Eric Patterson’s lecture at Christianity & National Security 2023.

Eric Patterson discusses the just war tradition, the Augustine nature of Christian realism, and international order. The following is a transcript of the event.
I am very glad that our first speaker today is Eric Patterson, the head of the Religious Freedom institute, which has several… brought their own delegation of students here today, wonderfully. But Eric is a longtime board member of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a contributor to Providence, he edits or writes a book about every twelve months, so it’s very, very hard to keep up, but his most recent production just released A Basic Guide to the Just War Tradition: Christian Foundations and Practices which I understand is only $16, so I encourage all of you to get a copy, and a book that Eric released last year that he edited along with Daryl Charles who’ll be our next speaker Just War in Christian Traditions, to which I contributed a chapter, is a review of how various Christian traditions have addressed just war tradition. So it’s a wonderful resource and I commend it to you, but Eric, thank you so much for joining us and we’ve been looking forward to it. 
Well, thank you. It’s truly an honor to be with you here today and to start off this conference, and my remarks will frame what we call Christian realism, which is the shared framework for thinking about national security stewardship for our foreign policy and international relations that the speakers of this conference all operate from. 
And before we get to this framework for Christian realism, let me take you back one hundred years to this month and this year in 1923 because we’re just at about two major… I hesitate to call them anniversaries because they’re horrific, but this month in 1923 both a German Socialist Communist party essentially takes power in one German State, and two weeks later Adolf Hitler and his friends lead the beer hall push to try to take over the state of Bavaria. Now, how did we get to that point in 1923? And it’s because there were two worldviews, two visions for Europe and the post-war order that came out of the first World War. 
Now one of these you’re quite familiar with today. We call it a form of liberal internationalism, but it would be better to be called idealism or utopianism. Now remember what it was like in 1918, 1919, 1920. 6 million dead in Europe, over 20 million dead worldwide as the soldiers from Europe spread the Spanish Flu around the world. Western Europe was decimated, the former Russian empire had fallen to the Soviets and they were in a state of Civil War, but they were pulled out of the international war in 1917, and so what we have is a chaotic environment on the world stage. We have a retreat of the United States. We can’t get Versailles… the Versailles treaty through our own Senate. 
America steps back from leadership. It’s a time of destruction and it’s a time of deep, deep sadness. You’ll hear about some of that sadness in Joe Lan’s talk when he talks about Tolkien and Lewis tomorrow. Well, one viewpoint at the end of the War was that war was so destructive and it was so terrible we can never let it happen again. And so, idealists said what are the things we can do to banish even form our thoughts that we could ever go to war like this again. I’ve got an idea. Let’s disarm. If we get rid of all of our weapons or draw them down very, very low and if we disband our army like the U.S. military did, that will show that we’re not threatening to anybody so everybody around the world will know we’re nice and we’re not going to go to war. 
Here’s a second thing. Let’s create International Laws that outlaw war. The Kellog Brand Pact and other treaties were specifically designed to make it illegal to go to war. So why would anyone go to war if they’d be breaking the law? 
A third was international institutions like the League of Nations. “Let’s create an organization where, if there’s a bully, somebody somewhere will take care of it.” We have an organization, right? Everyone’s a part of it. Say we’re not going to go to war and if somebody breaks the rules, well somebody in the organization will make the organization police them and stop that from happening.  
So that was the vision of what the 1920s might look like. Free and open trade, open economies, etc. And what that resulted in was disorder. If you were a German in the early 1920s, you faced a number of negative realities. The first one was, remember, there were no battles during World War I on German soil. The Germans picked up from France and Belgium. They marched home, and so there was a sense in some quarters that they had been betrayed. Their leaders had betrayed them. But you know why the German High Command sued for peace and accepted a pretty onerous treaty that we call the Treaty of Versailles? That’s because at home, the fleet at Keel had mutinied at home. Hundreds of thousands of Communists were marching in the streets in 1917 and 1918, sabotaging factories and trying to stop the war effort. 
