The Virgin on the Border: A Christmas Meditation
December 24, 2005, 04:00 AM
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[Previously by John Zmirak: Christmas Meditation 2003: This Royal Night & Christmas Meditation 2002: Christ, The "Other", And Counterfeit Citizens]

As Advent's drear gives way to Christmas, our thoughts should not be of policy. Drawing near to the manger, we look into the heart of things, to what C.S. Lewis called the "Deep Magic," the richly sedimented truths of our existence. We see the perfect paradox, the enfleshment of eternal omnipotence in the form of a baby who soils His swaddling clothes.

As I sit at my desk, on my right, I see a ten-foot banner of His mother, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This might surprise some readers, since this icon is often invoked by Mexican nationalists. Indeed, the Catholic bishops of Arizona just chose her feast day (December 12) to issue their latest call for amnesty and leaky borders.

But Our Lady of Guadalupe does not belong to the militants of MeCha. She is the patron saint of all the Americas, watching over suburban Slavs and converted WASPs alike. Her appearance won millions of souls from a cannibalistic cult to the worship of Christ. Mexicans would not heed the Spanish missionaries, or the white-faced icons they'd hung, until the Virgin Mary herself appeared, seizing for her own use Tepeyac Hill, once the temple of the Aztec snake-goddess, looking like an Indian and wearing native Aztec dress.

Christianity is universal—but it accepts and works through the particular: the baby in the crib, the family, the nation.

So the paradox repeats itself: The son of a most particular people, the Jews, brings salvation to all the nations. The Jews are still the people of the Promise, and will endure until the end—similarly, tension will ever persist between the global and the local, between the human race in general and our own kin in particular.

A Christian is bound to honor both resonant truths. Indeed, as in every formula of orthodoxy, the Church keeps them strung in tension—while heretics play the "great simplifiers."

The truth of our brotherhood in Adam must be preserved—as the great Pius XII did when he condemned Nazism, though its armies stood at his gates. Conversely, we cannot let globalism overwhelm our love for neighbors and kin—whom we owe far more than strangers.

The parent who denies his child piano lessons to fund a clinic in Rwanda is rightly viewed with suspicion—by sociobiologist and theologian alike. Nor must I as a Christian grind up my dogs to feed the North Koreans. Because we live in the flesh as well as the spirit, we value what is near above what is far, and real loves over philanthropy. This insight, exaggerated, spawns bigotry; repressed, it emerges as ideology. So the Gods of the Copybook Headings with fire and slaughter return

The peoples of the West once found a decent solution to the tension between universal and particular, in the form of the nation-state. Strung between two poles—our allegiance to universal man and our love of kin—stood the mediating figure of a monarch. The American Founders harnessed this tension as a safeguard against tyranny. We must render unto Caesar what is due him—no more, but no less.

Sometimes two opposite heresies work together, and war together against the truth. In Europe, the ferocity of race and cult burns bright among the Moslems, while post-Christian elites eat lotuses by Utopia's dim moonlight. In England, Islamic clerics who preach treason will keep their pulpits—but books that warn against jihad will soon be banned. And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sends blizzards of threats to congressmen who try to enforce our border laws.

Now competing theory has quietly captivated Western elites: Particularism may prevail among any group—except if it's Christian or white. Mexicans may band together on racial grounds (but not religious). Moslems may rally around the jihad. But Christians of European descent have no right to anything, anywhere—not even in church or in Europe. Nothing may be done to foster the survival of white nations, which (it is implied) is simply and plainly immoral.

To which one must respond—well, why?

Is there something in particular about the races descending from Europe which inclines them to special evil? Are they more prone to genocide? Tell that to the Tutsis and Cambodians. If it is payback for colonialism, then why inflict it on the Irish?

Or is the explanation more sinister? Do Western elites impose different standards on Christians and Europeans, because they quietly assume we are superior? As if we were above such tribal fetishes adored by "lesser breeds without the law."

In fact, it is "racist" to expect less of Mexicans than Americans, or to coddle outright tribalism amongst the tribes, while imposing on the smart set a bloodless globalism.

God Himself sees fit to honor particularity, the claims of kinship and even of race, as part of the universal good. He chose and still chooses the Jews, but wills the salvation of all. He will dress His earthly mother as an Aztec the better to win over hearts (the minds will follow). He will not have us shuck off as worthless dross or moral poison the heritage of our fathers, or our duties as citizens and patriots. In fact, he bids us to honor our fathers and mothers, and with them the civilization they have built.

In his Christmas speech to the Roman Curia, Pope Benedict XVI has said as much:

"A missionary Church required to proclaim its message to all the nations must commit itself to freedom of religion. It must pass on the gift of truth that exists for all and at the same time reassure nations and governments that it does not want to destroy their identities and cultures."

Are the bishops listening—north and south of the Rio Grande?

Feliz Navidad!

John Zmirak [email him] is author of The Bad Catholic's Guide to Good Living.