This week the editors discuss Paul D. Miller’s article about Israel and Hamas, an editorial from 1946 explaining how Americans needed to understand world religion better, a look at religious freedom in South America, and Dunkirk.
Tooley: Hello this is Mark Tooley, editor of Providence: A Journal of Christianity & American Foreign Policy, with another exciting episode of Marksism, with fellow editors and fellow Mark(c)s, Marc LiVecche and Mark Melton, addressing, reviewing, and analyzing the articles of Providence over this past week. We’re starting out with a piece on the Hamas-Gaza-Israel war, in terms of Just War principles, by professor Paul Miller at Georgetown University, in which he basically dismisses the possibility that Hamas as effective ruler of Gaza could wage any kind of just war against Israel, given its own criminality and corruption and historically dubious case against Israel, much less launching rockets against civilian targets inside Israel. For a response will go to our in-house Just War scholar, Marc LiVecche.
LiVecche: Thanks, Mark. Yeah, a great article by Paul Miller. In some ways I think it’s analysis 101. I mean, I think he’s somewhat tongue in cheek, we’ll have to ask him about this, but I think he’s somewhat tongue in cheek. He references, how does he put it, he says, “as a scholar who recently wrote a book on Just War theory,” and then it goes on to say, “I carefully weighed the evidence,” and he concludes with a slightly, now it’s not hyperbolic, you can be excused for thinking it’s hyperbolic but I think it’s accurate, but he says, “I conclude that the Palestinian cause through Hamas is unjust, appallingly wrong, and morally abhorrent.” I think the tongue in cheek part comes from his playing with us in his suggestion that one has to be a scholar who’s written extensively on this in order to sort of assess the obvious that the cause of justice is not with Hamas. I think in doing so he highlights one of the values of the Just War tradition that I think is slightly misunderstood, that the Just War tradition in a sense is written for those whose moral intuitions are already intact and who see an unjust action, who conclude that the unjust action requires a response and that they are the people to deliver that response, and then maybe then goes to the Just War tradition to verify their moral instincts. To maybe rein them in if they discover they need to be reined in, to go through the prudential criteria on whether or not they have reached the last resort, there’s nothing else to be done, they have a chance of winning it, etc. The Just War tradition is for those whose moral instincts are already intact, and I think Paul is highlighting that. So, I think he’s right to say that the cause of justice is not with Hamas. He uncovers, or he discusses, the injustice that is at the heart of the Palestinian cause. Or I should probably qualify that, not at the heart of the Palestinian cause, because I think he rightly suggests that for the core of the Palestinian people they simply want self-determination, which is a valid human desire. But the aspiration of their leadership through Hamas is not that. The aspiration of their leadership is the non-existence of Israel. And when that is your battlefield objective, your stated declaration, you cannot possibly be fighting a just war. The existence of Israel is not to be up for debate. They have a right to exist; therefore, they have a right to defend themselves. And Paul Miller calls balls and strikes as they are, and it’s pretty easy pitching.
Tooley: Well, thank you for your remarks, Marc LiVecche. And thank you for the birds who are tweeting your backyard.
LiVecche: Are they competing with me, should I mute myself for the rest of this?
Tooley: It’s a harmonic symphony among all of you.
LiVecche: I thought those were angels.
Tooley: Virtually. Mark Melton, the piece you posted from 1946 Christianity & Crisis, which was Reinhold Niebuhr’s magazine by the then-president of Southern Methodist University, a Methodist minister by the name of Umphrey Lee, noting America’s unpreparedness for its new global responsibilities. But, also, that America is not fully prepared for the role of, or rather addressing the role of religion in international relations, noting that American religion was traditionally much less political than religion around the world, including Christianity in Europe. But America was going to have to ready itself for addressing the importance of religion around the world, even though Capitol Hill will be among the last to see that need. So, any thoughts, Mark Melton?
Melton: Yeah, this is an interesting piece, and actually, it looks like Umphrey Lee was a bit of a heavy hitter at that time. I hadn’t heard of him; I don’t know if Methodists know more about him. But yeah, he was the president at that particular time of Southern Methodist University. He had set up a Wesley Bible chair at the University of Texas and did many other things. Yeah, so, this article I thought kind of touches upon a lot of the same topics that Providence talks about like the necessity of understanding religion on the global stage and how it’s an important lens I think in addition to understanding the economics of a country, the political structure especially between the enablers of the governments, those who keep it in power, and how corruption might work. All these things are important lenses. And religion I think is also another one of those lenses that Providence has really highlighted over time. And if you ignore that, you ignore how religion can be an important factor for people’s lives. You kind of misanalyse different situations. A couple years ago, we ran an article in the print edition, when we had that, talking about Iran and how in the lead up to the collapse of the Shah at the time, the policy analysts really missed what was going on. They were ignoring the religious aspect of it. And in the introduction, I include a list of several other articles that talk about situations in Nigeria, Belarus, China, Iraq, elsewhere, of how does religion play into these countries and what’s going on. I don’t think it’s the only lens you can look through, you have to look at several others, but it’s one important lens amongst many. And so, I don’t think that it’s interesting comparing 1946 to 2021 because some of the stuff he said then I don’t think you would say now, like the idea of religion not playing much of a role on Capitol Hill. I think we can say that’s not true post-1960s, 1950s. It’s become much, much more important and a way to mobilize voters. Of course, the rise of evangelicals and the evangelical support for the right, that’s not the same as it was in 1946. So, things have changed. He makes a reference to a book that I wasn’t very familiar with, I just kind of had to Google it, but Innocents Abroad. He’s says, “the atomic bomb is no weapon to be placed in the hands of innocents abroad.” And so, maybe you’ll have read this book. But Mark Twain apparently wrote a book about innocents abroad, a travelogue of Americans going to Europe, and kind of the synopsis I read said that in there, he’s critiquing American’s ignorance of what’s going on in other parts of the world. Which there’s an old saying that says God invented war so Americans could learn geography. And it’s very tragic where I know that when the crisis was starting in Syria, people were asked to pinpoint where they think Damascus was and they were like, “I don’t know, like middle of Europe?” And so, yeah, it’s a tragedy that Americans don’t know more. We need to learn more. Of course, the next big country we’ve got to really understand is China. I mean, there’s going to be a whole lot going on there. The Uyghurs we cover. So, yeah, it’s a perennial problem for Americans. We’re a big country, most of the time we don’t have to worry that much about what’s going on in other parts of the world, until all of a sudden, we’ve got to get brushed up within a couple of days.
