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The New Civil Religion of Multiculturalism

By Ken Masugi

The campaign for the presidency has turned into a religious war, whether commentators or the electorate wish to acknowledge it or not. At stake is the very identity of this nation. No, this is not the religious right versus secularists. It is nothing other than a test of what faith this nation embracesAmericas new would-be civil religion of multiculturalism or the proposition that all men are created equal, from the Declaration of Independence. Are we as a nation ready to abandon our old God, of the Declarations laws of nature and of natures God, for the new gods of multiculturalism?

Vice-presidential nominee Joe Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, would appear to be a perfect representative of the old-time religion. But in fact he is part of a radical agenda advancing a new religion for America. Lieberman is former divinity school student Al Gores confession of faith in the new theology. And Lieberman himself is a prophet.

What are the tenets of the new gospel? For one, the new religion of multiculturalism finds the very notion of natural distinctions dubious. Note the presence of radical feminism and homosexual liberation as part of this new religion. This is all on top of the differentiation by race and ethnicity (excluding, at least for now, European-Americans) emphasizing tribal groups, not the dignity of a common human nature. Though a sometime critic of racial quotas, Lieberman votes in favor of racial set-asides and, moreover, the feminist, pro-abortion, and homosexual agendas. Whatever his other deviations from the faith, he is clearly a co-religionist of this new social gospel.

This lack of an ethical core opens public policy to the rule of the strongest passions of homosexual rights, feminism, and abortion rights. Mandated racial preferences are one sign of this attachment; feminized curricula on all grade levels, another. The civil religion of multiculturalism is inherently divisive, as it bypasses the natural family and transforms sexual passion into political activism. Politics becomes literally a matter of life and death. There can be no rule by consent, because that would require one to acknowledge a social and political nature. And that in turn means duties to family and country.

This lack of a natural standard means in turn that government is not inherently limited in its powers. The private, a-rational, often zealous attachment to ones tribal origins can be translated into government policy. In the new religion, there is not only no natural distinction between the sexes, there is no separation of church and state. It is utterly un-American to even question the divinity of any gods in the new pantheon. This is the new blasphemy.

Indeed, these new gods are wrathful. In this clever mutual security pact, an attack on one member is an attack on all. Thus, gay rights has been bizarrely equated with the original civil rights movement that focused on the descendants of the liberated slaves.

Thus, it is to no avail to be a member of a protected group and to support civil rights as traditionally understood, to involve protection against racial discrimination. Ask Dr. Laura Schlessinger, like Senator Lieberman an Orthodox Jew, but one who is critical of sexual liberation generally, including homosexual activity and abortion. Such a heretic is not deserving of the ordinary respect owed human beings.

The new religion has spread the lie that the old religion was racist. In fact, its notion of universal truth is the best antidote against racism and bigotry of all forms. The old religion was and remains, multicultural in the best sense. The plainest example of this is Raphaels painting, The School of Athens, which hangs in the Vatican Museum. While peopled by the greats of western civilization such as Plato and Aristotle, the anachronistic masterpiece also contains the great Islamic philosopher Averroes. This in a painting commissioned by the Pope!

The old religion of the Declaration and Constitution is of course not restricted to Christians, and includes Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists, as well. It requires devotion to the laws of nature and of natures God, acknowledged by the Declaration of Independence as the basis of all human rights and the natural limitations on governmental power. Before the Declaration slavery was legal in all the colonies; by the time the Constitution was adopted slavery was illegal in six of the new States. It is not in any way the Declarations fault that men did not adhere to its tenets more strictly, but it deserves the major credit for the liberation that did occur. Thus, men and women of different faiths (and races) could join together in a society grounded on a common belief in the natural rights of all. So grounded, such a nation could protect the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. The commitment of this old political religion, as Abraham Lincoln called it, was so intense that a Civil War over its meaning was fought.

The new civil religion has no patience with the moral demands of the old religion. The new demands a zealous commitment to unending striving: This is the real significance of Gores environmental extremism. He cites the Communist apologist philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty and clearly relies on the Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger in support of his arguments in Earth in the Balance. When this savior of nature expelled natural rights from the Temple of Democracy he was expelling moderation as well.

This extremism is the horror of the situation. This is the absurd point our nation has reached in its history. We discard the theology of the Declaration of Independence, long an object of ridicule from sophisticates and demagogues, and embrace the civil theology of multicultural openness. Dare we wonder what might come through that open door? Can any nation so misconceived long endure?

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Ken Masugi is Director of the Claremont Institute's Center for Local Government.


All pages copyright ? 2000 The Claremont Institute