It is not just the Pope who is drawing hundreds of thousands, with throngs pressing all about to get a glimpse of him, and maybe even a touch of his hand. During his media saturated whirlwind tour of the Middle East and Europe, Illinois Senator Barack Obama drew a wildly enthusiastic crowd of over 200,000 at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany.
Obama's speech was a classic "kumbaya moment" in which he proposed a "why can't we all just get along" group hug involving Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, its sponsored Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist organizations, the Palestinians, Israel, and Western nations, as one means, among many, of solving the global war on terrorism and saving the world.[i] Realistic or not, it was effective in Europe but short-lived in terms of political poll numbers and influence back home.[ii]
Not unlike Pope Benedict XVI's reason for employing his reform-minded slogan of "faith and reason," this year's cast of presidential candidates offer "hope and change," with both promising to rescue our country and the world from the apparent brink of disaster—economically, militarily, spiritually, and environmentally.
The world we enter in 2008 is radically different than 2000, or even 2004. It seems that the world is spinning out of control with escalating oil prices, crumbling financial infrastructure, moral decay, the threat of terrorism and global climate catastrophe. Americans are looking for a savior they can see and touch; a political savior who can deliver our country and the world from this growing turmoil.
It may seem like a stretch to describe a candidate as a literary "Christ figure," but so pronounced has this savior-like phenomenon become, that senator Barack Obama was caricatured on the front cover of The New Republic magazine as a saint with a large glowing halo behind his head, and with his hand and forefingers bent forward as if he were blessing the planet.
Superimposed behind this amazing civil-religious image was the United States flag, unfurled in all its glory, subliminally reinforcing in propaganda-like proportions that history had foreordained Barack Obama to save us from an eight-year nightmare and, as the next leader of the free world, guide it into the Promised Land.
Unlike other magazines, which have caricaturized Obama as a Muslim in an attempt to disparage conspiracy theories that claim he is a secret Muslim and sympathizer, the editors of The New Republic explicitly fawned over him, even designating him to be the next JFK.[iii]
A month later, British-based Economist magazine pictured him in a rock star mode before a huge crowd at a stadium with the caption: "But could he deliver?"[iv] Whether he can or not is missing the point: Obama's sunny innocence, youth, and optimism is contagious because he seems to be genuinely honest and sincere, uncorrupted by the insider world of politics. This is apparently what he means by the promise of "hope and change." He is the proposed change, not any specific policy proposal. Politically, this is his drawing card. This is what attracts so many to him.[v] History demonstrates that elections are not won on substance, but personality and smart sound bites. "Hope and change" is simply enough during times of seeming hopelessness and despair.[vi]
History and Reality
Americans and the world have been witnessing a passionate revival of an all-American four-year tradition known as the "race for the White House." This election season, history will be made. Barring some major gaffe or damaging revelation, polls indicate that there is a reasonable chance that an African-American will serve as the next president of the United States. Or the first Vietnam-veteran, a war hero, will be president.
Both offer strengths and weaknesses when it comes to their foreign and domestic policy proposals. For the purposes of this article, their respective foreign policy approaches and the influences shaping these approaches will be our focus.
Foreign policy is an area of concern we need to be aware of and understand before we each cast our vote, if we indeed decide to vote at all.
Barack Obama's Foreign Policy
Aside from Barack Obama's statement that he did not vote in favor of invading Iraq, and promising to withdraw all American troops within 16-months after being elected, he has not said much. Yet there are clues that are consistent with his Christian faith.
Obama states on his campaign website, www.barackobama.com, that he "is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions." Underlying this approach is a religious component.