Tooley: And then, finally, a piece on secularization and threats to religious freedom in South America. We tend to think about the Global South as being intrinsically more robustly religious than the Global North, but the same issues in American society are arriving, especially it seems from this article, in the Southern Cone of South America. Argentina and Chile are mentioned, where there are left-of-center governments and attacks on religious liberty based-issues regarding abortion and LGBTQ, as in North America, as well as the recent pandemic. So, the article calls for increased attention to these threats. Marc LiVecche, any thoughts?
LiVecche: It’s interesting article. I enjoyed it. I think one of the salient questions that’s asked, the author puts it this way, “Why is there a rise in progressive and secular movements in a country predominantly inhabited by Christians?” And it’s a great question, and I think you can take answers to that question or speculations about answers to that question all sorts of different ways. I think back to when I lived in Slovakia, there was a very well-intentioned and very earnest missionary who came to the town I was living in and boasted that in a small town in eastern Slovakia, they had shown the Jesus film to something like 90% of the population over a period of years, and one of my Slovak friends somewhat cheekily asked, “So, how has that society changed?” And the missionary was a little bit caught on their heels and they said, “Well, what do you mean?” And my friend said, “Well, you’re showing the movie to 90% of the population and if that’s really saying something then, presumably, the culture of that town has changed in some way. It’s shifted from whatever it was before to a more Christian, more biblically-informed society.” And, of course, knowing that the answer to that was well, no, there’s been little to no change at all. It’s calling into question what does it really mean to Christianize a country, to show a film to a country, or for a country, even 90% of it, to claim some sort of Christian fidelity? You look at Ireland, overwhelmingly still self-describes themselves as Catholic, they overturned what was it, proposition eight on abortion. So, now abortion is legal. And so, what does it mean to have a Christianized country? Church doctrine and values of modern Catholics, is there a crisis in shepherding that leads to the progressivizing of a nation? Is it the endurance of the sheep? Is it both? I think it suggests, reveals again maybe, the crisis of liberalism. Built into liberalism is the idea of human autonomy and freedom and the ability to some degree to be self-determining. That’s always been the crisis of moral life. As Christian realists, we acknowledge the fact that in the garden, God made us free so that we could love, because love is supposed to be free or it’s not love at all. Well, love carries risks, and one of the risks is rebellion. And so, you see in these supposedly overwhelmingly Christian countries rebellions of various kinds, and so, I think in America and increasingly abroad, we’re faced with a question of how you deal with that. And it seems to me that one of the parallels with foreign policy is that with any country there’s at least two ways of expressing or manifesting power, and you can manifest power through intimidation, which is military, or you can manifest power through inspiration. And within the church then, just like the state, it seems like you have those two types of powers. Where you have some in America who are increasingly calling for a firmer hold or firmer emphasis on religion in American life, using the levers of power to enforce religious belief, which is tempting, and I understand that argument. And then you have others who say well, no, you’ve got to let liberalism run its course and we have to have discourse and discussion and inspire others toward religious fidelity manifest in obeying the moral life. So, I think it’s the perennial question. I think the church in these countries should exercise the authority it has. I think there should be a return to certain kinds of church discipline. I don’t have a problem with the withholding of sacrament from those who priests determine are out of order. I think that’s appropriate. There are limits to all of that. There’s wisdom that’s required in all of that. But I think by and large the church should be, as we’ve had it called here by Jonathan Leeman and others, the church should be an ambassador of the world, inspiring and trying to lead by example. That doesn’t always work, and it’s incredibly frustrating. But I think the article asks these kinds of questions and I think these kinds of questions are inherently worth asking. So, yeah, I’ll leave it there.
Tooley: On a final note, I’ll briefly comment on a piece we published today by Bob Morrison on the so-called Dunkirk Prayer, the National Day of Prayer convened in 1940 for the deliverance of the surrounded British Allied troops in France as German forces advanced. Churchill, the new Prime Minister, of course, was not conventionally religious, but his more conventionally religious appeasement-minded then-Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax suggested the day of prayer, and Churchill found himself obliged to cooperate. And he went reluctantly to a prayer service, where he uttered his famous quote that he was not a supporter of the church from the inside, but rather a buttress who supports the church from the outside. He was at best an infrequent worshiper or informal worshiper. So, the prayer, of course, was heard and answered magnificently with the deliverance of over 350,000 Allied troops, called the Miracle of Dunkirk. But the idea originated from an unlikely source, the appeasement-minded Lord Halifax, who if he had it his way would have been negotiating with the Axis Powers. So, one never knows whom God is going to use to advance his purposes. On that note, thank you fellow Mark(c)s, Marc LiVecche and Mark Melton, for another episode of Marksism. Until next week, bye-bye.