“You want to preserve Western culture? Don’t attend far-right rallies. Volunteer at a museum instead, found a Shakespeare company, join the Dickens fellowship, buy season tickets for the symphony or the opera”

— paraphrased from a Facebook comment by EK Dagenfield

One of the reasons invoked by many politicians today to adopt a restrictive immigration policy is the need to preserve Western culture. They will claim that immigrants negatively change our culture and can only be stopped from doing so with tighter border control. This attitude has found favor among many conservative Christians, who tend to identify Western culture with Christianity… and therefore view the alien and the foreign (especially from Muslim nations) as a threat.

This is met by their political adversaries with an understandable, but disproportionate reaction: a demonization of Western culture and an overfixation on the crimes committed by westerners in the past (while disregarding that many of those crimes of war, conquest, enslavement and ethnocentricity were part of other cultures as well, being more a fruit of the age than of a particular culture.) They make the mistake, often decried by historians, of judging our forebears through contemporary values, forgetting that we share those values today thanks to them, for evolution is brought about through a series of mistakes and imperfect steps.

Such a reaction from the progressives elicits a doubling down from the conservatives, as they view Western culture as even more under attack. The vicious cycle is then complete.

But is there any value in this politically motivated endeavor to protect Western culture? What do conservatives really mean when they talk about such a culture? According to my experience, many of them don’t have a very clearly defined idea of what Western culture actually means. They have a fuzzy abstract notion, filled with nostalgia for a supposed gilded past when everyone seemed to be a Church-going, law abiding Christian… but not much more. Some others, more extreme, equate Western culture with Caucasian race and use the alleged superiority of Western culture as a way to convey racial supremacy.

However, if we are to analyze whether Western culture is worth preserving or not, we should… know what it is in the first place. And that’s when it gets messy. You see, Western culture is not *a* culture, but a mosaic of different cultures, sometimes with a past of warring and conflict between themselves. English culture is just as western as French culture, but no one would ever call them the same. Same with Portuguese and Spanish culture, or German or Russian culture.

Nevertheless, if we are to get a widely encompassing definition of Western culture, we can see that it is like a stream with three sources: Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian and Enlightenment/Post-Enlightenment philosophies. I will not focus on the last source for now, for conservatives usually view it with suspicion, as it tends to be anti-religious and anti-Christian. However, we will have to return to it later, for there is a surprise in the end to all those who are anti-Enlightenment and strive to protect Western culture.

So let us start with the Greco-Roman source of Western culture. The Ancient Greeks, just like many ancient peoples, had a great respect and reverence for Xenia, meaning the concept of hospitality. To know how important hospitality was for the Greeks, we have to go no further than the Odyssey: Odysseus (Ulysses) returned to his home dressed up as a beggar and only by being welcomed as such was his wife able to get rid of the suitors who pestered her (and he was only able to reach home alive thanks to the hospitality given to him by Princess Nausicaa earlier on.) Also, there are beautiful speeches about hospitality when Odysseus’ son Telemachus is received by friendly kings Nestor and Menelaus.

Greek mythology is replete with stories of mortals who were rewarded or punished for showing or not showing hospitality (respectively) to strangers who turned out to be gods in disguise. This mirrors very perfectly the account of Abraham showing hospitality to the three sojourners who showed up at his encampment at the foot of the Mamre’s oak… Those three sojourners have been identified by theologians and Church Fathers with angels of the Lord, when not the Trinity itself. It was by showing them hospitality that Abraham finally got God’s answer to his prayers: that he would have a son directly from his wife, fulfilling God’s promise of filling the Earth with his descendants. In contrast, Sodom and Gomorrah’s doom was sealed when they failed to show hospitality to the same emissaries of the Lord, trying to force them into sinful intercourse with them instead.

This brings us to the Judeo-Christian source of Western culture. As we have already showed, there is a very important lesson on the topic of hospitality in the abrahamic account. However, it doesn’t stop there.

Abraham’s hospitality

The Old Testament also has many stories in which righteous people were rewarded for showing hospitality to God’s prophets when they fled persecution, sometimes from sinful Israelite kings themselves. And there is one whole book about Ruth, a moabite immigrant forced to glean on the fields thanks to the Law mandating farmers to not selfishly deplete their own properties, but to leave something behind for the alien and the destitute (cf: Lev 19:10, Lev: 23-22; Det 24:19-21; Det 24:19-21). Please note that Jesus, a descendant of Ruth, would take advantage of such laws Himself (cf: Mt 12:1; Mk 2:23; Luk 6:1).

