GIDEON ROSE: Hi, everybody. Welcome. My name is Gideon Rose. I’m the managing editor of Foreign Affairs.
And we have the good fortune today to be able to chat with Walter Russell Mead, the Henry Kissinger senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, and the author of a major new article, “God’s Country” in Foreign Affairs, which I’m sure you’ve all read. And it’s an important statement on the changing religious climate in the United States and its global implications in American foreign policy.
So without further ado, you all know Walter I’m sure, either in person or simply by his biography. He’s one of the most important commentators on American foreign policy and its history and its various dimensions. Today he’s one of the very few people to actually have his terminologies adopted for broader use by other pundits and scholars, which is a great accomplishment that everybody shoots for and no one actually achieves. And with that, let me get to Walter’s article.
Walter, why don’t you just go through—you posit there are three basic divisions within the American Protestant community that are relevant to their theological beliefs, but also to their public persona. Can you just walk us through those briefly for those who might not have read the article very recently?
WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Sure. The one that—the three categories that I’m using are mainline, or liberal Protestants; fundamentalists; and evangelicals.
Mainline Protestants are the ones that probably most of us are the most familiar with, either historically or through our experience. They’re groups like Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists. And they are sort of what we mostly think of when we think of the traditional American religious establishment. And they have tended, especially in the 20 th century, to be very hospitable to things like modern biblical scholarship. They tend to look at Christianity in ethical terms more than doctrinal terms. They’re not usually very wedded to ideas about miracles of things of that kind. And so they kind of stand for sort of reasonable religion, if I can use the phrase. This group has been shrinking in numbers, and to some degree in influence, for some time.
If you look at the world of conservative Protestantism, which is where there has been growth in power and in numbers lately, I think it’s important to stress there are two different aspect—two different kinds of conservative Protestantism: there’s fundamentalism and there’s evangelicalism.
Fundamentalism tends to be very Calvinist. It is often wedded to—fundamentalists are often torn between wanting, in a sense, to conquer and remake the state. If you’re looking for people in American Christianity who are sort of theocratic in their aspirations, they’re often fundamentalists. But since the reality is that that’s very unlikely to happen given the pluralism of American society, many fundamentalists believe in withdrawing and not playing a very active role in—they separate them themselves denominationally and socially from the broader society.
The middle group of evangelicals are—share a lot of the—of the doctrines of fundamentalists. They tend to believe in the literal inspiration of the Bible. Many, though not all, evangelicals would not, for example, accept Darwinian evolution because they believe that it conflicts with the Book of Genesis. But they are—they’re sort of more wedded to a pluralistic vision of American society. The big difference, in a way, between fundamentalists and evangelicals is that evangelicals are willing, and eager even, to make alliances across religious and denominational lines. So that on Israel policy evangelicals are working closely with Jews, on things like abortion they work closely with Catholics. Fundamentalists tend to be much more reserved and less prone to coalition building.
That’s kind of a thumbnail sketch.
ROSE: And excellently done.
Just, since some people have raised this question, can you explain very briefly why you’ve focused on these instead of all the other various strands of religious and non-religious belief in the states?
MEAD: Right. Well, I mean, it’s important to say—as I open the article by saying—that American religion is so diverse, there’s so many different strains of it, and America as a whole is such a religious country, that you can find a religious tradition or rationale behind virtually any position on any public policy issue in the United States.
I concentrated on looking at changes in Protestantism for two reasons. One, Protestantism is still the majority faith in the United States. About 52 percent of Americans, more or less, are Protestant. The next largest group is Roman Catholic. About 24 percent of the population is Catholic. And Catholicism is extremely important in American life, but it’s—but the changes in the last 30 years in terms of foreign policy in particular have been far more dramatic among Protestants. There’s more change happening among Protestants.
So those are the two reasons: The sheer size of the Protestant population and the salience of the changes in sort of the balance of power—internal balance of power in Protestants, and we’re having a big effect. I may be doing some writing on American Catholicism later. It’s an important subject.
