Providence: a journal of Christianity & American foreign policy

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Last month Mark Tooley and his college Marc LiVecch came to speak to Westmont’s students about their new publication “Providence: A Journal of Christianity & American Foreign Policy.” The new periodical-journal hybrid was inspired by the writings and life of Reinhold Nieber, a Christian thinker and writer who developed the paradigm of “Christian Realism” during the first half of the 1900s.
With the recent election, conversations about politics and foreign policy concerns have buzzed about on campus. To encourage the ongoing discussion, the Horizon sat down separately with Mark Tooley (Providence’s chief editor), Jon Lemmond (Associate Prof. and Pastor of Montecito Covenant Church), and Westmont’s own Professor Bruce Fisk. Their separate interviews have been combined and edited for length and clarity.
What Ethical Boundaries should be applied to states and on what grounds?
Tooley: We’ve really lost sight of the historic Christian teaching in this area. The New Testament’s primary paradigm for the state’s obligation is security and defense of its people. This includes providing for justice, the military, and police. Force can be morally limited, and the Just War traditions provide guidance on what to do and not do.
Lemmond: I’d love to see states hold to that which they have been promised, in treaties and human rights…the Geneva Convention and such. The U.S. was critical in the UN formation, but is continually varying in support for treaties and institutions.
Fisk: Actions are never really apart from ethics. So whose ethics? In democracy we have the public square. There we debate and ultimately decide the framework for country. Christians bring their texts and traditions into the framing of their arguments.
What is the Church’s role in speaking to foreign policy, especially considering the variety of political opinions within the church?
Tooley: The institutional church can be a moderating voice, providing a moral framework.
Lemmond: Christians should remember that the Christ-first role is an international institution, and work to set themselves outside the nation that surrounds them. They can speak [to politics], but as an entity whose field of vision is outside the nation state.
Fisk: The Church should see itself as a nonpartisan and nonaligned force that can speak truth “prophetically.” The Church should stand up and call upon high principles.
Should America exercise “leadership” in international affairs, and what does this leadership mean to you?
Tooley: Christians should accept that America has political and economic power, and rather than questioning whether it [power] should be acquired, instead ask how it should be used to achieve justice.
Lemmond: Would I like to see the U.S. live up to its value by upholding commitments like the Geneva Convention? Yes. The problem is that leadership has too often been used to justify national interests.
Fisk: Speaking specifically to what I know, the U.S. is no longer seen as any kind of “honest broker” [in Israel Palestine]. People are looking to the EU, France, or others to step in. I wish we could lead more in diplomacy.
What tools do you use to stay engaged and informed?
Tooley: I read the Washington Post daily and increasingly follow major thinkers on Twitter. Living in Washington DC, I have access to lots of great think tanks and conferences.
Lemmond: I listen to the radio, NPR, and read the New York Times. I will also seek out more conservative sources if I’m diving into an issue. This helps me engage with different perspectives as I care for people who have different perspective and [I] have to listen and be present.
Fisk: The principle is reading from a broad spectrum of ideas. I often read periodicals on foreign policy and international papers like the BBC and al Jazeera. Don’t just read J-Post or Haazra [semi partisan right vs. left Israeli papers], but rather hear from multiple voices.
What major foreign policy challenges do you see on the horizon for the next 20 years and how should Christians begin preparing to engage with them?
Tooley: The president-elect has broken with the long bipartisan tradition. He’s no vision of moral leadership and no vision of modeling democracy. We will have to see whether he will do the right thing or isolate, withdraw, and give into the belief in overextension.
Lemmond: Climate change is huge and globally, it will impact everyone. We’re facing issues of non-state actors and how to deal with them. Immigration is a major foreign policy discussion. All of these are linked together, as well.
Fisk: Climate change, not because I’m a green guy, but because this has political and military repercussions. In addition, conflict often starts over resources. As water levels rise, desertification sets in, famine, etc. This will be a major concern. One could argue that part of the Israel-Palestine conflict is a water war.


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