Should American Foreign Policy Project Christian Values or Protect Christian Lives?

The Story: At the recent Faith and Freedom Coalition conference, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) claimed that America has a moral responsibility to project Christian values while Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said the United States is effectively funding wars on Christianity by sending money to nations like Egypt and Syria.

The Background: On Thursday, Sen. Paul said, “It’s clear that American taxpayer dollars are being used in a war against Christianity.” Paul said the U.S. war in Iraq led Christians to flee a secular country that had otherwise been “a relatively safe place for Christians,” and that Christians are now being hunted in nearby nations like Syria. “These countries are not our allies, and no amount of money is going to make them so,” Paul said. “It makes no sense. Should we be sending F-16s and tanks to Egypt when (President Mohammed) Morsi says Jews are descendants of apes and pigs?”

Sen. Rubio took a different approach, referring to Matthew 5, in which God calls upon his people to be a light in the world. Rubio said, “If America’s light is extinguished, there is no other light. We are called not to hide our light but to shine it. If we lose the will … there is nothing to replace us.”

“This call for us to silent ourselves and stop speaking about the values we know work is a big mistake,” Rubio said.

“If we’re encouraged to be silent … then who will say it instead of us?” he said. “Who will be the salt if we are not the salt?”

Why It Matters: If our options are these two choices—protecting Christians or promoting Christian values—which should we choose? While Christians may differ on the question—and some will claim we should choose neither—it seems the morally responsible answer is that we should choose both.

Some Christians in America believe, as do most secularists, that religious belief has no role to play in shaping foreign policy. But since all politics is rooted in religious presuppositions, all policies are shaped by some form of religious belief. It hardly seems wise for Christians to adopt the preferences of secularism rather than give credence to the commands of Christ. Foreign policy is merely an extension of the same principles that should drive our domestic policy—a God-impelled love of neighbor.

Sen. Rubio is right that whenever possible we should promote Christian values such as justice, mercy, and religious tolerance. But one of the values that should take precedence is protection of the innocent, particularly when they are members of the institution that commands our primary political allegiance—the body of Christ.

When it comes to actions that affect our brothers and sisters across the globe, a guiding concern should be primum non nocere, “first, do no harm.” That can’t be our only consideration, of course, but it should be given due weight. We should be particularly wary of allowing some vague “national interest” trump our “familial interest,” especially when it leads to the displacement and slaughter of Christians around the globe.

How such policies should be shaped is a difficult question and requires considerable prudence. But one of our duties as American citizens is to lobby for policies we think are moral and just. That duty does not end at our shorelines but extends to the lands of our brothers and sisters who we will not see until we are together in our final home.

  • Mark

    Rubio’s quote sounds like out-and-out Americolatry. Every nation is replaceable. Whatever one thinks about Rand Paul’s position, Rubio’s Americolatry should stink to high heaven to every Biblical Christan.

    • Paul Ellsworth

      I thought his quote was interesting, too. It sounded like he has been reading books by Barton or Marshall.

      It’s true that I would like America to act as “righteously” as it can, but that’s a lot different from using “city set on a hill” language for it.

    • Seumas

      Exactly. As a Christian from non-America serving in another non-American country, the last thing we need is closer identification of ‘Christianity’ with the American State. It continues the gross confusion of the American State for God’s Church, and makes the work of the global church harder.

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  • Dean P

    Yeah Mark. It’s rehashed George W Bush all over again. Not only is it America idolatry it is totally out of touch with where the current stream of conservative thought is going right now.

    • Chancellor C. Roberts, II

      No, Dean, not rehashed George W. Bush all over again. It’s George W. Bush STILL.

      What has conservativism (I refuse to call it “conservatism” because it just doesn’t sound right) really done for Christianity in America? Baby-killing is still the law of the land. Government schools are still indoctrinating children in secular, outright anti-Christian values. The government has not shrunk in size or scope (and, in fact, has expanded in both even when conservatives have been in power). Adultery, homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, and a whole host of other sins are not only tolerated, they are in some respects celebrated. So, how exactly has conservativism promoted a Christian world view and imposed that world view on American society?

  • Chancellor C. Roberts, II

    First, I don’t like being limited to choices that exclude following the foreign policy advocated by the founding fathers (have free trade and friendly relations with those who want to, but otherwise butt out of their affairs).

    Second, is there really such a thing as a “Christian” foreign policy and what exactly would that look like? Feeding the world’s poor, taking care of the world’s widows and orphans? The government doing good works (e.g. humanitarian aid) around the world?

    Third, who does America think it is to presume to impose its will on other countries? “National interests” is really code for America playing empire and imposing its will on the rest of the world.

    Should secular governments (the only “Christian” governments are those ruled directly by Christ Himself or ruled by the Church) presume to protect Christians in other countries, thereby interfering with those countries’ internal affairs? Jesus promised that there would be persecution and the Apostles never taught that Christians should be trying to get the government to end persecution. And if you look closely at Church history, false doctrine and other problems seem to creep into the Church more when the Church isn’t being persecuted. (Note to persecuting countries: if you really want to stamp out Christianity or render it pretty much irrelevant, maybe you should try granting religious freedom like in the West).

    What if some other country decided it didn’t like how America was treating a certain group of citizens and decided to intervene by maybe sending in their equivalent of the CIA to conduct covert operations meant to institute regime change or by maybe sending in troops to overthrow the government and engage in nation-building to conform the nation to something more to that other country’s liking?

    Something to think about.

    • JohnM

      I concur. Given the opportunity to butt out, take advantage of it. That’s the surest way to “first do no harm”.