ROSE: Now, what basically—answer the why we should care question. In other words, what effect or impact will these—the rise and fall of these different groups and their internal composition have for people who are interested in American foreign policy, not just in American religious beliefs and attitudes?
Well, one factor would be that 40 percent of George Bush’s vote in 2004 came from evangelicals, and evangelicals constitute—about 78 percent of the people who self-identify as evangelicals voted for Bush. So, to—and, well, mainstream Protestants—mainline Protestants tended to be more supportive of Kerry.
So changes in this balance of power do have political implications in the U.S. Beyond that there’s some—there are a number of foreign policy issues where evangelicals have a different profile.
In recent years, mainstream Protestants—mainline Protestants have been moving away from an uncritical support of Israel and have taken a position more sympathetic to Palestinian points of view while evangelicals have, if anything, intensified their identification with Israel and support for Israel.
So there’s been a lot—there’s been a lot of talk lately about whether there is some kind of—you know, people have looked to a Jewish lobby as being the explanation, say of the Bush administration in the Middle East. But I would argue based on what I am seeing in American religion that particularly in terms of the Republican Party’s increased support for Israel in the Middle East, it’s more important to look to the Christian lobby than to the Jewish lobby there.
ROSE: If Torquemada and St. Francis of Assisi can both draw their actions and views from the same ultimate source, how much of this is just simply the subjective interpretations of the individuals in question? And how rooted and and solid is it? In other words, if the traditions can change and mutate and they all are essentially subjective—aside from the fundamentalists who see themselves as doing exactly what was literally said—are the categories and views you’re describing simply things that are self-generated and plucked out of thin air and changed, or do they have some lasting influence or core heft that leads to them to persist over time?
MEAD: Well, let’s just take Zionism—American Protestant Zionism as an example. I think the first book in the United States, which—in what’s now the United States—that talked about how the Jewish return to the holy land would be an important part of future historical developments in God’s plan was published in the 17th century.
And there’s been a very long tradition in America of seeing that the future holds a special place for the Jews in history and that that’s very much bound up in the future of Palestine. So you had American Protestants actually in the 1840s trying to teach Eastern European Jews to farm in the hope that they would then go back and begin to—you know, redeem the holy land.
This is very deeply rooted, and—before Herzl—before the modern organized Jewish Zionist movement, American Protestant clergymen were sending petitions to various American elected officials, including, I think, President Hayes, saying please use America’s diplomatic effort—power to create a refuge for persecuted Jews in the holy land. So this is—this is a very, very deep and well established tradition.
There are other elements in American evangelical—think the missionary tradition. You know, America has been exporting large numbers of Protestant missionaries since very early in the 19 th century. These have been important in the history of many countries around the world. They’ve also been very important in forming American attitudes toward various countries.
And you can see this today in the way that the Bush administration has been stepping up humanitarian aid. HIV/AIDS spending in Africa is directly related to the way a lot of the American Protestant community is lobbying in Washington.
ROSE: Let me actually press you on that one. You say in your piece, almost as if to reassure some of your audience who don’t know or might be somewhat fearful that we shouldn’t assume where—one shouldn’t assume that evangelicals are necessarily Jacksonians, to use your own earlier characterization.
ROSE: Can you explain a little bit what Jacksonians are, why some might fear that they would be, and why that’s not entirely correct?
MEAD: Right. Well, Jacksonian, you know, the term comes from Andrew Jackson, who—you know, there’s an episode in his career that I think explains it pretty well. In about 1817 or 1818, the Seminole—the Indians in Georgia were fighting a war against the United States, and they were getting arms and ammunition, or as we might say today, weapons of mass destruction from two British traders in Florida, which was in Spanish territory.
