Symposium on Evangelicals and U.S. Foreign Policy: Session 3: Evangelicals and the Middle East (Video Highlight)
Watch a panel of experts discusses the stance of evangelical Christians toward U.S.-Middle East policy.
This event is part of the Religion and Foreign Policy Symposia Series, which is made possible by the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation.
Council on Foreign Relations
NANCY ROMAN: Good evening. I think we will get started right on time, as is our custom.
I’m Nancy Roman, vice president and director of the Washington Program. And I have been looking forward to tonight’s meeting for some time.
This is our opening session of our new series, which is on the nexus of religion and foreign policy. And in reviewing the council’s work over time, we realized we’ve really done a great job and spent a lot of resources on national security, on development, on various regional interests, but we haven’t paid as much attention to religion and the role that it plays both in influencing other countries’ policies towards us and our policy toward other countries.
Sometimes it’s a more difficult conversation than it should be to get into, but this is something that we have decided to pursue with, frankly, broad support from you all. It’s gotten very good feedback.
And we’re extreme excited to have both Dr. Land and Luis Lugo.
We at the council brought Dr. Land up for a conversation with senior advisers on Capitol Hill a few months ago, and it was really a riveting discussion. And I decided then it was one that you all deserved to hear.
Some of you may know Luis. He directs the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. You have his bio. But from my perspective, most significantly, he is a brand new member of the council.
So we welcome both of you, and we look forward to the conversation.
LUIS LUGO: Thank you, Nancy.
What you didn’t tell me in this process of joining the council was that this was a working organization. No sooner do I join that Richard Haass hauls me up to New York for some sort of advising, and you sort of volunteer me for this event. (Laughter.)
Actually, I’m delighted to do it. It’s that immigrant work ethic. You can’t stop us; it’s just that simple.
It is my deep pleasure to be moderating this event this evening. I had the delight, actually, to be with Richard Land last year up in Canada on a panel session on religion in American politics. This is the Canadian equivalent of our Chautauqua, the Couchiching Institute. And there were many memorable aspects of that session, which was very lively and very informative. But I will never forget the moderator for that—and I’m not going to be like this, just to forewarn you—but he was intent on insulting the panelists in the introductions. (Laughter.)
For Richard, for instance, he said Richard Land is a Southern Baptist, and in utter bewilderment and very publicly expressed, he said, you know, which I can’t quite understand because he’s a Princeton grad, magna cum laude no less, and then went to Oxford for his doctor of philosophy. He said, now, I can understand him being a Southern Baptist before he went; I can’t understand being a Southern Baptist him coming out. So I thought that was rather bracing to hear that kind of introduction.
I was third, so I was really getting prepared. And actually he was an equal opportunity offender, because Richard’s counterpart on the panel is a professor at Wake Forest University, wherever that might be, he said. You know, it was like, you know—it was just really strange.
Fortunately he gave me a pass in my introduction, very straightforward, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. And I stood up and thanked him for the very kind introduction, and for being the only panelist he didn’t insult. Which was really quite—I’m sure you remember that very well, Richard.
RICHARD LAND: I do.
LUGO : Yes. (Laughter.)
Well, Richard is still a Southern Baptist. In fact, he is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, where he has served since 1988. As such, he represents Southern Baptists before the Congress, the president and major media.
Since 2001, he’s also been a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, first appointed by President Bush and then reappointed by Senator Frist.
He wouldn’t be a major evangelical leader if he didn’t have his own radio show. And in fact, he’s got not one, not two, but three radio shows, with his latest one being a three-hour call-in weekend program—which I haven’t tuned in to yet, Richard, but I hope to do that soon.
He is also the executive editor of a national magazine, Faith and Family Values. It is I think with great justification that Time magazine earlier this year named him among the 25 most influential evangelicals in America.
How Richard can do all this and keep a busy travel schedule may partly be explained by the fact that his wife, Dr. Rebecca Land, is a psychotherapist in private practice. You may be her only client for all I know, Richard. (Laughter.)
In any case, we’re delighted to have you.
There are some ground rules, as you know, for these events, but this one’s a little different. I always enjoy when I co-host these things with Walter Mead of the New York branch to talk about Chatham House rules and all that, but there are no such rules in this one. This meeting is actually on the record, so we don’t need to be pins and needles on that one.
We do ask, however, that you turn off your cell phones, please, and keep them off until this event concludes. And we will promptly end at 7:30, which doesn’t often happen in Washington. I say it’s one of the big contributions that we Hispanics are going to make to American society is going to start and end every meeting on time. So we’re certainly going to keep to that one, Nancy.
Richard, it’s great to have you at the Council on Foreign Relations.
LAND: Thank you.
I’ve been asked to make a few opening remarks, and then they want to leave—Luis wants to ask me some questions he’s really confident—(inaudible)—let you ask questions.
