The present situation makes the Benedictine option desirable and plausible, but it is not without the risk of sliding towards communitarianism. And a Christian cannot run away from his responsibilities to a temporal order, and notably the political.
The present situation of the Catholic Church in our country seems to me to be determined by the following three parameters:
First, the rapid decrease in the social presence of Catholicism since the 1960s—a quantitative decrease that is approaching a threshold where the disappearance of the Catholic fact becomes conceivable.
Second, the irruption of a historically unprecedented factor, Islam, which occupies a growing place, visibly growing, in French society.
Third, the enthronement of the ideology of human rights as the exclusive principle of political, social, and moral legitimacy, installing each “me” in an immanence sure of its right.
On whatever side the French Catholic turns, he sees a threat rising up that can seem insurmountable, coming simultaneously from within, from outside and from himself! The temptation is great to respond to this triple offensive by resorting to the eternal strategy of the weakest party: the defensive, the refuge in a stronghold. In fact, we still have sufficient resources to build a good-looking Catholic fortress: sheltered behind its ramparts, we would no longer be demoralized by the indifference or hostility of global society, Muslims would become external and foreign to us again as they were forty years ago, and by “tightening the bolts” of a Christian life delivered from equivocations and timidities, by forming among ourselves this “Christian society” that France is no longer, we would be able to reorient our lives in the direction of the Transcendent.
Need for Social Support
This last argument must be taken seriously. Indeed, as supernatural as it is in its source and its intimate workings, the Christian life inevitably depends on social supports placed at our disposal by the collective organization of which we are members: places of worship, financial means, competent administrators, respected pastors, and in general everything that contributes to the social authority of the religious institution. It is only when they are subjected to systematic persecution—a situation, as we know, which does not exclude great spiritual fruitfulness—that Christians are entirely deprived of such support.
It is, moreover, the need to find such support that in the past led the Church to ask for help from the political authorities, a help that she obtained at the price of obscuring her own vocation, which caused an incurable wound in her credibility. No one today asks for or proposes such political support. It is unthinkable. That is why the withering of the Church’s social vitality (that social vitality which had allowed her in the first part of the last century to adapt with some success to her exclusion from the political sphere) is such a cause for concern or anguish for Catholics today, a concern or anguish which makes the “Benedictine option” desirable and plausible.
However, if this option is to effect—that is its purpose—of concentrating the forces of Catholics and giving them back a sense of strength, this revival would, I believe, be short-lived. This Benedictine option seems to me to have three disadvantages.
Any defensive regrouping entails the risk of sectarian closure, with the inevitable weakening of intellectual and even moral demands, since we would now be “among ourselves.” As soon as we give up trying to convince, persuade or even interest those who are “outside,” a great source of improvement is lost. Moreover, we would be claiming to be reaping before the renewal of Catholic intellectual life (which is the most encouraging aspect of the present situation of Catholicism) has reached maturity.
Since we need collective or social support, we must not exaggerate their contribution to Christian life. Whatever the political and social situation, leading a truly Christian life remains the most difficult and improbable thing in the world; it remains that fragile miracle which constantly enlightens and renews the life of the world. If Catholics, or Christians in general, are sincere, they admit that our little faith, hope and charity are not responsible for anything other than our little faith, hope and charity. The threshold of the Christian life is therefore not the accusation of the “world” or “society” but penance, “the repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18).
There is no remedy, nor should we seek one, for the situation facing the Christian. It entails a double obligation, of fidelity to the Church and of mission to one’s neighbor, a mission as urgent and perilous today as it was in the time of the Apostles. Let us not covet, but rather fear, the impression of recovered strength that a Catholic “gathering” would easily create. Paul’s authority assures us that there are always enough of us so that God’s strength can be seen in our weakness.
Moreover, our responsibility as Christians is no less political or civic than properly religious. This Europe that turns its back on us, let us not turn our backs on it in turn. If we want to give a generous meaning to what otherwise risks remaining a slogan, the “Christian roots of Europe,” we must hold ourselves responsible for what is happening in Europe, co-responsible with the other citizens concerned about the common fate, but also especially responsible as Christians who claim the unparalleled part—good and bad mixed—that their religion has taken, in the deepening of the European soul.
