The Virtues of Imperialism, pt. 2
I wrote a short story once (though I am unable now to find any evidence of its existence among my files--I fear that it has been lost forever) about privileged man from the first-world who decided that he would use his riches to travel the world. His purpose was not, as one might expect, to sight-see--he would have absolutely despised such practices. Instead, he would go from place to place and apologize for the imperialists who would dare tell others how to live their lives; he would extol the virtues of the world's many, diverse cultures. He thus travels to China to celebrate Communism, to India to celebrate the caste system, to Iran to celebrate radical Islam. Everywhere he goes he encourages all who will listen to continue pursuing what they perceive to be true, never letting any evil imperialist try to tell them otherwise. Finally, he travels to a forgotten tribe in some remote jungle to apologize for the missionaries who dared try and tell them that there was something wrong with the way they had chosen to live. The story ends, naturally, with this anti-imperialist being eaten by cannibals.
The story, needless to say, is a parable. The protagonist is a caricature of every moral-relativist and anti-imperialist to ever walk the earth. It may be founded on hyperbole, but there is no doubt in my mind that it is far too close to the truth for comfort. We need merely open our eyes to see this sort of thing. There is no single idea our present philosophers delight in more than moral relativism--no culture is better than another; no thought is superior to another; no... it is pointless to point out to such individuals that the very concept of moral relativism fails the fundamental test of self-sufficiency. Any thinking individual ought to see clearly that the idea has no grounding in reality... the greatest failure of my character was that he thought nothing worth caring for; or, worse, he thought everything worth caring for equally.
It is thought by some that empires arise because one desires to destroy others, but empires are really never about others. Even history’s great empires—the Greeks, the Romans, the Persians, the Mongols, the British—were not empires because of the world, for empires exist for themselves. An imperialist does necessarily need to see others destroyed; it needs to see itself rise. As G.K. Chesterton observed, “A true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
This love, this belief, is the hidden sanity of the imperialist; and the lack thereof the hidden madness of the postmodernist. It is a beautiful thing to fight for what one believes! Unfortunately, this can only mean that our world today is filled with a growing and dangerous sort of irrational madness. Far too many steps have been taken (often by those who know no better) to stifle this bit of humanity in what amounts to a particularly gruesome form of self-abuse. The greatest virtue has become to 'live and let live,' even if this living amounts to a sort of living hell; the greatest vice becomes to persuade another to abandon the fortresses of their own kingdoms. To speak of anything as an absolute is anathema to this sort of insanity.
Even many Christians neglect this fundamental truth: to forego the commandment of Christ to conquer—to refuse to go into the world and to make disciples—is an act of hate. Too many Christians have too much in common with those deranged churches that preach unity over doctrine; peace over truth. There may be unity in Unitarianism; but there is also a willingness to believe a lie (or many lies, as the case may be) for the sake of this unity.
There are few things sadder than those who oppose the very notion of imperialism upon the premise that it is wrong for one man to subject another to his philosophy or his politics. Make no mistake: I find it perfectly commendable when one chooses to stand fast in opposition to the expansion of an empire—no matter what form that Empire may take—but only when he who opposes is part of yet another Empire; one he believes to be superior. When one Empire is thrust against another, when swords and ideas clash, one feels the shivers of great and powerful things afoot. There is found the beautiful conflict of religious ideas and political philosophies that can only strengthen the very power of man to think and to feel.
Some of our world's Empires may have been right and even more were almost certainly wrong, but both good and evil are preferable to one who fails to recognize the difference between the two. There is perhaps no more fitting (and no more pitiful) representative of our present age than such a man. This is the man who protests against the rich man simply because he has had the audacity to become rich. And perhaps he is right—perhaps the rich man is rich only because of his greed; perhaps he has lied and cheated his way to riches. But can't we see that such an evil can only be opposed by an equal or greater good? Evil will not be moved by idle sign-holders or pitiful hunger strikes. Only the great and unstoppable force of the Sermon on the Mount (one of the great stump speeches given at the foundation of the world's greatest Empire) will speak to the heart of the evil. The rich man may hold no fear of the long-haired heathen on the sidewalk, but he will surely be stricken with deadly fear upon the conviction of the scorching words of Christ against the evils of greed and idolatry; he will be unable to provide an answer when how he expects to escape from the damnation of hellfire.
Make no mistake about it, the call to bring to fruition a Kingdom of Heaven on Earth—not by men but for men—is the call to raise up an empire of good that is powerful enough to topple all evil. We do not point in admiration to the early martyrs because of their passivity in the moment of death, but because of their outspoken ferocity against the empires that opposed their God. There is nothing passive about the Kingdom of God; it exists only so that the world might be overtaken by it. Though the empires of this little planet may topple, and though the pangs of childbirth from which the world continually suffers may inflict themselves upon every institution and edifice (including Christendom itself), there is the hope in knowing that the Christian empire, properly wielded, is destined to overcome. But it must be held to as one holding onto the final rung of a ladder leading to freedom; as one holds a holy book to their chest in the moment of death as if it were a beloved child. Above all, it must be believed in and it must be allowed the freedom to spread and to conquer the nations and to topple the pitiful attempts of man.
“Let us then as Christians rejoice,” Malcolm Muggeridge reminds us, “that we see around us on every hand the decay of the institutions and instruments of power, see intimations of empires falling to pieces, money in total disarray, dictators and parliamentarians alike nonplussed by the confusion and conflicts which encompass them. For it is precisely when every earthly hope has been explored and found wanting, when every possibility of help from earthly sources has been sought and is not forthcoming, when every recourse this world offers, moral as well as material, has been explored to no effect, when in the shivering cold the last faggot has been thrown on the fire and in the gathering darkness every glimmer of light has finally flickered out, it’s then that Christ’s hand reaches out sure and firm. Then Christ’s words bring their inexpressible comfort, then his light shines brightest, abolishing the darkness forever. So, finding in everything only deception and nothingness, the soul is constrained to have recourse to God himself and to rest content with him.”