Let us be on guard against colonization by new ideologies. There are forms of ideological colonization which are out to destroy the family. They are not born of dreams, of prayers, of closeness to God or the mission which God gave us; they come from without, and for that reason I am saying that they are forms of colonization. . . . Just as our peoples, at a certain moment of their history, were mature enough to say ‘no' to all forms of political colonization, so too in our families we need to be very wise, very shrewd, very strong, in order to say ‘no' to all attempts at an ideological colonization of our families. These are forms of ideological colonization. The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life.”
These words of Pope Francis in the Philippines—a former colony of Spain and the United States—were very striking, especially given his aversion to colonialism. Known mostly as the Pope who said, “Who am I to judge?” about people who experience same-sex attraction trying to live a Christian life, this fuller exposition of his thought on the new ideologies presented a fascinating look into the way in which colonialism—discredited by liberals and to lesser extent many conservatives as well—has gone away from the actual military and political rule seen in previous centuries, to a stealthier and subtler form of the exertion of foreign power.
This moral superiority of the liberalized Western nation over “third-world” nations and their ability to self-govern was seen this weekend when President Obama lectured the president of Kenya on gay rights. “When a government gets in a habit of people treating people differently, those habits can spread. As an African-American, I am painfully aware of what happens when people are treated differently under the law.”
This castigation would apply to the president’s own policy views when he ran for president in 2008: “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage.” That he ran and was elected president on a platform of, as he says, treating people differently under the law—in this case not allowing gays to marry—renders this most recent articulation of ideological colonization all the more arrogant and ironic.
These are not empty words from the President either. Uganda had its funding removed by the White House after it passed a harsh bill condemning same-sex actions. Nigeria is being threatened with the same by his administration.
The Kenyan President stood up to the American President after his chastisement, and pointed out that Kenyans do not agree with the enlightened superiority of the superpower in question, and are concerned with much more basic aspects of civil society, and affirmed their right to govern their own nation.
Something similar happened to President Obama in 2013 when he was rebuffed after lecturing the President of Senegal, who retorted that his nation had the authority to govern itself. He then pointed out that the death penalty was illegal in his own nation—a position more liberal than even this American President would dare to take. “And we do respect the choice of each country,” said the Senegalese leader.
The President and others who recognize the shortcomings of the colonization of peoples by more powerful foreign nations would do well to heed the words of Pope Francis—for whom the President often expresses admiration—about the new form of colonization, holding foreign aid as a hostage when their nation’s views reflect a different understanding of the human person, one held by many Americans as well. The importance liberal thinkers and politicians give to diversity of culture should be consistently applied to those places which have a more traditional view of humanity.
Dominic Bouck, O.P., is a Dominican brother of the Province of St. Joseph and a summer intern at First Things.