The Civic Obligation of Christians
This is where the relationship of the Church to herself, to her own life, and her relationship to Europe come together. Christians cannot devote themselves exclusively to the deepening of their sacramental life, however essential it may be. As citizens and as Christians they cannot abandon Europe to its fate. They have an inseparable civic and Christian obligation to preserve what, for lack of a better expression, I call the “Christian mark” of Europe.
Now, the shift imposed by the present pontificate has redoubled the difficulty of this task. On the one hand, ad intra, the sacramental rule is obscured or “blurred,” those thresholds that give meaning and relief to the interior life of the Church are erased. On the other hand, ad extra, religions are equalized, indifference to their dogmatic and moral content is shown, and the religious composition of the European population is shown to be of the utmost indifference.
Thus, the political and religious articulations of the present world are ignored or brutalized. This politically and religiously unformed humanity is the subject and the vehicle of a religion without any other content than emotional or sentimental. In such an involution, the dulling of the religious requirement is one with the darkening of the political view. We see that the urgency for the Christian citizens of Europe is not less civic than religious. For them, it is a matter of preserving or reviving the Christian mark of the European nations, and inseparably of preserving or reviving their political legitimacy. Instead of seeking refuge in a “small Christian society,” accept to be a citizen and a Christian in the greater society, inhospitable as it has always been.
This month, through the kind courtesy of La Nef magazine, we are so very honored to present this discussion with Pierre Manent, the well-known French political philosopher who of course hardly needs an introduction. Suffice to say that he is the author of very many influential books and articles on the condition and direction of modernity.
Christophe Geffroy (CG): How can we best summarize Tocqueville’s political analysis of democracy? What definition does he give? What is his contribution, his originality?
Pierre Manent (PM): French political thought in the first half of the 19th century is exceptionally rich. The French Revolution had signified an unprecedented break in the history of Europe. The upheaval suffered, the immense task of reconstruction to be accomplished, all this stirred the hearts and sharpened the minds of all parties. However, it was in the liberal school, taken in the broadest sense, that political reflection was most acute and relevant. Its members accepted the new society as a fact—a fact to be understood and organized politically by founding a representative regime.
Three figures successively dominated the field of political reflection: Benjamin Constant, François Guizot, Alexis de Tocqueville. The first is the most explicit and—I would say—the most naively liberal. He wanted above all to defend, as he says, that “part of human existence which, of necessity, remains individual and independent, and which is by right outside any social competence.” His liberalism is of opposition. Guizot is, in short, the one who opposes. He looks at things from the point of view of the one who governs; he is concerned first of all with the “means of government,” so that the new power, he explains, must know how to discern and draw from the new society.
And Tocqueville? He perceives, with an acuity that belongs only to him, a new phenomenon that had not escaped his predecessors, but of which he is the first to perceive to what extent it modifies the conditions of human life in all its dimensions. This phenomenon is democracy. An old word, an old notion, an old reality. But now a brand-new reality: Equality, as an idea and as a feeling, and even as a passion, has acquired an unprecedented power over minds and hearts. Once we have understood that this fact is irreversible, we must learn to organize social and political life in such a way as to realize the human vocation in this new social and moral element.
(CG): In what way is Tocqueville a liberal author, who fits into this precise philosophical tradition?
PM: Tocqueville is a liberal. But in his case, the qualifier is not very illuminating. Certainly, he values freedom; he even celebrates it in grandiose terms. Certainly, he accepts the main doctrinal elements of modern liberalism, and first of all what he calls “the just notion of liberty” according to which each man “is born with an equal and imprescriptible right to live independent of his fellow men in all that relates only to himself.” But, at the same time, he vigorously denounces the “individualism” which “draws [each one] unceasingly towards himself alone and threatens to enclose him at last entirely in the solitude of his own heart.”
