Friday, August 17, 2007

More evidence that evangelicals are going liberal

Focus on the Family runs a website for young single adults called Boundless. Now, remember, this is Focus on the Family--an organization within the satellite of entities reviled by the left as "the American Taliban," "Dominionists," and other such nonsensical appellations; an organization many liberals believe is hell-bent on destroying basic civil liberties and turning America into a fascist dictatorship. It is also, and more importantly to its actual purpose, an organization respected by evangelicals and many conservatives.

Boundless has a blog called Boundless Line. Recently they had a post on Robert Putnam's recent study which has been making waves for its conclusions about the downsides of diversity. Author Candice Watters started off sounding conservative on the issue: she gave the post a title of "Forced Diversity Has Opposite Effect," and wrote that "now a new study suggests maybe the glorification of diversity wasn't such a good idea after all." By the end of the post, however, it's clear that she's only against "forced diversity," and agrees with Daniel Henninger that evangelical megachurches are a good "assimilation model."

Where it really gets interesting is the comments section. None of the commenters questioned the notion that diversity is good. Several questions Putnam's conclusion, and several raised the specter of racism. Now, it's possible that Boundless publishes some comments from nonbelievers, but I think we have to assume that evangelicals constitute a solid majority of its readership. Remember, these are evangelicals, those evil right-wing fascists whom the left thinks want to destroy basic civil liberties and purge the entire world of everyone who's not white, Christian, male, and wealthy. Look at some of the things they're saying:


  • "I don't want this research to be used as an excuse to promote segregation."
  • "I love my church. It's awesome to see all the people in it. You can find mohawks, perms, Jessica Simpson hair, and wash-and-wear styles all together in the same room! It's like 300 cultures becoming one!"
  • "if admissions quotas and other efforts to diversify force us out of our comfort bubbles, than so be it. And if we're going to be political, I find it very plausible that admissions standards quotas are both necessary and just... I love diversity, especially ethnic and cultural diversity."
  • "Unfortunately, arguments that call diversity a failed process only hinder racial tolerance and integration...To argue against diversity seems pointless...I guess that racism is not dead. Apparently, individuals still think that diversity is not necessary."
  • "Putnam discovered that 'People in ethnically diverse settings don't want to have much of anything to do with each other,'
    Am I the only person who thought 'racism' when I read this quote?"
One of the most instructive comments, to me, came from a commenter named Chris, who quoted Putnam's abstract and responded with "Read that carefully, and you'll notice that things look good in the long term." Here is the abstract:


Ethnic diversity is increasing in most advanced countries, driven mostly by sharp increases in immigration. In the long run immigration and diversity are likely to have important cultural, economic, fiscal, and developmental benefits. In the short run, however, immigration and ethnic diversity tend to reduce social solidarity and social capital. New evidence from the US suggests that in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods residents of all races tend to ‘hunker down’. Trust (even of one's own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer. In the long run, however, successful immigrant societies have overcome such fragmentation by creating new, cross-cutting forms of social solidarity and more encompassing identities. Illustrations of becoming comfortable with diversity are drawn from the US military, religious institutions, and earlier waves of American immigration.


I suppose Chris is referring to the statements that "In the long run immigration and diversity are likely to have important cultural, economic, fiscal, and developmental benefits" and "successful immigrant societies have overcome such fragmentation by creating new, cross-cutting forms of social solidarity and more encompassing identities." That may sound positive, but it is a statement that people are overcoming problems, not that problems don't exist in the first place. The real question is, where did the problems come from? Wouldn't it be better to prevent problems from existing in the first place, rather than finding ways to work around them? Aren't we interested in addressing, as they say, the "root causes?"

To make this point clear, let me rephrase the first sentence of the abstract in two different ways:

  • Ethnic goodness is increasing in most advanced countries, driven mostly by sharp increases in immigration.
  • Ethnic conflict is increasing in most advanced countries, driven mostly by sharp increases in immigration.

Each of those sentences is identical to the original sentence, except that the word "diversity" has been replaced with a word that reflects a value judgment about the nature of diversity. I submit that someone who thinks realistically about ethnic diversity reads the sentence the second way, and that the first way reflects an a priori assumption that diversity is good, a fundamentally liberal assumption--and it is the one the Boundless commenters are using. As Jared Taylor put it when addressing a Canadian audience:

Now, you probably think that every major Canadian institution from the federal government on down takes the view that racial diversity is a great strength for Canada. In fact, they all agree with me. They all assert most emphatically that racial diversity is not a source of strength but a source of conflict. The only difference is that instead of the word “conflict,” they use the word “racism.”

