On September 27, Providence hosted an event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC where some of the signatories of “A Christian Declaration on American Foreign Policy” presented their vision for what a Christian foreign policy and strategy would look like for the US. Below is a video and transcript of the event.
MARK TOOLEY: Well, we’re delighted that all of you could join us for this evening for a conversation on our Christian Declaration on American Foreign Policy. The Declaration emerges from Providence: A Journal of Christianity and American Foreign Policy. Providence is published jointly by my organization The Institute on Religion and Democracy and The Philos Project in New York. My organization has been here in DC for 35 years, focusing on, analyzing, and serving to inform Christianity as a social and political witness. We’re an ecumenical organization. Philos is a much newer organization, very dynamic already, working on enhancing good relationship between Christians and Jews, and friendship with the people of Israel as well as focusing on the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Providence was unveiled last fall, I believe the latest issue is Issue #4 as I recall and includes the Christian Declaration on American Foreign Policy which is signed by 40 Christian thinkers in the arena of international affairs. Providence was created to address the need, ecumenically but also the Protestant and evangelical communities in thinking on international affairs, national security, and to remind Christians of our great traditions going back many centuries of God’s vocation of the state and the purposes, the moral purposes, of the global and domestic statecraft, so we combine several streams of thought – traditional just war teaching with a dash of Niebuhr and others as well. The declaration we’re unveiling was conceived to respond to the need, to respond to the need as we see it, of a lack of systematic thinking among Christians about foreign policy. Lots of good intentions across the spectrum, but often the thinking that comes out of Christian circles does not fully incorporate or appreciate the Christian tradition of global statecraft, and more often than not, despite good intentions, reflects where people are culturally and politically where people are in a particular place at a particular time. So, the declaration did not claim to speak infallibly, or with great authority beyond just the thinking of those who have signed it and the persons who helped draft it, primarily Paul Miller who is fortunately with us here this evening. But to introduce the speakers and who will moderate will be my colleague, Marc LiVecche, who is the managing editor of Providence and who is a wonderful thinker and scholar on Christian just war teaching and who has been very capably managing and publishing our journal. So, Marc.
MARC LIVECCHE: Thank you all very much for coming. A little bit of housekeeping on what we’re doing, we obviously have a panel of 3, we’ll introduce them in just a moment. Afterwards we’ll have a period of time for Q&A, that involves you, and then to close us out with Providence co-publisher Robert Nicholson and director of the Philos Project up in New York. But for now it is my privilege to talk about one more thing – the magazine, if you haven’t already noticed they are up in the back. You can grab a copy, feel free to grab several copies to friends or mother-in-laws, father-in-laws, feel to distribute them widely and freely. So now it is my privilege to introduce 3 of our signatories. First up will be Paul Miller who is a contributing editor to Providence and as Mark Tooley already stated, he is the primary drafter of our declaration. Paul is an associate director of the Clements center at the University of Texas, Austin. He previously served as the director for Afghanistan and Pakistan for the National Security Council staff for President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. He also served at the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Army for the war in Afghanistan. His first book capitalizes on the challenges of state intervention, and his latest book, American Power and Liberal Order, addresses U.S. grand strategy and we will have a review in a future issue of Providence.
We also have John Owen who is a professor of politics and faculty and fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. He is author of the Clash of Ideas and World Politics, and Confronting Political Islam, published in 2015. He’s published articles in Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, First Things, and a number of academic journals.
Finally, we have Mary Habeck. Mary Habeck is a national security expert specializing in Afghanistan, extremism, and strategic planning. Mary teaches at Johns Hopkins and at Georgetown. From 2008 to 2009 she was the special advisor for strategic planning at the National Security Council on the National Security Council staff. Before joining, she taught military history and strategic thought at Yale. Among her many books is Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror which I recommend to you. And with that, Paul’s up.
PAUL MILLER: Great, thank you Marc and Mark, and Robert, and the Institute on Religion and Democracy and the Philos Project for hosting this again and bringing us all together. And thank you for coming out on a Tuesday evening to think together with us on a really important subject. American foreign policy is really important and effects a lot of people since the United States is still predominantly the most powerful country in the world. So, how the United States uses its power effects human beings here and around the world. That’s what makes the use of that power such an important subject. It effects human beings everywhere. The idea for this declaration came from discussions with the Mark’s and Robert, thinking we needed to respond to strains of thinking about American foreign policy that we had heard and seen in recent years. Let me read to you a central passage that is in the declaration and I’ll comment on:
The routine work of foreign policy and maintenance of the international system might be considered a contemporary version of the creation mandate to cultivate the garden (that’s from Genesis 2:15). The garden question is the international social system, or more concisely the world order. Cultivating the garden of world order means tending the tasks of public safety, execute justice, and promote human flourishing.
I think I would say it’s the crux of our declaration. In giving credit where it’s due, I didn’t write key passage. We understand this to be an imperative for the United States and I would say for all countries to use the power that they have to cultivate the garden of world order. We gear this declaration to American foreign policy because we’re Americans and because of the predominant power of the United States. I think this is a good thing for the United States to do to lead the world towards, because first of all we care about our interests. I think foreign policy ought to be self-interested. We ought to aim at our own good, that’s what governments are for. Liberal world order, or a world at ordered liberty, acts as a way for our own security. That’s why we act in our interest to cultivate a world order. Secondly, we often should seek to use power responsibly. We ought to seek to use our power responsibly. Let me read you a short quote from Reinald Niebuhr who we reference once in the declaration, but he has influence throughout if you read it carefully. He wrote somewhere:
Great disproportions of power tempt the strong (the United States) to wield their power without much consideration of the interests and views of those upon whom such power hinges.
