A speaker at the National Press Club called for making religion central to our foreign policy. He made a lot of sense at first, but then fell off the deep end:
The best way to address Jihadist terrorism is to make religion a central component of American foreign policy, according to Douglas Johnston, an expert on foreign policy and religion, who spoke at the National Press Club on June 23.
“We’re dealing with symptoms and not the real cause,” Johnston said in a critique of current U.S. policy. “And that’s the problem.”
The International Correspondents Committee hosted the event to coincide with the launch of Johnston’s new book, “Religion, Terror, and Error: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Challenge of Spiritual Engagement.”
The book argues that what is required today is a longer-term strategy of cultural and religious interaction, backed by a deeper understanding of how others, especially the Muslims, view the world and what is important to them.
As a first step, the State Department must immediately appoint religion officers at its embassies overseas, just like the military attaches, according to Johnston. They must be given a prominent role with clear-cut policy directives based on the fundamental American principle of tolerance and accommodation with other religions.
In this context, he suggested the experiment should begin at home with American Muslims. He lamented the fact that they feel alienated and shunned.
“It’s a shame that we’ve failed to embrace them wholeheartedly,” Johnston said.
As a first step, he said efforts should be made to arrange for Imams of mosques in America to deliver sermons at churches, and pastors should go to mosques to talk about their religion.
Johnston, who runs the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy in Washington, added that the whole approach should demonstrate the essence of what he called “organic suasion,” meaning “change and healing from within.”
He also advocated spreading Madrassa education with emphasis on critical thinking.
“We’ve got very positive results through our projects in Pakistan and how it can change the attitude of Madrassa students,” said Johnston, a former Naval officer and veteran of the intelligence community who holds a Ph.D. in political Science from Harvard.
Most of the panelists essentially agreed with Johnston’s premise, saying religion should take center stage, rather than a back seat, in the formulation of American foreign policy.
Arrange for Muslims to preach in Christian churches, and vice versa? The government would arrange that, as a “first step”? Surely it would be better for the government to keep religion in the back seat–or even persecute it–than to give it “center stage” in an inevitably syncretistic civil religion.
HT: Aaron Lewis