The German High Command and the German elite families understood that their country was teetering and it might fall into communism as it happened in the Soviet Union in 1917. And so they sued for peace even though you know the Versailles treaty was a harsh treaty. So in the early 1920s, the Germans were paying reparations. The Germans… the German leadership was very scared of Communism taking over their country and the government kept tottering. It kept falling apart. In August of 1917, one U.S. dollar was the equivalent if I recall correctly to 200 German marks. Within a year it was 4.2 million German marks to one U.S. in twelve months.  
That’s August of 1923, and we begin to see throughout 1923 fighting in the streets between Communists and the forces of the German government. We see the Communists take over… try to take over Saxony in mid-October 1923, and it’s at that point that a counterforce that says the international community is no help, they have this idealistic notion of peace, love, cotton candy, whatever, and we’re facing these Communists. What is our response to that? And so the young Nazi party took as it’s cue the fascists in Italy. 
The year Benito Mussolini and his forces had marched peacefully but quite forcefully across the country to Rome, and the government collapsed and the fascists took over. Earlier in 1923, the Bulgarians who had been part of the Central Powers, an ally of Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire during World War I, a country that had the same reparations as Germany… They had a military coup that got rid of a week government, and Hitler and the people around him said a hyper-nationalistic chauvinistic religious cultural movement, a fascist movement, that is what’s going to restore German glory. 
At the end of October, they planned a coup to take over Bavaria. Now, by the way, you probably know the story. Hitler was marching alongside Garing and other early Nazis to take over this position and they were actually stopped. In fact, gunfire killed the man that Hitler was walking with. It actually pulled Hitler to the ground and disabled his shoulder. What if that bullet had just been a few inches over? I mean history would have been different, right? Maybe Hitler goes to jail and his speeches as a defendant electrifying the country. By putting him in jail, they don’t stop him. They give him a national stage. It’s in jail he writes Mein Kampf and again he sets a vision for a bold, aggressive, rearmed German state based on the idea of cultural and racial supremacy. 
So in the 1920s, we have two visions. We have a vision in Italy, a vision in Germany, and it’s paralleled by a vision in Japan of racial superiority, as well. We have a vision of an aggressive nationalistic type of state and we have this wobbling international system that hides behind paper. Of course, the apogee of the West’s weakness was Neville Chamberlain a decade later flying twice and begging Hitler for peace and then flying home after selling out three countries. Not one, not two, but three, really, and saying… Remember this. What did he say? “I hold here in my hand the signature of Herr Hitler. This is peace in our time,” and of course it was peace for a few months, and that’s all well. 
Are those are only two alternatives? And the answer, of course, is no. What developed in the 1930s was a third way of thinking about international affairs rooted deeply in a Christian theological perspective rooted in not idealism, although there’s a lot of hope, but rooted in a realistic approach to world affairs, and we call that Christian realism. We associate it with writers at the time like theologians John C Bennett and Reinold Neber, and we think about it also in terms of historians and professors and diplomats such as Herbert Butterfield Martin White and others a few years later. People like John Foster is clearly fit into this category. What I’d like to do is walk you through eight points of this framework because this is going to be the super structure for so many of the other things you hear over the next two days. 
So first, Christian realism is a strand of international relations or political science. So Christian realism is rooted in social science analysis. Okay. This isn’t biology, but it is rooted in an academic study of how to think about international relations, national security, political science, etc.  
Second, and importantly, this is a tradition that is theologically Augustinian, and it’s especially theologically Augustinian in thinking about politics living in this world and the other, and second in its anthropology. So let me say something about anthropology. Augustinian anthropology realizes that all have fallen short of the glory of God. All are sinners. So humanity on the one hand is a fallen race, but second at the same time, God puts tremendous potential into us. We’re supposed to be stewards to take dominion of the Earth. And so, we have responsibilities. We have political and social responsibilities. And by the way, so often people get caught up on that word “dominion.” You need to think about dominion as having responsibility for a domain, not domination. So stewardship of a domain, an area of responsibility, not crushing dominion. And so that theological anthropology of fallen people but with responsibilities and created in the image of God means that we actually have work and hope about what we need to do. 
