the high places, and pouring their refuse into the valley of Gehenna. You have done evil in my sight. What is it to me, if a father or mother should make a child pass through the fire to Moloch? What is it to me, O King of Judah, if the rich man should lie with the girl or the boy in the booths of Asherah?”
For the last three months I have been asking people at my college what the phrase cultural diversity means, if it does not mean “a diversity of cultures thriving all over the world” or “the study of a broad diversity of cultures spanning four millennia and four or five continents,” such as characterizes our besieged program in the Development of Western Civilization. I have bent my brows to solve a linguistic problem. What are we talking about?
We cannot be talking about culture, the thing itself. Why not? For one thing, those who talk all the time about cultural diversity are nominalist in ontology and relativist in epistemology; they do not care much to distinguish the good from the bad, the true from the false, and the beautiful from the ugly. Of course I speak in general terms, but it is still a shock to hear someone, as I have recently, in the same breath insist upon cultural diversity and then resist any attempt to define culture, saying that it means different things to different people, and there’s an end on it. No one who cares about human culture, or about any particular culture, could say such a thing. It is like saying that fidelity to your wife is of utmost importance, and that fidelity has no meaning beyond what you arbitrarily choose to assign to it.
Let us attempt to do what the diversitarians do not do. Let us try to make sense. Culture, says a Jewish rabbi writing for the Orthodox in 1929, is the manifestation of “the divine, in man and through man.” He proceeds to show us how the Jewish lad must allow the Torah to take root in his mind, to form his imagination, and to direct his passions, his thoughts, and his deeds. Now that is something I can understand: It is a definition. The rabbi would no more recommend “diversity” in the boy’s prayer and worship than he would recommend that a married man experiment with other women on the side.
Or we might turn to Josef Pieper, in Leisure: The Basis of Culture, and note that a genuine celebration without the gods is unknown in human experience, no matter how tenuous the association may have become. Pieper says that the holy day must be set aside for man’s enjoyment—not merely for physical relaxation so that one may more energetically strap oneself to the treadmill on Monday. This enjoyment, this celebration, is never to be subordinated to pragmatic aims; it is not for anything but itself. It is sanctified, like the space of the temple. Is something like that what the purveyors of “cultural diversity” intend—a proliferation of holy places and holy days, and a turn of the human mind away from economic or social or political work, and toward free worship and song?
The question answers itself. You cannot have a holy place unless you really believe that it is holy, hallowed by God or by one of His appointed ministers. But that is precisely what the diversitarian cannot do. Because he is committed neither to any one culture, nor to the survival of other cultures singularly themselves across the world, he is at best a tourist of the holy, in Rome with the Catholics and on the banks of the Ganges with the Hindus, but not really a part of any of them. At worst he demands that others adopt his indifference, or his hatred of the boundary-drawing force of religion and culture, and that must destroy the very sense of the holy itself.
If culture has not to do with the divine, or with the holy as set apart from utilitarian purposes, we might fall back upon the wisdom of the bittersweet moralist Matthew Arnold, for whom culture is “a pursuit of our total perfection by means of getting to know, on all the matters which most concern us, the best which has been thought and said in the world.” So were Methodists to be elevated by Anglicans with better taste in art, music, and poetry. Such trust in Christian culture apart from Christ would fall to pieces on the fields watered by the Marne and the Saone; nor is any such pursuit intended by the purveyors of “cultural diversity.”
Why do I say so? The pursuit of excellence leans by nature toward an aristocracy of fact if not in law. Someone brought up on Homer’s Odyssey is ready to encounter the Irish Tain Bo or the Finnish Kalevala, without having to accept any political nonsense about their being equally grand, if such a statement can have any meaning at all. I once met a young man who was learning Georgian, the national language of those hardy people living on the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains. When I asked him why, he replied that there was a great but unknown poet there whose work no one in the rest of the world knew, and he wanted to bring the man’s accomplishments to speakers of English. That was all there was to it. He had no political motives. He was himself not Georgian. Is that what the purveyors of diversity want?