Let me start off—I think it’s probably helpful in any setting outside of an evangelical one to explain what an evangelical is. I think this is brought home by the fact that Time magazine, when it named the 25 most influential evangelicals, had several Roman Catholics, which was the first I knew you could be a Roman Catholic and be an evangelical. Which, you know, it’s—and then I had several media people, national media people, call and they say, well, now, just explain to us what is—what are these evangelists, and of course, not understanding evangelists and evangelicals.
Evangelical is derived from a Greek noun meaning—which is (Greek phrase), which means the gospel of the good news. As a church historian, I can tell you that the word is first used that we know of among Catholic writers in the early 16th century who were trying to revert to beliefs and practices which they believed were more biblical than those currently in vogue the late medieval Roman Catholic Church.
Then at the Reformation, the name evangelical was given to Lutherans who focused on the doctrine of justification by faith alone through faith in Christ, and who sought to renew the church according to what they found in scripture.
More recently, the revivals that happened on both sides of the Atlantic, in Britain and in the United States, in the 1730s and 1740s, with Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield and the Wesleys, which highlighted the authority of scripture, the work of Christ and salvation, and the emphasis on a new birth as a new birth experience in religion, with a large dose of sort of revivalism and pietism thrown in. And they were deeply influenced—more I suspect they knew at the time—by John Locke and by the enlightenment.
Then in the 20th century men like Charles Hodge and Carl F.H. Henry emphasized the intellectual principles that were derived from scripture, as opposed to just scripture narratives themselves.
Today’s evangelicals, the evangelicals of which I am one and of which we’ve heard a lot about, emerged in the 20th century about the early 1940s as a conscious reaction against fundamentalism, a movement which had begun in the second decade of the 20th century with a series of pamphlets which were making fairly reasoned arguments against emerging Protestant liberalism, but then ossified into a reactionary oppositionalism. One scholar described the fundamentalism that resulted as too otherworldly, anti-intellectual, legalistic, moralistic, and anti-ecumenical.
And so the first use that we can find of the word evangelical in the 20th century as a meaningful term was in 1942 with the founding of the National Association of Evangelicals. These new evangelicals, lead by E.J. Carnell, Harold Ockingay, Carl Henry and Billy Graham, were committed to engaging with the culture in an attempt to transform it through the gospel, and really took to heart sort of Neibuhr’s Christ-transforming culture as opposed to the fundamentalists’ Christ against culture.
And although Karl Barth, the great 20th century Protestant theologian, is not an evangelical in an American or British sense of that term, his definition I think is very apt. He defines evangelical as, evangelical means informed by the gospel of Jesus Christ as heard afresh in the 16th century Reformation by a direct return to holy scripture.
And another non-American, Alistair McGrath, Six Fundamental Convictions of what he described as evangelicalism seemed to capture, for me anyway, the emphases of the current evangelical movement and of evangelical theology: first, scripture authority, scripture as a source of knowledge of God and a guide to Christian living; the majesty of Jesus Christ both as incarnate God and as lord and as savior of a sinful humanity; third, the lordship of the Holy Spirit; fourth, the need for personal conversion for everyone, including one’s own family members; five, the priority of evangelism for both individual Christians and the church as a whole; and then lastly, the importance of Christian community for spiritual maturity, for fellowship and for growth—the idea the lone person working out his salvation apart from being in a community with a fellowship of fellow believers is a truncated understanding of New Testament Christianity.
Now having talked about evangelicals, the subject is evangelicals and the Middle East, as I understand the title, with the focus on—as everything is in the Middle East—a focus on Israel.
Evangelicals as a group—and let me say that evangelicals are far more diverse and far more layered in their nuances than is commonly understood by the modern media. So I’m not speaking for all evangelicals. I think I can safely say that I’m speaking for a majority of evangelicals in saying that evangelicals have and do strongly support Israel.
Many of them do so for religious reasons. They believe that God has a special covenant relationship with the Jewish people; that that relationship has not been abrogated; that God has a covenant with Israel, and God has a covenant with the church, and they’re different covenants; and that God made certain promises to the people that are Jews, those who are the children of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, that he did not make to any other people, that they are his chosen people; and that the return of the Jewish people to the holy land in the 20th century is the beginning of a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.
Now, I want to be very careful to say that that does not mean that our support for the Jews, and our support for the Jews as God’s chosen people in that covenant relationship, means that we find that to be synonymous with the state of Israel. You notice I very carefully said the return of large numbers of the Jewish people to the holy land, as opposed to the state of Israel, and we certainly do not give blind acceptance of everything that the state of Israel does or has done. But we do support the first of the Jews to exist in the land that God gave to them without any time limitation.
There are other evangelicals who would be more reformed in their theology as opposed to those who would be less reformed, and evangelicals fall into certain categories. You have sort of the left-wing Methodist strain. You have the Calvinist reform strain. You have the Baptist strain, which is sort of in between the two. You have the charismatic and Pentecostalist strain, which is one of the most fastest-growing ones.