We can formulate the tension that runs through his thought and his soul in this way: On the one hand, liberalism is just because it places a principle of justice at the basis of the new society, whereas all previous human orders necessarily rested, in one way or another, on force. But on the other hand, it is imperative for him to combat the most serious tendency of a society founded on these principles, which is to divert the members of the society from the concern for the common good and thus to leave the highest faculties of man lying fallow. In terms of the contemporary French debate, one could say that Tocqueville is frankly liberal, but also more republican than liberal.
PM: It is a book on the political history of France, very thorough, carefully and admirably written. He prepared and wrote it in the early years of the Second Empire, which was not yet “liberal.” Tocqueville’s outlook is very dark. The coup d’état of Louis-Napoleon, and the regime that was then installed, humiliated Tocqueville and discouraged him. Was France condemned to fail unceasingly at the doors of political freedom? How is it that after a Revolution that brought down the monarchical State, that even made a clean sweep of the society of old orders, and then, this new society found itself to be like the old one, and even more than the old one, under the hand of a State that was still “vertical,” as we would say today?
Tocqueville is very harsh on our Old Regime, but his indictment has little to do with revolutionary diatribes. In some respects, his book is even a “tomb,” in the poetic sense of the word, of the Ancien Régime and its “greatness.” One can read for example: “It will always be regretted that instead of bending this nobility under the empire of laws, [the Revolution] has cut it down and uprooted it. By doing so, it has taken away from the nation a necessary part of its substance and made a wound to liberty that will never heal.” But here is the indictment: “Class division was the crime of the old royalty, and later became its excuse.”
By devitalizing the old institutions that ensured the collaboration of the classes without replacing them with the institutions of political liberty, the monarchy locked everyone into their own condition, thus nourishing the individualism that was the condition of the Revolution and was found, even more virulent, among its major consequences.
CG: For Tocqueville, was the French Revolution part of a movement towards democracy? And what links are there between the revolutionary spirit and the democratic spirit?
PM: This is an essential point. Tocqueville is especially concerned to distinguish the two, which the French are inclined to confuse because of their historical experience: Democracy came for them with the Revolution. This confusion is particularly harmful in France because democrats believe they are obliged to be revolutionaries and anti-revolutionaries to be against democracy. Thus, good citizens who should share the same affection for a regime that knows how to combine equality and liberty become irreconcilable political adversaries.
To show that the democratic spirit is essentially distinct from the revolutionary spirit is one of Tocqueville’s principal objects. American democracy provides him with the crucial experience that proves the thesis: The Americans live under an entirely democratic regime—if we except, of course, the institution of slavery in certain southern states—and they know a social and political life that is clearly better regulated than the French. This is because they were “born equal instead of becoming equal.” By a cruel irony that would not, I believe, have surprised Tocqueville too much, the American Democrats of today are inclined to reverse his thesis, and to see in slavery not the anomaly, but the ineradicable root of the American regime.
CG: Why was Tocqueville long forgotten in France, which was not the case in the United States, only to be rediscovered fairly recently and to have become an “indispensable” thinker of any analysis of democracy?
PM: It is undoubtedly because the social and political movement has led the French in the direction from which Tocqueville wished to turn them away. On the one hand, the revolutionary spirit found new motives in the extension of industry, which, in the eyes of socialists, especially Marxists, made a new and more radical revolution inevitable. On the other hand, opposition to democracy became independent of nostalgia for the Old Regime, and found in the new France a powerful resource in the form of nationalism.
One fact strikes me—after 1848, and more and more as we approached the new century, the generous and finely discriminating intelligence that characterized the political thought of the first nineteenth century gave way more and more to a fierce polemic that granted nothing to the adversary. Socialists and nationalists competed, if I may say so, in certainty and implacability. There are always great minds, or at least great talents, but imaginations are narrowed and hearts often shriveled.
Tocqueville returned to the public debate in France, first thanks to Raymond Aron who placed him in the history of social sciences, as one of the great interpreters of modern society alongside Marx, Comte or Weber. Then his star shone at the same time as that of Marx waned—the experience of communist totalitarianism made the idea of the despotic potentialities of equality strikingly relevant.