Third, Christian realism in Augustine tradition emphasizes political order in a fallen world. So we do live in a fallen world, right? But that doesn’t mean we throw up our hands and it doesn’t mean that we chant idealistic slogans. It means that we get to wokr and what we see in Romans 13 and in models from the Old Testament is that government is a natural institution created by God. It can take a lot of different forms but it is a natural institution created by God and it has a role to preserve order, to punish wrongdoings, and to advance justice. 
Fourth. Christian realism emphasizes power. Now I’d love to hear a few more sermons about power but we don’t talk about power all that much as Christians. And power is a neutral category. It is not inherently good. It is not inherently bad. It is… It is in a sense force that authorities are supposed to use and they’re supposed to use it for the common good. And they’re different from the authority… Parents have power in their domain, right? Churches have ecclesial authority in their domain. The leaders of a business have a certain type of power in their domain, and when we think about it that way, all the possible goods of power, like law enforcement protecting us, we suddenly… It makes us recall that power is not necessarily a bad thing. And I will point out there’s at least three ways to think about power. 
One is I force you, I coerce you to do something. A second is that I persuade you to do what I want you to do. A third is that I persuade you is that it’s actually in your interest, your real interest, to do it. You know, we call that third thing diplomacy, right? Looking for mutual interests, what benefits us, what benefits you… I mean that’s what… that’s what so much power is about. And so, as you’re thinking as so many of you are about a vocation in national security or foreign policy or intelligence or some sort of other form of leadership, recognize that we are called in the sphere that we’re in to use power for the common good. And so often it’s in this realm of the mutual authority. Now, by the way, there are times for that coercive form of power, right? The West had to use coercive power to stop Hitler. There is a place for that when diplomacy breaks down. 
Fifth, Christian realism criticizes the potency of collective chauvinism and I’m lumping into collective chauvinism things like hyper-nationalism, ethnic, religious ideologies, materialist ideologies like Communism or Socialism. In other words, Christian realists are very skeptical of any group that says exclusively our culture, language, religion, ideology makes us superior to the other groups. And when you read the Christian realists of the 30s, the 40s, the 50s, the 60s, they poke fascism. They poke Communism. The poke forms of ethnoreligious idolatry in each case. Why? Because that puts the group – the Germans, the fascists, the Japanese – it elevates them above God. It creates an idol of a people group and it says that everybody else is subhuman or barbaric or lesser than ourselves. 
Sixth, Christian realism looks at all three levels of analysis when looking at social phenomena, and those three levels are the individual, domestic society, and the international. Right now, I know a lot of you are poly-sci or international relations students and what happens so often is a book of history or a book analyzing a certain event will really focus kind of around one thing. Okay. It was Napoleon who did everything for 20 years in France, right? And so the biography is about Napoleon and it doesn’t say much about domestic politics or a weak international system. Or another book may only focus on the fact that there is not a government over the world. We have anarchy, and so we look for explanations there. Well, Christian realists recognize when we’re looking at war, when we’re looking at peace, when we’re looking at the complexities of international life, that individuals and their personalities matter.  
You can’t really understand World War II without understanding something about Hitler, Churchill, FDR, right? But that’s not all there is, and we need to look at the phenomena at the domestic political level as well. What is the structure of a regime that allows it to put the breaks on or go to war? What’s the difference in the way that that decision-making happens between different groups in a pluralistic society? And we also look at the international situation. What is it at the international level that’s most likely to lead to peace or cause war? What are the irritants in international life that are outside the control of governments? For instance, terrorist groups. 
Seventh. Christian realism is inherently anti-doctrine. Another way of saying that is Christian realism rejects most “isms.” Christian realism rejects most “isms.” You’ll find the writings of Christian realists… They do not want to be tied down to one kind of partisan or policy or viewpoint and that they’re critical of narrow types of thinking that impose an ideological agenda on everything and of course, during the Cold War, Soviet Communism, Chinese Communism – Mao’s little red book, for instance – the way everything had to fit in an ideological box, and by the way if you don’t fit the ideology, off with your head, right? Those types of views lack the creativity needed for political phenomena, but they also once again… They elevate a way of thinking above Christianity, above Christian witness. 