Above all, the Old Testament centered on the Law of God, which focuses heavily on the ethical treatment of the foreigner living in the land of Israel. Among many Bible passages, I would like to highlight the following ones (cf. also: Lev 25:35; Det 14:29; Det 26:11):

“If a stranger dwell in your land, and abide among you, do not upbraid him: But let him be among you as one of the same country: and you shall love him as yourselves: for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

— Lev 19:33-34 (DRV)

“And do you therefore love strangers, because you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

— Dt 10:19 (DRV)

Please notice how a significant part of these commandments are based on reminding the Israelites that they were once too foreigners in the land of Egypt, subjected to terrible maltreatment after being invited into Egyptian lands out of hospitality and gratitude for Joseph’s service to the Egyptian nation. As soon as they saw the Israelites thriving on their land, the Egyptians tried to curb their population and their spirits with heavy labor and by separating parents from their children, whom they then proceeded to slaughter. This sin cried to Heaven in such a way that the Egyptians were greatly punished…

This logic of hospitality was not abrogated, but rather translated into the New Testament. The episode of the slaughter of the innocents is repeated right at the beginning of Jesus’ life. The only difference is that here we don’t see the oppression of the foreigner, but Jesus becoming a foreigner Himself (in Egypt on top of that) in order to flee oppression. To the chagrin of many conservatives, Pope Francis has used the Holy Family’s fleeing into Egypt as an image of the immigrant and the refugee. However, those same conservatives usually ignore that such is a traditional papal teaching (see here and here), since at least Venerable Pope Pius XII, who enshrined the Holy Family in his encyclical Exul Familia Nazaretana as “the archetype of every refugee family. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, living in exile in Egypt to escape the fury of an evil king, are, for all times and all places, the models and protectors of every migrant, alien and refugee of whatever kind who, whether compelled by fear of persecution or by want, is forced to leave his native land, his beloved parents and relatives, his close friends, and to seek a foreign soil

The Old Testament Law on how to treat the foreigner was also enforced by Jesus Christ, Who came to fulfill the Law and listed “taking in the stranger” as one of the Corporal Works of Mercy that divides the sheep (who practice such works) from the goats (who don’t.) Jesus Himself is the One Who, in the parable of the sheeps and the goats, commands His disciples to see Him in the stranger that comes knocking on their door.

It seems, therefore, that Western Culture would mandate our hospitality toward the immigrant and the refugee. How is it possible then, that we have Christians defending anti-immigration stances on account of preserving Western culture? This is symptomatic of a hollowing of the meaning of Western culture. It becomes a pretty, but empty shell, to be idolized but not truly lived.

How have we reached this point? Paradoxically, here is when the third source of Western Civilization comes into play: the Enlightenment and Post-Enlightenment. For these anti-immigration stances are usually accompanied by nationalistic overtones, either more manifest or more subtle.

But nationalism is a relatively recent phenomenon. It comes from the institutionalization of the nation-state, which only came to its full fruition on the 18th and 19th centuries. It is foreign to Catholicism, a misuse of the virtue of patriotism to the level of idolatry of one’s own nation, viewed as a guarantee of a common, static, hermetic culture.

Nationalism, as we know it, began with the French Revolution, an antichlerical, antitraditionalist movement that spread Terror, religious persecution and the Christian genocide of the Vendée. None of those conservatives looks upon the French Revolution as a model to be emulated… and yet, they eat the fruits of that revolution.

Nationalism crystallized in Europe into the movements that sought the unification of the German and Italian peoples under the banner of one nation with a common ancestry, language and culture, even when such peoples were too much diverse to fit into the mold of the nationalistic narrative. And yet, this German reunification came attached to Bismarck’s Kulturkampf, a struggle against Catholic influence in society, sometimes profoundly anti-Catholic, for the German culture the nationalists sought to build was modern or Protestant-Lutheran in scope. More so the Italian reunification caused great disturbance in the Church, for it lead to the definitive fall of the Papal States and to the terrible episode of the Pope as “Prisoner in the Vatican.”