One of Barack Obama's foreign policy and campaign advisors is former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Her book, The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs, promotes a movement toward religious and political ecumenism. She proposes drafting the world's leading religious leaders, including the Pope and his worldwide diplomatic corps, as diplomats at a higher level than even the state departments of Western countries currently recognize.[vii] She also advocates diplomatic engagement instead of the use of force to achieve America's goals with rogue nations, such as Iran. Based on her years of professional experience, she believes that direct diplomacy breaks down barriers better than isolation and builds relationships through mutual understanding, utilizing the proven Reagan doctrine of "trust but verify." "Engagement," therefore, "is not appeasement," she says.[viii]
Fareed Zakaria is another advisor. In his book Post American World, Zakaria praises Obama for his vision of strengthening America's infrastructure, and working with cultural and religious realities in various parts of the world as the best long term way to deal with terrorism. Equipping the nation's ability to quickly bounce back, economically, diplomatically, and culturally from a terrorist attack is equally as important as preventing an attack, he argues, and is the best way to win back alienated nations and to enlist their support for mutual long term prosperity and security.[ix]
Religion, according to a growing chorus of thought leaders, is the missing dimension of statecraft.[x] The idea is to bring together religious leaders from around the world to dialogue and formulate ways to make religion a force for good, with the ultimate goal of world peace. Many see Rome as the originator of this approach—with its unique and powerful mix of sovereign nation status along with being the most powerful church on earth.[xi]
Coincidentally, this ecumenical model was revived by the advents of Jimmy Carter (elected in 1976)[xii] and Pope John Paul II (elected in 1978),[xiii] who both emphasized this approach in theory and practice throughout their lifetimes. Their legacy has been revived, in part, by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his newly established Faith Foundation.[xiv]
Another striking example of this approach is in The Review of Faith and International Affairs, a quarterly with ecumenical, non-partisan mission intentions. It is an academic journal in which well-known scholars, conservative and liberal, Protestant and Catholic, call upon the U.S. State Department to shape foreign policy around the strategic values of faith, particularly human rights and religious freedom.[xv]
This ecumenical model, which fits nicely with his belief in "tough, direct presidential diplomacy," is the foreign policy model that Barack Obama hopes to build on if he wins in November. Obama's approach to foreign policy, however, possesses the same potential temptations and pitfalls to foreign policy as John McCain's, particularly in regard to any real connection to Rome's increasing involvement in U.S. foreign policy. The difference is that McCain accepts the explicit risks involved. Obama's approach is less developed.
McCain's League of Democracies
Enter John McCain. A Vietnam War hero, and a former graduate student of the National War Academy, he is praised by some in the conservative press as the visionary savior of advancing U.S. and international freedom—a tried and steady hand who offers wisdom, foresight and true leadership experience in both domestic and foreign policy matters.[xvi] However, one of his proposals, while backed by extensive foreign policy experience, is as dangerous as it is utopic,[xvii] particularly when viewed from a prophetic perspective.
In the November/December 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs, senator McCain proposed that "democratic nations should be linked in one common organization: a worldwide League of Democracies." He promised that "If I am elected president, during my first year in office I will call a summit of the world's democracies to seek the views of my counterparts and explore the steps necessary to realize this vision." McCain's goals: 1) "Harnessing the political and moral advantages offered by united democratic action;" 2) "bringing concerted pressure to bear on tyrants;" and 3) "defeating radical Islamists." McCain emphasizes that steps two and three involve the options of using economic sanctions or necessary military force to achieve these goals.[xviii]
Since the invasion of Iraq by the United States in 2003, a number of liberal and conservative foreign policy experts, for varying reasons, have been urging this novel idea.[xix] With the exception of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which was recently praised by G8 leaders in Japan for their aggressive monitoring of Iran's nuclear ambitions,[xx] the perception has been growing that the United Nations, including the UN Security Council, is ineffective, has lost its focus and will, and has no tangible power or authority to affect peace or justice throughout the world. They say it has been hijacked by member nations who have little or no interest in promoting democratic reform or freedom.[xxi]
A League of Democracies would take decades to develop,[xxii] but as a convenient substitute, the United States has begun expanding and using the previously limited Cold War prerogatives of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in Afghanistan, Iraq, Darfur, including a proposed missile defense shield in the Middle East.[xxiii]
This is significant, because unlike the United Nations, such an institution would not be limited to economic sanctions but could actually use military force to achieve its objectives for world peace.