And you would get different answers from different groups and different people within those groups about that special covenant relationship. But I think it’s safe to say that a significant majority of the people who identify themselves as evangelicals believe that God gave the land of Israel to the Jews, and that God is a keeper of his promises, and that God has made a—God has said that God blesses those who bless the Jews and God curses those who curse the Jews, and that if we want America to be blessed by God, then we need to not be cursing the Jews.
This is one reason why I have found very little if any anti-Semitism, and I’ve been an evangelical and going to evangelical churches all my life. I have never heard an anti-Semitic comment, period—not one deacon, not one deacon’s wife, not one church member. In fact, when we have encountered it, we have said this is the most incomprehensible of all prejudices for someone who claims to be an evangelical Christian to be anti-Semitic. I mean, after all, Jesus was a Jew. The messiah is a Jew. And this is one reason why we find it so incomprehensible. But even among those who are in a more reformed tradition who would see the church as the new Israel, they still believe that in some sense there is still a covenantal relationship, and that we should as Christians support the Jews and their right of return.
And then secondly, and this is a strong—this is, I think, a strong emotion, a strong belief, and a strong assertion across the board for many evangelicals; I’d say the vast majority, at least in my experience—and that is we believe in what has sometimes been called American exceptionalism. We believe that—we do not believe—let me say what we don’t believe first. We don’t believe America is God’s chosen nation. We don’t believe America is a new Israel. But we do believe that God has providentially blessed this nation throughout her history, and a blessing by definition is something that’s undeserved, it’s a blessing; and that that doctrine is a doctrine of service and a doctrine of obligation, not a doctrine of pride and privilege.
In other words we believe that God for his own purposes has chosen to give much to America, and to whom much is given much is required. And that we have a special obligation and a special responsibility to be the friend of freedom, to be the defender of freedom, anywhere in the world; that it is part of our obligation as Christian citizens of this nation to do what we can to make certain that our government is not just a government of a nation with interests—although we are a nation and we do have interests, but we are also a cause, and that cause is freedom. That cause is freedom of conscience. That cause is human dignity. And that we want our government to be a force for those things in the world and to help those who aspire to those things anywhere in the world. And thus, we support Israel as the most stable and assertive democracy in the Middle East.
LUGO : Thank you. The shortest sermon you’ve preached, I’m sure, in a while, huh, Richard? Appreciate that.
Picking up a couple of points here—by the way, all of our Pew Research Center polling confirms your general description of evangelicals. On American exceptionalism they rate the highest. In fact, they emerge as the strongest internationalists of any American religious community; very strong pro-Israel; very close to Jewish Americans on that score; and very strong on viewing Israel and the Middle East more broadly through a biblical prism—you know, their understanding of biblical prophecy and Israel’s role within that. So that’s all very well documented.
I do have a couple of questions related to that, Richard. One of this question of the land. And it’s good to be asking Richard Land this question, actually, because I frankly expected to see a little bit more stirring among American evangelicals with respect to the current Israeli government’s policy on withdrawal from Gaza. Which raises the question, what is "the land" for evangelicals? How do they conceive of it? And under what circumstances would they oppose the Israeli government on the question of the land? I didn’t see as much on Gaza, so I’m curious for you to comment on that.
LAND: Well, first of all, you get different answers from different evangelicals. Trust me, we’re not—it’s like trying to herd cats. I mean, they do believe in the priesthood of the believer, and they take it really seriously. And there’s virtually no vertical structure in evangelicalism. It’s totally horizontal.
But I would say that my own denomination, Southern Baptist—we are the largest Protestant denomination. We have about 16.4 million members in 43,700 churches across the United States. And we’re encouraged that we’re growing by about 12 percent a year outside the South and 2 percent a year inside the South. We’d like to be doing better in the South, but we’re glad we’re doing 12 percent a year outside the South.
And I might add just as a matter of information, as late as 1970, unfortunately and sadly, we were by intentionality a virtually all-white denomination. As of 2004, we are 20 percent ethnic, and that is also by intentionality. We have about 750,000 African-American Southern Baptists, about half a million Hispanic-American Southern Baptists, and about a half a million Asian-American Southern Baptists. And we’re growing faster among ethnics than we are among Anglos.
I think when I’ve been asked that question by a lot of Southern Baptists, what my answer has been—and they seem pleased with it, and at least most of them haven’t, you know, thrown things at me—is that you don’t bless the Jews by asking more for the Jews than they’re asking for themselves. And if the Israeli government, elected by they Israeli people, believes that this is in the best interests of Israel and this is the best interests of the Jews who are in the land, then far be it from us to try to force upon them something that they think is counterproductive for themselves.