In America too, the Church suffered with an undue exhaltation of one’s own nation (which lead Pope Leo XIII to decry some errors termed as Americanism.) Even if American nationalism was more theistic-friendly than other nationalisms worldwide, it was not less anti-Catholic, for American ideals were highly influenced by Protestant theology, leading to a great suspicion of centralized religion. American Catholics were viewed as having divided allegiances, and were asked to put nation ahead of religion. Catholic immigrants were constantly shunned as alien agents trying to change American culture from within and were persecuted by the Know-Nothing Party. How strange it is to have American Catholics nowadays advocating the same ideology for other immigrants, sometimes Catholics themselves (like the hispanics tend to be)… the plea to “remember you too were once foreigners in the land of Egypt” is very apropos indeed.

Know Nothing Party propaganda against Catholic immigration

Finally, nationalism climaxed in last century’s Fascist and Nazi ideologies. Those were the causes of much suffering and bloodshed, both at home and abroad, and were rightfully decried by Pope Pius XI’s Non abbiamo bisogno and Mit brennender Sorge and by Pope Pius XII’s Summi Pontificatus and his 1943 Christmas Radiomessage.

It is, therefore, very strange and wrong that Catholics would disregard traditional Catholic teaching in favor of nationalistic, non-Catholic Post-Enlightenment ideologies. Can this unholy alliance, more than an affinity with conservative Evangelicanism, be at the core of what Fr. Spadaro called “Ecummenism of Hate“?

Don’t get me wrong. The seeds of nationalism can also be found in the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian sources of Western culture. The problem is when those seeds are separated from the bulk of the culture (which includes the tradition of hospitality I mentioned above) so that only the tares flourish, without the weat. It is wrong, as many progressives do, to throw out the baby out with the bathwater… but even more wrong is to throw out the baby and keep the bathwater.

But even in those destructive seeds we can find purpose. Time and time again, Israel fell from righteousness by proudly ascribing to themselves a superiority over other peoples, who they saw as pagan and depraved. They would forget that their status as “The Chosen People” was a grace from God, not something they achieved out of their own merits. For left to their own devices, they would fall into the same Golden Calf idolatry as the rest of the peoples.

Israel would overlook that what set them apart was God’s Law (the same law commanding them to treat the foreigner well.) The Israeli nation would become self-referential and would seek secular power, just like any other country on Earth. What would set Israel apart from other nations, then? Nothing… Israel would have forfeited its own culture to pursue abstract chimeras of what a nation should be, demanding to be governed by kings instead of by God’s Word (1 Sam 8).

Whenever that happened, Israel would be punished and humbled with war, conquests and exile. Warnings against secular messianism abound all around the Bible… the most notable one being that the Messiah Himself, God made flesh, was crucified by a crowd who proclaimed “We have no king but Caesar” and asked for the release of Barabbas instead.

Preserving a culture means also acknowledging the mistakes of our ancestors, so that we take our lessons from the Past to grow as a culture, preserving the good and filtering out the bad. Heeding the warnings contained in our Judeo-Christian traditions are a way to preserve our true culture and avoid its erosion, just like it happened with ancient Israel whenever they went astray.

In the end, conservatives who wish to preserve Western culture have it backwards. We can’t protect Catholicism by preserving Western culture, for Catholicism can’t be restricted to Western culture. Catholicism comes from the greek word “katholicus”, which means “universal.” Therefore, Catholicism cannot be contained within the West. Eastern Catholicism has a historical and significant contribution we can’t ignore and missionary efforts in Africa, Asia and the New World always tried to inculturate, producing a healthy and enriching diversity. Besides, as a supernatural gift from God Himself, Catholicism transcends every culture (including the Western one) while permeating it.

Rosaries taken from illegal immigrants at US border. Source: New Yorker

No, we can’t protect Catholicism by preserving Western culture, but we can (and must) preserve Western culture by protecting Catholicism, in its pristine form. For Catholicism has deeply informed Western culture. It is an undeniable fact that Western Culture has been so influenced by Catholicism, that it has become an inseparable part of western cultural DNA.

How can we, then, be Catholics, believers in a sense of belonging to a universal assembly (ecclesia), made up of brothers and sisters in the image and likeness of God (“there is no Greek or Jew”)… while at the same time espousing an exclusivist and supremacist view of one’s own nation, culture or race?

Our current refugee crisis is one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes after World War II. The USA immigration crisis has produced exploitation of cheap labor, separation of children from their families and populist scapegoating of illegal immigrants. It is profoundly un-Western, in light of our culture of hospitality, to turn our backs to those who come to us crying for help. It is un-Christian to treat the refugee and the immigrant in an inhumane way, for these are the image of Christ. More importantly, it is extremely un-Catholic to do so by dissenting from the clear pleading from our Pope and bishops just to embrace a form of modern secular messianism, putting trust in princes to win a Culture War on which we sacrifice our own culture with the pretext of defending it.

