Got Religion?

American foreign policy needs to get religion. By that I do not mean that there ought to be a religious litmus test for those in the Departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security. Nor do I mean that our soldiers and diplomats should proselytize to the citizens of nations to which they are assigned.  

What I mean is that our foreign policy establishment needs to “get” religion—understand it better—if it is to succeed in achieving its mission to protect America and, as the State Department website puts it, “create a more secure, democratic and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community.”

But I have very little faith that this can happen, especially now. That’s because our foreign policy is devised by secular elites who view religious belief as irrelevant abroad and inappropriate at home. 

In late February, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Task Force on Religion and the Making of U.S. Foreign Policy released the results of a two-year study of religion’s role in American foreign policy. 

The study, which got remarkably little mainstream press coverage, asserts that an “uncompromising Western secularism” feeds religious extremism and recommends that U.S. foreign policy engage more broadly with all religious communities. 

The report concludes, “The success of American diplomacy in the next decade will not simply be measured by government-to-government contacts, but also by its ability to connect with the hundreds of millions of people throughout the world whose identity is defined by religion.”

But how are the secularists who dominate the upper echelons of the federal government and other institutions (namely our schools and media) supposed to “connect with” foreign religious people when they cannot even properly acknowledge religion’s place in America?

There is a reason why polls show a majority of Americans believe the Democratic Party is unfriendly to religion. It’s because the liberals who inhabit it routinely attack the Christian basis of arguments against abortion and same-sex marriage, and constantly argue that religion has no place in the public square. 

It’s also because liberals’ favorite religious citation, it often seems, is not a Bible quote but a reference to the so-called separation of church and state. 

The Obama administration’s Department of Homeland issued a report last spring warning of the possibility of “right wing extremists.” That included military veterans, pro-lifers and “violent Christian Identity organizations.”

But violent Muslim identity organizations are nonexistent to this administration, even though a majority of the world’s armed conflicts involve Muslim governments or paramilitary groups on one or both sides of the fighting.

Despite all his globe-trotting as a youth, Barack Obama clearly does not understand the primary role of religion in the lives of most of the world’s people. The administration did all it could to ignore the crucial role of radical Islam in the motives of the Nigerian underwear bomber and the Fort Hood murderer. It blames terrorism on just about everything – GITMO abuse; poverty; even global warming – except an extreme version of the so called religion of peace. 

Obama believes he can cajole Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad into abandoning his nuclear program by not “meddling” as the Mullahs violently stamp out political dissent. Obama doesn’t understand that religion—not economic or political concerns—is paramount to Ahmadinejad’s and the Mullahs’ plans. They are Shiite fundamentalists who believe a Muslim messiah will soon appear to kill Jews and Christians.  

In Afghanistan, the administration is reportedly launching a program to lure members of the Taliban with cash payments and jobs. But as one jihadist told a Newsweek reporter, “If you’re committed to jihad, you won’t leave for a mountain of money.”

Newsweek interviewed many Taliban members, and “not one showed any interest in money or power-sharing deals.” Instead, “[t]hey insist they have a sacred duty to drive the invaders out of Afghanistan, return Mullah Omar’s self-proclaimed Islamic Emirate to power, and re-impose his merciless version of Islamic law through the land.”

The Obama administration’s repeal of the ban on open homosexuality in the military is emblematic of its tone-deafness about religion. Those who argued for its repeal said “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” led to the discharge of thousands of gays and lesbians, many of whom worked abroad as Arabic translators. 

But how prudent is it for the U.S. military to send openly gay and lesbian American translators to the Arabic world to work closely with devout Muslims, for whom homosexuality is anathema? 

The administration is so tone-deaf on religion that it spends millions of taxpayer dollars to push birth control and abortion at home and abroad on people who oppose it on religious belief. 

Not that we should be surprised. Most discussion of religion, even its crucial role in shaping history, has been purged from our education system at all levels. When Christianity is mentioned at all, it is only to underscore its supposed culpability in the alleged sins of America and the West. 

Secularists at Obama’s Harvard recently got religion expunged from the school’s core curriculum. According to the task force that revised the curriculum, the primary goal of a Harvard education is the pursuit of truth through rational inquiry. And, as Harvard’s chaplain told Newsweek, “my colleagues fear that taking religion seriously would undermine everything a great university stands for.” That’s an ironic reality for a university whose motto for more than 200 years was “For Christ and the Church.” 

To secular elites, religion is largely irrelevant to understanding the world today. But understanding religion, and engaging its adherents, is essential to comprehending the histories, cultures and politics of societies throughout the world. 

That’s true when you’re trying to pass healthcare legislation that would force Christian doctors to perform abortions. It’s also true when you’re fighting a war against an enemy motivated by the desire to violently install a worldwide Islamic caliphate. 

Whether the Obama administration and its allies like it or not, religion matters. For most people around the world, faith is not a punch line, it’s a way of life.