I think that’s a temptation the United States often faces. That we are the ruling and we can sometimes be very insensitive to how our actions reverberate across the world. That gives us extra responsibility to be sensitive to the effects it’ll have, and also sensitive to the opportunities for using our power well. Now, let me address the preemptive view our critiques can anticipate. Why is this bad, to make a religious declaration of foreign policy, or rather any policy at all? There are strong roots of commentators who would say it is inviolate to object morality in this discussion, especially specifically a religious one – a declaration on Christian foreign policy, self-proclaimed realists would say that. And they would say that we undermine our position by objecting morality idealism into our foreign policy. In responding to a couple lines of opposition to our position, despite the advocates saying they are realist in saying so, I think it’s actually unrealistic to expect our moral foreign policy makers, citizens, we are moral beings. I’ve sat in the White House rooms, I’ve listened to debates between the President and Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State and they are moral human beings. They actually want to do the right thing. It is very unrealistic to expect human beings to suddenly act as amoral automatons, once they become policy makers. That’s just not going to happen. The American people expect and desire some kind of moral foundation for what we do in the world. If you go the American people and say we are going to be cold-hearted, ruthless killers, you might win an election but you’re not going to win a second or a third. I think the American rightly expect that we should seek to act well in the world, to act for a long-term justice and peace among the nations. Secondly as a response, I think justice is an asset to our foreign policy. It undergirds our foreign policy and legitimizes it, if we seek to act justly. This makes it easier to reach out and form alliances with like-minded nations. It makes it easier for us to act in ways and be received in ways are legitimate by other states, and use us as a way of framing our action that is more sustainable. Again Reinhold Niebuhr:
The state’s order is not possible without using instruments of justice… an unjust order quickly invites resentment and rebellion which yields to its unweilding.
So, if we want to have a sustainable posture in the world, it’s good for it to be a just posture in the world. My third response is that just because we are framing this as a Christian declaration does not make this a theocratic position. I know there will be some critiques who say this is somehow invalid, it’s a theocratic move to try to make a sectarian foreign policy. What we’re trying to do here is articulate, at most, public justice. Our understanding of justice is drawn from our common faith, which most Americans share, but we don’t think that justice is the exclusive possession of our faith, or that it’s particular to our religious tradition. The common American ideals themselves depends upon finding common principles of justice that can be shared across communities. So, we are here subconsciously identifying ourselves as Christians, as Christians towards foreign policy, but we don’t think that only Christians can agree with us. Principles of justice can and ought to be shared. Let me stop there, during Q & A time, we can talk about how this is achievable. This is another line I’ve heard, that in foreign policy, in creating and fostering liberal world order is sort of over-stretched because it’s an unachievable goal. I think it’s achievable and to that critique there I’d say our differences are not worth fearing in theology, but rather it’s a different estimation of what’s achievable. So I have reasons for being a little optimistic about what can be achieved, drawn from two centuries of history, as the United States and other republics have built liberal order, we’ll save that conversation for later. Thanks.
JOHN OWEN: Hello, I’d also like to thank the organizers, the Institute on Religion and Democracy and the Philos Project. I want to thank Paul Miller. Paul, as the principle drafter of the document, I suppose it’s infallible. When I saw it, it was really like a breath of fresh air. I want to make two points. First is one Paul has kind of already pulled out of the document, I’m pleased that you saw that as the core, because I thought that was also the crux of the document, is this notion that there’s a garden that needs tending, that’s a metaphor. It’s more than a metaphor when he opens the door to some productive and some I think right use of scripture to think about the situation of the world. The world is quite different from the world of the biblical writers. The world is very very different. We have a liberal international order, in the sense the political theorists use it kind of through personal liberty. There are rules and practices that are among countries and that are now around international organizations, NGO’s including religious ones, multinational corporations, rules of interaction, that tell us who the actors are, why their rights and privileges are, what is out of bounds and so on. This international order is easy, and there are scholars who don’t take it very seriously, and I think it is quite serious. It is real, and I think Christians really need to attend to this in order to care about this, because it implicates the, the international order implicates justice among the nations, in the nations, and human flourishing. I want to briefly recount the most consequential care based in modern history, of what happens when the international order is not tended or when it really becomes not a garden but a jungle. Certain actors step out, namely the United States, and other actors step in, and I have in mind the inter-war period between the two world wars, the 1930’s. An episode in world history that ended as badly as any episode ever has. In the first instance, this is a story of Hitler and Mussolini and Japanese militarism and aggressive imperialism and world war. And some would say that was it, that’s all you need to say, bad actors, real evil, finally stopped by western democracies and the Soviet Union and that is true. But as Winston Churchill himself wrote in his memoirs later, in his history of the Second World War, this is also a story of abdication of western democracies. France, Britain, and the United States, an abdication that enabled these bad actors and their bad policies to make a really awful world order to emerge and to start to become dominant. The United States was not thoroughly isolationist during this period, it was deeply involved in Latin America and the Caribbean in a very heave-handed way until the 1930s and FDR’s good neighbor policy. This U.S. behavior in the western hemisphere is a cautionary note and why I appreciate you bringing Niebuhr into the document. And we can talk about this later if you like. But the United States during the interwar period was aloof from Europe. And that was extremely important. The fate of global order still hung in the 1930s on Europe, Europe still had the bulk of military and industrial potential even after the First World War. But the First World War devastated Europe, it was a long generation of young men the country was heavily indebted to the United States, asking the United States to step up and take leadership. But far too many Americans wanted nothing to do with Europe after the First World War, the great world war that left a bad taste in their mouths, and so the United States refused to join the League of Nations. In the 1920s the United States raised tariff barriers, and then again in the 1930s the infamous new tariff which was a 59.1% tariff on boards. This, most historians agree, deepened the Great Depression, which starved this country of course. It led other states to follow with tariffs of their own starting with Canada. It led other countries to competitive devaluation of their currencies, trying to beef up their exports. The Depression, the depth and length of the Depression, did contribute to a couple things, to the rise of fascism across Europe, and fascist flirtations even in Latin America, in Argentina, Brazil, and elsewhere, to militarism in Japan. And second, it also led to the drive to autarky, or self-sufficiency and formal aggressive empire by Germany, Japan, and Italy. This gobbled up smaller countries and they did, eventually wreaking such havoc on so much of the world, most Eastern Europe and East Asia but elsewhere of course. So a different kind of order emerged in the 1930s. It wasn’t that oh we can have order or not, or there is no such thing as international order, but there was identifiably a very different kind of order, as I said not a garden but a jungle. And this happened not entirely because the United States was abdicated, but U.S. abdication, aloofness played a role. Americans told themselves Europe was across the sea, Asia was across an even bigger sea, and these are not our problems. We’re not going to get fooled again. We’re protected by the ocean so let’s let these war-like Europeans work things out themselves. This was the America first movement and it is instructive. Again, our world is very different from the 1930s but this is the only case we have of a powerful United States that withdrew. In the 19th century, the U.S. wasn’t powerful and couldn’t play this role, in the 20s and 30s it could happen again. Second point I want to make, and I’m not even keeping time, is to acknowledge the one kind of objection that many critiques may make that Christians might lodge on this notion as the United States having global responsibilities, and in practice America generally does more harm than good. And there are a number of versions of this. One, it is that we are violent to, in fact we are imperialists. Look