For Western culture has, at its origin, a very core value: the value of hospitality or xenia. It is, therefore, paradoxical to defend it by adopting an attitude of xeno-phobia. As the Apostle says in the inerrant Scripture:

“And remember always to welcome strangers, for by doing this, some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”

— Heb 13:2 (NJB)

This encapsulates an important part of Western culture. Let’s preserve it.

[Features image credits: 17th century painting by Jacob von Oost, depicting Baucis and Philemon, an elderly couple, unknowingly receiving gods Zeus and Hermes at their house]

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Pedro Gabriel, MD, is a Catholic layman and physician, born and residing in Portugal. He is a medical oncologist, currently employed in a Portuguese public hospital. A published writer of Catholic novels with a Tolkienite flavor, he is also a parish reader and a former catechist. He seeks to better understand the relationship of God and Man by putting the lens on the frailty of the human condition, be it physical and spiritual. He also wishes to provide a fresh perspective of current Church and World affairs from the point of view of a small western European country, highly secularized but also highly Catholic by tradition.

Preserving Western Civilization

13 Responses

  1. pat says:

    But, then, the Holy family did not enter Egypt in violation of any of their laws, did they?
    I guess driving the Mohammedans from Spain was not a good idea, or fighting the battle of Lepanto.

    • Pedro Gabriel says:

      Common reply, but no one knows enough of Ancient legislation to know if the Holy Family came to Egypt ilegally or not. If they did come legally, it was because ancient laws were more liberal than today’s… which may also be a part of Western culture.

      On the other hand, the “legal vs. ilegal” distinction is kind of a sleight of hand, because people advocating for such a distinction are also advocating for tighter regulations, so that the “legal” status is less easily achieved. So it is kinda paradoxical that people will say: “We only have problems with ilegal aliens, not legal ones; You gotta obey the law and we’re gonna make it as hard as possible to be legal”.

      As for the exemples you mentioned, I fail to see their relevance. I know that they are tired examples that get trotted a lot in some conservative Catholic circles, often in an oversimplified and over-romanticized way… but I was not talking about wars. I was talking about being hospitable to the stranger.

      • Pat says:

        But, of course all our laws or potential laws around immigration are unjust aren’t they? So, there is sleight of hand on both sides.

        It would be nice if one could protect Western civilization or Catholic civilization by allowing Europe and America to be overrun by non-western, non-Christian people who are not on the diversity, tolerance and inclusion crusade that we are, but it’s not likely.

        It does occur to me that the article was not about war, but one could argue that war is not a Christian virtue too. It’s just too simplistic to say that if you’re not for open borders (or open American borders) you’re not Christian, just as it is to say that if you fight a war, you’re not Christian. That seems to be the only message on WPI in one form or another, lately though.

      • Pedro Gabriel says:

        What is simplistic is the easy strawman from conservatives that postulates that, just because we think the laws they are advocating are unjust, then all laws regarding immigration are unjust, or the other strawman according to which if we want to repeal their unjust laws, we are advocating for open borders.

        As far as WPI’s position, it is consistent with the Pope’s and bishops’ pleas regarding immigration and with the Church traditional teachings on the matter. It’s not with WPI’s position you’re taking issue.

        If you are willing to repeat the same tired talking points that propaganda sites have taught you to throw around (“open borders!”) whenever someone criticizes certain policies, then certainly you can find it in you a willingness to assent to what the Church clearly wants you to do regarding today’s immigrant crisis. It’s just a matter of switching the people you give your obedience to.

  2. Elows says:

    Fascinating that an article which is to a great part about the motives of people in favor of restricting immigration for preserving “western civilization” does not mention “Islam”, “Islamism” or at least “Islamophobia”.

    “How is it possible then, that we have Christians defending anti-immigration stances on account of preserving Western culture?”

    If you attempt to answer that question without touching upon how those “civilization preserver” perceive Islam and Islamism and/or upon Islam and Islamism directly, you are guranteed to arrive at an at least incomplete answer.

