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Evangelicals US Foriegnpolicy

Evangelicals US Foriegnpolicy

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Published by India Forum

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Published by: India Forum on Jan 10, 2009
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06/17/2009

 
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL PAGE ONE
Evangelicals Give U.S. Foreign Policy An Activist Tinge
A Campaign to Export ValuesMakes Legislative HeadwayEven as It Arouses CriticsA Jewish Leader for the CausesBy
PETER WALDMAN
 
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
May 26, 2004; Page A1Michael Horowitz was named one of the 10 most influential Christians of the year in 1997 by a Southern Baptist magazine. The only catch: He'sJewish.The former Reagan administration official earned the accolade, on a top-10 list with Mother Teresa and Billy Graham, for rallying Americanevangelicals to the plight of persecuted Christians abroad.The grass-roots movement Mr. Horowitz founded, inspired by the specter of Western passivity during the Holocaust, has galvanized interest inglobal issues among America's growing ranks of evangelical Christians. Their rising involvement is being felt from the pews to the White House,where evangelicals' influence has helped shape a series of legislative and policy moves, including the invasion of Iraq.Led in part by the irrepressible Mr. Horowitz, a neoconservative at the Hudson Institute think tank, evangelicals are embracing internationalcauses with the same moral fervor they have long brought to domestic matters. Since 1998, they have helped win federal laws to fight religiouspersecution overseas, to crack down on international sex trafficking and to help resolve one of Africa's longest and bloodiest civil wars, insouthern Sudan.In so doing, evangelical groups, once among America's staunchest isolationists, are making a mark on U.S. foreign policy. They have tipped thebalance, at least for the moment, in the perennial rivalry in Washington between "realists," who believe the U.S. has limited capacity to changethe world and shouldn't try, and "idealists," who strive to give U.S. conduct a moral purpose."This community is saying, 'We're the most dominant country in the history of humanity. We must move humbly and wisely, not just for our owneconomic and strategic interests but for what is morally right,' " says Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, a champion of evangelical causes on theSenate Foreign Relations Committee.For all its power, America cannot simply impose its will on other nations. In some cases, the values it seeks to propagate -- democracy and freemarkets -- boomerang, empowering enemies and enriching potential rivals. These adversaries exploit the nation's abiding contradiction: adependence on the wider world for oil, trade and credit, set against a widespread and deep-seated desire to be left alone.
 
In a series of articles this year, The Wall Street Journal has explored challenges America faces, some of them inherent in its unique status as ademocratically governed superpower. Reluctant conquerors, Americans have mounted a risky strike, in the name of the war on terrorism, at thepolitical and cultural roots of zealotry in Afghanistan and Iraq.Yet in seeking to democratize ancient tribal societies through force, the U.S. has found that the process can be as troublesome for the invader as for the invaded. The traumatic occupation in Iraq raises a question heard in some other places that have tried U.S.-style political or economicreforms: How transferrable are American values outside America?To one potent segment of U.S. society, the evangelical Christians, values such as religious, political and economic freedom aren't just America'snorms but God's. The evangelicals' growing involvement in foreign affairs creates a new constituency for intervention abroad.An April Gallup Poll found that among Americans who go to church at least once a week, 56% agreed that the "situation in Iraq was worth goingto war over." Fewer than 45% of those who seldom attend church thought so. Evangelicals' diehard support for Israel helped coax PresidentBush last month to support Israel's right to keep settlements in parts of the occupied West Bank, the first time a U.S. president has extendedsuch a blessing.A Gallup Poll also shows the evangelicals' growing numbers, placing them at no less than 43% of the U.S. population.Organized, motivated and self-confident, evangelicals are girding for two more foreign-policy battles. They seek freedom to proselytize in theMuslim lands of Iraq and Afghanistan. And they want to link any future U.S. aid for North Korea, in case of a nuclear accord, to progress thereon human rights."The policies are up for grabs," says Mr. Horowitz, 66 years old, a lawyer by training who served as general counsel to the Office of Management and Budget in the Reagan administration.Christian activism in America's foreign affairs dates back to the early 20th century, and included strong backing among establishment Protestantchurches for the foreign-policy idealism of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. But the support from these sects, such as Presbyteriansand Episcopalians, tended to be "top-down" and "elitist," generating little passion in the pews, says Christianity scholar Martin Marty of theUniversity of Chicago. By contrast, "the genius of the evangelical movement today, in domestic and foreign affairs, is its grass-roots appeal," hesays. "Evangelicals are much more ready to claim God's purposes as their own. If God calls us to be the 'righteous nation,' they act."This activism harks back to another world power that struggled to balance ambitions for gold and God: the British Empire. Though driven in itsearly years by slave traders and other rogues, the British Empire later was increasingly influenced by evangelicals -- who in 1807 succeeded inabolishing the global slave trade. Fifty years later, the "Christian element" was hotly debated in London, when some critics blamed a mutiny bycolonial Indian troops on heavy-handed Christian moralizing. Religion played a role in Britain's push into the Mideast later in the 19th century,too, after William Gladstone, a deeply Christian prime minister, railed against a massacre of Bulgarian Christians by Ottoman Turks.As in today's Washington, Britain's imperial evangelicals made common cause with the neoconservatives of their era, known as liberals. Theliberals' mission was spreading representative government and free trade. ("The two pioneers of civilization, Christianity and commerce, shouldbe inseparable," said David Livingstone, the famous explorer of Africa, in 1857.) Mr. Horowitz says U.S. evangelicals are driven by the same"tough-minded Christianity" that propelled Britain's empire.
 