But there is more. Proponents argue that it would be the most effective method of peacefully pressuring rogue and developing nations to adopt democratic reforms and put religious freedom on the fast track in cooperation with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. According to Allen Hertzke, University of Oklahoma, presidential professor of political science, advocates of this plan have been determined to "expose, shame, and potentially punish nations that violate the rights of religious believers." Economic sanctions alone "reflected a lack of trust in routine diplomacy" to ensure compliance. Until the advent of the Bush administration—with the exception of Colin Powell, former secretary of state—this approach differs significantly from the U.S. State Department's traditional tendency of using the sensitized "go slow" diplomatic and ecumenical engagement efforts of the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for international religious freedom, which is the approach that senator Barack Obama and Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state, champion as discussed earlier.[xxiv]
In May, McCain announced that He would make freedom of religion a key foreign policy issue if elected to the White House in November. He stated emphatically that "No society that denies religious freedom can ever rightly claim to be good in some other way."[xxv]
In a speech given on another occasion, McCain focused on America's moral obligation—its so-called manifest destiny, a crusade if you will—to export religious freedom, and freedom in general, as a matter of foreign policy principle. His proposal was put forward in terms of benevolence and transparency, with no hidden agenda. "America truly is not like past superpowers, countries who sought territorial gain or imperial dominion." Instead, he said, "We wish to free, not to enslave; to trade, not to steal; to enlighten and learn, not to dominate and convert."[xxvi]
McCain can legitimately make this claim. As Allen Hertzke explains, "Because virtually all of the globe's nations are signatories to the Universal Declaration [of Human Rights] and subsequent covenants, U.S. officials legitimately can claim that they are not attempting to impose ‘our values' on the rest of the world. Rather, in implementing IRFA [International Religious Freedom Act] the United States is merely calling upon other nations to live up to covenants they have approved."[xxvii]
In this context, McCain went on to argue that "Our moral standing is directly tied to our ability to maintain America's preeminent leadership in the world." Isolation and leadership by example are no longer sufficient: "The object of American power should not be limited to our own protection and economic self-interest." Instead, he said, "We must seek a better world, one respectful of the rights we believe to be the universal province of all people. To do less would not simply threaten the very interests we seek to protect; it would also mean abdicating American leadership at this unique moment in history."[xxviii]
After the events of 9/11, Economist magazine made an interesting observation: "Terrorism against American interests ‘over there' should be regarded just as we regard terrorism against America ‘over here.' America's homeland is, in fact, ‘the planet.'"[xxix] This helps to also sum up the assumed and internationally recognized role of the United States when it comes to religious freedom and human rights around the world: protagonist and enforcer (i.e., the world's champion advocate and policeman). Indeed, America's homeland has become the planet. In this sense, McCain has a legitimate argument: a self-imposed isolation would not be possible. We are stuck in the unenviable position of being both loved and hated. There is no turning back. From a prophetic perspective, we are at once both "lamblike" and "dragon-like."[xxx]
Just recently Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, offered a startling revelation in an essay in Foreign Affairs demonstrating just how far such policy thinking had progressed since 9/11 when she discussed the strategic connection between Iraq, democratic reform in the Middle East, and religious freedom. She wrote: "The democratization of Iraq and the democratization of the Middle East were linked. So, too, was the war on terror linked to Iraq, because our goal after September 11 was to address the deeper malignancies of the Middle East, not just the symptoms of them."[xxxi]
The "malignancies" Rice referred to was how best to manage and unite Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, and exterminate religious fanatics, namely Al-Qaeda operatives, in behalf of world peace. "In the long term," she argued, "our [national] security is best ensured by the success of our ideals: religious freedom, human rights, open markets, democracy, and the rule of law."[xxxii] This is exactly John McCain's argument.
Circling the Wagons
Most people do not comprehend the larger strategy: a three-step process of democratization, religious freedom, and proselytization; using peaceful diplomatic means, and short of that, force, to achieve its ends. It has a decided "missionary" component, with the tanks circling not to defend but to intimidate and coerce all those who work against world unity.