Secondly—and I would say this as an evangelical Christian myself—I believe that God gave that land to the Jews forever, and that ultimately the Jews will be all back in the land at some point in the future. But that’s something God’s going to do; it’s not something that America is going to do. It’s not something America is called upon to do.
And so I think you would get probably a minority, a vocal minority, and maybe 20, 25 percent of evangelicals who strongly support Israel are very disturbed by the withdrawal from Gaza and from the smattering of settlements on the West Bank, and who really want one Israel.
There are others, like myself—I had the opportunity to meet for two hours with Menachem Begin, and he made what seems to me—or not Menachem Begin, but Shimon Peres—and he seemed to me to be making arguments that made a lot of sense. He said, look, he said between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea there are 5.2 million Jews and 4.9 million Arabs. He said that’s fact number one. Fact number two is that we are not going to abandon being a democratic state. Fact number three, we are not going to abandon being a Jewish state. Well, if you’re going to fulfill all three of those things, then you have to have a two-state solution in which you have the Israelis—the Israeli Jews, and about—was it 1.7 million Israeli-Arabs living in a state called Israel; and the rest of the Palestinians living in a separate Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza.
That seems to me to be fairly clear. And I’m personally comfortable with that, particularly if a Palestinian state agrees to live at peace with her neighbor.
LUGO : Well, one thing is what the Israeli government tries to do; another is what kind of pressure the U.S. government brings to bear on the Israeli government on continuing this process beyond Gaza to the West Bank and even to Jerusalem. I mean, where is the tripwire there for evangelicals, maybe not with respect to the Israeli government, but with respect to the U.S. government?
I think I heard you once say that if there was one issue which could rupture the marriage between evangelicals and George W. Bush—by the way, evangelicals voted 78 percent for George W. Bush in the last election—it was the question of Israel. Weren’t you referring precisely to putting pressure upon the Israeli government to concede more land that it perhaps might be willing to?
LAND: I think that if the American—if our American government were perceived as putting pressure on the Israeli government to make decisions that it was felt by the Israeli people and their government to endanger their security, it would cause a serious and cataclysmic failure in the levee of support for George W. Bush or any American government that did that. It’s one thing for Sharon to say, you can’t occupy people forever, and to say that we ought to withdraw from Gaza and to seek a two-state solution. It is another thing for America—for the American government—to pressure the Israelis to make compromises on their security that they’re not comfortable with.
LUGO : I have heard the criticism often—I’m sure you have—the part of some who are skeptical, including within the Jewish community, of evangelical strong support for Israel. And the argument goes something like, evangelicals are pro-Israel and anti-Semitic. And by the latter they mean that the agenda here is to evangelize the Jews.
Now, you said that one of the defining features of evangelicalism is the priority of evangelism. Why aren’t Jews part of that basic mission?
LAND: They are.
LUGO : Well, so how does that fit, then, with what you are saying?
LAND: Well, you know, I get asked this question often, and my answer is quite simple. I respect all faiths. I respect people of no faith. I believe that for anyone to try to coercively interfere with a person’s relationship with their god as they understand god, to try to interfere coercively is soul rape, as Roger Williams put it in the 17th century, and I don’t think we’ve come up with a better phrase since.
Thomas Helwys, who was one of my Baptist ancestors, who was put in the tower of London and died there by the King of England in 1611, he wrote a book called, "The Mystery of Iniquity," which is the first plea in the English language for complete freedom of religion and said that the king, although he was a great king, was just a king and that mere kings didn’t have the right to try to tell individual human beings to whom they should—in whom they should believe or the deity they should worship. That should be an individual question of conscience. That was in 1611.
Having said that, I’m a Christian. I’m a Christian who believes in biblical authority. My faith has something in it called the great commission, that I’m to go into all the world and preach the gospel and to seek to evangelize people to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Now when people say to me, as they often do—I had a rabbi say to me last month—he said I appreciate your commitment to Israel. I appreciate your commitment to freedom of religion, but your insistence that you have the right to evangelize Jews offends me.
And I said, well, I can appreciate that. But if the price of respecting your faith is to disrespect mine, then it’s too high.
I don’t have the right to coercively try to get you to listen to the gospel. I don’t have the right to seek to manipulate you toward the gospel.
But I do have, I believe, a religious obligation to ask for the opportunity to share my faith. And you have to understand that for an evangelical Christian, the sharing of one’s faith in Jesus is an act of love, not an act of prejudice, not an act of hate. And we don’t just try to evangelize Muslims and Jews; we evangelize family members, not only children, but I witnessed to my grandfather. I witness about my faith in Jesus Christ to aunts and uncles and uncles-in-law and mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law because the great commission isn’t selective.
LUGO : One last question before we turn to the audience.
Our polling at the Pew Research Center also shows that evangelicals have the highest negative views of Islam and Muslims of any group in the United States by far.
