(Originally Published on 10/11/07)
Sometimes I come across something on the Internet that calls for a response. Sometimes a long period of time passes before an opportunity to respond presents itself. Such is the case now. Many months ago I read a fine article by Gordon McDonald on the fall of Ted Haggard. ( http://blog.christianitytoday.com/outofur/archives/2006/11/the_haggard_tru.html ) However, in his analysis of the Haggard situation, McDonald managed to fit in a criticism of evangelical supporters of the current war effort. Here is what he wrote:
"Like it or not, we are pictured as those who support war, torture, and a go-it-alone (bullying) posture in international relationships. Any of us who travel internationally have tasted the global hostility toward our government and the suspicion that our President's policies reflect the real tenets of Evangelical faith. And I might add that there is considerable disillusionment on the part of many of our Christian brothers/sisters in other countries who are mystified as to where American evangelicals are in all of this. Our movement may have its Supreme Court appointments, but it may also have compromised its historic center of Biblical Faith. Is it time to let the larger public know that some larger-than-life evangelical personalities with radio and TV shows do not speak for all of us?"
In responding, let me begin with his assertion that "Any of us who travel internationally have tasted the global hostility toward our government and the suspicion that our President's policies reflect the real tenants of Evangelical faith."
In my twenty-one years as a follower of Jesus, I have had the privilege of fellowshipping with brothers and sisters from all over the world. Coming from different cultures did not prevent us from bonding with each other as we worshipped the same Lord. Yet because these brothers and sisters come from different lands, they do not understand our culture, government, or who we Americans are as a people. From time to time, that has led to heated discussions about America between me and them. In Seminary, one African brother was adamant that President Bush had the power to have the American Taliban fighter, Jon Walker Lindh, executed without a trial. I tried to explain to him that the President does not have such power, but to no avail. The only experience he had with which to interpret events in this country was his own knowledge of the way things have been done in his own country.
Also, Christians from other lands accuse Americans of having a world view that only takes into account what is good for America and never consider the interests or opinions of other nations. This fault does indeed exist and is need of correction. Yet when non-Americans consider the world, and the role of the United States in it, very often the main consideration that drives their thinking is their own countries interests. Another brother from Africa told me that whenever violence breaks out anywhere in Africa, it is the role of the United States military to be sent in to protect civilians. Little did he think that the American military has only so much capacity to move on so many fronts, let alone police the entire African Continent.
When Gordon McDonald travels overseas and encounters hostility towards himself for being an American, even from Christians, he should keep in mind that in some places, especially in Europe, the United States will be resented for being the world's only super-power. In Europe especially, there is hostility to the U.S. because Europe is no longer the dominant power it once was. Europe resents the U.S. taking its place internationally and outpacing them economically. Many overseas would like to see the U.S. defeated in Iraq simply out of envy. Other nations fear that to be seen supporting U.S. foreign policy may bring violence to their own lands. This was true during the Cold War; it is true now during the current war against Islamic terrorism.
I am not suggesting that one cannot legitimately disagree with American activities abroad. Nor am I implying that any such disagreement is solely the result of the factors listed above. What I am trying to convey to McDonald and those who share his opinions is that if there is hostility toward American actions, one cannot logically assume that America is in the wrong or that the hostility is completely justified. There seems to be an assumption on the part of some Americans that people from other lands are always wiser than we are and would handle international situations better than the United States.
To quote McDonald again: "Like it or not, we are pictured as those who support war, torture, and a go-it-alone (bullying) posture in international relationships." As for me, I don't like it. But this caricature is largely the work of those who oppose U.S. actions as a matter of course. Such was the case during the Cold War.
If a Christian from another nation were to ask me where the American Church stands on the issue of the current war, my answer would be that the American Church cannot be treated as a unified whole on this issue. As for the U.S. acting alone, I would point out that when any President takes the oath of office, he makes an oath to God that he (the President) will protect the United States from all threats foreign and domestic. To carry out that oath sometimes calls for the President to defy world public opinion if he believes the safety of the nation requires him to do so. After all, oaths are important to God and supersede the opinions of others. To fulfill this oath may require the President to take actions that make the United States very unpopular in the world.
"Our movement may have its Supreme Court appointments, but it may also have compromised its historic center of Biblical Faith." So says Gordon McDonald. I have never met McDonald, although I am familiar with some of his books. ( What I have read of his writings I found impressive.) Even though I do not know the man, I would guess that he would oppose any linkage between Christianity and patriotism. And he would be right. Were someone to label him a liberal non-evangelical for these views, that person would be guilty of an unfair stereotype. Yet when McDonald makes such statements as as he does above, he engages in the shameless stereotyping of those he disagrees with, those he charges with compromising Biblical Faith. I know many a brother or sister in Christ who disagrees with me on these issues, yet I would never charge them with compromising their faith. Because McDonald opposes current U.S. foreign policy, I would never accuse him of deviating from the faith. Shame on you, brother Gordon.