Monday, May 30, 2005

Morality and Foreign Policy--The Gospel According to First Things

Several articles I’ve stumbled across recently have compelled me to think about the connection between “morality” and foreign policy.

In First Things, editor Joseph Bottum tries to get to the heart of the alliance between evangelical social conservatives and foreign-policy obsessed neoconservatives. Bottum says that there is little that unites the disparate elements of the conservative coalition, except for one very curious fact:

Those who believe the murderousness of abortion to be the fundamental moral issue of our times and those who see the forceful defeat of global, anti-Western Islamicism as the most pressing political concern we face. Pro-life social conservatives and the foreign-policy neoconservatives, in other words—seem to be increasingly voting together, meeting together, and thinking together. If you want to advance the pro-life cause, you will quickly find yourself seated beside those who support an activist, interventionist, and moralist foreign policy for the United States. And, conversely, if you are serious about the war on terror, you will soon discover that you are mingling with those fighting against abortion.


Bottum says that the religious right has “grown up” since the 1970’s when “they hardly knew what the words ‘foreign policy’ meant.” Now evangelicals are at the forefront of such battles as ending international sex trafficking and other human rights abuses.

Then, of course, there is Israel. Evangelical Christians are the most vocal and fervent defenders of the Israeli state, a phenomenon that has been building for some time. Bottum says, “Perhaps it began with believers’ interest in apocalyptic biblical prophecy about the Holy Land and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. But to imagine it stops there is to ignore the Religious Right’s record in recent years on human rights and support for democratic reforms. The success of Israel—the Middle East’s only full democracy before the intervention of the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq—is seen by social conservatives as a model that deserves copying.”

Bottum further proceeds to connect opposition to abortion and the imperial project: “Even if they are utterly separate philosophically, this much is true: They both require reversing the failure of nerve that has lingered in America since at least the 1970s, and success in one may well feed success in the other…A nation that cannot summon the political will to ban even one particularly gruesome form of abortion is unlikely to persevere in the grueling work of building international democracy simply because it seems the moral thing to do. And a nation that cannot bring itself to believe its founding ideals are true for others will probably prove unable to hold those ideals for itself.”

So there you have it. If you think abortion is murder, you also must be willing to go to the mat for Israel and work to universally spread America’s “founding ideals” to the four corners of the world.

Fellow Christian, are you willing to engage in the "grueling work of building international democracy" in the name of Christian morality and the Prince of Peace? If not, why not? It's all right there in Romans 13:1 ("Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God for the purpose of spreading international democracy"). Forget about taking Bibles to Beijing, Darfur, and Damasus—let alone Jerusalem--because what they really need are copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and the collected works of Martin Luther King.

More to come on Wolfowitz and Kennan. Stay tuned.

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