at all the wars we’re fighting, think of the Iraq War, think of the pictures of Abu Ghraib, think about the Vietnam War which shaped the previous generation. Think about our support for authoritarian governments now and in the Middle East. Another version that is newer that a lot of Christians I know are voicing is that the liberal global order if you like, the garden the United States is tending, is actually harmful. Perhaps it was helpful in the past to human flourishing and justice but it has become harmful at least in some of its aspects. And that’s because liberalism itself in the western world has changed. Our notions of human rights haven’t really expanded, but they’ve shifted. Let me try to characterize the shift succinctly. At the time of the American founding, 240 some years ago, we could call liberalism (Thomas Jefferson, founder of my university James Madison), liberalism saw a cheap threat to individual liberty which was essential good for liberals as emanating from a despondent state. The chief threat to individual liberty came from the state, the despondent state. So that’s phase one. Phase two liberalism began to emerge in the late 19th century, but really dominated the 20th century. And the chief threat to individual liberty came from what Marx called capital, big business, banks, and so liberalism, think of the New Deal which was really a prime example of this, in the United States recruited the now tamed state, no longer despondent, to mitigate the threat to individual liberty from capital. That’s phase two, and there’s still people who’ve held this view, but they’re coming now from extreme liberalism, in which the chief threats to individual liberty are taken to come, not from the despondent state, which isn’t tamed, not from capital which has also been tamed, but from traditional institutions and norms, including churches, synagogues, mosques, the traditional family, even the nation-state itself. And now the state and capital are being recruited to mitigate these threats to individual liberty. So this of course is going on within the United States, but let’s be frank, we are exporting this kind of liberalism abroad, and it’s natural we should do so. And some Christians are rightly troubled by this. So, the plants, we’re tending the garden and it has many nice, beautiful plants, but it also has what many of us would consider to appear to be weeds. And this is a problem. All I can say in response to the objection of this question which I take very seriously is that yes it is a problem, but it’s a problem I think the church can address by working in society. The United States is still a democracy. I believe in a grand project to try to reconvert the West to Christianity and is something we should all be doing in our churches and in our individual lives. In any case in this objection I maintain does not outweigh the problem I described in my first point that if the United States with all its flaws and with all its problematic notions of liberalism, we’re enacting and exporting, if the U.S. does withdraw it won’t be replaying the 30s but it will be more like the 30s than what we have now. As Christians we need to think very, very hard about that. Thank you.
MARY HABECK: I am hoping that I’ll be even more succinct. I have 4 points, so I’ll try to keep myself in the time limit. The first point I’d like to make is about why the U.S. is leading now. I think we’ve all noticed there are divisions in our country. And at least some of these divisions are on foreign policy. There are divisions between left and right, there are divisions amongst elites over what we should be doing in the world. And there’s a lot of divisions between elites and ordinary Americans about how we should be interacting in the world. This has affected Christians as much as anybody else in our country and there are a lot of divisions within the Christian community that are very large about what the role of the United States is, how we should be interacting with others, what justice means. We use the term justice as if it has a common, agreed upon definition but in fact it’s highly contested. So in fact there’s all sorts of divisions within the Christian community just as there is in America as well at large. But at the same time, it’s never been more important for us to have some common ground to act together because of the way the world has developed over the past 15 years in particular. I remember, as some of you do, some of the hopes and dreams of the 1990s with this new world order that was going to lead to peaceful prosperity, globalization was going to even out some of those old problems around the world, and there was going to be this internationalization of American values and what defines that is international values as some people put it, and peace and prosperity. But those hopes have not been met, and over the past 15 years, we’ve seen violence gather itself and sort of spill out especially across the greater Middle East but across the whole world. And that violence has not remained confined there but has in fact affected us and many of our partners and friends. So never has it been more necessary for us to have some sort of common ground on which we can build, so that was one of the main reasons for writing the document. The second point I want to make is that the analogy of the 1930s also came to me so this was one of those nice coincidences while I was thinking about why this is needed now. As John pointed out, there was a time of rising of great powers and a time of defining the status quo of nations. Or, in the case of the United States, a failure to lead or a decision not to lead. In fact, the United States looked very much like today. It was economically wounded, disillusioned by engagement with the world. It had gone out there and attempted to bring democracy to Europe and in fact it led to failure, to pretty much a worse world than when the United States was started. And there was a tendency in part for a lot of Americans to simply withdraw, lick out wounds, take care of our own issues, and let the rest of the world take care of itself. And there was a significant divide at that time between Northeastern elites and what became called the establishment, and/or many Americans. Many ordinary Americans didn’t want to be engaged with the world, Northeastern elites saw it necessary but ordinary Americans didn’t want to get involved. They thought why can’t the rest of the world take of their own problems, fix their problems, why do we always have to be getting engaged? A lot of the discussions that were going on in the 1930s in particular sound very familiar to conversations one has heard over the past few years in the United States, and if one compares our reality with action to Iraq, what happened with World War I, it becomes apparent that our engagement in both of these places, and our belief that we had failed in both of these places, has a large part to play. The third thing that strikes me, so the analogy of the 1930s helps to explain why when the Unites States chooses to disengage, it often leads not to the better world that we’re hoping for but can in fact lead to more disorder, more violence, rather than to less disorder, less violence. And that brings me to the third point I want to make, with great power comes great responsibility is what I have written here. I actually use that phrase all the time, before the Spiderman movies in the 1990s, because only people who have read the comic books will know the reference. It struck me even in the 1990s even that we were making decisions about the use of our power that it was better for us not to engage, but that every time we engaged we seemed to make things worse, and there was mess for us to kind of leave behind, even in the 1990s it was a thought that a lot of people were having. But doing nothing is also a choice, with great risks attached to it. Others will act in our place, so if we choose to do nothing others will decide to do what they want to do. And we also have seen, not only over the past few years, in the 1990s that when the U.S. doesn’t lead, no one steps in and takes over or takes charge, let us do it – international community included, the UN included, our alliance included. Finally, if we decide okay let’s empower others that we’re friends with, our partners, our allies, what actually happens is that our partners achieve their ends and interests and not things that we actually believe are right and just. So that also leads to a word attached to it – significantless. So, my concluding point is that there are rarely perfect choices. Sometimes it’s very clear, right? There’s a genocide or you have clear evidence these people want to take over the world and you have to stop them. But more often it’s choosing the least bad choice. Sometimes that’s acting, sometimes that’s not acting, and sometimes it’s acting one way or another way. It’s usually not a clear hey choosing between choices A through Z what we should be doing is L or M. Instead, it’s often a matter of judgement. But at the same time, which is in complete opposition to that, there sometimes is a choice for us about acting that is so difficult that it requires a great deal of political or sometimes just moral courage in order to take that action. And here I’m reminded of Daniel and his choices, his choices of moral courage, and especially a phrase from one of his three friends when they were faced with a really difficult choice of life and death and their decision to do it, and the phrase “but if not.” So, sometimes, it’s not a matter of not knowing what to do, and unclear choices in front of you, but knowing what to do and simply needing to have moral courage to choose to do the right thing. And of course I’ll conclude by saying that seeing the difference between those and knowing where one applies and the other applies is the whole of wise leadership. Thank you.