The circling of the religious and political wagons (i.e., "tanks") can be seen in the anxious, threatening July 29 press release by Abu Yahya al Libi, a close associate of Al Qaeda's leader Osama bin Laden. Catholic World News reported that al Libi called for the death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah for making an ecumenical pact with Pope Benedict XVI in November (2007) and allowing the Roman Catholic Church to build several cathedrals in Saudi Arabia.[xxxiii]
Certainly, the moral force to bear on such extremists is clearly warranted. But where does it ultimately lead, and when does it end? Good intentions are one thing, but as Benjamin Franklin once wrote: "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."[xxxiv]
The use of force in addition to the use of diplomatic "big sticks" to bring about religious freedom in lands that propagate terrorism and terrorists may sound good to us now because we are not the target, and it keeps us comfortable and secure. But prophetically speaking, the growing trend of uniting ecumenically and politically to achieve this goal—whether coming from Rome, from the leaders of our country, or both—carries with it the seeds of democratic dictatorship and intolerance in its train—not true religious freedom as we understand it today, despite the glowing rhetoric of religious freedom and human rights increasingly attached to it. E.G. White, a prominent 19th and early 20th-century Protestant reformer, once wrote about the coming circling of the wagons: "Foreign nations will follow the example of the United States. Though she leads out, yet the same crisis will come upon our people in all parts of the world."[xxxv]
In context of making void God's law by forcing American citizens and the world to worship on Sunday instead of the true Sabbath, White also wrote that "The nation will be on the side of the great rebel leader."[xxxvi] It would not be surprising if a religious worship law—national and universal—is decreed in the name of both preserving the peace, security, and common good (or "ecumenical" good) of the world (i.e., in the name of world peace and security). Tolerance instead of religious freedom is the new word of choice these days. It is even being argued today that tolerance and religious freedom are ideals that are only as strong as peace and security. To secure the one—peace and security—is to secure the other—unity and religious tolerance. In the meantime, religious freedom as a guarantee is conveniently lost along the way.
Exporting religious freedom abroad by force is doing the same in the spirit of coercion—the very spirit of the dragon found in Revelation 13:11, and paradoxically a pattern throughout Revelation 13 in which powers that appear to have holy agendas are dragon-like in spirit, using dragon-like methods.[xxxvii] It seemed so right after 9/11 because we had been attacked. But it is, in fact, an ideal that cannot be morally sustained. It is wrongheaded.
In this sense, when it comes to foreign policy, the spirit of Protestantism in America has yielded to the Catholic spirit of forced uniformity for the sake of international unity, peace, and security. In other words, defining religious freedom in terms of ecumenical and political unity for the sake of international cohesion is not true religious freedom. It is the spirit of coercion.
True religious freedom cannot be equated with "unity." It is the right to dissent—yea, to "protest"—which was the very spirit and foundation of the Protestant Reformation and the American Constitutional Revolution. That definition is changing as Rome is reshaping American domestic and foreign policy to fit its own religious and political ideals.
Rome, John McCain, and U.S. Foreign Policy
With the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005, Rome began an unofficial policy role reversal by quietly backing progress by the United States in bringing about democratic reform in Iraq and the Middle East.
When Francis Rooney became U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican in November of 2005, he told Catholic News Service that the war in Iraq had moved into the category of "shared objectives," and away from strong opposition by the Vatican during the waning years of Pope John Paul's Administration. He announced, "We're in a new day here, with the Vatican and the United States supporting each other as we work together to support the people of Iraq." In regard to nation-building, he said, "the Holy See is there to lend its voice of support, in developing a free, particularly religiously free, country that is based upon freedom and democratic principles."[xxxviii]
There are three reasons for this policy change. First, Rome seeks to ride the wave of democratic power exhibited by the United States since the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union[xxxix] and particularly since the 9/11 threat of Islamic Fundamentalism and Osama bin Laden. Prior to Pope Benedict's recent visit to the U.S., Brad Minor of Newsmax magazine observed that "As the world's last global superpower, American political hegemony can help the Church's global efforts."[xl] Indeed, Miner's description unwittingly harmonizes with Revelation 17's depiction of the harlot (i.e., the Church of Rome) riding a beast symbolizing Rome's return to its historic and corrupting political-power sharing role—if not a controlling one—with the kings of the earth, but this time with the last superpower nation depicted in Bible prophecy, the United States of America.[xli]
The second is to express in subtle but specific diplomatic words and actions—official and unofficial—that it buys into the developing U.S. foreign policy strategy of benevolently forcing failed nations—through all three methods, diplomatic (including ecumenical) pressure, economic sanctions, and military force (whatever works)—to adopt major democratic reforms as a means of being accepted into the world community. The national and international security interests of the United States are in the strategic interests of Rome. These shared interests were manifested in "diplomatic speak" during Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United States in April, and particularly during his visit to the White House on his 81st birthday. The official Web site of the White House posted a welcome message to "His Holiness" by President and Mrs. Bush. In a brief message, the First Couple announced: "The President and the Holy Father will continue discussions, which began during the President's visit to the Vatican in June 2007, on their common commitment to the importance of faith and reason in reaching shared goals." "These goals," they said, "include advancing peace throughout the Middle East and other troubled regions, promoting interfaith understanding, and strengthening human rights and freedom, especially religious liberty, around the world."[xlii] John McCain also welcomed Benedict by praising him as "the most influential advocate for peace and faith in the lives of millions of Americans, and for millions more" throughout the world.[xliii]
As Richard John Neuhaus of the evangelical Catholic journal First Things observed during the Pope's American tour, Benedict quietly affirmed "the connection between a nation's sovereignty and its duty to protect its citizens." In reflecting on the Pope's unexpected affirmation of this aspect of U.S. foreign policy and the global war on terrorism, Neuhaus argued that this "entails the" corresponding "obligation of outside intervention when a nation defaults on that duty."[xliv] If Neuhaus' assessment is correct, it would reinforce Senator McCain's League of Democracies proposal and a continuation of the preemptive foreign policy track of Secretary of State Rice and the Bush Administration.