Is this related to the Israel question? Or is there something larger at work there, including the question with which you are intimately connected, the issue of religious persecution beyond—in the Middle East and beyond?
LAND: I don’t think there is a single answer to that. I think that there’s—I don’t know when—if you’ve seen any difference in the polls. My guess is, you’ve seen a big difference in the polls since 9/11. I think it spiked. I didn’t—it existed before 9/11. I think it spiked a lot after 9/11.
I think it’s related to persecution of people—of non-Muslims in Muslim countries, the lack of freedom of religious expression in many Muslim countries, although not all. We need to hasten to point out that there are majority Muslim countries that do have freedom of expression. They just don’t usually happen to be countries that are Arabic in origin. Bangladesh, for instance, and Indonesia are certainly—they honor that in principle, and they seek to honor it in practice and are seeking quite bravely to do so.
I think it has to do with terrorism. I think it has to do with—unfortunately, a lot of evangelicals too easily equate radical Islamic jihadism with Islam. And you know, George W. Bush has taken a lot of heat from evangelicals for saying that Islam is a religion of peace.
And my response to that is that Islam, like Christianity, is a many-splintered thing. There are a lot of different kinds of expressions of Christianity, and there are a lot of different kinds of expressions of Islam. Unfortunately, the ones which—the one which most Americans are most concerned about and has been sort of front-page news is radical Islamic jihadism, which I’m told is not in any way, shape or form anything other than a small minority, although obviously a rather active minority within Islam.
And so I think that those are the contributing causes to it. You know, you have to understand that evangelicals really, really believe in religious freedom for everyone. They believe that a person’s freedom of conscience in matters of faith is sacred, and they are offended when anyone seeks to coerce it.
I think that probably even more important than the alliance that’s taking place between evangelicals and traditional Roman Catholics in America over the pro-life issue, in terms of cementing this very strong alliance that takes place across the country at community level between traditional Catholics and evangelicals, is the fact that in the wake of Dignitatus humanae, the encyclical in which the Catholic Church renounced coercion in matters of faith, that the Vatican has emerged as perhaps the most eloquent spokesperson in the last 30 years for religious freedom as the first freedom, a phrase that Jefferson used, as well—that it’s the first freedom.
And so whenever anyone, be it commissar in China or Vietnam or mullahs in Saudi Arabia, seek(s) to coerce people in faith and to not allow freedom of personal belief and expression of that belief, we are grievously offended.
LUGO : Thank you. Well, now it’s your turn. We would ask that you would wait for the microphone, which is coming around. If you could please stand, state your name and affiliation, and please keep your questions or comments concise so that we can get as many of you in as possible. The gentleman right here—
QUESTIONER: Thank you. David Apgar, Corporate Executive Board.
Two quick questions. First, since the 1940s, has there been a convergence between evangelicals and fundamentalists? I’d be interested to hear an update of the history since the introduction of the term evangelicals in this century.
And second, the primacy on freedom and human dignity would seem to be empty, if not backed up sometimes by force in a rough world. Can you generalize about evangelicals’ view toward war in support of evangelical objectives?
LAND: Well, in answer to the first question, no, there hasn’t been much convergence. I mean, you know, the fundamentalists who call Billy Graham a false prophet and used to boycott his crusades, evangelicalism has waxed as fundamentalism has waned, and especially when it comes to social engagement because one of the principles of fundamentalism is separation from culture, whereas one of the principles that caused evangelicalism to emerge as a movement was the call to follow our 18th and 19th century spiritual ancestors back into engagement with the culture because—you know, John Wesley and the 18th-century evangelicals were very much engaged in seeking to right social evils in 18th and 19th century culture, and the same was certainly true in the 19th century of evangelicals, particularly in the north.
And so, you know, Carl F.H. Henry, who is a towering figure in 20th century evangelicalism, probably our most prominent theologian, in 1948 called (sic) a book called, "The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism," in which he called for a conscious act of reengagement with American culture and was roundly and very, very harshly criticized by the fundamentalist movement for doing so.
Now, the only convergence has been that some elements of fundamentalism have joined—have taken the same position on some compelling social issues in the last 20 years, as evangelicals and have been willing to engage—reengage—the culture to a limited extent on those issues, like the sanctity of human life issue or the traditional marriage issue.
But no, the differences are—they define each other more often against themselves than with each other.
LUGO : Could you address quickly the second question, because it’s a very important one. I mean, in our polling evangelical support for the Iraq war, for instance, it’s consistently higher than the general population—strong support for democratization.
What about the use of U.S. force in pursuit of foreign policy objectives, including democratization in the Middle East?
LAND: And I would not say that we would justify the use of force in pursuit of evangelical objectives or even American objectives. We believe these are universal values, that we believe in our founding documents, that we believe that all men are created equal, and they’re endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And if that’s a jarring note to you, I would suggest that perhaps it is you who have changed, not we.