In other words, the liberal sees diversity as automatically good, and any conflict that results from it as racism, an evil reaction to it that must be rooted out. A true conservative sees true racism as bad, but also at the same time sees conflict as the inevitable result of incompatible peoples trying to live side-by-side with one another. Therefore the true conservative will advocate the reduction of diversity as a means of minimizing the problem of ethnic and racial conflict.

That is not what these evangelicals are doing. They are taking the liberal side in the debate. In signing onto the diversity movement, they have willingly subscribed to a view that originated with secular leftists who hated traditional white Western societies for their particularism, and hated Christianity for the same reason. For this reason, evangelicals should find the liberal view revolting, but they don't realize what they're doing. They have decided that they look bad when they take conservative positions, and that leftists are right when they say Jesus was a liberal, and so in order to win people over they must attempt to out-liberal liberals, an effort doomed to failure.

I suppose liberal evangelicals think they (or rather, God working through them) are going to save our society by saving the world. They need to realize that unless our society is saved first, which involves making it more cohesive and unified--in other words, reducing diversity--they are never going to get the chance to save the world.

3 comments:

Vanishing American said...

Hermes, good post.
It does seem to be the case that many if not most evangelicals are coming to adopt the tenets of modern liberalism which of course includes belief in 'diversity' as something which is the highest good.
Even many people in the more traditional denominations are moving in this direction, and it's hard to find a convincing Scriptural argument against this kind of thing. Most commonly people will cite Galatians 3:28, 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus' as a reason for the universalistic belief.
So it's hard to persuade people that the Tower of Babel approach is not a wise one or a Biblical one.
Any thoughts?
-VA

Mary B. said...

Recently I listened to a cloistered Benedictine monk 's sermon that had a theme similar to Galatians 3:28. He sited second hand experiences of others who lived through segregation in the Catholic church as examples of how we shouldn't treat people who are new to this country. He finished his sermon by telling us we should view people the way Christ did, as if we were all the same. That's sounds very idyllic, but I'm only human and I really need a standard so I can judge people. Christ views us as if we were the same as who, Father?
Unlike this monk, I've lived in a diverse, urban neighborhood and I tried to become a part of it, but wound up hunkering down in my own dwelling instead. I did relate somewhat to a small group of property owners who were united against a common enemy: the local street gangs. I would have rather had more positive ways to unite with my neighbors. I seriously doubt many of the commenters you quoted in your post actually live in a diverse communities. They wouldn't speak of it in glowing terms if they experience the emptiness and frustration of living locked up in your dwelling, avoiding battling stereo systems, fist fights, gunfire and muggings.

Hermes said...

VA,

Yes, that verse could be used to justify Christian multiculturalism. One I have actually heard more often is Revelation 7:9--"After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
'Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.' "

Thus, when people return from a missions trip to a multicultural area, they will gush about how wonderful it was to see such a perfect picture of what the Bible says about "people from every tribe and nation worshipping God together." Or when a church is under demographic pressure due to white flight, as my home church is, people will say "we want to become a picture of what the book of Revelation talks about, with people from every tribe and nation forming one body and glorifying God."

Of course, this assumes that God intends for the Biblical picture of what heaven will be like to come about here on earth, even before the Second Coming. Yet I doubt most evangelicals propounding multiculturalism would agree with that view.

I think the key to convincing people to return to a more traditional view of culture lies in what I was starting to get at at the end of my post: convincing people that strengthening ourselves first will make us more effective misssionaries later. Right now, many evangelicals feel that race, ethnicity, language, and yes, even national borders are mere human constructions which, being of the world, are sinful and only serve to drive people away from God. Thus, they think that if these "barriers" were torn down, everyone would just flock to Christianity. Evangelicals are primarily concerned with leading nonbelievers to Christ, so that's the angle you have to play up. If they could be convinced that in order to have a sustainable and effective missionary effort, we have to have a strong, stable, deeply Christian culture ourselves, they might come to agree that we first need to hunker down and restore our own civilization before we get too concerned with planting churches in Africa.

Whether that can be done remains to be seen. It all depends on how many evangelicals have already signed on to liberal first principles and therefore will go to their graves insisting that multiculturalism is the only way, vs. how many are merely "pragmatic liberals" and could still be convinced to adopt something that "works" better than liberalism.