Economist magazine recently reported that Rome has been dispatching its historic diplomatic consulting services more aggressively through its international cadre of diplomats, which are now stationed in 176 countries, many of them democratic. While there is no doubt that Rome is ready to work with Senator Obama with his strictly diplomatic and ecumenical foreign policy strategies if he should become president, Senator McCain is, in this sense, definitely more in-sync with Rome and its current policy role reversal in his overall foreign policy goals. In comparison with Senator Obama's "savior" persona, this is significant, because, philosophically, John McCain's candidacy potentially comes attached with a much more powerful would-be "savior," or ally.
Which brings us to the third motive: the day before the Pope arrived in the United States for his whirlwind tour in April, Harvard Constitutional Law professor and newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, Mary Ann Glendon, confirmed this dramatic shift between Pope John Paul II's opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Pope Benedict XVI's new position. Benedict, according to Glendon, is fully supportive of U.S. efforts to bring about democratic reform in Iraq and the Middle East, despite "some initial disagreement" between the Vatican and the U.S. regarding the war there.[xlv]
As Brad Miner points out, this was because Benedict is interested in protecting the fledgling Catholic Church, as well as all other Christians. The Pope has expressed concerns for the inequality that allows Muslims to worship freely and propagate their faith in Western countries, while Muslim countries do not allow Christians to thrive in the same way.[xlvi] This is an argument that John McCain has consistently used, an argument that is sure to gain traction throughout the world over time. In a rather revealing, yet simplistic, slip of the tongue, Miner stated that "The Pope's visit to America also has strategic importance, as the Church races to solidify its position against Islam worldwide."[xlvii]
What did Miner mean by this statement? Is Rome against Islam as a general rule? For competitive reasons, the answer is yes. For example, Miner observes, "As the power of the Communist Party [in China] wanes as many predict it will, the vacuum it leaves will have to be filled by something, and, as in other parts of Asia, that will probably be either Catholicism or Islam. The Pope knows this."[xlviii] Indeed, the Catholic Church is in a high stakes competition to cut off Islam at the pass.
This resurgence of Rome's historic diplomacy to modify existing governments to encourage stronger nations to modify weaker ones is remarkable. In other words, bringing about religious freedom through the use of multilateral democratic forces is exactly the kind of "just war" thinking that is gaining ground among some of the world's most influential thought leaders, independent of McCain's electoral fortunes. (See McCain's official campaign website: www.johnmccain.com.)
According to Foreign Affairs,[xlix] a book that has been widely influential in 2008 is Faith, Reason, and the War against Jihadism: A Call to Action, by George Weigel, a prominent Catholic journalist and theologian, and the official Vatican biographer of Pope John Paul II. Like Pope Benedict XVI, his message emphasizes the importance of saving Christian Civilization from the forces of Islamic fundamentalism. Weigel's book is endorsed by influential academics and thought leaders, including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and former Senator Sam Nunn; Senator Joseph Lieberman, Fouad Ajami, Director of Middle East Studies, Johns Hopkins University, and R. James Woolsey, former CIA Director; William Kristol, panelist on Fox News Sunday and editor of The Weekly Standard, and Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek magazine.[l] McCain has not endorsed it, yet not surprisingly some of the same gentlemen endorsing Weigel's book are some of McCain's leading foreign policy advisors on the campaign trail.