Jackson, without declaring a declaration of war, Andrew Jackson took U.S. forces across the international frontier, arrested the two British traders, brought them back to the United States, tried them before a military tribunal and hanged them as a way of settling this problem. And, you know, that’s sort of a quick encapsulation of just about everything Europeans don’t like about American foreign policy today. It made Jackson so popular that it helped assure that in time he’d be elected president.
And this kind of populist nationalism, don’t try to convert the foreigners to democracy, don’t mess with the foreigners, don’t worry about the foreigners unless the foreigners attack you, and then go out and kill them—a slight oversimplification, but that approach is not—you know, is often associated with evangelicals and fundamentalists, you know, partly because they’re both pretty strong in the South, but in fact the evangelical tradition has a much stronger Wilsonian dimension in it too. There’s a lot of—there is a concern about converting the foreigners either to Christianity or democracy, about foreign aid, about promotion of human rights. So it’s not the same thing at all as the upsurge in Jacksonian sentiment.
ROSE: All right. We have a large audience that wants to get in on this. I want to turn it over as quickly as possible. Let me just ask one more question raising some interesting, sensitive issues.
There was a review essay in Foreign Affairs a few issues ago that discussed a couple of pro-American Europeans, and it analyzed their views and it talked about what their new books said. And it didn’t mention something which some readers knew, which was that the two authors, although different in their specific politics and different in their nationalities, were both Jews, and that that might have in some people’s minds had some kind of impact on their views about the United States, their views about European politics and so forth, for any of a variety of different reasons one could (spell out ?) or not.
Now, this wasn’t raised in the review. And I know that some people who read that review were interested to see that it wasn’t mentioned, and some, when they heard that both people were Jewish, thought that it should be mentioned, and others disagreed strongly, and there was a feeling, not just among Jews but even among some non-Jews, that, wow, this isn’t an appropriate thing to discuss; just talk about their views, talk about what the books say, because it’s irrelevant what their religious background. You know, why would you want to speculate or bring in such an extraneous factor. Almost like George Allen going, “What do you want to talk about my mother’s religion for and so forth, it’s not relevant, and focus on what I’m saying.”
Here, because Christians are the dominant group, there isn’t quite that aspect, and because many of the evangelicals in particular that you talked about in your piece make a public connection between their beliefs and their views, I’m curious what your thoughts are about the propriety and legitimacy of discussing these subjects in a kind of foreign policy context. If one doesn’t necessarily share the views, is it appropriate or necessary to bring in the other person’s views about transcendental matters when we can just debate AIDS policy or human trafficking or Arab-Israeli issues on their own terms without reference to the spiritual or religious views of other people? Can you talk about that for a little bit?
MEAD: Sure. Well, one thing I would say, that in the case of the two European authors that you were talking about, both of them advanced their points of view in a completely secular way, you know, and any appeal that was made to higher principles was made to principles of reason and public policy. So both, I think, were—so part of my sense is if somebody is sort of honestly—you know, you should take somebody and—in trying to understand somebody, it’s important to understand the way they’re presenting themselves and how they see things.
ROSE: So if they “out” themselves, that’s fine, but if they don’t “out” themselves, it’s not somebody else’s job to “out” them?
MEAD: Well, I’m not sure that people’s—first of all, I’m not sure that either of the gentlemen in question is particularly religious, so I’m not sure—so in a sense we’d be talking about ethnicity rather than views of transcendental issues, if you see what I mean, than doctrine. So that would be one difference there. And I wouldn’t, writing about an American writer, I wouldn’t say, “Oh, well he’s Italian American, that’s why he thinks X,” necessarily.
So that would be one part of it, whereas on the other hand, if you were talking—you know, if you were talking about Israeli politics and you wanted to say ultra-orthodox groups in Israel are talking about, you know, X policy in the occupied territories, then, you know, then in a sense the relationship of religious ideology to secular ideology is relevant and germane, not from whether or not it’s true or false, because to some degree as a person you wouldn’t share that religious view, you’d be looking, okay, well, you know, how does this stand up logically and politically, but in understanding the balance of political forces in Israel, you would want to understand the relationship of different strains of religious ideology and how that fits in with political ideology and how the whole thing helps the political system to work.