LIVECCHE: So, now if we have any questions there’s a mic here, maybe you can just line up it’d be the easiest way to do it, first come first serve. Please remember a question is a short interrogative, if you could honor that it’d be greatly appreciated.
WILLIAM CAMPBELL: Liberal international order, especially liberal international groups, the UN for the last 30-50 years have been based on liberal principles. How can the United States participate in those things while also distancing itself from them?
MILLER: So, let me talk about terminology. In talking about liberal order, I don’t mean to endorse all the program of the liberal international school or IR scholarship or contemporary political liberalism. That’s not quite the terms that I would choose. When we talk about liberal order, I think it might actually be better to talk about.. There are particular institutions in the world today, nations, UNESCO, that are accretions on intergovernmental organizations, accretions on international order that might be helpful, that aren’t very useful. I don’t think the United States should stop participating in the UN, but I think we should recognize what it’s actually useful for and recognize that sometimes it can be unhelpful as well. And we should use such tools as the UN carefully and wisely. I think we should stay in the UN, absolutely, but that we should have somewhat limited expectations of what it can do. It does a great job with refugee camps, it does a great job with multilateral diplomacy, but I don’t expect it to solve the world’s problems.
OWEN: I would just add that nobody gets their way completely in the UN. And for the United States, you know we’re so powerful why we need the UN, why do we host them in New York. You know smaller countries don’t get their way either, they’re small and they’re not tempted in that direction. So I think we should recognize what’s going on when we’re tempted to leave. I agree with Paul that leaving would be a bad idea, that’s why we haven’t done it, even under president who didn’t like it very much. We stayed in and there were real reasons for that.
TANNER O’NEILL: I’d just like to ask you – two of you brought up the 1930s and how the U.S. specifically decided to withdraw especially from European international relations and that that had negative effects. I’m wondering, is there a threat we see that’s commencer, perhaps Russia, perhaps ISIS, perhaps radical Islamic terror, that Christians should unite against and find as a rallying cry, because it seems that many Christians would disagree with your call to get more involved, would say that there isn’t that existential threat out there, and I’d like to hear how’d you respond.
MILLER: Well, I’d hesitate to look for a threat commensurate, well I don’t think no, not yet. But I think it’s a mistake to wait ‘til we see a threat that’s just like the 1930s. It’s a historical analogy that can be useful, but when we push it too far we can’t find an exact analogy that can be helpful. I think there’s lots of threats, to the United States, to liberal order around the world. Today, I’d say the nuclear topics of Russia, China, and North Korea are definitely threats. Are they as aggressive and totalitarian as the Nazis were? No, not yet, no. But you have a threat from lots and lots of groups – terrorist, jihad – individually, they are quite small for us, but the aggregate costs a lot to manage. And so we absolutely should be actively involved against all kinds of threats, recognizing that the toll they take on human flourishing, even where they are now, and if we aren’t involved in proactively engaging and fighting against them, it will get worse.
HABECK: I couldn’t agree more with Paul’s description. And the historians up here are very cautious about trying to use an analogy directed to the topic. The significant things about the analogy are the growing number of people who are dissatisfied with the way things are, and the waning power or withdrawing of the engagement of those who want to maintain international order, the garden, and keep it flourishing. So that leads to not just one or two threats, but a whole range of threats. So if we go back to the 1930s, we all focus on the Nazis as being the threat, but you had of course Mussolini, Stalin, the Japanese Empire, you had the rising power of a whole bunch of wanna-be’s and imitators of these people from Eastern Europe all the way to China. And across the vast majority of the landmass across the entire world, you had disorder and violence that was unprecedented. So it really didn’t focus in on just the Nazis and the Japanese Empire until rather late in the game because there were so many threats between the 1920s and 1930s. Slowly but surely, without management by somebody, without international order, it got out of control.
OWEN: Just a quick point, I agree with what they said. I think that’s a great question. The analogy isn’t perfect like all analogies. I do want to emphasize that fascism emerged the more it was clear the United States was building tariff barriers and the root to national prosperity and sovereignty that’s when things got worse. If you want to get overly complex, we’re more like 1930 than 1936, there are actors out there that if, and I would group the Chinese, if the Chinese conclude that open trade order in which they’ve done amazingly well is starting to close up, they’ll have to turn to other means to secure their energy future, their economic future, and that’s a terrible Asian order we’re looking at, and that’s something the United States has some say over both in keeping the ceilings open and keeping our alliances assured as regional actors. So in other words, the U.S. has a role exactly in the emergence of these threats.
STEVEN MEYER: I wanted to pick up on a couple points that Owen had raised, and something that Habeck had mentioned. I, for many years, have been hearing the word justice thrown around and it’s been used here quite a bit. I’d let to get some meat on those bones and what do you mean by justice? That’s the first point, and another quick question is I would contend that we have overused this 1930s analogy at nauseum. You have to understand in context, and our context now today is nothing like the 1930s. The position of the United States, the position of other powers, the rise of non-state actors, and the whole context is different. And so I think that is a real weakness in your position that you can’t transfer historical evidence from on period to another. So, just on those two things.
MILLER: So, what is justice? I think we’re being vague because we’re trying to offer something that can be transferred, and we want to reach out and find some agreement on principles of public policy, on foreign policy, that Americans in our society can agree upon. So if it’s human flourishing, and order, and security, and liberty, that’s a pretty good package of things to be associated with justice. Notice I’m not defining it clearly and that’s on purpose because I think we all like order, and security, and liberty, and flourishing. And if we all like that, that’s a good political package.