    As an example, Poland who according to some is ruled by a xenophobic party/governement took in between 2014 and 2017 about 800000 ukrainians:

    “was provided by the Ukraiński Świat Society in 2015 – with their headquarters at Nowy Świat in Warsaw – placing the number of Ukrainians in Poland at 400,000 by the current estimate.[3]”

    “1,200,000 (Estimate 2017)”

    So taking in lots of immigrants is not an issue for the supposedly xenophobic polish government.

    What is an issue was worded drastically by some party member recently:

    That politician and presumbly the rest of his party cares about not letting “muslims” in (he also says “illegal”, but i presume he would also be unhappy about legal muslim immigration); and his justification is directly related to islamistic terror.

    You can call his arguments and reasoning wrong, unchristian or whatever; but ignoring that at least in Europe the drive for closing borders is motivated by the perception of Islam and Islamism makes any analysis faulty.

    • Pedro Gabriel says:

      A reasonable criticism, and I admit the incompleteness of my article on that regard. I didn’t want the article to be bigger than what it already was (writing about Islam would need an article of itself) and, either way, this text was prompted mostly by the American immigration crisis (and most of our viewership is American), which targets mainly Hispanics (who are fellow Catholics).
      Regarding Islam, many of the prejudices against it stem from the fact that many people perceive it as a monolith. But Islam is a religion without any central authority and therefore, it is extremely diverse (just to name an example, the mouthpieces from the Portuguese Islamic community were extremely supportive of Pope Benedict during the Regengsburg kerkuffle.) So it is unfair to treat all Islam the same, namely as a way of eschewing due hospitality to people in dramatic situations.

      (Mind you, I am equally eerie of those people who will claim that all Islam is peaceful, ignoring the evidence that there are extremely violent strains of Islam, and that we should protect ourselves from them; only by acknowledging reality may moderate Muslims start addressing the problem within their own religion.)
      However, the article is not about Islam, but about our own Civilization and how we, as Christians and Westerners, should respond to this crisis, in light of our culture.

      You’re entirely correct that the clash of civilizations between Islam and Christendom has molded the development of Western Civilization. Pat has mentioned Lepanto and the Iberian Reconquista, for instance (I’m surprised Pat didn’t mention the Crusades also.)

      Nevertheless, we can’t oversimplify. Even in the Iberian Peninsula there were extended periods of peaceful coexistence between the three monotheistic religions. And a similar experience can be observed in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with, if I’m not mistaken, the Tartar Muslims. This also is part of Western Civilization.

      The legend of El Cid is a part of our civilization just as much as the stories about Lepanto.

      Which one is the true representative from Western civilization? I believe the former is more “traditional”, nevertheless.

      I do believe that Xenia is meant to be extended to people from other civilizations also. The Iliad mentions episodes of the Acheans (Greeks) extending Xenia to the Trojans, even in wartime. The Good Samaritan parable seems to point basically in the same direction (I remind you, Samaritans we’re not Jews) or the aforementioned story of Ruth, the Moabite.

      But even if we take the side that Lepanto is the most legitimate representative of our relations with other civilizations (namely Muslims), we can’t deny that the seeds of extending Xenia to them may be found in the episodes I mentioned. They are a legitimate development of Western culture and one that, in my opinion, makes our values (namely Christian) shine the more. The Pope (a traditional mouthpiece of our civilization) seems to agree.

  3. Elows says:

    “Regarding Islam, many of the prejudices against it stem from the fact that many people perceive it as a monolith. But Islam is a religion without any central authority and therefore, it is extremely diverse (just to name an example, the mouthpieces from the Portuguese Islamic community were extremely supportive of Pope Benedict during the Regengsburg kerkuffle.) So it is unfair to treat all Islam the same, namely as a way of eschewing due hospitality to people in dramatic situations.”

    The problem is as Islam is not monolithic, nobody can know or foresee how it will develop.

    If groups within Islam trying to overcome a too verbatim adherence to verbatim scripture manage to become dominant, then everything will be fine.

    If groups within Islam trying to stick to verbatim adherence, then countries like France might in the latter part of this century run into the risk of literal civil war.

    Important point is here “within Islam”; that is hard to influence for catholics; and even harder to influence for states (how could it be justified for a state to try to incluence the theological struggles within a religion to further the state preferred theological approach?).

    So however the outcome is, it might not be ours to decide.