  • Ben

    I completely believe America should be promoting Christian values. We used to do that. Unfortunately we have become embarrassed by God and too understanding of radicals that harm us, often times at our own detriment.

  • Josh

    There is an interesting and important discussion to be had among Christians in this field. To anyone interested, I highly recommend James Skillen’s “With or Against the World? America’s Role Among the Nations.”

    You can find it on Amazon here:

  • Jonathan McCarthy

    I believe ‘salt’ and ‘light’ refers more to spreading the good news of the gospel than enforcing democracy globally. Empowering evil men to fight evil men is not helping anyone.

  • Curt Day

    The obvious answer to the question posed by the title is both. What isn’t so obvious is how implement the solutions to both.

    Asking if American foreign policy should project Christian values is like asking should politicians push Christian values in our laws. The answer to both is yes but the answer to the next question is far more critical. Which Christian values should be pushed be our foreign policies and by our domestic laws. For it would be wrong to force the Gospel on others through either foreign policies or domestic laws. And it would be wrong and unwise to push all of God’s moral laws through either as well. But values such as equality, justice, human rights, the provision of healthcare and housing, and the elimination of poverty and hunger should be high priorities in both our foreign policies and domestic laws.

    But there is another Christian value that too easily overlooked in both our foreign policies and domestic laws. That value comes from Jesus’s parable of the two men praying. The one man was a pharisee who thanked God that he was not a sinner like the other man, a tax collector. In contrast to the Pharisee, the tax collector could only beg for mercy because he could only see his own sin. If I had to bet the house on anything, I would bet it on the assertion that this last Christian value, that we are all equals in sin, is a Christian value that Rubio was not thinking of when he said that American foreign policies should project Christian values because that would imply that America would act as an equal member in the world community. This is in contrast to our current position of assuming our superiority both in power and authority. Our current position is one that says while we can require the rest of the world to operate by the rule of (our) law, we (alone) can operate by the rule of force.

    A major qualifier must also be added to the statement that American foreign policies should protect the lives and rights of Christians. For not only should our foreign policies do that, they should also protect the lives and rights of all people equally. To do otherwise is to practice the same kind of tribalism that both embraces moral relativity and is the cause of most, if not all, of the wars we see in the world.

    So what seems to be missing from both options is the notion of equality. That American foreign policies should project certain, not all, Christian values as an equal member in the world community and that American foreign policies should protect Christians just as they would protect people from any other group.

    • Christian Vagabond

      Good points. I would also add that foreign policy is a lot messier than the original post assumes. For example, a number of Middle Eastern dictators were put in place by our country. They did horrible things ot their people” murder, torture, oppression, corruption, etc. But they also held in check the factions that were most likely to oppress Christians. Once they were deposed, the countries elected right-wing regimes that encouraged more persecution of Christians.

      So what would have been the Christian approach to these Middle Eastern countries? Leaving them be would have resulted in more persecuted Christians, but there would have been fewer civilian deaths overall, and people would at least have the government of their choice. But that government would be corrupt. Intervening would be a better result for Christians but result in more corruption, and it would risk unintended consequences like the Iranian revolution.

      • Curt Day

        I would like to offer a different take on our support of totalitarian leaders. It is our actual support and the foreign perception that we are a Christian nation that led to the persecution of some Christians in those countries. Our overthrowing Mossadegh and installing the Shah is a perfect example. In addition, there was no persecution of Christians under Mossadegh. But the motive for the overthrow and support for the Shah was financial–oil. And this is the reason for most, if not all, of our interventions overseas.

        In addition, we have to consider our unbalanced support for Israel and its brutal occupation of the Occupied Territories as a direct or indirect reason why some Christians are persecuted because of the precedents and examples our support and Israel’s behavior provides.

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  • Mark G

    The obvious answer is neither. There is no such thing as “Christian values” apart from Christ and it is the function of the church to proclaim Christ to the world. There is no such thing as Christian love or mercy stripped of Christ himself. Additionally, US policy toward other nations should not be decided based upon the religion of a nation’s populace. If the rights and welfare of people are of concern in public policy this should be based on the fact that all people are created in God’s image whether they are “Christian” or not. Why should the government even be trying to determine what is the definition of a Christian? It should not.

    • Curt Day

      I like what you said about public policy being based on the fact that all are made in God’s image. But I have no problems with saying certain values are Christian and others are not. Of course, we should recognize that some Christian values are shared by other religions.

      But it isn’t just that, since repentance always accompanies faith, I have no problem with recognizing general moral values as Christian values since, with what the Scriptures say, it is difficult to believe that it is not God’s concern when these values being practiced or ignored.

      • Mark G

        So you basically end up with a government that approves of murdering 3,000 unborn children a day, just for example, determining what are “Christian values” (i.e., cultural christianity) and basing foreign policy upon that. I think what Christ says in regard to cultural Christianity is depart from me, I do not know you. So what is the point of government projection of cultural Christianity other than some misplaced ideology based on poor theology? Why should Christ’s kingdom be promoted as some cheap imatation “in this present evil age”?

  • GodCameDown

    Exactly. A Christian political view would honor Democratic rights.
    As opposed to an Islamic view that is distinctly theocratic and anti-Democratic.
    Christian foreign policy would look like this.
    Speak out against our government giving arms and weapons to rebels in Egypt and Syria who are killing thousands of Christians in those countries.
    (Yes, there are Christians in those countries in the middle east)
    Speak up and out for your brothers and sisters in Christ.

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