“You only have I known among all the families of the earth.”
The early chapters of the Bible present two major stories of judgment: the Deluge and the Tower of Babel. The first, the story of the dramatic “liquidation” of the vast majority of the human race, has no parallel in recorded history, although pessimists speculate that man may try to outdo the biblical flood by launching a general thermonuclear war, or that the AIDS virus could get completely out of control and write Finis to human history. The events portrayed in the story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) were far less destructive than the flood, and they too have no recent historical parallel.
At Babel no one died. The background, as Genesis describes it, was humanity’s pride or hubris as men sought to create a perfect environment, insulated from the threat of divine judgment. God’s judgment in this case was mild, but effective: The confusion of tongues rendered cooperation among the builders impossible, and they dispersed to the far corners of the earth, leaving their proud tower unfinished.
The lessons that we can draw from this story are two: first, that it is very dangerous for man to boast to himself of his own capacity and to treat his projects as though they were achievements; second, that confusion of communications can ruin otherwise sound projects and make their collapse inevitable. We in the United States and North American society in general have boasted far too much to ourselves and to others of what we can do with our own capacity. We are soon going to be faced with the experience of what happens to a society when it can no longer communicate by a common language and tradition. Unlike Babel, we do not need an exasperated deity to do it to us; we are in the process of doing it to ourselves.
The story of European civilization since the Renaissance, and of North America since its colonization, seemed until recently that of an unbroken and rapidly rising curve of progress. “Per ardua ad astra.” The idea that by our efforts we can reach the stars seemed to be becoming a fact. Historian Barbara Tuchman called Europe in its glory (on the eve of World War I) the “proud tower” in her book of that name. But neither World War I nor World War II checked the soaring progress of European and North American science and industry—despite the loss of all of Europe’s colonies after 1945. To stick with the tower image, since 1914 the work has been interrupted by frequent, bloody fights, but essentially the progress has continued. Now that is changing—not necessarily because of divine intervention, as in the case of the Tower of Babel, but because we are on the point of creating our own Babylonian confusion—linguistic and cultural—with or without divine assistance, thereby guaranteeing that our society and civilization will join Babel in the dustbin of history.
If there is one deadly sin that still survives in the jaded world of American media, it is the racial generalization (if made by a white Caucasian—blacks and other minorities, it seems, cannot commit this sin no matter how hard they try). If there is one theological doctrine that is sacred—so sacred that our high and highest courts protect it against any rival view ever being placed alongside it—it is the general theory (or perhaps we should say general theology) of evolution. Fear of the sin prevents us from diagnosing our illness; reverence for the doctrine commits us to suffering its consequences.
It is curious that the prohibition (of racial generalizations) and the enforcement (of the evolutionary hypothesis) coexist, side by side, in the thought-life of contemporary North America. If the evolutionary “hypothesis” is true (and in most circles this writer will have made himself instantly odious by the use of that “if” or by speaking of the “hypothesis” rather than of the “fact” of evolution), then the human race, or the human races, are by definition a statistical sample or samples. Nothing would be more logical, in fact more of a virtual necessity, than to make statistical generations about the groups and subgroups within the general category that we call Homo sapiens. The fact that we are prohibited, in America, from making racial generalizations, indeed from making virtually any remarks that can be perceived as racially oriented (at least if we happen to be white, and especially white “Anglo”), is evidence of the continuing hold that old liberal principles have on our society. (One reason why contemporary American blacks, Jesse Jackson, for example, can make racial generalizations with impunity, and even be praised for them, is the tacit awareness of the media and the general public that he has never been circumcised into the older liberalism and thus cannot be expected to keep its commandments.)
The old liberalism had its spiritual fathers in thinkers such as John Locke and Adam Smith, who still operated within a framework established by the Bible, although they may themselves have related quite loosely to biblical Christianity. A characteristic of biblical religion is the doctrine that all human races and individual human beings have a common set of parents, Adam and Eve. Taught in Genesis, this idea was reinforced by Paul’s remark, to the most sophisticated audience of his time, the Athenians, that God “hath made of one blood all nations of men” (Acts 17:26). Adam Smith and John Locke, being pre-Darwinian, naturally thought in terms of one human race.