    And based on that i do not see anything wrong if some politician says: “Ok, not my business and expertise to predict or influence, how Islam will develop in the coming decades; but it is my business and expertise to ensure that the safety in my country does not depend upon how some theological issues within Islam will play out; hence, i do not want to have a situation like in France; one way to achieve that is to have few muslim immigrants; of other ways i am not aware.”

    How that goal is pursued, is of course also relevant, as the end does not justify the means. But the intent to keep one’s country from being dependent upon which schools of thought in Islam gain or lose influence, is an unproblematic one; and if limiting muslim immigration by all legal and legitimate means is the only way, then i see also no fundamental fault.

    A catholic opting for the alternative approach – lets hope that this complex false religion based on lies (from catholic perspective it is a lie to proclaim Muhammed being God’s prophet) if not on demonic influence (somehow the lie must have startet; either solely in Muhammeds mind or otherwise, as Muhammed himself told about demonic interactions) will develop in a compatible way – should accept that his approach is neither foolproof nor mandated by catholic doctrine or teaching.

    Me personally of course i would also potentially like a third alternative: let them all in – and preach to them clearly and openly the gospel to counter the lies they have grown up with; e.g. next time when washing feet of muslim refugees also before or afterwards try to preach them in a respectful and intelligent manner that Muhammed is a false prophet as Jesus rose from the dead and that the strive of the Muslims world where they had to flee from shows this and that therefore they should convert (“respectful” and “intelligent” could even mean doing this in a rather indirect and maybe prolonged way and spreading it across several people; but doing it would be the point)

    That by the way might be the better deterrent than anything nationalist politicians could come up with to keep away people only wanting to migrate; cause the fear of their sons turning apostate would certainly lead to many parents trying to dissuade their sons from attempting to go to Europe more than fear of water or wire ever could.

    But here i must submit to papal teaching authority that it somehow would not be okay to take in refugees and activively try to convert them into good catholics.

    As far as i know only some minor protestant groups try that approach and are critized by mainline protestant and catholic church for attempting that nefarious thing.

    • Pedro Gabriel says:

      As I said, I do believe that it is wrong to judge all Muslims on account of the actions of just some of them. Of course, it is only consistent that I think it is wrong to judge all Muslims on account of what the actions of some of them *might be* in a putatite future that has not yet come. “They might evolve into a not compatible form of religion.” What you speak of is mere extrapolation… in other words, not factual. So should we turn our backs to one of the worst humanitarian crisis of the last decades (something concrete, happening *now*), because of fears that have yet to materialize (if ever)?

      As for preaching the Good News to the newcomers, I have nothing against it and would in fact encourage it, but not with the mindset you seem to be proposing. We should not take advantage of a desperate situation to impose the Gospel as a kind of condition, like: “listen to our preaching or do not enter.” Even more terrifying is this idea of yours of using the Gospel as a deterrent to immigration, as if the Gospel should have any other purpose than leading people to the path of holiness.

      People should enter into the Church through the gates of sincere conversion. I would indeed frown upon such a way to do things, for a good intent can be carried out through bad means, as you yourself say. I think that accepting and welcoming them would be a much more effective at evangelizing than forcing them to hear our words. Telling them “we only let you in with the second intention of converting you” would close the hearts we had opened with our seemingly selfless demonstration of kindness.

      You are indeed correct that States should not try to interfere with the way one conducts his religion. More than Islam, it is important to grasp how that would be misconstrued by the States to try to change our own religion, which is also viewed as extreme by secular culture. But can’t the use of the Gospel as a deterrent for immigration backfire too? Can’t Muslims then use the same logic and deny help to Christians, unless they accept indoctrination? Should a Christian be forced to choose between getting his family to safety or have their children face the risk of apostasy? If not, then we should at least out of respect not do that to members of other religions.

      In the end, we can do something about it… not through political power, but through our stances as individual Christians. We can show Muslims what Christianity is all about, by rising to the challenge when faced with a humanitarian crisis such as this. And we can avoid the danger of falling into wahabist propaganda (both nationalists and radical Muslisms are the ones propagating the idea that wahabism is the true representative of Islam), and try instead to build bridges with Moderate Islamism, so as to give them strength and notoriety. States should not do that, but I see no problem in individuals doing this.