John Kennedy, in his 1961 inaugural address said that freedom was God’s gift to mankind, and here on earth, God’s work must be our own. I can’t even imagine what would happen if George Bush said the same thing today. John Kennedy, near the conclusion of his inaugural address, said that. Abraham Lincoln said that we were the last best hope of mankind. Woodrow Wilson talked about the war to end all wars. In our offices in Nashville we have Norman Rockwell’s posters of the four freedoms that appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, which we took to be universal values, not an attempt to impose American values, but universal values.
And in believing in American exceptionalism, I would say most evangelicals would argue that America was one of the chief, if not the chief, architect of most of the international organizations that were brought into being to try to protect human rights and promote peace in the world after World War II and that we should work through those. We should work—work through multilateral organizations, when possible. But when necessary—when necessary—if the multilateral organizations will not act and we have the capacity to act without overwhelming negative repercussions, we have an obligation to act.
I argued—I argued from every rooftop I could find in the early 1990s for American intervention in Bosnia, that we should do so with NATO, but if NATO would not do it—just because NATO wouldn’t grow a spine doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. And to me, the ultimate—the ultimate—poster, the ultimate symbol of multilateralism without American leadership, even in Europe, were those Dutch peacekeepers handcuffed around the trees while the Serbian thugs sorted out the Muslim men and boys to be taken out into the woods and shot in the worst case of ethnic cleansing since the end of World War II.
And I believe that America is culpable because we could have acted, and we didn’t. We’re culpable morally because we could have acted in Rwanda, and we didn’t. And just because the multilateral organizations wouldn’t go with us does not relieve us of the responsibility of acting when we had the capacity to act without overwhelming negative repercussions.
What do I mean by overwhelming negative repercussions? We’re not going to invade North Korea because under the principles of just war, that would fail the question of proportionality. But in every case, I would never see it as intervention to promote evangelical causes, but to promote freedom, human dignity and stopping the murdering and the butchering of innocent women and children. And I think we’ve seen two examples in the 1990s. I strongly supported Clinton in his intervention in Kosovo and thought it should have come sooner.
LUGO : Thank you, Richard.
Let’s go to this side, and let’s go to the back. So we’ll be always balanced here. Yes?
QUESTIONER: My name is—(inaudible). I’m an Arab journalist, and I want to thank you so much for what you have said. As a man of faith, I want to ask you about two things. I heard you talking about your interest in—your feeling offended when someone abused religious freedom and other—similar principles.
My question will be, why—as we see it from a Muslim point of view, why, like the evangelical leaders,—(inaudible)—like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and others not only disagree with them, but insult the Muslims, like insulting the prophet, insult the religion itself. I understand you disagree with someone, but why insulting it? Is this like—what kind of principle can explain this?
Second, the issue of Palestinian human rights, like if you support human rights, where the evangelical church, do you believe that the Palestinians’ human rights are violated, if yes or no, where are you? Why aren’t you speaking with them? How would you support like the state of Israel in supporting—in doing something that’s opposite your principles?
Finally, I would love to—
LUGO : All right, that’s two. That’s two.
QUESTIONER: Okay—if we can—just for now.
LUGO : Thank you. Those are two very meaty questions. So, Richard, what about prominent evangelical spokespersons like Falwell or Robertson? Franklin Graham also has made comments on Islam as a religion.
LAND: Well, I disagree with those statements, as do many evangelicals. You know, one of the definitions of a leader is they have followers, and some of the people you’ve mentioned have fewer followers each year.
I disagree with those statements. I thought that they were erroneous and wrong. I don’t think that you should define any religion as evil; I think you should describe actions as evil.
If Serbian thugs are killing Muslims in Bosnia in the name of religion, that’s evil. If Protestants—if terrorists calling themselves Protestants or Catholics—are killing each other in the name of religion in Ireland, that’s evil.
If children are being recruited as suicide bombers in the name of Islam, that’s evil.
You know, actions are evil. I don’t think that beliefs of religions can be characterized as evil because what you’re doing in the name of that religion and why you say you’re doing it.
Secondly, I think there should be more concern expressed. I have expressed it, and I think other evangelical leaders are beginning to express it about the lack of religious liberty, as we would define it, in the state of Israel for Palestinians and Jews.
And secondly, certainly we should be concerned about Palestinian rights as we would be concerned about anyone’s rights. I think evangelicals—most evangelicals—would support a democratic government elected by its people and accountable to its people on the West Bank, which would protect human rights.
And we’re concerned about Palestinian’s rights being trampled, whether they’re being trampled by Israelis or whether they’re being trampled by Palestinian authority groups since the control has been turned over to them.