Although subtly nuanced, it is truly the first politically and academically sanctioned call for a modern-day Crusade, not necessarily militarily, but ideally. It proposes that the United States and its Western allies rediscover Pope Benedict XVI's call to "faith and reason" in achieving world peace and abandon the dead end secularist road toward what he terms the "dictatorship of relativism." Weigel argues that a united Roman Catholic front is poised to lead the way to defeat radical Islamism through diplomatic dialogue with moderate Islamists, which they are already doing, to discuss the need to educate their young toward the abandonment of violence and to accept reason as a guide to faith. This goal of peace may sound benevolent, but for Weigel, radical Islamists cannot win, or even have an equal shot at self-governance. For Weigel, Islam itself is inherently violent and unreasonable because it is guided by a messianic insistence on world dominance.[li] Dar al-Harb means "House of War," or territories outside of Muslim rule. Dar al-Islam means "House of Peace," or territories under Islamic law. Combine the two logically, and what you have is what historian David Levering Lewis describes in his book God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215, as the traditional Islamic concept that "War is the health of the state."[lii] Starved of war, Weigel argues, Islam as we know it will either be transformed or it will cease to exist as a viable entity.[liii]
As Islam is unlikely to concede this struggle, there is an underlying doctrine, if you will, of "eternal warfare," that represents a state of mind and heart among jihadists. They believe that force must be used to convert others outside of Islam and to establish Islamic world dominance. This is what Weigel understands, this is what the Pope believes, and this is how George W. Bush, John McCain, and the leaders of the Western world now proceed. No matter how much it is "danced" around, they believe that radical fundamentalist Islamists are the roadblock in the march toward world peace.
As Adam Garfinkle points out in "Culture and Deterrence," "In the war against global Jihadism, deterrence strategies [such as diplomatic appeasement or the Cold War nuclear doctrine of mutually assured destruction] are unlikely to be effective [against such an enemy], because it is almost impossible to deter those who are committed to their own martyrdom." He points out that Iran's eleventh-grade textbooks teach that "in the coming era-ending war against the infidels, Muslims cannot lose: ‘Either we all become free, or we will go to the greater freedom which is martyrdom. Either we shall shake one another's hand at the victory of Islam in the world, or all of us will turn to eternal life and martyrdom. In both cases, success and victory are ours.'" As Garfinkle argues, "How does one deter people who...are willing and even eager...to turn their country and their entire religious sect into a suicide bomb?"[liv]
We have identified several ways in which the candidates' foreign policy views may be problematic, though not immediately, for religious minorities and others in the U.S. and countries around the world.
John McCain's proposal of a League of Democracies to bring about "freedom from oppression" is worrisome, because when international majoritarian rule is backed by military force, it could easily become a persecuting power if it chose to continually redefine "religious extremism" and "extremists" beyond Islamic terrorists. Barack Obama's ecumenical "kumbaya" approach is equally troubling, because the ecumenical movement, when used for political peace-making ends and attached to Vatican advisement, also carries with it the inherent seeds of discrimination, intolerance, and persecution of minority religions. The Ecumenical Movement is a "sleeper movement" and converges with our country's inevitable dragon speak in Revelation 13.
It should be noted that McCain did not initiate his proposed League of Democracies. It is an outgrowth of President George W. Bush's ad hoc coalition of democratic nations during the advent and aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Nor did Senator Obama originate the ecumenical approach, which for some conservative Republicans is naïve and tantamount to diplomatic appeasement. George Weigel's approach combines both McCain's and Obama's approaches. But the new president elect in November may manage U.S. foreign policy in new and potentially troubling ways, as has been evident in recent years. We cannot place blame on any one President or individual leader. Such movements are bigger and more powerful than the candidates themselves.
So what should determine our vote as the presidential election looms before us in November? This article demonstrates that foreign policy has become an increasing concern in the light of Bible prophecy. For many Christians, the events of 9/11 should cause us to remember that while Supreme Court appointments often influence the interpretation of our laws for years after a presidential term, a president's foreign policy initiatives affects a much wider sphere of influence and in turn forces all of America to compromise its unique religious freedom guarantees and to unwittingly accept foreign standards—the once discarded Roman Catholic and European standards of tolerance and ecumenical uniformity, or religious and political majoritarianism, in which minorities were merely tolerated and even persecuted for their faith.