ROSE: Got it. To an analyst of American foreign policy, it’s worth raising these kinds of factors if we think they’re relevant or the people themselves attribute relevance to them. But if we’re discussing actual policy issues and what to do about them—
ROSE:—then you’re talking to the wall, and you should just actually—
MEAD: That’s right. I mean, somebody might go out and generally say, “Well, you know, you know in our religion we think abortion is wrong, and this policy promotes abortion, so all of us, whatever that religion is, we’re going to oppose it.” That’s one thing. But you know, then in terms of trying to understand whether the policy’s going to get through Congress, you’d say, “Well, the whole Catholic and conservative Protestant voters against it, so it may not pass Congress.” Those are two quite different approaches to the issue.
ROSE: Thank you very much, Walter.
And at this point, let’s bring in our audience, open it up to Q&A with Walter Russell Mead.
OPERATOR: Thank you. At this time we will open the floor for questions. If you’d like to ask a question, please press the star key followed by the one key on your touchtone phone now. Questions will be taken in the order in which they are received. If at any time you’d like to remove yourself from the question queue, press star two.
ROSE: And can you please—I should also point out, can you please identify yourself when you’re asking a question.
OPERATOR: We have Tony—(last name inaudible).
QUESTIONER: I wonder if the Jacksonian populism is only related to attacking another nation or crossing borders, and it’s not related to the influence of populism on other aspects of foreign policy.
MEAD: Well, I think, you know, there is a Jacksonian—for example, on immigration, it seems to me that a lot of Jacksonians like the idea of a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, that there—that Jacksonians often think of the government’s role in foreign policy as keeping foreigners from doing bad things to the United States and keeping bad things out of America, whether those are people or drugs or what have you, so. Whereas the other schools of thought—my Wilsonians and Hamiltonians and so on—are more concerned with the government doing good things outside America. So I think there is a difference.
OPERATOR: Again, if you have any comments or questions, please press star one.
MEAD: I can’t believe that a conversation about religion and politics could be so unprovocative. Obviously, Gideon, we weren’t saying enough rude things.
OPERATOR: We have a question from Gary—(last name inaudible).
QUESTIONER: Hello. I work with The Epoch Times. I don’t know how relevant my question is. My question is about President Bush and his beliefs and his—I presume he would fall more the fundamentalist point of view. I’m not sure.
MEAD: Oh, no, no, no. I don’t think so at all.
QUESTIONER: Evangelical then?
MEAD: At most Evangelical, yes.
QUESTIONER: Yeah. Well, the—my question is something that came up that really puzzled me. In the second week of May or about then of this year, there were these Chinese dissidents, Christians, a well-known author. One was Yu Jie and another man named Wang Yi. Yu Jie is an extremely well-known writer—young writer. And these are Christians practicing their beliefs, you know, in their houses and praying even at great risk to themselves. I mean, it’s not easy to be a Christian in China if you don’t go along with the house churches.
And he—there were three of them. Actually, there were four originally, but he wasn’t a Christian, and so they—the group let the other man come to the meeting. And so there were only three. They made sure they were—there were just Christians at the meeting is what I’m trying to say. And they met with President Bush, and I understand that even the vice president was in the room, although I’m not sure about that.
And they tried to make the case that if you want to bring changes in human rights in China, you should support the Christian movement and not so much support the Chinese officials—the communist Chinese officials. And Bush’s response—and this is a Christian trying to appeal to another Christian and he was making the case.
And Bush’s response was more or less to change the subject. He just would not really get into it from that angle. He asked one of them if they have a family and have children or something. He changed the subject. And I can’t understand, if he is an evangelical Christian, why was he so cold to these Christian Chinese dissidents?
MEAD: Well, I wasn’t at the meeting, and I haven’t seen any accounts of it, so, you know, I’m just going to sort of take what you’re saying that happened.
