Briefly Noted: Roger Kimball on Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism is the ideology that promotes the institutionalization of multiple cultures within a single community. Almost always, it promotes relativism in relation to religion and morality and, as such, is antithetical to Christian belief and practice. And according to Roger Kimball, in a recent issue of The New Criterion, Americans should question the legitimacy of multiculturalism because it doesn’t work.[1]

Kimball builds his essay around recent statements by several European leaders. He notes, for instance, that German Chancellor Angela Merkel claimed in 2010 that “the dream of multicultural harmony, according to which people of radically different backgrounds and aspirations would ‘live side-by-side,’ had ‘failed, utterly failed.’” He further notes that Britons are also awakening to this reality. In other words, multiculturalism–which has for decades been touted as the ideal by the Western academy–is not so ideal.

One of the reasons some European leaders are now thinking this way is the negative effect of immigration, especially from Muslim countries, on Europe’s population and thus on the economy. (Economic crises such as the current Eurozone crisis are usually never only fiscal or monetary issues.) Kimball finds an irony, however, in multiculturalism’s roots and effects. “That is the curious thing about multiculturalism: it is a Western export that is itself anti-Western. Born in the academy, it is the creature of political correctness.” So, for Kimball, ideological multiculturalism is not an ideal at all, but rather the child of a flawed worldview, and he believes this worldview and its effects have great bearing on American policies of immigration, homeland defense, and the economy. In sum, he states, “The Brits and the Germans seem to be waking up to the dangers of multicultural accommodation. When will we?”

I agree with Kimball, and will add a couple of comments. First, one’s rejection of multiculturalism as an ideology is in no way a rejection of multiple cultures within one community. In fact, one hopes that multiple cultures and sub-cultures are able to live in harmony alongside of one another. Second, one’s rejection of multiculturalism is really a rejection of the relativism that often accompanies it. Such relativism attempts to neutralize the religious and moral beliefs of the various cultures, sitting above them in imperial judgment. Third, instead of such relativism, one hopes that multiple cultures will be able to live alongside of one another harmoniously, while still being free to speak convictionally about religious and moral matters in the public square.

For those readers interested in the conversation about multiculturalism, here are two further articles, one by the Pope and the other by R. R. Reno.

 



[1] Roger Kimball, “The Multicultural Morass,” in The New Criterion 30:7 (March 2012): 1–3.

Politics, the SBC, and Our Times…A Perspective

This year we face a presidential election and other vital choices as citizens of our great land. At the same time the Southern Baptist Convention considers decisions of historic proportion about branding, leadership, and specifically regarding a significant statement with the potential election of Fred Luter.

Our home is heaven. We are aliens here. We sometimes forget this as some of us  seem determined to fight culture wars with more passion than living as the evangelists Christ has saved us to be. I wanted to write some profound thoughts about all things political, denominational, and cultural, but I found someone who can help us far more.

The Letter to Diognetus in the Second Century describes a kind of Christianity I pray we could come to embrace almost two millennia later. As you read, think about the Christian subculture we have created and go to great lengths to defend. Think about how we typically relate to culture and to those who do not embrace our Christ. Read just a portion of what he said. I have italicized a few comments I find to be particularly insightful:

“Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign. 

And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.

They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.

To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.

Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body’s hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.” * 

May we seek power less and God’s glory more. May we our love for Christ be seen in how we relate to each other and to those not like us more than the T shirts we wear or the radio station we hear. And may no one confuse our allegiance to Christ with anything this world offers.

*From the Letter to Diognetus (Nn. 5-6; Funk, 397-401)

Is Darwinism Theologically Neutral?

Francis Collins, a devout evangelical who headed the Human Genome Project, founded the BioLogos Foundation in 2007 for the purpose of advocating evolutionary theory as a viable option for evangelicals. When Collins stepped down from BioLogos to become the director of the Health and Human Services agency, Darrel Falk became president of the foundation. At Falk’s request, a number of professors at Southern Baptist seminaries have submitted articles to the BioLogos forum to express our concerns about the foundation’s promotion of theistic evolution. These articles are part of a series entitled “Southern Baptist Voices” in which consists of each article paired with a response from a BioLogos fellow.

The first article (which I wrote) is entitled “Expressing our Concerns” (found here), to which Kathryn Applegate, Darrel Falk, and Deborah Haarsma responded (found here).

Today (May 2) BioLogos posted the second article written by Bill Dembski of Southwestern Seminary entitled “Is Darwinism Theologically Neutral?” (which can be found here). The BioLogos response will be posted before the end of the week.

Other articles to follow have been written by Steve Lemke (NOBTS), John Laing (SWBTS), John Hammett (SEBTS), Bruce Little (SEBTS), and James Dew (SEBTS).  I hope you will take a look at the discussion.  It is a model of how Christian brethren, who have serious disagreements, can debate an important issue with candor and mutual respect.

This post has been cross-posted at theologyforthechurch.com