Last, eighth. Christian realism always talks about limits and restraint, and I think what you’re going to hear in the next couple of days, Paul Miller talking about Afghanistan, he’s going to talk about limits and restraint. And we can only do so much. You’re going to hear from Daryl later today on Ukraine. What is the limit, you know? How far do we go? What can be done? How do we think about tradeoffs? Christian realists over and over again talk about the unintended consequences. If we do this, what might happen? What might we not intend? What might be second or third order effects of this policy? Rebecca Heinrichs, who I assume is going to speak on nuclear deterrence, she’s thinking through, “okay, if we do this, they might respond in these seventeen ways.” How do we think through all the different possible strategies that we could employ for peace, and what… How do we think about the ways that the other side might respond, including ways that we didn’t intend for them to respond. And so, Christian realism is always concerned with limits. 
The just war tradition is a part of that, worried about restraint so that governments don’t become idolatrous entities unto themselves and thinking about secondary or unintended consequences. So that’s the Christian realism tradition the people of the who were the leaders of that in the 1930s and 40s. They went on to influence the U.S. Department of State. They went on to influence the White House.  
You might find it hard to believe, but on the 25th anniversary of Time Magazine, who did they put on their cover? It was 1948, the 25th anniversary of Time Magazine in 1948. They could have put the President of the United States. He would have been worthy. Israel had just become a country, maybe they put someone from Israel. The United Nations had just been founded. Maybe they put someone from the United Nations. Maybe they put a famous baseball player or a poet or a musician. No. The cover of the anniversary issue: Reinold Neiber, father of the Christian tradition because of his impact on the way the West would think about politics. 
So I’m going to end right there and open it up for questions. And there’s a mic here so that we can capture it for the video. So I ask you to do is raise your hand. The mic will come to you. And would you identify yourself and your institution, and then we’ll take your question. I could remind you all that you would like to tweet about this conference the hashtag is 2023. That’s right. Mark, can anyone put me… can anyone attach it to my MySpace page? 
Question: Thank you very much. My name is Daniel. I’m with the Gilder Iman Institute. I was wondering if you had any readings or a spark notes comparison of Christian realism and Christian Zionism, and if they’re a compliment or a little bit more combative. 
Answer: I would say that Christian Zionism… it depends on which flavor of Christian Zionism we’re talking about, but it’s such a tiny minor tradition in a lot of ways that I don’t know if there’s been a clear analysis of the two. So there’s a research project for you. But I will say that on the Providence pages there are two articles, one by Marc Lidecche and one by me that just sketch out this framework that we just said in about a thousand-word piece, 750 word piece. But um, there may be a research project for you right there. 
Question: John Bush, U.S. Embassy Kiev. Although I’m just here as a private person. So a lot of what you’re… a lot of the elements you were describing line up perfectly with Russell Kirk and traditionalist conservatism. I was just curious… obviously he’s active in that same era that… that you know Christian realism is being birthed. So to what extent did the two groups interact? 
Answer: Yeah, thanks for asking about that, and greetings from mutual friends. Here’s something that’s interesting. In the 1930s and 40s, many of the people who became what we call Christian realists were actually center-left. Neber was, and others. And in part that has to do with, you know, the political dynamics of the country were actually quite different at that time. For instance, the conservative of the country… There’s a tremendous amount of anti-Semitism. Charles Lindberg and others, and so… our parties don’t exactly map today to that time period… But I’d say that this idea of Christian realism, this term for this Augustinian approach to politics… it is really not something new. When Augustine is talking about Christian just war thinking, when Victoria is doing an analysis in the 16th Century of the good, the bad, and the ugly of Spain’s involvement in the new world… They’re using these same types of categories. We just don’t… we just don’t kind of have this coherent name for this kind of broad-stream until the mid-20th Century clearly national security conservatives who were really classical liberals, not reactionary conservatives, if that makes sense.  