I’m very concerned, for instance, about the number of Palestinian Christians who have felt compelled to leave the West Bank and Gaza since control was returned to the Palestinian authority because of an imposition of Intifada attacks because they didn’t support the Intifada. And the coercive sale of businesses at extremely reduced rates and the lack of access to holy sites.
So I can just tell you as one evangelical, I’m opposed to the violation of basic human rights whoever’s rights are being violated. Whether they’re Bosnian Muslims, whether they’re Palestinian Christians, Muslim Palestinians or agnostics anywhere in the world.
I think that we—everyone has a right—the universal—the U.N. universal declaration of human rights says that every human being has the inherent right to freedom of conscience in matters of faith and not only the right to believe, but the right practice or change that faith. It seems to me that should be our gold standard.
Now would I recommend our First Amendment system to the countries of the world? As an American, I would recommend it. I don’t have the right to try to impose it or require it. But I do have a right, as an American and as a citizen, to say that every nation in the world should respect the basic rights laid down in the U.N.’s universal declaration of human rights, which virtually every country in the world is a signatory to.
LUGO : Thank you. Let’s go back to this side. The gentleman in the middle over here? And then we’ll come back.
Again, stand up and identify yourself, please.
QUESTIONER: Amit Anginsor (ph), MTV Television (ph).
In terms of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, most probably toward obtaining nuclear weapons and your—in terms of your religious beliefs, do you think Iran should be attacked militarily?
LUGO : Very pointed question and concise. Thank you.
And by the way, our polling does show, Richard, that of all U.S. religious groups, evangelicals give the highest approval to preemptive war in precisely this situation. But don’t let that skew your answer in any way.
LAND: I would wish that we could do everything we could to help non-militarily. I—let me preface this by saying I strongly support the assist democracies act that has currently been passed by the U.S. House and is now before the U.S. Senate, which lays out a myriad of ways. I mean, the act is about that thick in single-spaced type, sponsored by Frank Wolf in the House and John McCain in the Senate, that would specify myriad ways—non-military ways—in which the United States government would seek to promote democracy and to promote freedom and promote representative government by assisting movements within those countries that are seeking it that do not have it.
And I would wish that the Iranian people can have an open and free internationally monitored election in which they could decide for themselves how they would be governed. And they would decide for themselves the laws under which they would be governed and that anyone who wanted to who was an Iranian citizen could participate freely in that process. That is obviously not the case in Iran at the present, much to the dismay of many Iranians.
I do not believe it is in the best interest of the world for Iran to develop nuclear weapons. I am comfortable with the process that is currently going forward to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons capabilities.
Would I under all circumstances not support a military option? No. I wouldn’t under all circumstances not support a military option. I would seek to do what I do in every case, which would be to apply the principles of just war to any use of military force.
It must first of all be a last resort. It must be a last resort.
Secondly, we would have to have compelling evidence there was an intent to use these weapons against other people if they were developed.
Third, you would have to weigh in the question of proportionality, whether or not the military attempt would end up causing more harm than it would alleviate. You know, those of you who are of a certain age will remember the dilemma in—the supposed dilemma in—Vietnam. You know, you have to annihilate the village to liberate it. And, of course, they don’t feel very liberated when they’re annihilated.
The—I think that Just War Theory is—Just War Theory does not make war a good thing. It just attempts to limit the use of armed force. And it attempts to point out that sometimes—sometimes—war is the least bad thing among the bad options that you have.
LUGO : Thank you.
LAND: I would just say that Just War Theory was never intended to mean you have to wait to be attacked first. I think John F. Kennedy was using—was well within just war parameters when he said to the Russians, we will not allow those missiles to remain in Cuba. They will be removed. If they are not removed, we will remove them, that that was such an imminent danger to the United States—a violation of the Monroe Doctrine—that it would have been justified to use a military force first in response to what was an act of war, in essence, which was the stationing of those missiles 90 miles from our shore.
My father was in the task force that left Pearl Harbor the week before Pearl Harbor to go and reinforce Midway and Wake Island. The carriers, fortunately, were with them so they didn’t get sunk.
My father was on his way—the task force of which he was a part—he was a 20 year-old sailor on a cruiser—when they heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor, they went looking for the Japanese fleet. They didn’t find it, which is probably a good thing because they would have been significantly outgunned.
But if they had run into the Japanese fleet, operated under radio silence, 150 miles from Pearl Harbor in December the 6th, they wouldn’t have waited for the Japanese planes to leave the deck before they attacked the Japanese fleet. And that was, I believe, to be within just war parameters. Being that close to Pearl Harbor, given the situation with—under radio silence, was an act of war.
LUGO : I, for one, was very pleased that the Cuban missile crisis was resolved as it was since I was living in Cuba at the time as a youngster and would not ever have gotten out and fulfilled my life’s purpose of being a member of the Council of Foreign Relations.
Okay. If you could come up a little bit. The young lady right there? Yes.