HABECK: I was thinking that certainly during the 1960s it’s been overused, but in fact today it’s been pretty much forgotten. And it’s not overused today, in fact the lessons that we once learned in the 1930s have gone away. The 60s were dominated by conversation about appeasement and Munich and how we have to stand up to communism and Vietnam and reasons for engagement. Talk about your overuse, it really did get overused in the 60s and in some ways in the 70s but it kind of went away because people realized it was overused. In the 70s, 80s, 90s, there was one attempt to bring it back, and that was by George H.W. Bush in talking about the invasion of Kuwait, and the need to stand up to tyranny, and to stand up to aggression. And it was pretty much removed, there’s no comparison between Saddam and Hitler, right? So I think there were a lot of people who were very turned against using that particular analogy in any way, shape, or form, because of the disasters of the 60s. But the result is that we’ve kind of thrown out some of the things we’ve learned, we kind of threw out the baby with the bathwater. So we’re not going to have that analogy used at all in any context. So when you have someone like ISIS who’s literally enslaving people and carrying out genocide, what better way and who else do we have to better analogize with than the people in the 20th century who are trying to do the exact same thing. So, I really do believe in fact that we underutilize it today in reaction to the way it’s overused in the 1960s.
OWEN: Yes, analogies are, right, all limited, you know the Vietnam analogy and Iraq is absolutely limited. But behind, you know my use of that analogy lies a body of knowledge and a well-developed theory in international relations called hegemonic stability theory that says global public goods need someone to pay for them and not all scholars accept this, that we don’t need hegemonic powers to do this, but a lot think you do and the 1930s remains the case study, and there’s a lot of logic coming behind the theory out of institutional economics. So don’t worry I’m going to stop talking and won’t give a lecture on that, but there’s more here than just an imperfect analogy than there, there’s a lot of reasons to think that U.S. withdrawal could lead to some bad outcomes that has nothing to do with the 30s analogy. Justice is not the right of the stronger, I can say that.
QUESTIONER: I’m a current supporter of Trump for President and my family has been a long time in various governments here and foreign governments. We’ve been in Washington DC since 1955, seen presidents come and go, seen ambassadors come and go. I’m native to the Philippines, I’m an immigrant here. So from my perspective, I do want to ask the question. If you had Donald Trump here and you were to advise Trump on having a more pro-Christian foreign policy, however you wish to define that, what would you advise them?
MILLER: Just to clarify, I wouldn’t want to promote, or say, in any way a pro-Christian foreign policy, I was going to say pro-justice, right. We’re standing with Christians, justice drawing on faith. Having advised a couple of presidents, in varying number and other jobs as well, I would say that I am concerned that we collectively are overreacting to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So another famous quote, those who don’t know the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them, right. And then [unintelligible] has said that those who do learn the lessons of the past are doomed to make the opposite mistake. And I think that’s kind of what’s happened. My assessment is that President Obama has overrun it. And so if I was going to say anything to President Obama or to any of the candidates, I would say let’s not overrun those lessons. Let’s understand that just because we did mess up a few times, doesn’t mean we should stop trying. Using our past failures to lower our moral ambition for the future is the exact wrong response. We need to learn from the mistakes of the past in order to do better in the future. So the recent past doesn’t disprove the validity of the usefulness internationalism, of being engaged with the world.
QUESTIONER: I’m curious to how you all think the Christian community can work with the Muslim community to stop the spread of radicalism? ISIS keeps on growing and now there’s the threat of smaller groups that now seem to replace ISIS when they are defeated? Thank you.
HABECK: That’s a terrific question, and it’s one I’ve been thinking about for nearly 20 years. Probably the biggest obstacles out there are a lack of information, a lack of knowledge, a lack of understanding on both sides. The main thing I think is needed is more interaction, more contact, more spending time getting to know each other, spending time getting to know each other’s beliefs, and know each other as people, and less isolation and separatism. That’s true across the United States by the way. What we’re seeing is everyone isolating into their own communities, where their comfortable, online as much as in real life and not interacting with people who think or look like them or talk differently than you do. So I feel that across the board we need that. But there are specific kinds of knowledge that I think are necessary as well. I can speak more clearly to the Christian-side of things rather than the Muslim community, but I see grouping of Muslims into one sort of group, here they are, they’re all pretty much the same, they all think the same, they have the same basic belief system. And that’s no more true of Muslims as it is of Christians. There are huge differences in that community, as many as there are in the Christian community, especially in the Sunni side, it’s sort of like Protestantism, there’s actually nobody in charge and there’s things like denominations, but there’s no body you can actually point to and say that’s the guy who’s in charge. The analogy to, you know, evangelical side of Christianity. If you want to speak with the person who’s in charge of evangelicalism in the United States, I bet if I would ask evangelicals in this reason to name that person, I would get like twenty different names. And it’s the same thing with the Muslim community. So there’s huge differences. The second thing that I want to say that is not well understood is that the extremist are primarily targeting ordinary Muslims, not the Christians, not the infidels, at all. So, there’s been quite a lot of studies on this that show that their primary focus and target is in fact on converting other Muslims to their specific views of Islam. The primary focus of their violence is Muslims, Sunni Muslims, not even Shia. The primary, if you just look at the numbers, in 2009, the last time a complete study was done, 8 times the number of Muslims compared to non-Muslims had been killed by Al Qaeda at that point with their violence, with their terrorist violence. That doesn’t include insurgent violence which is even more so. That’s like 20 to 100 times in any country. And in fact the focus of their strategy is aiming at other Muslims rather than at the non-Muslims. And I think the third thing that is understood is just how small the extremist contingent is, and just how extreme they are. So, my own numbers – 0.0512% of Muslim communities, 1.7 billion people that’s a lot of people, so even with that small percentage you have a whole 100,000 people, and that is a tiny tiny number, and the form of Islam that they are putting forward is not from the 7th century or the 8th century, or the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th century. It’s from specifically the 13th century and one theologian, theory. And that’s the only kind that they follow – one theologian from the 13th century. And his disciples after that were entirely marginalized within the Muslim community at large and in fact ended up being pushed off into the Arabian peninsula where they languished for hundreds of years until they revived in the 18th century. So just that, that kind of information might be very helpful in the Christian community in thinking how to reach out to Muslims, and see them as the primary target here and more threatened by what I call “cult” than even we are.