      As for immigration, by all means, vet people who come here, so that terrorists and other dangerous folk do not enter. But vet them according to objective criteria, not with an ideological bias of suspicion to appease populist and prejudiced fears. And while we vet them, try to treat them in a humane fashion. And do not talk of “deterrence”, but try to evaluate each case on its own merits… our function is not to deter someone who may need to come in, but to see if said person can come in. Finally, be generous… the caveat “we can’t take more of them in” should be based on actual limitations and concerns, not as an ideological kneejerk reaction to seeing a crowd of foreigners needing our help… and those who can’t take more of them in, should try to find alternatives for them. That is, if we really care for their well-being, as we should do as Christians.

      This seems to me to be a much more realist approach. I am not naive enough to claim it does not have risks… but in the end, it seems to be less risky than many of the things proposed by those who advocate tighter border controls, for everything you said seems for me to be more conducive to that Islamic radicalization you seem to fear. Above all, what I proposed is more suitable to our Christian values, and that should be the most important consideration of all.

      • Elows says:

        “As I said, I do believe that it is wrong to judge all Muslims on account of the actions of just some of them.”

        I am not judging all muslims; i am not even judging any individual muslim; i tried to show what the consequences might be in case islamic theology develops in certain direction (which depends upon which groups prevail in the theological struggles within islam).

        Statements about islamic theology and/or different groups influencing islamic theology are not in any way judgements about all or individual muslims; at most they could be judgements about some of said groups , if some of said groups had been named.

        Since you think i am judging all muslims and/or individual muslims with statements which do not comprise any judgement, there is a serious misunderstanding between us.

        “We should not take advantage of a desperate situation to impose the Gospel as a kind of condition, like: “listen to our preaching or do not enter.””

        I did not suggest that. Just a deliberate effort to preach at all to muslims; not necessarily only those arriving as refugees.

        Furthermore, there is nothing fundamentally wrong about preaching in desperate situations, as long as help is not tied to conversion. Preaching or witness even happened in trenches under constant enemy fire or with people on the deathbed.

        “Even more terrifying is this idea of yours of using the Gospel as a deterrent to immigration,”

        It is not an idea, intent or anything like that; it is a side effect, which i think is possible.

        “I think that accepting and welcoming them would be a much more effective at evangelizing than forcing them to hear our words.”

        Didn’t work the last decade. How should one realize that Mohammed is a false prophet if no one ever hints at him being a false prophet?

        If the Church is to take St. Francis as a role model, maybe they should consider that in 1219 he supposedly entered as part of the 5th crusade the enemy military camp during a ceasefire in an attempt to convert the Sultan of Egypt; as some non-official rules from 1221 of his order suggests, that while being humble among the sarracens, the christian should also proclaim and preach about the holy trinity, it seems unlikely that St. Francis did not in one way or another try to make the Sultan understand, that he was following a false prophet.

        “If not, then we should at least out of respect not do that to members of other religions.”

        I am not suggesting to do anything to them. Just that after giving them shelter, something to eat, etc. that christians then try to tell them about Jesus being God and Mohammed being a false prophet however indirectly it might be prudent.

        “that States should not try to interfere with the way one conducts his religion”

        “As for immigration, by all means, vet people who come here, so that terrorists and other dangerous folk do not enter.”

        States being not allowed to interefere with religion cannot vet for dangerous religious ideas. Hence, vetting does not work.

        “Above all, what I proposed is more suitable to our Christian values,”

        As you did not understand what i suggested, that claim is empty.

  4. Tom says:

    “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matt. 6:33
    is the tenor of this piece, and indeed, submit and agree we all have to.

    And it is precisely in it’s temporal application, qualification, technique, motivation, … that we all, demonstrate our ‘Clay Feet.’

    What to do indeed !!!

    Let us know that this is not directly our burden, it rests on those politicians and each country’s appropriate authorities, …
    but indirectly we must discuss, address, debate, distinguish, parse, nuance, hopefully not ad absurdum, but
    in fora like this, “let the Games begin.”
    Remember “Communication” does include a virtual or even literal “Slap in the Face” (being PeeCee ‘offended’ ? ) and that is ‘good’ but possibly we might “Duc in Altum” (‘into deep water’) a little bit more.
    To me being branded a “Racist, Hater, Bigot, Islamophobe” blah blah blah, comes with the territory, and it is all good.
    We must listen to their meaning and import and ask even more questions, definition of terms etc., in a ‘proper respectful way’ that foments continued dialogue,
    and if they do not respond positively, then that will show their ‘level of consciousness’ as we have shown ours, and thus, both sides ‘gotta do, what they gotta do.’

    It is the implementation that is the (eternal) RUB !