If it is, then why do they so continually belittle the classical education that makes such an aim conceivable, and that produces people who could accomplish it? A lover of John Milton can understand the young man’s aspiration. The educational politician cannot, unless the poet’s work can be used for propaganda. That the poet should transform his readers in their pursuit of “total perfection”—that never occurs to the diversitarian, because he is loath to thinking in such aristocratic terms. Otherwise he would have to open himself up to the titanic greatness of a poem like Paradise Lost, rather than dismissing it as the product of a dead man with the wrong complexion. Beauty and political activism do not abide well together. Apollo does not sing about Title IX.
Diversitarians are not interested in the best—but what about ranging abroad in the world? If I browse my copy of six months of The Century, 1885, an all-purpose literary magazine, I see travelogues and geographical appreciations everywhere. Nothing human was alien to the readership of The Century. We go to the arctic coasts inhabited by the Chilcats in Alaska, to Florence and Siena and Pisa, to the summer haunts of artists in the Hudson Valley, to the great Yukon River, to Sussex and Warwickshire, to Indian reservations in the Oklahoma territory, to a hunting and sporting camp in the Thousand Islands, to the wilds of northern Borneo, to Afghanistan and the Khyber Pass, to the old American colonies, to Constantinople and the priest-scholar responsible for the newly discovered Didache, and to an Arctic expedition turned tragic in Smith Sound. These articles are such as would naturally interest people with a classical education, which was inevitably an education into cultures far different from theirs. Aeschylus is not Newman.
But if I browse the catalogue of my college’s Sociology Department, I see no such fascination with cultures. All of the courses focus on the present; cultures of the past have fallen into oblivion. I take as a typical example the description of a course called Sociology of Education:
The main objective is to determine who succeeds and who fails in school and beyond, and why. We study the effects of schooling with attention to cognitive and affective outcomes, the problems of providing equal educational opportunity, the determinants of educational attainment, the controversial issue of tracking, and the effects of non-school-related factors upon student achievement.
What is this “school” they are talking about? It isn’t the one-room schoolhouse of a century ago. It isn’t the Renaissance studio where the boy Michelangelo learned his craft. It isn’t the medieval guild. It isn’t the Greek gymnasion. One might think that a course called Sociology of Education would address what an education is and what it has to do with the human society where we find it—questions philosophical and cultural. Where, here, are the great writers about education and social life? Where are Ruskin, Newman, Plato, and Confucius? It is as if the entire history of man had collapsed into a couple of acres, with an ungainly North Nowhere High squatting upon it like a factory or a toad.
So, too, almost every one of the courses in the department. We might call them “Studies in Liberal Analysis and Political Action in the Current United States with Regard to X”—Urban Life, Women, the Family, and so forth. The courses have nothing to do with history or with culture properly speaking, yet their professors profess to be great proponents of “cultural diversity.”
What then can the phrase possibly mean? The department’s self-description gives us a clue:
The sociology department offers students the chance to examine the world through a sociological lens, which illuminates the connection between individual troubles and public issues. Through active learning and civic engagement, students are challenged to approach their world critically and to achieve a sharper understanding of how inequality, exclusion, and institutions impact both society at large and individual opportunities, experiences, and realities.
Set aside the barbarous prose and the tautology of the first sentence. Everything in that description is a problem—is something to despise, to hate, to wish to wipe off the face of the earth. There is no hint of gratitude for beauty or goodness. There is no sense that any human society must involve compromise. Students are apparently never to study other cultures in order to turn a critical eye upon their own liberal assumptions, particularly the assumption that equality is the sine qua non of human flourishing—a deeply dubious assumption, as any soldier, football player, head of a business, or honest teacher could tell you.
I teach Milton because I love Milton. They teach about “inequality, exclusion, and institutions” because they oppose those things: They are defined not by what they love but by what they hate. Since they have so little by way of cultural knowledge, the thing most available for their hatred is their caricature of the civilization they so relentlessly work upon: They hate what they think is the West. They do not want so much to read the Rig-Veda as not to read the Oresteia. The East or the South is valuable to them not in itself but in its not being Western. “Cultural diversity” does not then mean that you study Palestrina and Zulu polyphony. It means that you apply yourself to contemporary identity politics in the post-Christian and postcultural West, without understanding how thoroughly Western you are. You will listen neither to Palestrina nor to the Zulus, but to some “artist” in California who can be used as a political weapon.