I think probably what that would be would be that the president felt that by inviting Christian dissidents in for meetings made an extremely pointed statement to the Chinese, and that the Chinese leadership would certainly understand—and I think they do understand that for this president, religious freedom is—when this president talks about human rights in China, religious freedom is a very, very high priority part of that for him.
But I think to get into, then, making—so that the meeting at the White House was his statement. And if the vice president was there, that was underlining the seriousness of it, and that diplomatically, that’s as far as one would go. And to then engage in a conversation with him that made criticisms of Chinese policy might go—they might have felt that the White House, that that was going beyond the line of making a statement and actually being very provocative and they would argue maybe counterproductive. I am assuming that some kind of thought along those lines is probably what was going on.
ROSE: Okay, that’s very good. Thank you.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Benny Quan (sp).
QUESTIONER: Yes. I wanted to go back to Jacksonian for a moment. Jacksonian or populism also means sort of anti-big business or anti-corporations. And I noticed that in your article, you didn’t really talk too much about the three religious groupings and the relationship to economics and foreign policy. The liberal—the Christians also were associated with the rise of corporations, and the ones that you cite came out of that context.
So I’m wondering, why did you—this is, of course, a question (by absence ?), which is not quite fair, but I’ll ask it anyway. Why did you leave out the possible economic dimensions of how evangelicals will support capitalism but maybe a little different than—maybe more populist? And you see some of that in the debate over China and the recognition for Most Favored Nation status for China, that corporations funded evangelicals who supported that and to fight against the ones who did not support it.
MEAD: Well, I mean, I—you know, that doesn’t—I mean, your point right there would suggest that evangelicals as such are divided in their approach to economic issues, that some are more populist and some find it more comfortable to associate with a more corporatist agenda. That would be an argument for not—you know, that would be—the point there would be that the rise of—relative rise or fall of evangelicalism foreign policy might have less impact on economic policy than other things simply because evangelicals may reflect other differences.
I mean, if I were going to talk big picture and long term, if I were writing a book rather than an article on this subject, what I might have done would be to talk about that probably the biggest change long term in American evangelicals today, say, versus where they were in 1900 is that in general, American evangelicals today are less populist in economic terms than they used to be, that if you go back to the sort of William Jennings Bryan era of evangelicals, evangelicals were often small, particularly in the South. White evangelicals were small farmers who tended to see Yankee corporations as the enemy and corporate forces were, you know, John D. Rockefeller’s evil monopoly squeezing out the virtuous small producer, that, while there’s some of that kind of Main Street economic populism among evangelicals today, in general there is probably a greater comfort with market forces among evangelicals than there used to be, and that evangelicals don’t feel as alienated from the corporate economy as they used to feel, in general. I mean, you know, this is—we’re talking about a lot of people here, and there will be a lot of diversity.
And I think in the—well, I mean, you can sort of take this in a lot of different directions, but that is a switch. And a lot of Democratic politicians who are sort of looking hopefully to the idea of where are the issues that Democrats can make common cause with evangelicals have been pointing back rather hopefully to some of the late 19 th century populism that was associated with evangelicals, again, like Bryan, and think that there—this may be the point of link-up. I think that may be a mistake.
So when you look at folks like, say, Rick Warren and some of the people working with him who are very active, say, in African development in Rwanda, they’re not looking at how do we protect poor Rwandans from an evil, predatory world market system. They’re saying: How do we help poor Rwandans enter and benefit from the world market? So there’s something of a different tone there.
ROSE: Do you see other differences between the 20 th century and 19 th century evangelicals?
MEAD: Well, I think probably the biggest one is after that would be on race; that the 19 th century evangelical movement, while there were exceptions—and certainly in the anti-slavery movement, there were a lot of very active evangelicals—biblically orthodox, as they thought of themselves, evangelicals in the late 19 th century often taught and believed that segregation reflected God’s will. And you would hear—you know, approve texts like, you know, “Cursed be Canaan” and so on, and sort of genealogies showing that the African races were descended from the one of Noah’s sons who was cursed to be a hewer of wood and a of drawer of water.
