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Religion and Politics III: Foreign Policy.

Uploaded: Aug 31, 2011
Well, this may be a mercifully brief edition, as I've been basking in the green Sierra. My overheated synapses were gloriously sanctified in the restorative waters of Huntington Lake. In this late summer reverie, I feel like the psalmist?

Ahem. Completing the religion and politics trilogy, this week's invitation is to consider the role of religion in foreign affairs. How does faith contribute to an understanding of, and underwrite this country's actions toward the great Other – other people, of other religions (or none), living elsewhere in the world?

Outreach has always seemed to be a part of the Christian heritage, beginning with the apostle Paul's various sojourns around the Mediterranean and into Rome. Much later, and for several hundred years, Crusades were fought against infidels of many stripes (not just of the Muslim persuasion). In each case, the Crusaders apparently intended to extend the reach of their religion, in these many cases by force of arms.

In our own state's history, clerics accompanying the Spanish conquerors established a network of missions whose names endure in our cities. They did so ostensibly to enlighten the spirits of benighted primitives – which often included the brutal enslavement of their bodies in the process. Certainly, missionary zeal continues among various denominations –- well and truly intended by its best angels to relieve suffering -- and to import to the natives someone else's version of salvation.

In today's world, foreign aid from governments takes a variety of forms and is based on several very secular political motivations. Is it fair to say that at least some of those contributions also spring from humanitarian instincts, nurtured by faith?

It might be noted that the United States is not a particularly heavy donor in relation to GDP. Is there an argument founded on religious principles like charity, or at least "noblesse oblige," that America ought to do more? Congressman Charlie Wilson may not have been the most pious of advocates, but didn't he get it right in proposing aid to post-Soviet Afghanistan? Does America's commitment to its values end at our borders, or should this country be a missionary for self-determination, and oppose tyranny by peaceful means?

Regardless, it's clear that foreign aid investments are dwarfed by the many military commitments made by the United States. Does some religious motivation underlie our professed role in spreading democracy and nation-building by military means? And what if we don't approve of their version of self-determination? Does faith oppose the active use of military power? Or is there a faith-based argument for ongoing US interventions as a kind of world policeman? Did that justify Clinton-era actions in the Balkans? If so, where were we when Rwanda disintegrated into wanton violence?

And finally, has America's war on terror become infected with Crusades-like overtones?
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Ralph N. Shirlet, a resident of another community,
on Aug 31, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Dear Editor and Tom,

There is a near-poet in Alamo named Alamo Ron that can use words and oxymorons ("Alamorons") to reflect thoughts back into commentary on this forum's exchanges. Alamo Ron looks at local thought and holds a mirror to commentary with cunning humor.

I celebrate that capability!

Together, you made your point more than asked any question. I was in Viet Nam for our Christian war against communism and saw the complete stupidity of that nonsense. I see current wars as a combination of empiralism in oil management and stupid efforts to control minority that takes Islam to extremes.

All doesn't matter today as we face another round of nonsense as USAmerican ignorance celebrates their crusade against other religions. Never mind it is all about the oil, "America" was attacked on 9/11 and we must respond with our military might against those not actually involve in this small group of criminals that actually did the mass murder.

Does that make sense?

Posted by Dirk, a resident of Alamo,
on Sep 1, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Well, when GWB was asked whether he talked to his father regarding his actions in Iraq, he replied that he consulted a higher father, so I suppose we may assume that he was doing God's work there.

There may be some good people who choose out of all the lessons that could be extracted from the Bible that of "love your brother", but I don't believe that they include many of our conspicuously religious politicians. For them, religion seems to be a tool for being elected more than a guide how to act in the world, although it appears that some of them do seem to feel it important to help Israel in order to assist God in bringing biblical prophecies about the final days to realization.

Posted by Normal mainstream republican, a resident of San Ramon,
on Sep 4, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Amen. Sadly there are too many conspicuously religious politicans, even worse are the crusaders who want to elevate them. I don't vote for, or like anybody's religion in my government.
Allowing religion to influence the primary, will insure the reelection of Obama.

Posted by Normal mainstream republican, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 12, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Our founder's wrote there is not to be any religious test for American Presidents. We've had many different religions thruout our history... Nixon was a QUAKER ! Romney's father didn't have a problem...he was reelected to THREE terms, as a popular mainstream Governor of Michigan, where Mitt was raised...not in Utah. Dems elected MORMON Harry Reid as their Senate big deal for Romney the father, or Harry Reid.... BUT, they never had to pass the gaunlet of today's new activist evangelicals !
TODAYS judgemental evangelicals, just had to show their true colors. This shows just how desperate Perry's team is, to stoop to playing the religion card. As the evangelicals have infiltrated the Republican party in recent years (starting when Rev Pat Robertson beat soon-be-president Papa Bush, in IOWA surprise there, they always pick the religious quaranteed losers,picked revivalist Huckabee in '08). they have attempted to manipulate the nomination process....thus driving many away, who want to stay republican. I do hope the mainstream 'indepependents' turn out for the primary, and pick the nominee....a winner ! Otherwise, Obama stays.

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