Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Conservative and Libertarian Christians: Worldview Allies or Enemies?

I am so glad my colleague Norman Horn, founder and President of the Libertarian Christian Institute (LCI), was given a chance to debate well-known evangelical leader and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President, Albert Mohler. Dr. Mohler has been outspoken in his opposition to libertarianism and the possibility of any compatibility between Christianity and libertarianism. This is the Libertarian Christian Institute after all, so of course we would have a thing or two to say about Dr. Mohler’s criticisms. The debate, hosted by Julie Roys on the Up For Debate radio program, provided an outstanding opportunity to correct some misconceptions and educate the listeners as to why LCI believes libertarianism is, in fact, the most consistent expression of Christian political thought.

One reason I was so pleased to learn of the debate, in addition to the increased exposure and educational opportunity brought about by the high profiles of Dr. Mohler and the Moody Radio Network, is that Mohler so closely represents the political views I held for most of my adult life. In addition, I am presently very close to Dr. Mohler theologically. Like Mohler, I am committed to Reformed soteriology and am a member of the Evangelical Theological Society. Although I was not raised a Southern Baptist, I have been a member of SBC churches for the past several years. Mohler is very popular with my fellow evangelicals, so I was hoping many of them would tune in and discover why they ought to seriously consider libertarianism. As someone who is a conservative-turned-libertarian I have a special affection for those who still hold so many of the political views I once held.

The debate transpired on Saturday, March 5, 2016. You can listen to the audio here. From the outset Dr. Horn was provided an opportunity to make a positive case for Christian libertarianism. There were technical difficulties so Julie Roys necessarily had to turn to Dr. Mohler who began to make his case against libertarianism. Unfortunately, this allowed Mohler the opportunity to frame the subject by casting libertarianism as a political philosophy that radically exalts liberty as the good above all other goods. How could individual liberty exist, he asked, as a good unto itself? Later he criticized the alleged libertarian idea that human liberty is the central exalted good that explains how other goods are derived. Mohler charged that, politically, the main thrust of libertarianism in America was expanding personal liberty at the expense of the question of virtue. Over and against this deficient libertarian worldview cast by Mohler, he explained that in a biblical worldview the chief end of man is to know God, to worship Him, and enjoy Him forever. He added we also demonstrate His glory and His good gifts to us by living faithfully before Him.

So Dr. Mohler immediately portrayed libertarianism in a way that no libertarian Christian would. Dr. Horn responded that we, of course, along with Mohler agree with the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms regarding the chief end of man. We agree that liberty is not a good unto itself. Of course it requires a moral framework. By no means are we driven by expanding personal liberty at the expense of virtue. Libertarianism, as we often say, is not libertinism. We are all operating from a biblical worldview and it is unfair to categorize libertarian Christians as operating outside of or contrary to a biblical worldview.

Granted, depraved man seeks to use his liberty to pursue fleshly desires so there will always be some libertarians who live accordingly. As libertarian Christians, however, we understand that liberty is not license. Just as we do not want to be characterized by those who abuse their liberty, conservative Christians should not have to answer for the immoral beliefs of all who claim the name conservative.

For example, according to one poll a very high percentage of conservative Republicans consider actions against suspected terrorists such as waterboarding, threatening to sexually abuse a prisoner’s mother, forcing a prisoner to stay awake up to 180 hours, and forced ice water baths to be torture. And yet, 7 in 10 Republicans think these actions are sometimes justified. Since about 50% of Republicans are highly religious it would be very reasonable for me to make the claim that my conservative brothers and sisters in Christ approve of torturing suspected terrorists. In fact, “69% of white evangelicals believe the CIA treatment [the actions cited above] was justified, compared to just 20% who said it was not.”

A main thrust of conservative Christianity embraces national security at the expense of the question of virtue, right? Making torture compatible with “Christian,” is going to be a tremendous challenge. Conservative Christians are associating themselves with a political movement that, at the very least, is uncertain as to whether human beings detained as suspected terrorists deserve protection. This is where we understand that the whole idea of Christian conservatism breaks down. (If you have listened to the interview, you can note that I am using Dr. Mohler’s own words to critique Christian conservatism in the same manner as he did Christian libertarianism.)