CG: Our democracies are in crisis, as the record abstention of the last elections confirms. Is Tocqueville a help in understanding this crisis and getting out of it?
PM: The current crisis brings to a climax the tendencies described by Tocqueville. As I said, democracy, as he understands it, is not so much a political regime as a spiritual regime; it is based on an extraordinarily powerful and pervasive affect, namely, the “passion for equality,” combined with the “feeling of similarity.” It is not only proclaimed that all citizens are equal before the law, or that a judge does not take into account the class, the race or the education of the accused when he judges. One wants to remove any mark of inequality or simply of difference in the social body.
The feeling of the similar, the compassion for the “suffering other,” are not only a constitutive part of the feelings of the social man, they form the very atmosphere of the collective life; they give it the tone; they are ordered by the social authority and more and more by the law of politics itself. This social religion certainly has its orthodoxy and its heretics—who would dare contest that men are equal and similar, if not perverse minds, or hearts closed to all humanity?
The consequence of this empire of the similar is that all the differences, natural or acquired, which structure human life—differences of the sexes, of generations, of the contents of life, of the forms of life, of human virtues and vices—all these differences which give human life its form and its meaning, its taste too—well, social religion commands us to refuse to take them into account in our words or our actions, and first of all forbids us to even see them.
Indeed, the real life, ordered by a complex mixture of equality and inequality, of resemblance and difference, is so to speak overlaid by an unreal but obligatory life, where the law commands that we ignore the difference of the sexes, erases the mention of the father, and continuously reforms the language so that this one cannot designate another subject of attribution of what it is to be human in general. They even want to erase the difference between the human species and the animal species. Thus, the democratic religion commands us to live in a humanity without anything human of its own, without form or order, without any other task than to erase any trace of form or order, and finally any trace of meaning.
CG: The pandemic and the often liberticidal measures taken to contain it have shown that our fellow citizens are more attached to their well-being than to their freedom. Is this in line with Tocqueville’s analysis of the nature of democracy?
PM: Compassion is primarily concerned with physical suffering. It is the “pity” of which Rousseau speaks, in which the “animal spectator” identifies with the “suffering animal.” In the absence of a moral education, we limit ourselves to “feeling with” the “sensitive” animal. Together with the progress of medicine, the feeling of the fellow man and compassion have encouraged the construction of these extraordinary “health systems” which are one of the most admirable achievements of modern civilization. Let’s not kid ourselves—we all want to be well cared for!
But the more collective resources and attention are focused on a particular area, the more unbalanced our common life is likely to be. If we only know how to see suffering bodies, and if the only commandment that makes sense to us is to remove or alleviate physical suffering, then we are handing over not only our bodies but our souls to the machinery of prevention and cure. If our societies have become so organized around the concern for health, it is first of all of course that this concern is universally shared, but it is also because other human concerns have withered away. The desire to control everything, which is natural to governments, finds a docile subject among members of society whose imagination and ambition are increasingly narrowed, and who no longer know how to attach themselves to something greater than their “naked lives.”
CG: What role does Tocqueville see for religion in the balance and viability of a democratic society? Does the decline of Christianity in the West threaten democratic vitality?
PM: In a humanity sucked in by the vortex of sameness, transcendent religion, and primarily the Christian religion, introduces difference par excellence. One can think that, at the beginning, it is the desire to bring the transcendent back to us, to domesticate the Most High, that has engaged us in the movement of democratization and homogenization that is reaching its extreme phase today in the West.
If this is the case, the vital prognosis of our civilization is threatened, because how can we revive the concern for transcendence when we are caught in a social and moral movement motivated by the refusal of transcendence? In fact, Christianity itself is today profoundly affected, if not transformed by this rejection. Current Christian preaching tends to be confused with the religion of human likeness. There is a reluctance to take seriously the object of faith. Christianity is deliberately confused with “other religions.”
CG: Do we find in Tocqueville a link between nation and democracy? In other words, for him, can democracy be envisaged anywhere, on any scale and independently of a specific history anchored in a culture and a religion?