You know freedom, justice, order… you know, the vision of the founders… They are Christian realists. No. With Kirk specifically, the… you know, anti-doctrine ideologies, world… their other points where it just lined up perfectly, but you’re saying they didn’t really cross. I’m saying this. In the big, classical, liberal tradition of the United States of ordered liberty, a strong national defense, you know, popular sovereignty, individual rights, all of those things… the answer would be yes, but when it ceases to kind of what… what did the political coalition look like in the mid-1940s? Neber and others… they’re actually not… You don’t see them responding to Kirk, for instance, in that strain of conservatism. I’m going to give you a scholarly secondary answer to this and just say that there’s a baton passing in the second generation of Christian realism which is the back into of the Vietnam war. So the 70s and the 80s and the people who much more identify with that tradition because the political structures changed in the U.S. So, Ernie Lefever who founds EPC, Paul Ramsey Kenneth, AR Thompson at UVA, those guys they all site Russell Kirk, so we pull liberals over more traditional. 
Sorry, for… If you could all wait for you to get to… with the microphone it’s not so that people in this room can hear you… the recording… and could we catch this young man right here in the front and then we’ll move back…  
Question: Okay. Thank you. I’m Alberto Lumas with Brownson Hyatt. I have a quick question on how Christian realism differs from what we call traditional realism, the realism of Machiavelli, of Hobbs, and of Cardinal Richelieu. How does it fully differentiate between Machiavelli’s realism, which tends to be more… maybe not as necessarily moral versus Christian realism which does sound… is trying to find moral means or moral ends.  
Answer: Yeah. So, within the larger realist tradition, we often will find either states have their own logic. There’s no sin in international relations, there’s just real politique, it’s just the state doing what it has to do for its own power and security. Or a kind of Machiavellian view. Of course Machiavelli was pro-democracy and stuff, right? You read the Discourses. But in the Prince, this idea that the leader, and if you want to be the leader, you have to do whatever it takes. Sometimes this is in a different situation but that there’s a real political kind of logic there as well that’s really based on power. The Christian realist says we recognize the world as sinful and fallen, and that’s a real moral category. So the state doesn’t just have a preservationist view that anything goes, that there are categories. And by the way, what’s the purpose of the state, by the way? It gets to your question, but it’s…  
What’s the purpose of the state in the first place? The purpose of government is the common good. So international peace, international security, the good of all people… So that’s quite a bit different from that other form of real politique type of realism that focuses on the common good. Our government has a responsibility to its own people, but that doesn’t mean it has no other moral responsibilities. And we’re going to the very next talk looking at Ukraine, or Marc Ledecchi’s talk on Hamas today. They fit into that category. Thank you. 
Okay, by the way, ladies are allowed to talk and we have the young faculty member there, yeah. It works now, all right? 
Question: Good afternoon. I am a professor at North Greenville University. I have a curious question. How does, or how did, Christian realism regard then Christian-pacifist traditions from the Quakers and Mennonites and Amish completely incompatible? Or there is a certain commonality between the two as well? 
Answer: I’m so glad you asked. I was waiting for that question. So when it comes to Christian pacifism during the 1920s, most American churches took a pacifist stance and they took that pacifist stance not out of a rich theology. In other words, they didn’t go for instance to the confession of 1523 and expound… a rich, fully orbed Christian pacifism based on Christians being outside of the world, etc… that was not… very few churches… only churches pretty much in anabaptist tradition, which only make up about 3% of Christians, they’re the ones really that way. 
What happens in the 1920s is a kind of political pacifism, including in the churches that say things like war is just too horrible to think about ever happening again. We have to figure out ways to love our neighbor, we’re going to invest in international peace and security, blah, blah blah. And so, in the Christian realists, Neber in the 1920s started out as a pacifist, as did many others like Bonhoofer and others. And they were again… They were responding… the war was so bad we have to find another ethic, but the ethic that they landed on was one oh well maybe we just have to turn the other cheek, you know. And as Martin Luther said, you know, if you tell the lamb to lay down with the lion, the lion’s going to eat the lamb, and so the… What Hitler did in the 30s, what Mussolini did in the 30s, what Japan did in the 30s, all of those things pushed guys like Neber to say we have to recover the historic Christian ethic, and we’re going to have to stand firm against evil. 
We’ve got one all the way in the back, and then this guy here. 
Question: Thank you, Dr. Patterson. Todd McDonald, student at Virginia Tech. I was just thinking about how some of these principles would be applied, and some of the Christian realists may have offered an answer to this in the past, but um, during World War II there was a lot of things done that hadn’t been done traditionally in war. For example, the bombing of civilian populations in Japan and in Germany, so I was wondering what types of justifications or opposition they would offer to something like that. If there was something specific or if there’s any thinkers that come to mind that you’re like “oh this is what they did at the time,” or what they argued. 