That has largely disappeared from contemporary evangelicals. I was at a meeting yesterday where Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Conference was boasting about the great strides Southern Baptists have made, who once taught segregation, if you go back far enough. Southern Baptists have been building multiracial churches, and there are churches in—on the West Coast in particular where Anglos, Caucasians are in a minority in Southern Baptist congregations.
So race—you could argue that evangelicals have moved to the left. Economics—to some degree, they seem to have moved to the right.
ROSE: That comes back to, as evangelicals pick up the civil rights ideas and absorb them, they may come, like Martin Luther King, to a more populist economics, because they’ll end up deciding maybe—(inaudible)—corporate interests.
MEAD: Well, except that I’m not sure that—you know, I don’t see that—corporate interests seems to me to have pretty much backed the civil rights movement all along. You know, the national corporations didn’t actually like the idea of having to maintain a segregated work force in Alabama and an integrated one in Detroit. So to some degree, I think the corporate agenda has been color-blind for a long time as well.
ROSE: Let’s get some other—
OPERATOR: Okay. Our next question comes from James Kitfield (sp). Mr. Kitfield (sp)? (Pause.)
Our next question is coming from Ellen Osniac (sp).
QUESTIONER: Hi. I’m Anne Kosniac (sp), Voice of America Turkish Service. I’d like to ask your opinion on the relationship between the evangelicals and the Muslims, because the relations are getting worse and worse. And if the Republicans are elected again, what do you think the future of relations will be?
MEAD: Well, the future between—relationship between evangelicals and Muslims, or between America and Turkey?
QUESTIONER: America and Turkey, in that specific context, but in general, more the Islam world.
MEAD: Well, I think—I call in the article for an intensified dialogue between evangelicals and Muslims, because it seems to me that evangelicals and Muslims need to talk, that many of our interreligious or civilizational dialogues are between fairly secular Christians and fairly secular Muslims. And what we need is a deeper encounter among people who are passionately attached and—to fairly conservative versions of their religious traditions.
And so, you know, the evangelicals and Muslims—you know, I think Muslims might be surprised to see how much the evangelical version of Christianity has, in a sense, responded to some of the critiques of Christianity that are found in the Koran and other early Muslim sources that—for example, evangelicals don’t believe in a hierarchical priesthood. They spend a lot—they’re less given to theological speculation, more focused on good works. They stress that there is no intermediary between the individual and God. You know, some of those practices are actually closer to Islamic religious practice than the practice of the Byzantine Christianity that was prevalent at the time of the prophet Mohammed.
At the same time, on Israel-Palestine, I think Muslims would—evangelicals would benefit by hearing Muslims say, “Okay, you have a theology of the Israelis. What is your theology of the Palestinians? What does your God, what does your Bible tell you about these people?”
And I think there might be some real communication possible among groups who right now don’t communicate very well, and that with that better understanding, I think, could come—you know, I do believe that getting these groups together could be very important in improving relations between civilizations and cultures in the world today.
ROSE: Do you think that the recent exchanges prompted by the pope’s speech are a step in that direction or a step away from it?
MEAD: Well, I think we have to see how all of that works out. But again, I think the positive—the very positive thing here is that again, the dialogue needs to come—the dialogue of civilizations or the dialogue of religions needs to be engaged in by people who are at the living, breathing heart of strong religious traditions.
ROSE: So it’s not like me, Fareed and maybe you sitting around talking. It needs to be the—you know, the people who actually are out—
MEAD: The hard core of a religion. So you know, you don’t want the secularized, worldly Muslim who is—who thinks of his religious identity as, you know, a small part of identity. You want the person for whom Islamic faith is at the core of who that person is and what’s important. You want them to find a way to live with and respect the person who’s profoundly Christian and, you know, even evangelically Christian, and again, the respect to go in both directions. That’s what needs to happen.