LIVECCHE: If I could interject before the next question, if you want another answer to that, that’s another good one, I commend you over here we have a friend and ally, Tafik Hamid and I’m not giving him the microphone because we’ll be here all night. I’ve heard him speak before, it’s excellent. But corner him during the reception, he’s written a book and you can purchase it, it’s called Inside Jihad. He has an insiders perspective of what he’s now on the outside of so I’d commend him to you. Thank you for coming.
QUESTIONER: There seems to be to me, at least among millennials, this reflexive knee-jerk pacifism to questions about foreign policy. This is a Christian declaration on a very complex subject. And maybe it’s just my perception of it, but it seems to be to me the words of Jesus, the red-letters, are more commensurate with dovish foreign policy than any kind of use of force, or armed conflict, any kind of armed conflict is against the teachings of Christ. Anabaptist, my roots are Mennonite by the way and talk of just war theory was the comparison to the devil, and so bringing this thoughtful, theological vision for engaging nations and intervening where we must, because indeed other bad actors will intervene if we don’t, framing this from a gospel-centered perspective?
LIVECCHE: I guess I’m going to jump in here. I commend you on reading an issue of Providence, that’s the first thing. You know, with the red-letter movement, I think Mark Tooley noted it’s one of the prevailing inclinations we’re trying to press against. I think the Scriptures include obviously more than the red letters, which is to suggest that the teachings of Christ include something more than just the red-letters. I think if you start from the beginning and go through Genesis and understand our responsibilities as humans made in the image of God to exercise dominion, which is care, providential care, not incidentally, over creation, and what you’re going to find as you work through the psalms and the poetry of the apocalypse and the epistles, and if you take a comprehensive picture of Scripture, what you’re going to end up with is a portrait of Jesus that is not pacifism. I think among the young, but I think we mistake what love is. I think we believe that love is simply desiring another’s happiness. And happiness not in the Aristotelian sense, of actual flourishing, a word that has been rightly used several times. I think we think that happiness is some sort of gassy pleasure rather than something that allows your human flourishing. And that’s only a partial answer, right. We exercise dominion as beings made in the image of God and we have to be concerned for human flourishing. The teachings of the past two centuries, if nothing else has, is that things tend not to flourish on their own and somebody has to do something, it seems to me to promote flourishing. And, I think that there are arguments that can be made, during the reception, that suggest that just war tradition, not quite from pit of hell but maybe from Hippo, also suggests that the use of force, the prevention of someone doing an act of evil, is, first of all, good for that person prevented from doing that act of evil, I’ve written extensively, in a long dissertation and a couple of articles here that one can in fact love their enemies to death. I think it’s in this issue here, it’s intentionally supposed to be provocative, so if I’ve succeeded on those grounds, that’s good. It’s a complex issue, but I don’t believe the words of Christ are confined to red letters. You don’t see anyone in Scripture talking about hell more than Jesus. You don’t see anyone else more in Scripture resenting evil, which is a retributive response to what is not right in the world, more than Jesus. There’s a difference I get between blowing up and using harsh language towards them but both are somewhere on the spectrum of resentment. On November we’ll be showing I hope, if it all comes together we haven’t actually signed the contract yet, we’re going to be having a private screening of Hacksaw Bridge which is Mel Gibson’s latest film about the conscientious objector Desmond Doss and the film’s a wonderful example of courage and the film is less about pacifism than one pacifist’s moral and physical valor. But the movie is problematic in the sense that I don’t think it allows someone who’s squared their military activity with their faith to feel that their view is being represented. It’s a wonderful film, I commend the film, but we’re going to talk about some of these issues as well so be on the lookout for advertising about that. And I’m going to give another shoutout to a signatory of the document, if I may, Chaplain Timothy Mallard whose had to answer this kind of question over and over again in environments where life is on the line, so you can corner him at the reception.
MILLER: You raise a generational question, in teaching undergraduates I find a lot of sentimental pacifists who are pacifists by emotion, by feeling, by gut, but not convictional pacifists because they don’t want to go where that train of thinking leads them. As soon as you raise the cliché examples about the Nazis, they are no longer pacifists. Thank you.
SUZANNE HARTFORD: I don’t have my glasses but let me try this. As compared to the 1930s, do you think today there’s an order of complication because of technology and global infrastructure that makes tending this garden even more difficult? And related to that then is even for instance on social media we just snipe at each other with questions and go in a vicious circle? How can we deal with this? Any way you can answer to that would be helpful.
OWEN: I don’t know if I would say more difficult, and you know Christians have always sniped at each other, we should have learned with Vietnam. So for example I think one of the urgent things that have happened in the global church is more cooperation, dialogue between Catholic and Evangelical Christians. This didn’t happen in the 30s. Right, this happened in the 50s and 60s and is a pretty recent thing. I believe by the power of the Holy Spirit we have overcome that very harmful fissure probably as much as we’re going to for awhile. But we have other ones, you’re right, we snipe at each other on more micro settings because of social media. Information technology is so different. But I would hesitate to say let’s see some years ago, a few years ago, people thought the internet was going to change everything for the better. It has changed a lot of things, some for the better and some for the worse. So I would characterize this as a different set of challenges that we need to be attuned to and I would group your very good question under this general helpful, but the 30s are an analogy and only an analogy and we can’t push too far. We’re not in the 1930 anyway, we’re in 2016, but there are some structural similarities, but then we have some very different situations including the very generational challenge you brought up. This is of course secular millennials as well as Christian millennials which is telling you something. It’s not Christians, we have our red-letter version, but it’s generally millennials.
MILLER: We’ll go to questions now.
LIVECCHE: You can each ask a question.
SAMUEL LORRY: My question is in order to achieve you know this kind of world order and the objectives, what you guys think the best strategy would be. If it’s offshore balancing, what you guys think about that, strengthening our allies like Israel and the Middle East, our European partners to balance Russia and the Pacific Rim, Japan, South Korea, what do you guys think that’s a viable strategy, and how we kind of prevent imperial overstretch while we’re trying to do good and maintain our call in the world.