Answer: I’m going to answer this question by giving three different Christian answers to that very specific thing, okay? And so, there were debates among Christians on specifically what you just asked about, and by the way, Mark Lei who you’re going to hear from later in this conference has a new book coming out on Hiroshima and the justifications for it, and so he’s a great one to ask about this as well. But three positions.  
One position is to say all of that stuff was wrong, so when bombs dropped on cities and killed civilians that was wrong. For example, a Catholic famous thinker at Oxford Elizabeth Ancom actually tried to get Oxford University not to give an honorary doctorate to Harry S. Truman because of him ordering those attacks. My own view is that she’s totally wrong, but others fell strongly that there should have been even greater… that even if it meant saving other lives, that civilians should never have been bombed. 
Second view is the view that Neber and some Christian realists took, and this is a view I would call a lesser evil or a dirty-hands view. And it’s this: we live in a fallen world and we have no good options. Every option means some killing and destruction and so… and here’s the punch line… so we will be guilty of killing. There’s a moral guilt for killing in those cases if it’s even… If we’re bombing their military and we’re accidentally killing some civilians because we’re killing… We have blood on our hands, and we just have to accept that guilt because we’re in a fallen world. So that’s what I’d call the tragic Neber view.  
The third view is the classic just war view, and the classic Christian just war view. It says something like this: true leaders can make wrong decisions, and where is the first part of that sin? The first part of that sin is when leaders are acting on an unjust cause or with wrong intention. So we start there. So did we bomb that military plant in that city because we’re prosecuting an unjust war? Well after December 7th, it was not an unjust war for us to go after Japan. And are we doing it out of hatred and vengeance? We hate the Japs. I use that term, you know what I mean. That you know that language of the time… we hate them, want to crush them, we want to kill them all, we don’t want to have any babies. We’re going to eliminate them, we hate them, we do it for vengeance, out of wrath. Or are we doing it with the right intention? We’re trying to end this war. This is the fastest way to save other civilian lives. The lives of our own troops to bring this war to an end as quickly as possible and so the classic just war view says that authorities or law enforcement, government, the military… that they should be operating on the right intention, so when we get those bombings, if, for instance, the dropping of the bomb at Hiroshima was designed to bring the war to the fastest possible close, which I believe is the case in that and at Nagasaki, then it was legitimate. 
And we have a… How about we take two… We’ll take his late we’ll take this young lady’s as well… Please, yeah this gentleman right there and this lady here. 
Question: Uh, Isaac Weber, Patrick Henry College. I suspect we’ll get into some of the particulars as we go along with the conference, but in the meantime is there a framework we can put forward within Christian realism that helps us weigh issues like emerging technologies or transhumanism or other things that are clearly not specifically addressed within the Augustinian tradition but that the Augustinian tradition can still speak to if tangentially? 
Answer: Yeah, and I think that the answer is absolutely yes, and let… let me just mention a couple of those things. So the first thing is getting human nature right. So the… An Augustinian worldview is biblically based on God’s calling to people. The naturalness of male and female, the sin in human nature, etc. So it’s morally orthodox. It’s theologically orthodox in those ways. So when it comes to something like transhumanism or other things, well the… our first standpoint for evaluating them is are we starting from a standpoint of Biblical orthodoxy on what it means to be human? And so, for instance, if we go down a path of genetic modification of the human person, if we go down a path of implanting chips in our heads, which already happens in the military in specific cases like for brain injuries and things… If we go down the path of people starting to look like they do in the Hunger Games movies in the Capital, you know? All of those types of things… we need to be starting from a position of Christian anthropology, Christian thinking on human nature and things. 
The same thing applies for other areas. When it comes to artificial intelligence or thinking about cyber warfare in those areas, and people kind of say, oh you know it’s out of control. Well that’s not really true. And again we start with these categories that Augustine writes about, and they’re in the Christian just war tradition, which is in this larger kind of Christian realism.  