If we hold that all human beings are made “of one blood” by God, in his own image and likeness (Genesis 1:27), prejudice in general is not ruled out, but racial prejudice is. Early Christian and medieval anti-Semitism, disreputable though it was, was religious, not racial. Under normal circumstances, anti-Jewish prejudice ceased the instant the individual, born a Jew by race, was “reborn” a Christian by baptism. Admittedly this “way out” for racial Jews is no justification for Christian religious prejudice, but it does show that it is not racial per se. Nazi racism, by contrast, was not tempered by Jewish conversion to Christianity, nor even by the ordination of a baptized Jew to the ministry or the priesthood. As Leon Poliakov has shown in The Aryan Myth, real racism—as distinguished from the ethnic chauvinism that is widespread within humanity—only arose after Darwin seemed to demolish the idea that Adam and Eve were the father and mother of all people everywhere. In addition, the rise of liberal biblical criticism undermined popular faith in the divine inspiration of the Bible, so that even the Ten Commandments could come to be rejected as a “Jewish fabrication.” Nietzsche could attack the Christian principles of self-giving love as a “slave morality.”
Contemporary American society is in a curious kind of twilight zone. In certain areas, we still honor the older morality, derived from the biblical concept of the unity of the whole human race, made in the image of God. Intellectually, however, we have replaced the “myth” of Adam and Eve with the “scientific facts” of evolution.
Soon the older biblical ideal of human dignity, hence equality, will go the way of other “myths.” In contemporary American society, the coexistence of the prohibition against racial “stereotypes” together with the establishment of evolution as the explanation of all things cannot long endure. If we accept the evolutionary origin of man, nothing is more logical than to suppose that some race or races evolved earlier, and are higher, while others evolved later and are lower. This could easily justify differential treatment of the various races—in other words, discrimination. The more gifted would have an excuse to suppress or even eliminate “inferiors.” Those who perceived themselves as inferior, might, if numerous enough, deem it prudent to eliminate their “superiors.”
It is difficult to banish the suspicion that anti-Semitism reflects the apprehension of large numbers of the goyim that Jews not merely annoyingly claim to be the Chosen Race, but actually are superior in many ways, and will get ahead of the rest of us “lesser breeds without the Law” if they are not held back by discrimination.
Discrimination, given free rein and unchecked by any transcendent morality, may run to extermination, as it did for the Jews under Hitler. Is it permissible to suppose that the contemporary, almost worldwide denigration of the “whites”—the Caucasians, “WASP’s,” or “Anglos”—reflects a similar suspicion on the part of “minorities” that the WASP is superior and must be handicapped by quotas, affirmative action, etc., to prevent him from getting or staying ahead? Is it alarmist to suspect that, just as anti-Jewish prejudice always carries the germ of extermination, antiwhite prejudice might carry a similar infection? The racial, not religious or cultural, nature of this discrimination is shown by the fact that those who do get ahead are named WASP’S whether they like it or not. The epithets “WASP” and “Anglo” are applied promiscuously to Catholics, to Slavs, even to Jews, while genuine European Spaniards are carefully excluded from the “Hispanic” category.
This phenomenon applies across the board in America, but perhaps the current travails of my own theological seminary in Illinois may illustrate the problem. With over 1,000 students, our seminary was founded by a denomination that historically might be called WSP (white Scandinavian Protestant). There has never been racial discrimination here, but the demographic realities of the constituency have led to a certain blandness (or blondness) of the students and faculty. Anderson is the most common name among the student body. Notwithstanding, the five-man theology department includes two Christians of pure Jewish race. The seminary has been given reason to fear losing its accreditation if we do not promptly hire a “minority” professor. Our two Jewish Christians, statistically a small minority of a small minority, but not Minority, do not count, as they have apparently been subsumed, in the eyes of authority, among the Anglo WASP’s and can no longer aspire to Minority honors. A Puerto Rican would count, we have been told, but an Argentinian would not do.
It does not require great imagination to discern the practical considerations that lie behind capricious designations impossible to justify by any truly neutral or scientific criterion. Stipulations that are openly unjust and discriminatory are purportedly required to undo conditions deemed discriminatory, conditions that have resulted, perhaps in part, from prejudice, but primarily from organic historical and cultural development. These stipulations represent deliberate incisions into the body of a culture, and it should not surprise us if they seriously injure it. Can a prospering WSP institution, created not by discrimination but simply by organic, historical development, remain vigorous if it is forced to transform itself according to affirmative action ideas that see no value in its ethnic or cultural heritage, or even consider them as negative and evil?