PM: Tocqueville’s analyses presuppose the national framework; he speaks of “European nations” or “democratic nations,” but he does not thematize the question of the nation. Tocqueville elaborated his thought before the national question became central to European life. His general approach can, however, enlighten us.
As the progress of democratic equality made European societies more similar, they experienced more keenly their national character, which came to the fore both in their mutual relations and in the relationship of each nation to itself. The internal homogenization was, so to speak, counterbalanced by the ever-increasing value placed on national specificity.
While the different nations were coming closer together in their social form and seemed to be moving towards the same future, each one turned with predilection to its original past. National history became constitutive of the self-consciousness of each to a degree that Europe had never known. The institutions that were directly linked to the national past, the pre-democratic institutions, such as the army or the Church, were able to acquire an unprecedented prestige or role—that of embodying the nation, and possibly providing a point of reference for the rejection of democracy.
Modern democracy has developed within the national framework, and in this sense democracy and national form are closely related. On the other hand, in the nationalist impulse, the nation appears as the synthesis and protector of all those differences that democracy tends to erase, at the risk that these differences serve above all as fuel and pretext for anti-democratic passion.
Today, in North America and in Europe, the democratic movement wants to “do away” with the nation that has nourished and protected it for so long. That is why it is turning with particular aggression against national histories. While an imaginary similarity is imposed on all elements of present life, the past becomes that reserve of differences from which our memory and imagination must be purged.
The nation as it developed in Europe combined the past, the present and the future; it synthesized the three dimensions of time in a way that no political form had been able to do before. Today, the passion for similarity and indistinction between men has reached such a degree of virulence that the present devours both the past and the future: The past because it was so different; the future because it might be very different.
The featured image shows a portrait of Alexis de Tocqueville by Théodore Chassériau, painted in 1850.
A sort of shortcut, or short-circuit, has pervaded public opinion for many years, especially the Christian opinion, between the “Christian message” and “welcoming migrants.” As if welcoming migrants summed up the demands and urgency of today’s Christian message. As if “being a Christian today” found its touchstone in the welcome, if not unconditional, at least as broad as possible, of migrants. I would like to question the merits of this perspective.
I will first make a few very quick comments on migration. The dominant opinion, that which governs the rulers, maintains that it is fundamentally, if not exclusively, a moral problem, that the reception of migrants is a categorical imperative, perhaps tempered by the limited possibilities of the “host” countries. According to this view, we know what is good work, or a good deed; and the debate can legitimately only be about the appreciation of the circumstances. Yet this emphatically moral perspective rests on a political assumption that is rarely questioned, namely that migration is the major phenomenon of the times, the most significant phenomenon, and against which all others should be considered. This is the argument behind the Marrakesh Pact.
Moral Evidence Or Political Postulate?
However, migrants constitute a small percentage of the world’s population, which continues to live mainly in constituted states. Whatever the specific needs and wishes of migrants, no substantial reason has yet been given to subordinate them in principle to the needs and wishes of non-migrant populations, who are not necessarily less needy. By urging states to do everything in their power to facilitate migratory movements, we immediately deprive political bodies of this essential part of their legitimacy, which consists in freely determining the conditions of access to their territory and to their citizenship. Even urging them to monitor how their citizens talk about migration arrogates the right to regulate public conversation in every country in the world. Thus, in the name of a moral evidence, which is only an arbitrary political postulate, we weaken the legitimacy and therefore the stability of the constituted states, in particular of those which are most sensitive to this argument, namely, the democratic countries, which now host a large number of migrants, and who are by far the most active when it comes to bringing them assistance.
Our democracies provide a life of peace, freedom and even conviviality, which remains enviable for large populations, whose social condition, education, religion, opinions and lifestyles are extremely varied. This associative capacity, the fruit of great efforts over a long history, is not unlimited. No one knows how far a body politic can accept growing heterogeneity without breaking up. It is not only a question of “preserving” oneself, of defending what is one’s own, however legitimate this concern may be—it is a question of preserving and, if possible, improving the conditions of “the good life,” primarily from a common education.