We’ll start with authority. Someone is responsible for that. Let’s start there. Who’s responsible? Government leaders? And there’s going to be a framework for how we do cyber war that accords with the law of armed conflict and the just war tradition someone’s in. And we’re going to… and part of that framing is we’re going to make sure that the tech dudes who do the… who you know… who create all this stuff… that they’re operating within the limits, within the restraint of things like just cause, etc. Etc.  
So the value of Christian realism is that it’s not a static framework. It brings to bear… It’s reminding use we live in the real world. We have responsibilities. We can have hope in Christ and that in our vocations, what we should be doing is looking for the most creative ways to advance the common good. 
I have time for one more… Yes, we do… 
Question: Hi. I’m Elizabeth Nala from Taylor University in Indiana. Point number seven, you said, Christian realism inherently rejects “isms.” Is there any space in Christian realism that could find useful employment of the frameworks of colonialism or feminism in analyzing international phenomena? And I agree that it’s harmful to use those, absolutely, um, in interpreting situations, but curious if that’s ever something that gets used.  
Answer: Yeah. This is a… it’s a smart way of getting at this to help us think about this. So what the Christian realist would say is none of these metanarratives that are exclusives of the Bible, for instance, are… have full authority to answer, you know, life, the universe, and everything, if you will. Uh… So that’s really where the critique is. 
But the Christian realists have no problem with the academic study that uses what we call in the social sciences mid-range theories. That explains some things, right? So a mid-range theory explains kind of a, b, and c. Most of the time, right, we’re talking about millions of people, you know: geography, war, economics… They don’t explain A to Z all the time. Uh, what’s interesting when you read and you mention, for instance, feminist theory… When you read Neber and he’s deconstructing political ideologies and he’s deconstructing nationalism, he actually has a little book that’s on ethnoreligious nationalism that’s made up of a bunch of his essays. 
It’s the same kind of uh… appropriate academic deconstruction type of analysis, okay? What are the power relations… what are they really saying that we find in the English school of international relations theory and what we find in the social sciences today… the… but… What Neber didn’t say was “tear it all down,” and that’s some sort of good end and of itself, or that any lenses is the ultimate lens for understanding everything in the universe. 
Um, and again, for Christians, that lens needs to be… we need to be rooted in the Bible.  
Comment: Yeah, thanks. You have three minutes. 
Response: I have three minutes. 
How about Anna right there? 
Question: I’m curious… oh, sorry. Anna Brier, Internet RFI. I’m curious to what extent Neber and others were framing this new sense of Christian realism. Were they framing it as sort of a strand of, like, civil religion, or was it like, distinctly Christian? Um, how unifying was it? Uh, and did certain strands of Christianity tend to have pretty severe conflicts with it? 
Answer: So, yeah. I’m going to… I’m going to kind of… I’m going to give a couple parts of an answer here. So the first thing is… is that, um, they… these guys start writing at a time where there’s debate among theologians about orthodoxy and neo-orthodoxy. And some of these guys, like Neber and John C Bennett, are actually not all that orthodox in their own theology at Union Seminary, but what they do realize is… is that the Social Gospel, the idealists, the utopians, the Dewey-ites, the world view that we could educate ourselves out of our problems… that humans were always going to make progress… we could build the kingdom of God here on Earth… That what they came to realize by the early 1930s was, oh, you know, that sin is real.  
I mean human sin is a real category. We kind of though it was a storybook thing in the Bible and we’re willing to talk about the history of the Bible and kind of take apart the Greek versus the blah, blah, blah… And boy, we just got smacked upside the head.

Evil is real. Human sin is real. And so that… that in the 1930s is so much about… what they center around is how do you understand Soviet Communism? How do you understand the gulag… the Nazis is around sin. Now I will say this: that early gener… many of those early academic Christian realists in the 30s and 40s and 50s were not all that theologically conservative. And what happened over time in the second and the third generations of Christian realism is that the most obvious people writing: Jean Elshtain, George Weigel, Joe Capisi, myself, Marc LiVecche, J. Daryl Charles, Keith Pavlashek, Mark Tooley… over the past 40 years you’ve seen a big swing back towards theological conservativism as well as a kind of national security conversation.