DANIEL YOON: My question to you, well I’d like to address specifically my appreciation for certain lines in the declaration that say there is no perfect system, no perfect human political system in the world, that the objective of a Christian-binding foreign policy is not utopianism and liberalism is the least flawed international system in the world. But that’s my question there, is how do you reconcile the ranges of the liberal international order with the reality that the fundamental tenets of liberalism are frankly, for those of us who are thinking of specific lines of Scripture, there is nowhere to be found in Scripture a concept of self-determination, of free trade, none of these are inherently, foundationally scriptural. I understand that you’re trying to build an ecumenical movement here, and I suppose my question is how far is the declaration willing to go in affirming that creating a just world order, in meeting out a just foreign policy, is not the only good that creation cares is not the ultimate. Thank you.
QUESTIONER: Regarding North Korea, where are we? What do you recommend if I asked you how we are going to or if we can unify the Korean peninsula? Some experts are saying regime change but that’s nasty, so I just wanted to find out your opinions on that.
TERRY JONES: My question is, and I’m surprised no one’s asked you yet Paul, but you set this up in the beginning as to how this is realistic? Coming from inside the government, where I had a Canadian guy actually say “When the United States engages, it generally gets what it wants” which was a little surprising to hear from one of our closest allies but not from in our government actually say you know, you guys can get what you want when you engage. Part of the challenge I think is in the enormous bureaucracy and political appointees who are here for minutes and then change out. We have a hard time coming to what is the United States position in order to engage. So I am very interested in your thoughts on how realistic this foreign policy is. And I owe your wife a text message answer.
MILLER: Thank you all for coming, and we appreciate your questions. Let me tackle the first and fourth because I think they are essentially the same question – what’s the best strategy for trying to achieve this in the world, how do we avoid overstretch, how is this realistic? I happen to have just written a book on that. So that’s my answer. So, pardon me. This will only take two hours. I wish I had a shorter answer. There’s no formula. There’s no bumper sticker. There’s no catch phrase I have for you that captures how to do this right. How to avoid overstretch, how to make it feasible, how to make it cost effective. One thing I would like to see is reform to the decision-making apparatus to the U.S. government. I’m sort of on the NSC staff and Mary obviously can speak to this too, and I’ve worked in government for a decade and I think the way we make decisions is a little broken, is a little uncoordinated, and it has not served presidents well. It’s not a pressing issue but I think I saw President Bush make mistakes, and I think I saw President Obama make mistakes. I think we could have a better system for staffing options, for generating information, for raising it to the appropriate level. I think Eisenhower actually had a good system. I think that might be a really good investment to make, and I would recommend the next administration pay attention to the decision making in the U.S. government.
HABECK: Just on the fourth one, because it’s something I’ve actually been thinking about a lot. That one of the huge challenges our country is facing, and not just us it’s actually everybody, are these divisions amongst elites, and between elites and ordinary citizens. So, one of the things that really is that I had colleagues who made speeches regarding and arguing that President Obama coming in would look at the international system and international situation and come to basically the same conclusions that they had come to. And therefore, our sort of national interests, are an agreed upon thing. And he would not see this internally national interests, and what’s remained are the goals and objectives the United States has maintained. And I think these colleagues who have never before been would come to different conclusions about what our national interests are. And I don’t know if you guys have also experienced this with close friends and colleagues, so that suggests, and not to beat a very dead horse, that the analogy of the 1930s is one type of analogy one can look at in which there was this kind of divide on what America should be, but there’s been other times in our history where we’ve been similarly divided and I’ve recently seen that the 1850s which was the last time we had a really serious divide between elites and ordinary citizens. And some had vision of America as one thing, and others had a really different vision. And a lot of people look back and date the Cold War. And I’m old enough to remember the 70s and 80s, and in the 70s and 80s elites were hugely divided. That all went away in 1968 – world economies didn’t even exist, detente, arms treaty, working with rather than being confronted. So basically from 48 to 68 there was green light. And so we’re still arguing about who the United States should be. To me, this is a huge strategic issue. And then you have the problem of the United States heading strongly that one way and our direction going completely reverse, and our allies are all getting whiplash. This is obviously a huge problem, and I don’t have a solution but I can point out what I think these problems. And by the way pertaining to decisions being in made in government, those of us who have any exposure to the interagency process can understand that that process is broken. It’s not just that it’s got some minor issues, it is completely broken. And how we define and argue dysfunction in government is actually highly functioning, but for different purposes than intended by the president. So that dysfunction is going on because of these disagreements. There is an easy solution to it. I’ll tell you what the easy solution is, it’ll never happen. How many people were in Kissinger’s staff?
MILLER: Depends on who was counting.
HABECK: How many people did he have recommending to him how to keep peace in the Middle East, and the war in Vietnam, China, and detente? 15. Today we have 500, 400, I don’t even know if there’s an answer to that. So the easy answer would be to, if you really wanted to have swift, not necessarily well, but if you really wanted to have swift decision-making, chop everything down to the size it was in the 1950s or 40s or something. You’ll then have swift, and I’m not saying it would be good, but you will have swift decision-making. There would be no interagency problems.
OWEN: With North Korea, I don’t know. But I don’t think unilateral action by the U.S. is the answer. Maybe I’ll just use the question to emphasize that my reading of the document is it’s calling for a multilateral active American foreign policy, and maintaining global order, and reserving unilateral for some decisions, it doesn’t disavow that. But the default is multilateral particularly with allies, with countries the United States shares values. But in the case of North Korea, China, I can’t see any kind of management of the problem without Chinese involvement which implies a lot of things in dealing with China. But unilateral in that case, I just don’t see working out. But on this excellent question on reconciling the documents on lots of what’s said in Scripture, which obviously does not speak directly to any of this – it’s a different social world than both the Old and New Testaments, which I would say have lots of heterogeneity within them, vastly different from the world we have. You know, nation-states, the church mature. So really addressing the question would require engaging theologically, as you recognize in asking the question. I will, for my part as an Evangelical Protestant, have found reflection by Christians over the ages, Augustine being the example, but Aquinas, Luther, Calvin some more contemporary people, to be extremely helpful, and I respect traditions that don’t want to go there, that really want to stick with the words of Scripture. But I will say one reason why I don’t follow that approach, is I have found that empirically it can lead to one of two things. Either a real withdrawal from politics, Anabaptism – which says, none of this is in the Bible so we should have nothing to do with it. Or the other end of the spectrum, an uncritical adoption of whatever the nation is doing at a time. Because Scripture doesn’t speak to this, we just do whatever. And that also is I think is what’s not helpful. I think the church needs to stand in judgement over the nations, over our own nation, and we need some equipment to do that that is shaped by Scripture, but is also informed by centuries of reflection in thinking about politics.
