Reading Bret Stephens’ op-ed at the Wall Street Journal today, I was struck by this passage (emphasis added):
Multiculturalism is a liberal fetish that is also the antithesis of liberalism, classical or modern—a simultaneous belief in individual autonomy and cultural equality, irrespective of whether different cultures believe in individual rights or not.
Typically liberals have elided this incoherence by pretending, as President Obama often does, that Western cultures are no better than non-Western cultures in respecting human rights, or by demanding radical liberalism inside the West while supinely accepting violent anti-liberalism outside it.
But the events in Cologne make a nonsense of this. What was outside the West is now inside. In the spirit of Christian charity, Angela Merkel and other European leaders have imported a culture of Muslim misogyny. In the name of humanity, the benefactors are asked to close their eyes to the brutishness of so many of their beneficiaries.
The summary line here was selected by the editors as the slug beneath the column’s subject: “In the spirit of Christian charity, Merkel has imported Muslim misogyny.”
Apparently, people are now so unfamiliar with the actual features of Christian charity that they attribute anything vaguely sacrificial-sounding to a “Christian spirit.”
But nowhere did Jesus or his disciples and apostles – the authors of the New Testament – ever suggest that Christ-like charity looks like what’s going on right now in northern Europe. Jesus never told anyone to import millions of strangers from far-away lands to tend to; to open the city to them, altering the future prospects of entire nations, regardless of their behavior; to kick the neighbors out of their homes so the strangers could be housed; or to sit silent while the strangers assaulted his wife and daughters.
Don’t pin those things on Jesus or the spirit of Christianity.
Here is what Jesus actually praised as an example of charity to others (in this case, a stranger, but it would implicitly apply to our friends and countrymen as well):
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
This passage, Luke 10:25-37 (NIV), is well known in a general sense as the parable of the Good Samaritan. But most people these days are fuzzy on the details.
Notice that the Samaritan showed the love of a neighbor without being expected by Jesus to carry the robbery victim off to his own home town, turn his home or his women over to the man, or rearrange his literal neighbors’ lives in the name of charity.
In fact, what the Samaritan did do is very informative. He tended to the man’s wounds, took him to an inn – where he spent his own money to house him, in a place set up for that purpose – and left money with the innkeeper, and the promise that he would be back to check on things and further reimburse the innkeeper if necessary.
Jesus makes clear that doing this, making these significant but hardly life-altering sacrifices of time and resources, is showing the love of a neighbor. To assert that showing love must entail some greater sacrifice – that it must involve the negation of self – is to be more than un-biblical. It is to be anti-biblical.
If Jesus had meant to praise self-abnegation, he wouldn’t have told his listeners to do as the Samaritan did. He would have told them the key to eternal life was to be the robbers’ victim lying by the roadside.
That version, we could well call the “parable of the Good Westerner”: the man who, having rejected God over the last century, finds there is no foundation under him but the gnawing sense of his own sin.
What Merkel and other European leaders are doing isn’t “in the spirit of Christian charity.” It’s in a spirit of falsely-assumed Western guilt – an infantile, pre-Copernican guilt at that, one that assumes everything that happens revolves around the Westerner and is his fault.
These are two very different things. It’s time to stop misattributing the predestined, fatalistic conclusions of secular logic – about guilt, about sacrifice – to Jesus and the “Christian spirit.” It’s past time.