Historically and sociologically we can observe that our living institution has attained its present stature as a product of a largely Scandinavian heritage. Will it survive if it is forced to become a cultural kaleidoscope? If it makes sense to ask this question concerning an individual institution, is it legitimate to ask it about society as a whole? A society, like a bridge, is a structure where the whole is greater than the sum of all its parts. Various decorative elements may be removed from a bridge without causing it to collapse, but if a load-carrying element is removed, it will fall. A bridge can be built out of wood, stone, cement, or steel, but if girders from a steel bridge are removed and cement put in their place, disaster is easy to foresee.
A certain racial, cultural, and religious mix has created American society and maintained it, such as it is, into the present. Can any and every arbitrary mix whatsoever continue to maintain it? A biblical Christian will not regard the creation of man “in the image of Cod” a myth, but a truth. Consequently, he will not, consistently with his own principles, be able to value some individual varieties of man, i.e., certain races, more highly than others. But by the same token, he is not permitted to value certain races—including his own—less highly than others. Yet this is precisely what the group that once sustained American culture and life is being asked, nay, required to do: abolish itself in the name of equality.
The Tower of Babel was not abandoned because its builders were of different races. Presumably they were all of the same stock. It failed because they could no longer understand one another. America has taken into itself a considerable variety of races, all on the assumption (until recently) that they could, or soon would, communicate with one another in a shared language and would ultimately participate in a shared and common culture. Our culture, that of the WASP’s and the “associated WASP’s” that modern prejudice classes together, cannot survive indefinite removal and replacement of its parts without collapsing. Many of those who fulminate, perhaps almost by habit, against Christian culture as narrow and pernicious are precisely those who have benefited by the Christian morality, however defective, of majority America. America’s WASP’s, whether by birth or assimilation, did not practice the Darwinian principle of the survival of the fittest while they had power; will it come back to haunt them when their “Christian” morals have been forgotten?
Can the United States survive as a civilization and a culture without a base of unity? Fifty years ago we had a large measure of ethnic unity—unity with diversity, but still recognizable as unity. We also had a large measure of religious and cultural unity. Now we are confidently being told that by the year 2000, the bearers of that old culture—not just the WASP WASP’s, but the associated Catholic, Slavic, Italian, and Jewish titular WASP’s will soon find themselves a minority in the midst of a “majority of minorities”—certainly a chaotic majority, given the vastly differing nature of those minorities. That such a “majority of minorities” will be able to sustain a civilization weakened from within and threatened from without is not at all self-evident.
From a Christian perspective, we might suppose that an adequate unity could be created by a functioning religious consensus. In other words, a racially and ethnically diverse society might be unified by a shared religious outlook. Indeed, back in 1955 philosopher John Wild of Harvard drew the thunderbolts of the university’s establishment by suggesting that America needed an “overarching scheme of values.” Because of Wild’s mildly Thomistic orientation, this struck his critics as a call to reestablish the Inquisition. This perspective, the official wisdom goes, is unacceptable in pluralistic America.
If we reject the Christian oudook and, forsaking its doctrine of human unity, take the naturalistic, evolutionary perspective (is it the only alternative?), we are plunged into the struggle for the survival of the fittest. Under those conditions our national prospects are poor, both internal and external. All economic, demographic, and military indicators seem to be telling us that the United States is declining among the nations of the world. Internally, the old ethnic bearers of our culture are being reduced to a minority within a babbling multitude without common culture or language. From a Christian perspective, one must say that in the last analysis it does not matter. But most of our national pundits—including those who are most energetic and determined about telling us to demolish all the old norms—are people to whom the Christian perspective means little. It is just another old norm to be broken down.
Is there nothing in America’s future, short of some totalitarian Gleichschaltung, other than cultural disintegration? America was sick in one way when it denied black Americans their pride. John M. Perkins writes, “My hope lies in restoring the black male.” That development is vital, but it will not suffice. Pride and dignity were stolen from the Negro in America by slavery and segregation, and only gradually are they being recovered. Our society is still paying the bill for those damages. Pride and dignity are swiftly being bled away from the original and associated WASP’s, and the charges for those ultimate damages will be more than any nation can pay.