Charitable discussion among fellow Christians ought to allow us to concede that both conservative and libertarian Christians can hold a Christian worldview. At the very least, we understand that our opponents firmly believe that they hold to a Christian worldview. The difference between conservative Christians and libertarian Christians is a difference among Christians. Our divide is nothing like what we find in J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism:
“The Bible, to the Christian is not a burdensome law, but the very Magna Carta of Christian liberty. It is no wonder, then, that liberalism is totally different from Christianity, for the foundation is different. Christianity is founded upon the Bible. It bases upon the Bible both its thinking and its life. Liberalism on the other hand is founded upon the shifting emotions of sinful men.”
Our foundation is the same. Our thinking and our living is based upon Scripture and, I would add, particularly upon Jesus the Christ as revealed in Scripture. But, as Dr. Horn pointed out, only a subset of a Christian worldview deals with politics. The question is: how should Christians go about operating out of our comprehensive worldview when it comes to politics?

Libertarian Christians want individuals to embrace God’s will but the way to pursue this end is by convincing others through moral persuasion. This is the biblical approach. We proclaim, educate, and plead but we don’t resort to legal coercion through the political process. Just as we don’t coerce people to Christ, we don’t coerce them into not smoking, drinking, or going with girls who do.

Dr. Mohler raised the crucial issue of abortion. There is no doubt that atheistic or otherwise secular libertarians have a long history of advocating pro-choice positions but this is not “the” libertarian position. Libertarian philosophy does not require Christians to abandon their pro-life convictions. I will not explore the non-aggression principle (NAP) here but, briefly stated, the NAP states that people should be allowed to do what they will so long as it they do not execute aggression (initiate force) upon another person. Libertarian Christians agree: the un-born baby is a person! A woman’s right to control her own body does not permit her to commit aggression against the person within her.

Mohler criticized the libertarian movement as being at best confused over abortion and, at its extreme, arguing against any kind of mutual obligation in this sense. But what of the conservative movement? The vast majority of conservatives, for example, favor legal exemptions allowing abortion in cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother. Dr. Mohler would say that a biblical worldview would not allow for any compromise on this matter of grave consequence. The larger set of principles of morality that would inform Christians on this issue affirms the obligation to protect life at all stages from conception onward.

The conservative movement, of which Mohler is a part, clearly compromises on this grave issue by favoring these exemptions. Mohler said he wouldn’t want anything to do with a position that is unclear and not absolutely certain that an unborn human being is indeed to be protected and that aggression against an unborn human being is a matter of gravest moral consequence. Isn’t conservatism a political movement that is communicating uncertainty here? If the unborn human being is actually a full person, why allow exemptions? Should we call the entire conservative movement into question over this compromise? Of course it would be unfair to dismiss an entire movement over this disagreement just as it is unfair for Mohler to dismiss the libertarian movement over disagreements on abortion. Libertarian and conservative Christians enjoy tremendous common ground on this issue. We ought to celebrate that fact and cooperate in our common cause.

There is much more to be said about the issues touched upon in the debate between Drs. Mohler and Horn. Other articles from my colleagues at LCI and elsewhere will be forthcoming. In the meantime, I would encourage Dr. Mohler to take a second look at what libertarian Christians actually believe. Mohler considers libertarianism to be a fringe movement forever condemned to irrelevance. But to the contrary, right now more and more of his politically conservative brothers and sisters in Christ are switching sides to libertarianism. Christian libertarians have plenty to say about the deficiencies of Mohler’s conservative movement from a biblical worldview. Perhaps as we debate the merits of our respective political movements we can approach it knowing that iron sharpens iron, and so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17) rather than as a fight between those who hold to a biblical worldview and those who do not.