QUESTIONER: I’m—(inaudible)—Binanca (ph), Council on Foreign Relations in New York. I have two short questions for you regarding what you’ve just said.
You said in a previous column that the only defensive war is defensible. And I was wondering if you still considered that Iraq was a just war, even though the troops did not find weapons of mass destructions?
So can we consider that there was imminent danger?
And I wanted to know what do you think should be the three top priorities for evangelicals in their foreign policy agenda?
LUGO : Again, meaty questions. How about the Iraq war? In retrospect, no weapons. Would that meet just war criteria as you understand it?
LAND: For me, it does. You’ll get different answers from different evangelicals, although as Luis’ polling show evangelicals are still the segment of the American population that are most strongly supportive of the war.
For me, the Iraq war was a continuation of 1991, where we resisted the invasion of Kuwait and we stopped with a cease fire—not a peace treaty, but a cease fire—where Iraq agreed to meet certain conditions, none of which they met for 12 years.
And after 12 years, we picked up the cease fire and resumed the war. So clearly that would be a defensive war.
For me, weapons of mass destruction were a part of the justification for the liberation of Iraq. But it wasn’t the only justification. There were others that had to do with, you know, the president having said—and somehow, this gets missed a lot. I wish it would get noticed more.
The president said the way—in the wake of 9/11 the way we’ve been doing business in the Middle East as a government for the last 50 years has been wrong. We’ve been supporting governments that we wouldn’t live under—oligarchical, fascist governments that have shown little, if any, regard for the needs of their own people. And we did so first of all in the name of anti-Communism. And secondly, in the name of stable oil supply.
And this is a failed policy under Democratic and Republican presidents for a half a century. And it has helped to be a breeding ground for the kind of nihilistic, Islamic jihadism that we see that was—that came forth from those countries and that the only way to adequately deal with the terrorist threat is to help democratize the Middle East by helping to build stable governments that are representative of their people and are elected by their people.
And, you know, I think a compelling argument in his favor is what happened on January 30th—how quickly we forget. We have in this country what I would say are consequential elections. Whichever way you voted, I think you would have to agree, 1980 was a consequential election in this country about whether Ronald Reagan was going to be president or Jimmy Carter.
2004 was a real consequential election, in which the American people were called upon to make some very basic decisions about the direction they wanted this country to go. And yet, a higher percentage of Iraqis braved direct threats of retribution and of being blown up from machine guns to vote in their election than the percentage of Americans who voted in our election.
Let’s not forget the purple stained fingers. The year I was born was 1946. I’m the first year of the Baby Boom. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and I were born in the same year. And the mandarins of American foreign policy—far—many of them and a lot of editorial writers—some are from newspapers that are represented here—said the Japanese were a militaristic nation, a feudal nation, that would never accept democracy; that Germany was a militaristic nation where democracy had been tried and failed in Weimar and that we would never be able to construct a viable democracy in Germany.
Well, when we got around to asking the German people and the Japanese people without someone pointing a gun at them and threatening to shoot them if they disagreed, they produced two of the most stable democracies we’ve seen for over half a century.
I believe, as an evangelical and as an American, that people around the world, including Arabs, when they’re asked do you want a government that represents you and your family and is going to be accountable to you and is going to work for what’s in the best interest of you and your family as opposed to megalomaniac dreams of some sort? They will choose representative self government.
And I believe it is our obligation and our responsibility to help them when we can.
LUGO : Richard, could you comment quickly because our time is about the expire—
LAND: Yes, about the three top priorities—
LUGO : Yeah, what are the three top priorities, but please don’t consider this three points in a sermon.
LAND: I won’t.
LUGO : You know, and a poem at the end. Just—if you could just list them without must commentary for us.
LAND: Maximizing freedom and democracy in the world—as many self-governing democracies as possible. Self-governing democracies don’t have a habit of attacking self-governing democracies. I can only find one instance in the 19th and 20th century where that actually occurred. If you believe the Confederacy was a self-governing democracy, at least elected by white males, they attacked another government elected by white males at Fort Sumter.
Other than that, I can’t find another example of a self-governing democracy accountable to its people that attacked another self-governing democracy.
Secondly, maximizing of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience for all people everywhere, where people are guaranteed they will not be discriminated against and they will not be persecuted and they will not be terrorized because of their personal choices about their religious belief.
And then third, doing all that we can to alleviate the grinding poverty that still so—causes so much pain and suffering in so many parts of the world.
LUGO : We got a question without the microphone. But that’s fine. That includes Pakistan and Saudi Arabia he was saying.
LAND: Absolutely. I’m part of the U.S. commission that voted to make Saudi Arabia a country of particular concern and kept pestering our government until we finally did it.
LUGO : Thank you very much. You’ve been very patient. There’s never enough time for these things and many of our events of the Pew Forum.
Please join me in thanking Richard Land for being with us tonight. (Applause.)
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