More importantly, we should resist voting based on charisma, party loyalty, race, or sound bytes. We look for a Savior, but One not of this world. Let God's grace, a fervent study of God's Word, and an understanding of the true nature of Christ's kingdom, guide you constantly during these exciting and fearful times.
Gregory W. Hamilton is president of the Northwest Religious Liberty Association, located in Ridgefield, Washington. The Northwest Religious Liberty Association (NRLA) is a legislative advocacy and workplace mediation services program, representing the constitutional and workplace discrimination concerns of all people of faith in the states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. For more information, visit their Web site at
[i] "Obama's Speech in Berlin," Transcript release by The New York Times, July 24, 2008.
[ii]Steven Erlanger, "Obama, Vague on Issues, Pleases Crowd in Europe," The New York Times, July 25, 2008. See also David Brooks, "Playing Innocent Abroad," The New York Times, July 25, 2008, in which Brooks called Obama's speech anything but Kennedyesque or Reaganesque. He depicted it as an embarrassing and simplistic "kumbaya moment." Brooks wrote: "Substantively, optimism without reality isn't eloquence. It's just Disney."
[iii]"The Trials of Barak Obama," The New Republic, January 30, 2008.
[iv]"But could he deliver?" The EconomistFebruary 16th-22nd2008.
[v]William Kristol, "It's All About Him," The New York Times, February 25, 2008.
[vi]Sharon Begley, "When It's Head versus Heart, the Heart Wins," Newsweek, February 11, 2008.
[vii]Madeleine Albright, The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs(New York: Harper Perennial, 2007).
[viii]"Madeleine Albright explains her support for Barack Obama" with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, You Tube, June 24, 2008.
[ix] Fareed Zakaria, The Post American World (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008). The entire book is applicable, but see particularly pages 254-255 in regard to Zakaria's observation about how Senator Barack Obama would respond to another terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
[x]Douglas Johnston and Cynthia Sampson, eds., Religion, the Missing Dimension of Statecraft(New York: Oxford University Press, 1994). With Foreword by Jimmy Carter. See also Johan D van der Vyver and John Witte, Jr., eds., Religious Human Rights in Global Perspective: Legal Perspectives(The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1996).
[xi]"God's Ambassadors," Economist, July 19th, 2007.
[xii]See Jimmy Carter's Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid(New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006). See also Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis(New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005); and Madeleine Albright's aforementioned book, The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs, pages 37-52, 77-78, 142, 194. The Carter Center at Emory University is Jimmy and Roselyn Carter's legacy. It is a non-profit organization that prevents and resolves conflicts using faith-based diplomacy methods, and appeals to human rights reform and development in foreign policy approaches. It seeks to enhance freedom and democracy, and the improvement of health around the world.
[xiii]Pope John Paul II's insertion of faith into his foreign policy was staggering in its proportion and influence on world leaders. Popes have historically inserted the power of their seat to influence kings and emperors, but as Newsweekput it the week after Pope John Paul II's death on April 2, 2005, "Under John Paul, the Holy See gained more political clout and diplomatic recognition than it had enjoyed since the Renaissance" (April 11, 2005). Economist magazine put it this way: "Over the past century—despite the march of secularism—the Vatican's role in world affairs has expanded. In 1890 a famous English Catholic, Cardinal Manning, said the Holy See's diplomatic activities were ‘a mere pageant,' a medieval relic. He would be amazed to find that in 2007 papal diplomacy is more active than ever. The real explosion came under John Paul II. When he was elected in 1978, the Holy See had full ties with 85 states [i.e., countries]. When he died, the figure was 174. Among states that dropped their misgivings were Margaret Thatcher's Britain, Ronald Reagan's America and Mikhail Gorbachev's Soviet Union. The Holy See now has full diplomatic relations with 176 states" (July 19, 2007). Indeed, the mortal political wound that Rome sustained in 1798, and described in Revelation 13 so vividly, seems to be healing rapidly since Vatican II and the advents of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. See John Paul's Encyclical Letter of May 1, 1991, entitled "Centesimus Annus: On the Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum," which was the first major statement on social doctrine by Rome since 1891, and played an enormously attractive role in getting the attention of world leaders to recognize the value of Rome, under John Paul's leadership, in shaping the domestic and foreign policies of the world's leading foreign governments, both great and small. See also Sister Mary Walsh's editorial treatment of John Paul's foreign policy legacy, From Pope John Paul II to Benedict XVI: An Inside Look at the End of an Era, the Beginning of a New One, and the Future of the Church(Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2005). I would be remiss to not include Malachi Martin's The Keys to this Blood: The Struggle for World Dominion between Pope John Paul II, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the Capitalist West(New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990).