    I totally agree with the ‘catholic’ tenor of this piece,
    & it doesn’t subsist only in the rarified ‘airs of Philosophy & Theology’ but at the very least,
    it does make us all, come down from our intellectual ‘comfort zones.’ …

    When it comes to Islam, which I believe is going to be the next ‘Global Issue’ that will challenge our children and grandchildren, I say,
    “I,D.D., … Islamic Due Diligence.”

    Develop, Know, Research even more, Dialogue, Vet, Parse, Nuance any and all that is Islamic and while you’re at it,
    one might realise that Knowledge of ourselves and our Catholicism is enhanced and “Inshallah” maintained.

    Allahu Issa.

    Live Jesus in our Hearts, FOREVER.

  5. Catherine says:

    Hi Pedro, thanks for your detailed article! I am commenting as a layperson who is still very new to this issue. What is your opinion of the supposed Islamic “infiltration” of Europe, and increasing acts of violence perpetrated by Muslim refugees/immigrants, particularly in countries like Germany?

    I love the Pope and really want to embrace all of his teachings, but his teaching on immigration is something that really bothers me – I can see the logic for welcoming immigrants to the US since the system is so unjust, but it seems that Europe is a whole different story and a lot of local Europeans are suffering because of open doors policies (e.g. what happened in Cologne over New Years in 2016). Moreover, those politicians who institute these policies seem to be more motivated by self-interest than any real compassion (although I guess the same could be argued for either side).

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

    • Pedro Gabriel says:

      Dear Catherine:

      Thank you for your comment.

      Regarding my opinion on the supposed infiltration of Muslims in European countries, there are a lot of things to consider. First of all, I assume you’re only talking about terrorist attacks and not about cultural changes caused by changing demographics (these are also called “Muslim infiltration” in some ideological sectors). Also, my understanding, which could be wrong, is that most terrorist attacks are perpetrated by second generation immigrants, that should already be assimilated, and not by refugees or first generation immigrants (not meaning that there are no exceptions). Thirdly, we have to distinguish between countries with no tradition of assimilation of Muslim minorities and countries where such minorities have been historically present since centuries ago (eg: Iberian Peninsula and the moors; the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the tathars).

      Finally we must understand that there exists no centralized Islamic authority, so Muslims are prone to be extremely heterogeneous in the way they practice their faith and view Western countries, so it is difficult to find a general rule of thumb. Meaning every policy will not be able to account for every situation.

      That being said I do understand that unrestricted migration policies from Muslim countries may increase the risk of terrorist attacks in European soil. I’m not naive on that account. However, this risk must be balanced out with the increased risk of radicalization if we just leave these people to fend for themselves, without helping them. That attitude would certainly be advantageous to radical Islamic clerics, for it would increase resentment and hatred against us.

      Furthermore it is my solid belief that this risk of inscreased terrorist attacks is vastly overrated by populist sources, which capitalize on the scapegoating of Muslims to gain political power. And the rise of these far-right political powers also translates in an increase of terrorist attacks. But if all Muslims immigrated in the US and Europe were the radicals that these sources claim to be, then there would be Islamic terrorist attacks everyday. It doesn’t add up. Most likely, most Muslims are just people trying to live their life in peace.

      In the end, I think that we should focus less on how the Muslims should behave and more on how we, as Christians, should behave. Our concern should be less on Muslim infiltration, and more on Christian degeneration.

      The current refugee crisis in Syria is one of the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War 2. It was caused by the destabilization of that region by Western powers with political, economical and strategical interests in it. What would it say about us if we simply turned our backs on those masses and didn’t try to help them to our outmost? I think this is what Pope Francis is urging us to do. It is not so much an open borders policy (I think Francis has categorically stated so), but a plea for us to be more generous than what we think we should or can. It urges our radical goodness and charity, as Christ Himself certainly does.

      In this sense we should fear less those who can hurt or kill our body (terrorists), and more those who can hurt or kill our soul (seductive pundits and ideologies that cater to our fears to anesthetize our charity towards the alien, even if coated with Christian rhetoric).

      The Western Christian civilization will certainly survive our reaching out to Muslim refugees. It will not stand, however, if we replace it with a fake Christianity completely disconnected from the cry of the marginalized, a Christianity used as a prop in a political game, with no soul.

    • Pedro Gabriel says:

      This recent article seems to me to be rigorous, unbiased and informative regarding the nature of Islam and its relation with violence


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