ROSE: Do you think that’s possible?
MEAD: Yes, I do. I think it’s—you know, if you look at the history of American evangelicalism, particularly over the last 50 years, what you see is, they have been getting across boundaries that used to be considered impossible, whether it was the racial boundary, the Catholic boundary. Evangelicals traditionally in America have considered Roman Catholicism to be an evil cult, the religion of the devil, you know, coming out of a lot of Reformation agitation, much more like the attitudes of, say, Ian Paisley in Northern Ireland.
And today the most vibrant ecumenical interfaith dialogue in the U.S. today is probably between Catholics and evangelicals.
But in the same way, evangelicals and Jews used to have an extremely distant and pained relationship, and there are certainly issues that divide them today. But evangelicals and Jews are working together on a wide variety of issues.
And I think it is possible to see the same kinds of links forming among evangelicals and Muslims. And I think it would be very important to see that happen.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is coming from Marjorie Woodbury (sp).
QUESTIONER: My question is whether we can—but I want to bring it back the women’s issues, if I might. Religion certainly has historically been patriarchal in structure and function, and it’s troubling—in some ways, it seems a little troubling that the evangelical rise would push women’s rights into the background, which is—the executive office has signed a global gag rule, a foreign policy that limited certain types of aid to some of the world’s most needy women.
And what I’m wondering is a couple of things. One, do you see—is there any way you see to disentangle women’s rights from religion in foreign policy? And you know, is there any—is women’s equality—is there any room for women’s equality in religious agendas, especially for evangelicals, when—so much of the push seems almost where to put these ideals.
MEAD: Well, again, I think that it’s important to distinguish here somewhat between evangelicals and fundamentalists. I think evangelicals have by and large adopted most of the ideas of contemporary American feminism in the sense of that women should be free either to work or not to work, and if they do work, they should be free to be paid and, you know, have equality in pay and working conditions, political rights and so on. There’s a specific—you know, abortion is not something where most evangelicals—most evangelicals are as opposed to abortion as most Catholics.
On issues of women in the church and their role, again evangelicals are more diverse. In general they are more conservative than liberal Protestants, and more liberal than fundamentalists on that, and it varies from denomination to denomination. But because they don’t—the clergy in the evangelical world doesn’t have the same sort of ontological status that the priesthood does, say, in Catholicism, the issue is not as salient.
So in terms of foreign policy, I think the question really comes down to almost entirely issues around reproduction and use of condoms and things of that kind. And there, it seems to me, while there are some differences between the standard evangelical point of view and the sort of standard secular women’s rights point of view, they are not as important in the overall framework internationally as they are domestically. So, yes, there are some points of tension and controversy, and that’s where politics comes in and that’s what a political system is for, is handling those, but I don’t think it looms as large outside the U.S. as inside.
OPERATOR: Thank you.
Again, if you have a question or comment, please press star-one.
We have James Kittifield (ph).
QUESTIONER: Walter, I’m just curious if you could just talk for a second about the degree to which the evangelical support for Israel is tied up with this (vision ?) of the second coming and the rapture and the apocalypse. I think a lot of Jewish voters wonder how strategic or tactical this alliance is with the evangelicals if that’s what’s driving them to their support of Israel.
MEAD: I don’t think it’s related as—you know, I think, again, you have to draw the distinction between evangelicals and fundamentalists. Evangelicals might read for entertainment those Tim LaHaye novels about “left behind” and so on without expecting, every time there’s a news story from the Middle East, that the anti-Christ is about to rise.
The theology of the evangelicals’ support for Jews really comes down to they believe that the promises of God to the Jewish people in the Hebrew Scriptures are still valid, and they don’t believe in quite the way that, say, Catholics do—Catholics would believe that the church, the Catholic Church is the inheritor of the promises that were made to the Jewish people and in a sense they’re the new Jews, the new Israel. Evangelicals would say, well, yeah, the church is the new Israel, but the old Israel is still Israel.