LIVECCHE: That’s really good. You see this in Thomas Aquinas as well, you know he asks the same question. What is the best form of government derived from Scripture? I think he first relies on monarchy and then disqualifies it. We know the individual is not the best, we know the state is not the best, and anything in between is probably not the best either. It was very good, I’m giving shoutouts to allies here, it was a very good conversation going on right now in Mosaic that’s responding to this and I recommend that sequence of essays to you, they talk about the nation-state and how does that sink with a religiously-inclined view. I’d like to give the opportunity to Robert Nicholson who I mentioned earlier is the co-publisher of Providence and is the director of the Philos Project up in New York City to close our evening and I invite you to a reception in the back where you can corner anybody, Tim Mallard, Tafik Hamid, or any of us. Thank you for coming.
ROBERT NICHOLSON: Yeah, thank you for coming. In some ways of being involved in this declaration for Providence, I just want to say a few words about, a little more about the thought process (and this will be short) but also about the application of this whole endeavor. How can this be useful? Because for me in my work, I think it really matters and that’s how this all came about. So I talk about the context of what I do, so my organization, the Philos Project is all about promoting positive Christian engagement in the Middle East. We do that by educating leaders and future leaders on the issues of the Middle East and how those are important, so they can engage with them in whatever professional pursuit they’re in. I founded this a few years ago in thinking very much about how to educate people on these Middle Eastern issues, but it became very clear very early there was a fundamental problem before we even got to the substance of the issues of the Middle East, and that is that many Christians, particularly younger Christians, don’t know how to think about these issues. They don’t know how to think about general American engagement abroad. They don’t know how to think about the state, and their faith, and power, and war, and peace, and all these different things, and in conversations with Mark Tooley and Marc LiVecche, it became clear that there needed to be something there, just to get people through the door, and that was the beginning of the discussion on Providence and the declaration was very much let’s establish some sort of baseline of what a Christian approach to foreign policy really is. The immediate response to what some people gave, which is what some people here said is why Christian? Really? Is there Christian foreign policy? And I’m personally not ashamed to have perspective, there could Muslim foreign policy, there’s a secular liberal foreign policy, there’s many foreign policies. This is a Christian approach to foreign policy and I don’t think anyone needs to apologize for that. Faith is obviously holistic and certainly has a lot to say about how we engage with the world. It was interesting, I was in one my earlier discussions about this whole thing with Walter Russell Mead who some of you know, and Walter and I were having lunch, and now we’re talking about you know some of the worst things in history have been done in the name of Christian foreign policy. And he said something that stuck with me, it’s very important. Walter said “I’m actually much less interested in the idea of Christian foreign policy than I am in the idea that people who make and shape foreign policy are themselves formed by the Christian tradition,” really shifting the conversation that way and it’s true. We need more young Christians in foreign policy. You see many young Christians doing lots of amazing things, smart people. And most of what they go into is domestic. There’s this void I find, there’s no concerted Christian effort to do foreign policy. There’s all kind of other issues where there’s concerted Christian effort to do, and foreign policy is sort of this line that you cross over and then you’re in some other circular realm. And I think if you’re a Christian and you believe the truth claims of Christianity, you will agree that Christians are in some way, I think, are uniquely qualified to think through some of these issues – understanding human nature, understanding and thinking about the nature of God the way we do and thinking about all these things at the same time. So, Walter is right. We need more Christians shaped by this tradition in the space. And right now it’s lagging and we need more. But getting more Christian people I think is not enough. There also needs to be some Christian thought to go with the Christian people who are going into this space, otherwise we’re just sending people in as Christians and saying and just sort of conform to whatever it is you’re doing. Whatever administration, whatever foreign policy regime you’re under, you know be a Christian in that space. I just think there’s a little more to what Christianity has to say about this very important issue. And there’s all kinds of obstacles. I mean as Christians you’re thinking about foreign policy, and there’s missions, and there’s evangelism, and how do all these things happen at the same time? I think even more interestingly, and I think it’s come out a lot this year in the election, there’s even sort of an underlying confusion as Christians, there’s sort of this alienation from our own society in a lot of ways. As we become more and more aware of our dual citizenship as Christians in the kingdom of God and Americans here in the kingdom of man, it’s not so overlapping, there’s a lot of divergence, there’s more and more divergence, and many Christians are starting to disbelieve in our own country, let alone what other countries are trying to do, and that kind of internal alienation is something we have to address and we see it in the Iraq War, you see it in all kinds of different things, and it’s important for us that as Christian people go into this, they’re equipped with some kind of standard, some sort of baseline of Christian thought on the issue, that they can then measure what they encounter. But for me getting more Christians into this space is not enough, there needs to be ongoing conversation, discussion, an evolution, really getting people together, young people with people like Paul, John, and Mary, to really be learning and mentoring, and to build a real movement. I mean that’s part of what Providence does, it advances substantive arguments, new ideas, or old ideas. But Providence also brings together in a relational way people who are practicing foreign policy, people who are interested in foreign policy, young people who would like to get into foreign policy, and that aspect of Providence is even more important in my mind in a lot of ways than the substance of the actual issues. So I think as we’re going into 2017 how I’m thinking about this declaration of Providence is that there needs to be a whole range of things, discussions, developing new leadership, as we at the Philos Project, at IRD, at Providence are committed to unveiling. So I hope you’ll stay tuned for that as we build on this declaration and move it into the future. This one statement is not enough, and I think that there’s so much more to be done. But as Christians we know peace is elusive, final peace won’t come until the Prince of Peace comes back, but in the meantime we should be stewarding both of our citizenships, our earthly and our heavenly citizenship in the service of justice, even incremental and imperfect justice. I think that we have an obligation as Christians, and we should feel it most especially this obligation to be engaged, to not disengage, there’s no choice of disengagement, we’re engaging, we’re doing so thoughtfully with a foundation and not with an ad hoc basic. So I’m excited about this, it’s amazing to see what was really an email chain come to fruition here tonight. Thank you all for coming, hope you stay for the reception, and God will bless us in our efforts. Thank you.
Special thanks to Jessica Meyers for transcribing the event.
Image Credit: Saint George and the Dragon by Gustave Moreau, via Wikimedia Commons.