Primacy Of Citizenship
Migrants themselves are no exception to this primacy of citizenship. They were active citizens of the country they left. They most often retain the rights of citizenship or nationality. They received a more or less complete education there, a human formation; in short, a form of life. It is therefore a very superficial view to look at migration exclusively from a humanitarian perspective, and migrants simply as “alike.” Undoubtedly, migrants are our fellow human beings and we are required, if they are in danger, to come to their aid according to our means. But they are also citizens who have been instilled with social or religious rules, which can sometimes be directly contrary to our principles of justice. The duty to help here and now the migrant who is in danger in no way includes a duty to facilitate his migration, let alone that of making him a fellow citizen. All this depends on very varied considerations and ultimately on a judgment that is not moral but political; or rather an ethical judgment in the old sense of the term, that is to say a prudential judgment in which the common good of the community of citizens is the main, although not exclusive, criterion.
What “Christian Message?”
I come to the second point. What exactly do we mean, or what do we mean seriously, when we speak of the “Christian message?” The answer is all the more difficult because over the course of a long history, the Christian proposal has found very diverse expressions, depending on the evolutions of the Church—of those of the world and of the interactions of the Church and the world. In particular, it appears that the modalities of the Christian proposal are very different depending on whether the Church is in a position of command or of authority, as she was during much of European history; or in a position of marginality or subordination, as she is today. I’ll proceed from there.
We constantly meet with traces, remnants or signs of the once central and commanding position of the Church. But, if we look at things as they are, it appears that the Church is increasingly rejected and lies at the margins of European society, including French society. The ecclesial institution, and Catholics in general, have long become accustomed to this diminished condition; but at the cost of increasing difficulty in carrying out the Christian proposal. How can the breadth and gravity of her appeal to humanity be heard without departing from the modesty to which her present situation obliges her? This proposal is addressed to all men, it concerns the whole of man, and the mission of Christians is to carry this call.
However, if the Church, through her liturgy and her sacraments, continues to fulfill this mission in the direction of her active members, she no longer really knows in what terms to formulate it in the public space. Indeed, the sovereign state has gradually imposed its point of view on all participants in common life, including the Church. From the point of view of the state, the Christian faith is one opinion among others, the freedom of which it guarantees, but which does not deserve any special consideration, as it hastens to let her know as soon as she intervenes in the public space. However, even though the Church today does not demand any special consideration, she cannot renounce her raison d’être. How to address humanity, and first of all the members of the civic body, when an increasingly rigorous interpretation of secularism leads the state to exercise increasingly precarious surveillance over any public expression that can be linked to religion?
It is therefore a great temptation in the Church to seek the ear of the public and to preserve its audience, by linking the proclamation, which is specific to her, to the prevailing opinion today, by confusing the Christian proclamation with this “religion of humanity,” which envelops Europe and the Americas, reducing charity to that “sentiment of similarity,” in which Tocqueville already saw the deepest and most powerful psychic spring of modern democracy. It’s a temptation, because like all temptations, it’s an ease, and it’s a lie. Indeed, the religion of humanity proclaims a human family, virtually united and healed. It invites us to perceive, under the still virulent separations, a humanity in which the similarity of men under their differences would be immediately visible and perceptible. One understands the attraction of a prospect that promises the unification of humanity through the contagion of pleasant feeling. We must also point out the cost. Once rooted, this point of view implies a relaxation of all our ambitions; a renunciation in principle of all our common actions, since there can be no ambition or common action without an effort to distinguish oneself from those who do not share this ambition, or have no part in this common action. A humanity which claims to unite by the contagion of the feeling of the similar, is a humanity which has given up acting, since, as soon as we act, as Rousseau explains, we must “take into account the differences that we find in the continual use we have to make of each other.”
The Religion Of Humanity
In the eyes of the Christian, in particular, the religion of humanity is superficial because it does not understand the depth of what separates men and where their enmity is rooted: how to imagine that men will find the healing of their divisions in that feeling of sympathy which, reduced to itself, has little strength and constancy? Moreover, it is because the human capacity for sympathy is naturally limited that compassion is prolonged, spreads and is distorted in political projects, which introduce new divisions by seeking new enemies. How can we fail to see the political and ideological passion behind the project of a world “without borders,” which presents itself as the necessary conclusion of the awareness of human similarity?