And so they would look at things—evangelicals look at things like in the Book of Genesis it says, you know, God blesses those who bless Israel and curses those who curse Israel. Evangelicals would say if America blesses Israel, then God will bless America, and so we want to stand with the Jews to enjoy God’s blessing—which is a little bit different from saying we want to support Israel in order to bring on Armageddon and the end of the world. I don’t actually think that’s the way they think of it.
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Again, press star-one for any questions or comments. (Pause.) There are no further question at this time.
ROSE: Let me ask you one last question, Walter. I’m curious, because my gut instinct, and maybe because I’m one of those denatured types that you say don’t need to talk to each other because they’re not really part of the immediate problem, but I wonder whether the more you get the people you want to see talking and engaging each other, whether there might not be some (incommensurability ?) there.
I’m reminded of the old story about the British officer in India who stopped an act of sati, and the person said to him, you know, how can you interfere with this; it’s our tradition to have the wife take part in this act and it’s the—and the British officer replied, it’s my tradition not to allow people to be burned at the stake.
When it comes down to revealed truths and strong positions by people who (were in ?) them, and it comes down to particularly sort of—whether it’s women’s issues or whether it’s a variety of important, major issues about social and other kind of policy, do you really—I’m curious and impressed by your optimism, although I’m not sure I share it. Could you explain a little to those who are not as optimistic why they should be?
MEAD: You mean in terms of American domestic politics?
QUESTIONER: No, not so much domestic politics, frankly, as clash of civilizations type stuff.
MEAD: Well, it seems to me that, first of all, if you look at—say let’s just look at Christian-Muslim history, and over a very long history there are periods of conflict and periods of peaceful coexistence. So it looks to me that, you know, you can’t make an essentialist argument that Christianity and Islam are doomed to fight, you know, forever, or that there’s something in their nature that mandates they’re always going to be at peace. Clearly, it can go either way.
QUESTIONER: Right, but one of the things that Huntington talked about in “Clash of Civilizations,” in the book, was that one of the best responses to the potential problem was to, in effect, not be as interventionist and attempt—in effect, to sort of “Cuius regio, eius religio” approach; sort of a(n) allow each civilization a little bit of space and autonomy, and that’ll allow them to sort of coexist a little more. Whereas it seems like some of the trends in the Christianity that you’re talking about is precisely towards fairly interventionist policies designed to make—to bring their vision of what is right to the world at large.
MEAD: Well, again, I think, you know, you find very little—you know, you don’t find that many Christian missionaries going to Somalia at the moment. You know, so I’m not sure that—you know, I think there is de facto “Cuius regio, eius religio” around.
Look, if you look at the world, you can see there are areas where Christianity and Islam are in a religious competition. Probably the most salient right now is sub-Saharan Africa. And you look at a place like Nigeria; that’s where violence between Christians and Muslims is probably the strongest. And in general along West Africa there’s a certain tendency.
But there it seems to me that’s precisely the kind of place where some discussion among Christians and Muslims about what is the nature of their competition, what are the limits on their competition, and so on might be an interesting conversation to have. I’m not sure there’s anything to lose because the fighting is going on now.
Well, with that, if there are no more questions, we’ll wrap it up. We don’t believe in taking people’s time unnecessarily. We’re very grateful to Walter, to all of you. Hopefully this will represent a kind of new engagement start in Foreign Affairs’ involvement with not just hard issues, but soft issues, and/or rather issues relating to the kind of world of beliefs and ideas and culture which we all know influences world events but is rarely discussed in the sort of rather dry, wonky issue, that fare.
And in that context, I shall alert you all to the idea—the notion that the next issue of Foreign Affairs, November/December, will have a large lead piece on immigration policy in the U.S. by Tomar Jacoby, bringing up another hot-button somewhat—
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