His critics reply that America, by melding morality with foreign policy, is courting the same sort of backlashes the British faced. "By emphasizingone set of values -- that of evangelical Christians -- you alienate yourselves from the multi-religious, multi-civilizational world," argues DavidLittle, a professor of religion and international affairs at Harvard Divinity School.Another concern is that if overseas religious conflicts arise, a U.S. president could face pressure to come to the aid of Christians at the expenseof America's strategic interests, says Philip Jenkins of Pennsylvania State University, author of a book on global Christianity. He cites theexample of Nigeria, where Christians and Muslims warred in the 1960s. If their conflict again flared into widespread fighting, he says, anadministration would face overwhelming pressure at home to help the embattled Christians, although Muslim-majority Nigeria is an importantU.S. ally and oil supplier.Mr. Jenkins says the same issues could arise over Indonesia, where Muslim militants have brutalized Christians for years, and even over China,whose leadership is believed to view with alarm the growth of organized religion, including Christianity. "It's only a matter of time," Mr. Jenkinspredicts, "until persecution and religious conflict become hot-button issues in the U.S."As for U.S. policy in Iraq, President Bush, himself a born-again Christian, has sometimes invoked a notion of America's latter-day manifestdestiny. "I believe freedom is the almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world," Mr. Bush said at his news conference last month.According to Bob Woodward's book "Plan of Attack," Mr. Bush, when asked if he consulted his father, said, "You know, he is the wrong father toappeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to."More born-again Christians work in this administration than in any other in modern history, says Richard Land, a top executive with theSouthern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant church. They include National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and AttorneyGeneral John Ashcroft, whose denomination, the Assemblies of God, is especially active overseas.Mr. Horowitz experienced his own Christian awakening of sorts in 1994. He befriended a household laborer from Ethiopia who said that nation'sformer socialist regime, and later militant Muslims, had persecuted him for preaching Christianity. Mr. Horowitz says he consulted a lawyer butwas told the man wasn't eligible for U.S. asylum. "Radical Muslim? Ex-communist? OK. But a Christian, forget about it," Mr. Horowitz says.He wrote a stinging commentary on the policy, and on the plight of Christian minorities in several Muslim countries, which ran in The Wall StreetJournal's opinion pages in 1995. It drew little reaction, he says, and some Christian leaders told him raising a fuss could only make mattersworse for the persecuted. That logic, Mr. Horowitz says, reminded him of when the late New York Times publisher A.H. Sulzberger, in 1938, leda group of prominent Jews in urging President Roosevelt not to name a Jew to the Supreme Court for fear of exacerbating anti-Semitism."The Christian community could not make the same mistake that American Jews made" in neglecting signs of the Holocaust, Mr. Horowitz says.He wrote to 140 evangelical groups saying he was "pained and puzzled" by their silence. Then he organized a conference on religiouspersecution, sparing none of the gruesome detail of torture, rape and church burnings from around the globe. After that, the largest evangelicalorganizations adopted a "Statement of Conscience," which Mr. Horowitz drafted, expressing outrage. Persecution abroad became a hot topicon Christian radio and television."Before I met Michael seven years ago, I had no idea it was so bad," says Mr. Land of the Southern Baptist Convention. "He's a provocateur, areal voice of conscience."

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