[xv]The Review of Faith & International Affairs. See Volume 6, Number 2, Summer 2008, an issue focusing on "Religious Freedom and U.S. Foreign Policy."
[xvi]Evan Thomas, "What These Eyes Have Seen," Newsweek, February 11, 2008. Thomas details the savior-like phenomena of Senator McCain to a certain segment of Republican conservatives, including Karl Rove, who see in McCain their only hope of advancing the foreign policy goals and gains of the Bush Administration.
[xvii]Matt Bai, "The McCain Doctrines," The New York Times, May 18, 2008.
[xviii]John McCain, "An Enduring Peace Built on Freedom," Foreign Affairs, Nov./Dec. 2007: 19-34.
[xix]Thomas Carothers, "A League of Their Own," Foreign Policy, July/August 2008: 44-49.
[xx] See the International Atomic Energy Agency's web site and the following article entitled "G8 Leaders Stress Safe, Peaceful Nuclear Development: Key IAEA Roles Singled Out in Summit Statements": http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/2008/g8leaders.html. See specifically the G8 leaders' statement in the subsection of the article titled "Nuclear Non-Proliferation."
[xxi]Carothers, "A League of Their Own," Foreign Policy, July/August 2008: 49.
[xxiii]Condoleezza Rice, "Rethinking the National Interest: American Realism for a New World," Foreign Affairs, July/August 2008: 7. Senator McCain echoes this point in "An Enduring Peace Built on Freedom," 25-27.
[xxiv]Allen D. Hertzke, "International Religious Freedom Policy: Taking Stock," The Review of Faith & International Affairs, Summer 2008: 19. Professor Hertzke retells the history of the competing visions of the two bills (House and Senate) that proposed the International Religious Freedom Act, which was eventually passed in 1998 by an overwhelming majority in both chambers. He demonstrates how the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) was created as a compromise and designed as a separate and competing agency to the U.S. State Department and the efforts of their assigned U.S. Ambassadors-at-Large for international religious freedom. These two agencies are currently at "loggerheads" with each other, which, Hertzke explains, is the reason for the little progress made. This helps explain why USCIRF would benefit greatly from a League of Democracies proposed by Senator McCain, and how it flies in the face of Senator Obama's ecumenical approach.
[xxv]Carlos Hamann, "McCain to make religious freedom a key foreign policy issue," Yahoo! Newsin cooperation with Agence France Presse, May 7, 2008.
[xxvi]"United States Senator McCain Tells Adventists America's Leadership Tied to its Moral Standing," Annual Liberty Banquet sponsored by Liberty magazine and the International Religious Freedom Association, May 6, 2006, Senate Caucus Room, Russell Senate Building, as reported by Adventist News Network. See http://www.irla.org/news/2006/may06.html for the transcript of Senator John McCain's speech.
[xxvii] Hertzke, 18. Other covenants include: 1) 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; 2) the 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of all forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion and Belief.
[xxix]The Economist,September 11, 2004, p. 32. The primary source for this quote can be found in The 9/11 Commission Report, 362.
[xxx] See Revelation 13:11, "Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke as a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast...." New International Version.
[xxxi] Rice, 14, 16.
[xxxiii]"Al Qaida condemns Saudi ruler for interreligious dialogue," Catholic World News, July 29, 2008.
[xxxiv]Quoted in Walter Isaacson, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life(New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003): 169. Robert Meyer wrote an Online column for Renew America on the fifth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001, challenging the supposed misuse of Benjamin Franklin's quote regarding governmental policies since then. See http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/meyer/060911. He wrote: "The basis assumption being promulgated by identifying with Franklin is that no tradeoffs of liberty for security are ever justified. Of course that idea is usually derived from using truncated versions of Franklin's entire quote. Notice the phrase ‘essential liberty.' I want to kno