So “diversity” means not that there should be a diversity of thriving cultures across the world, but that this civilization and what is left of American culture should pass away. Since people who want this show little sense of what a culture is, they are cavalier about what is to replace what they hate. That does not matter, nor does it matter whether their prescriptions here destroy cultures elsewhere to boot. Hence the attacks by global organizations against Christian African states whose people are wary of ingesting the viruses that have vitiated the cultures of the attackers.
Here we approach the heart of the problem. Suppose I note the obvious, that the collapse of the natural and God-ordained family in the West has visited grave harm upon the most vulnerable among us, particularly African-Americans. Suppose I then say that feminism has played its part in this collapse, just as the birth-control pill, also celebrated by feminists, has brought on a surge in the incidence of breast cancer. Will the purveyors of “diversity” reconsider their ideological commitments for the sake of millions whose lives are at stake? Will they spare visiting Sodom and Gomorrah upon that part of the world still relatively free of the infection?
Hardly. The watchword now is intersectionality, by which is implied an equivalence between one sort of attributed odium and another: between racism and the desire of every healthy father who ever breathed upon earth that his son might grow into manliness, attracted to women and attractive to them in turn. In other words, if you believe that boys ought to be guided firmly and gently into that natural manhood, to take wives and to beget children by them, and that anything that might derail them with unnatural temptations must be kept out of their sight, you might as well be hanging a racist sign on the water fountain.
After worship, the most determinative feature of any culture is how it comes to terms with sex: the facts of male and female, and their relations to each other and to their children. But the secular West now decrees: For the sake of “gender diversity” there shall be no boundaries, no definitions.
That is an all-eating acid. No culture can contain it.
Some permissions purport to broaden the field of human action but destroy the thing they work upon. I have called it the Nude Beach Principle. If you permit people at a beach to wear nothing at all, then that is eo ipso a nude beach, even if most people refuse the permission. It is now a wholly different place from what it was. It used to be a beach where decent parents could take their children. The permission destroys that. If the permission is extended to all beaches, the result is not more freedom, but far less: a homogeneity of moral nihilism as regards decency. Sexual “diversity” applies the Nude Beach Principle to every culture in the world. The result will be not cultural diversity but a fungal homogeneity, with culture reduced to a few superficialities of dress and cuisine.
Summing it up, then: To its most vocal proponents, “cultural diversity” implies a virtuous hatred of Western civilization, and the global spread of a secular Western ethic as regards sex, marriage, family, and the rearing and education of children. The result will be not diversity but dreary sameness; not jewels gleaming each in its particular character, but mud.
Now we may return to the teachings of Christ and the Church. Christian liberals say that “diversity,” so defined, is compatible with the faith. But it is not compatible with any decent pagan culture, let alone with Christianity. No pagan hates his own home, and the home for Christianity was the world wherein it pleased the Father to send the Son: the particular world of the Jewish faith amid the political and intellectual matrix of Greco-Roman antiquity. You may begin by hating Plato and Aristotle, Aeschylus and Sophocles, Virgil and Ovid, Origen and Augustine; you will end by hating Christ. Nor can any pagan accept the secular West’s sexual disintegration-by-design. To say that it does not matter how the next generation is brought into the world is to say that the future need have no connection with the past, and that is to say that there shall be no culture at all.
Demons can only parody the divine, and we have such a parody here. Jesus commanded the Apostles to go forth and “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” He did not command them to obliterate the nations. The Church has embraced, cleansed, and elevated cultures: They, though many, can become one in Christ. The secular West has lost any sense of the goodness of human nature and of gratitude to its Creator, but has not lost the universal mission of the Faith. The result is endlessly aggressive and never satisfied, like the rage of Milton’s Satan, which
like a devilish engine back recoiled
Upon himself; horror and doubt distract
His troubled thoughts, and from the bottom stir
The Hell within him, for within him Hell
He brings, and round about him, nor from Hell
One step no more than from himself can fly
By change of place.
Ah, but they don’t read Milton anymore, do they?