Luma Simms is an Associate Fellow at The Philos Project. Her essays and articles have appeared in First Things, Public Discourse, The Federalist, Institute for Family Studies, and other publications.

The Immigrant Mind: Immigration and Identity Part III

In parts one and two we discussed the metaphysical undergirding of identity and attempted to understand a little about selfhood. Those discussions gave us the foundation from which we can now scale up to the national level. We cannot understand national identity without selfhood, because the very dimensions that make up the self – when taken collectively – make up a nation, and from there a civilization.

National Identity

On April 1, 2005, the day before St. Pope John Paul II died, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger gave a lecture in Italian at the convent of Saint Scholastica in Subiaco, Italy. The topic was Europe’s Crisis of Culture. It was significant not only because it addressed the roots of Europe’s identity crisis, but because it clarified Europe’s Muslim assimilation problem, and thereby the civilizational clash between European nations and their Muslim population.

According to Ratzinger, the heart of the problem can be seen in this logical sequence: The Enlightenment and secularism matured organically in Christian Europe; Europe denied its Christian heritage espousing a universal secular culture; this universal secular culture broke down national identity and imposed an identity which was “determined exclusively by the Enlightenment culture,” a culture with internal contradictions, and an “ill-defined or undefined concept of freedom.” Most significantly, this culture excludes God from the public conscience.

Contrary to secular thinking, banishing God from the public square does not create a more tolerant world; it absolutizes “a pattern of thought and of life that are radically opposed … to the other historical cultures of humanity.” People of other religions “do not feel threatened by our Christian moral foundations, but by the cynicism of a secularized culture that denies its own foundation,” Ratzinger said. He clarified, “It is not the mention of God that offends those who belong to other religions, but rather the attempt to build the human community absolutely without God.”

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