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By John Zmirak, The Stream, July 26, 2018
I’d like to talk about immigration. Also, the Antichrist. And no, this isn’t a fevered rant about George Soros or some other globalist. I won’t be trying to tag some public figure as the Great Deceiver because he favors open borders.
Quite the contrary. It was a priest saying Mass at St. Peter’s in Rome who used the word “Antichrist.” Father Alex Zanotelli chose that word for Italian Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, a faithful Catholic. What pins the devil horns on Salvini? His determination to stop accepting hundreds of thousands of Muslim economic migrants into recession-wracked, unemployment-plagued Italy.
Prelates have worked themselves up into a keening, preening hissy fit about immigration. In 2013, Pope Francis compared immigration skeptics to brother-murdering Cain, and Herod, the butcher of Bethlehem. In 2016, 24 U.S. Catholic bishops joined Vatican Cardinal Peter Turkson in a call for mass “disruption” and “resistance” of U.S. immigration law, using language better suited to the French Resistance against the Nazis. “Seamless Garment” prelates eager to fill their churches’ emptying pews with immigrants compare deporting lawbreakers with killing unborn babies.
A leading Italian Catholic magazine put the attack on Salvini on its cover:
Turn All the Churches Into Mosques?
Retired Italian bishop of Caserta, Italy, Raffaele Nogaro goes even further. He offers a practical plan. Breitbart reports:
Morally and as a man of faith I would be willing to turn all churches into mosques if it were useful to the cause and if it helped to save the lives of poor and unhappy men and women, because Christ did not come to earth to build churches but to help men regardless of race, religion, or nationality.
Now, I won’t rehearse yet again the Christian case against open borders. If you’d like to hear that, check out the interview Al Perrotta and I did with Michael Brown about our new immigration book. If you want a careful, line-by-line reading of the actual Catholic teaching on immigration, here you go.
Instead, I’d like to analyze what drives a bishop like Nogaro, or a pope like Francis, to make such hysterical statements. What we’ll find has resonance far beyond the immigration debate. In fact, what I think is at work lies at the heart of Progressive, post-orthodox Christianity.
In the 19th century, many Christians were deeply troubled by Darwin. They accepted his theories as facts that disproved the Bible’s claim to be inspired and inerrant. But they weren’t ready to slough off Christian ethics. Or even (in many cases) quit their jobs as prominent pastors and try to make an honest living. They quailed at the ruthless atheist socialism of Marx and Engels, and the harsh “social Darwinist” movement that hoped to speed up the “survival of the fittest.”
What it leaves behind is an ethical core, derived from cherry-picking stories of Jesus’ actions and precepts. That core, they could pretend, is really the “essence” of Christianity.
So these men of little faith hearkened to the deeply biased methods of “Higher” biblical criticism. Pretending to be a “science,” it weeds out the miraculous and supernatural parts of the Gospel. What it leaves behind is an ethical core, derived from cherry-picking stories of Jesus’ actions and precepts. That core, they could pretend, is really the “essence” of Christianity.
Never mind all those metaphysical claims (Our Lord’s divinity) or so-called miracles (His resurrection). And certainly pay no attention to apostolic traditions, Church doctrinal councils, or historic Christian practice.
The Ten Disenchantments
No, the “real” Christianity is … well not a creed. It’s more of an emotive stance, which distills from the life of Jesus a few simplistic precepts. Since they replace supernatural faith itself, I’ll call them the Ten Disenchantments.
Outsiders are always right.
The underdog deserves to win, every time.
Making judgments about people is evil, and it means you’re a hypocrite.
Religious observance is empty ritual, only valid for building a sense of community among the disdvantaged.
Rebels and dissenters are always prophetic and deserve our attention.
Sexual sins are mild peccadilloes, and those who condemn them are much worse sinners themselves.
Every hierarchy is wicked.
All inequality is the fruit of exploitation.
Suffering has no value whatsoever, and it’s our first duty to stomp it out, whatever the cost.
A neurotic, extreme unselfishness, which no person (much less nation) can really practice, is nonetheless the Christian ideal.
Now this not really a comprehensive ethical system. Nor is it a fair and representative reading of Jesus’ words and actions. If it were, then He would not have been the Messiah, since the above list is utterly incompatible with the Old Testament. Such a Jesus would fit the Marcionite heresy, which taught that Jesus came to free us from the harsh, vicious “God” who imposed the Old Testament on that wicked people, the Jews.
A Genuine Slave Morality
The list of ersatz commandments above is incoherent and impossible. In fact, it’s not even desirable. It really is the “slave morality” that Nietzsche discovered and loathed among his era’s liberal Christians.
But adopting The Ten Disenchantments seems to warm some people’s hearts. And feed their egos. It can even whip people up into self-righteous mobs, who want to punish and silence others for being … judgmental.
No Christian church ever quite preached the Disenchantments. Certainly no group of Christians ever practiced it. That’s just as well, because Jesus didn’t either. By their standard, Jesus wasn’t really a very good Christian. After all, if He really had the power to heal the sick and feed the hungry, why did He spend so little of His earthly time doing that? If He really had come primarily to end injustice, why didn’t He come to Pilate with a thunderbolt in one hand, and a list of demands in the other? Why did He get Himself killed over some metaphysical claim of His own divinity — instead of using His power and privilege to serve the poor?
If you hold to the Ten Disenchantments, you really do believe that you are among the best Christians in history, who are more Christian, in fact, than Jesus.
And that, my friends, is precisely what the Antichrist will tell us, when he shows up.