If not read with charity and discernment, everything I am about to write can (and will probably will anyways) be easily used against me. Indeed, the very kind of essay I am endeavoring to write is one that will take our comfort levels to the edge of acceptability, at least by modern “cancel culture” standards. I will indicate that some ideas and cultures are better than others. I will also accept the reality that my motives will never be able to survive the Left's scrutiny because they are assumed to be too deeply imbued with racist underpinnings. Yet my hope is that those among us who are still reasonable, can read and think with sufficient charity to ask the relevant questions.
The Unspoken but Acknowledged Truth About Culture
With that said, let me begin by saying what others have said before me: some cultures are just better than others. Like many before me, that puts me in prime position to be called a racist, even though it may very well be the case that persons of color have produced better cultures than persons of pallor. It would all depend on which cultures and which aspects of those cultures were being discussed. Indeed, I am refreshed by an African tribe that still believes in only two genders! If the LGBTQ+ flag is what “white” culture has become, I want no part of it.
My larger point, ultimately, is that it should be the case that one can prefer a culture – broadly speaking – without being accused of racism. In America, this has become impossible because we do not possess a shared worldview. The Christian glue that served as the framework of understanding the world has dissolved, and what has emerged is an entirely different way of seeing the world.
At the heart of our current division is one group advocating for a particular culture and another group advocating for a different one having to do with competing claims of personal autonomy (“I am who I say I am and I can do whatever I want”) and the Lordship of Christ (“I am who God says I am and I shall do what He says I shall do”). These two are totally incompatible, and so long as there is not a common public “creed” to which we can all recite or cite with a straight face (say, the Pledge of Allegiance or the Constitution), we will only see more division.
The first group makes positive, constructive claims, so its origin story is easier to locate. While the second group makes negative, destructive claims, so its origin story can be influenced by any number of cads such as Marx, Derrida, and Foucault. That is certainly fine, I won’t attempt to draw too sharp a line here, but basically, any advocate of godless materialism from the Enlightenment forward is to blame. Nevertheless, those making that positive claim are pulling from a culture that is largely European in origin, and, I suppose you could say “white” as a matter of course. Never mind that within European history, there is a horrid history of bloodshed and war among “white” people in Germany, France, England, Spain, Italy, etc. But to suggest that all “whites” have always acted and thought in one accord is ridiculous.
However, it is the case that in the framing of our nation, there were particular ideals that our culture had learned through long experience. What are the hallmarks of such a culture? Allow me five bullet points.
*Personal dignity, by virtue of being a human being made in God’s image.
*The rule of law, or equality under the law, and due process which follows.
*Political representation. This is a republic after all, and a constitutional one at that.
*The pursuit of beauty, order, and transcendence in art, music, and literature.
*Virtues of restraint, thrift, and prudence.
Of course, examples of the failure of each of these hallmarks over the centuries can easily be produced. Slavery or prosecutorial misconduct or sexual repression could all be trotted out to say, “See capitalism has failed! See, Western democracy has failed! See, Christianity has failed!” The thing is, the only way you know something has failed is if you have a standard to begin with. And when that happens, the solution is not to abandon the standard, but to repent and do better next time. To vote the bums out. To run for office. Or to preach and live the change you wish to see, etc.
So, it will simply not do to say that the culture as outlined above has failed as a whole because it has failed in part. It will not do to point to those partial failures and decry its accompanying “whiteness”, especially if a better system cannot be demonstrated. For in spite of its failures, this Western, Christian, capitalistic constitutional republic has produced vast amounts of good and established a baseline towards which we are still striving. It is that baseline that forced the ending of slavery, segregation, and hopefully, abortion.
This culture, imperfect and yet quite fruitful, is a product of many people who happen to have white skin. (Though many people of color contributed, not least of all Jesus himself!) But that doesn’t mean that white people are better than other people, or that there is something about white skin that gives a person more value. Many, many, many people with white skin have raped, murdered, stolen, and destroyed. Indeed, the same mass of people that produced the above culture that I highly value also produced Vikings, Nazis, and advocates of abortion on demand.
And yet, this culture is the result of centuries of events and experimentation, of Biblical input and philosophical rumination, of bloody wars and democratic fits and starts. And through all of that time, you might say a culture evolved and thrived. And it is a better culture than the ones proposed by the sexually immoral, the Marxist, the anarchist, the potheads, and even the well-meaning “moral busybodies” of our day.
I mean, could anyone actually suggest that your average pop music of today – of “black” or “white” origin – competes with Bach or Beethoven? Are modern authors really in the same league as the great books filtered by history? Would anyone really suggest that pornography is better than chastity and waste is better than prudence? If these are the things that make one “white” because they are the fruit of a largely Christian civilization, well, so be it. While it is utterly foolish and un-Christian to suggest that “whiteness” is superior to anything, it is equally unnecessary to back away from such a fruitful culture as the one we are heirs to.
Separating Race from Culture
This isn’t pernicious “white nationalism”, but it is the defense of a culture that, as a matter of history, came out of a group of people informed by Biblical norms and then went on to define a nation by those norms. This is not a defense of Naziism, for Naziism was a rejection of this culture even as it used the language of that culture to rise to power. This is not a defense of white skin which, as a matter of Biblical course, is irrelevant.
It is to say that some bulk groupings of ideas (culture, for short) are better than others. And everyone believes that, which is why everyone defends a culture in speech or deed. For me to defend this culture doesn’t make me a racist white supremacist. Rather, I have a preference for the world I want to live in, and I would argue that that world has been largely shaped by Christian virtues. A world embraced and enjoyed by people of every race under the sun. That is why 1 million people, many of whom are people of color, come to America every year of their own accord. For that I am not ashamed or embarrassed.
My fear is that without the ability to defend a culture that bears fruit (for fear of being labeled a racist), we can’t maintain a culture that bears fruit. It’s really that simple. So, to those who think, on the whole, Western Civilization, in fits and starts, has produced some pretty impressive results, defend it! Yes, you’ll be called some ugly names. Just take that as more evidence that the alternative to this productive and beautiful culture is the basic desire to tear down and destroy. In other words, it refutes itself.
Photo Credit- nextnationalday.com