The humanitarian proposal is difficult to refuse because it postulates that it is enough for everyone to be aware of the evidence of human resemblance to enter into justice. The Christian proposal is difficult to accept because it affirms that all human beings are prisoners of an injustice from which they cannot escape by their own strength, and that in order to come out of it they must accept the mediation of Christ both man and God, mediation of which the Church in turn is the mediator. It is indeed a lot of mediation— when the religion of humanity offers the immediate feeling of human likeness; but it opens up an incomparably more instructive and demanding path of improvement, since its end is God himself, of whom every human being is the image.
It would be unfair to underestimate the virtues and the happy effects of humanitarian compassion. In fact, the gestures of charity are in part the same as those of compassion. But in the face of the fabulous powers bestowed on compassion, in the face of precisely this religion of compassion which has established its authority among us, it is important to underline its limits. Christians would lose the sense and intention of their faith if they could no longer distinguish between compassion and charity.
Fascination With The “Migrant”
Thus, after sketching a political perspective on migration, I have just emphasized the specificity of the Christian message. The two approaches, by various paths, aim to deliver us from a vertigo that sweeps away many of us, Christians or not. From a giddiness to a fascination, the fascination of the “migrant,” a figure which sums up humanity because he is the loss of the human as Marx said more or less of the proletarian, a Christ-like figure who tends to substitute for Christ as the object of the intention if not of the faith of Christians. However, the attraction, the bewitchment by the figure of the migrant in one part of public opinion inevitably finds its counterpart in another part of public opinion; in the form of a more or less vehement rejection of migrants, so that the reception or refusal of migrants tends to constitute in our countries the most powerful motive for political and moral divisions. I have tried to suggest that migration does not force us to change the character of our political system, or the meaning and standards of the Christian religion. Yet, if migration does not fundamentally change the political condition of men, it exerts pressure on our countries which, in fact, deeply affects both our political system and, if I may say so, our religious regime. This pressure is both the cause and the effect of the surprisingly rapid progress of this “religion of humanity” which is profoundly transforming the conditions of our common life.
This new political religion has delegitimized our representative republic by imposing the idea that there is something radically unjust in a community of citizens who govern themselves, because in doing so they separate themselves from the rest of men, and at the same time exclude all those who are not part of it. As democratic as it wants to be, our community of citizens is considered radically unfair since the rights it grants to its members are not granted to all the men who ask for or claim them. The only fair rule is that which applies to men in general. It is according to the same logic that the religion of humanity has tended to delegitimize the Christian religion which, a community sharing objects of faith, criteria of judgment and a form of life which are specific to it, separates itself from the rest of humanity. In fact, any community of action or education, in short just about all that humanity has been able to produce, is delegitimized by the religion of humanity which only wants to see similar people, where men have created great different things.
The difficulty, one is tempted to say, the perversity of our situation, is concentrated in the relationship between migration and the religion of humanity. This commands us to open up to migrants, without asking for anything in return—and certainly not to open up to our form of life. Yet are we not “the others” for them? In truth, there is no question here of equality or human resemblance. The meeting to which we are invited is that of a presumed innocent and a presumed culprit; it is ordered by a moral inequality of principle. It is that the religion of mankind was not produced by united mankind, but by old Christendom tired of itself, or in revolt against itself. Humanitarianism is not only a weakening of Christianity. Rather, there is, at the root of the religion of humanity, which has taken possession of Europe, an enmity and resentment, specifically directed against the Christian religion. This state of affairs concerns non-Christians as well as Christians if not in the same way; since, while Christianity seems to be withdrawing from European life, another religion has taken hold of consciences to deprive Europeans of any right to govern themselves and to preserve a form of life of their own. While Europe persists in erasing the last traces of Christendom, nothing can stop it from disappearing into a humanity without form or vocation.