Jeff Wright, Jr. is a Chaplain in a "city of lost souls" and holds a Master of Theology (ThM) from Dallas Theological Seminary. His other areas of interest include the kingdom of God, American evangelicalism, the ministry of the local church, obstacle course racing, and all things Star Wars. He blogs at JeffWrightJr.com and the Libertarian Christian Institute. You can also find him @jeffwrightjr.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Pro-Life At Home But Not Abroad

Christians Need To Broaden Their Pro-Life Horizons

Conventional wisdom says that a Republican candidate for President will almost certainly not win the nomination unless they are sufficiently pro-life. Mitt Romney and now Donald Trump have gone to great lengths to convince voters that, despite their past track records and public statements, they are, in fact, solidly pro-life. Every GOP candidate, except Gov. George Pataki who never had a realistic chance partly due to his position on abortion, has proudly highlighted their pro-life credentials.

Conservative organizations such as National Right to Life and the Susan B. Anthony List regularly maintain pro-life score cards which are widely disseminated among Christians. National Right to Life’s current scorecard lists 11 areas of concern in the U.S. House of Representatives for the 114th Congress including bills such as the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 7) and Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (20-week abortion ban).

All of the pro-life scorecards focus on abortion and the public funding of abortion. Depending on the congressional agenda from year to year some may address other issues such as euthanasia or infanticide. But one huge, glaring area of concern that goes unmeasured is foreign policy.

A nation’s foreign policy ought to have tremendous bearing for those of us who are passionately and rightly engaged with the issues of justice we refer to as “right to life” and “pro-life.” Pro-life organizations do address foreign policy from time to time but only when it touches upon abortion such as foreign aid to organizations that promote abortion or abortion on military bases. A case can be made, however, that the entire paradigm of what we consider to be pro-life can be expanded to include areas of foreign policy, particularly war and interventionism.

Expanding the boundaries of what is considered to be pro-life is not a new concept. For years the religious left and others have argued that pro-life continues “outside the womb too.” This was a line of reasoning used recently by Gov. Chris Christie as he argued for more funding for drug treatment programs. This approach has been used by progressives who opposed the war in Iraq. Many of the individuals using this argument were pro-abortion (or whatever alternative term they prefer) and ceased their anti-war efforts once a Republican was no longer in office, despite continuing aggressive efforts by the party they supported.

While the pro-life label could arguably be attached to several causes beyond abortion, war has the most glaring, lethal consequences for human life. In my experience, those who are ardently pro-life are often also enthusiastically pro-war. Perhaps they wouldn’t say they are pro-war. They might say they hate war but are for a strong “defense” and “security.” Regardless of the verbiage, they largely support the neo-conservative platform of interventionism, regime change, and perpetual war. A quick glance at the presidential race easily confirms this.

A telling example can be found among the fervently pro-life Christian supporters of Marco Rubio. They tell us that Rubio is the strongest pro-life candidate in the race and they may be right. They cite his eloquent response to an atheist voter and his heartfelt prayer for a man who collapsed at one of his rallies. In the eyes of many Christian voters, he’s the real deal. What I never see discussed by these supporters, however, is that Marco Rubio is also the leading proponent of the continuation and expansion of the foreign policy that has caused so much death and destruction in recent decades.

I am merely using Rubio as an example, and will not take the time to detail his foreign policy here. The point is to observe the terrific disconnect between domestic policy and foreign policy in the minds of purportedly “pro-life” Christians. Libertarian Christians have much to offer in this area. How so?

The mission statement of National Right to Life, for instance, begins: “The mission of National Right to Life is to protect and defend the most fundamental right of humankind, the right to life of every innocent human being from the beginning of life to natural death.” Notice these key elements: “right to life,” “every innocent human being,” and “beginning of life to natural death.” There is tremendous space for common ground here among conservative and libertarian Christians. I would simply encourage my conservative brothers and sisters in Christ to take these concepts which are intended to refer to abortion, infanticide, assisted suicide and euthanasia (as per NRLC’s own website) and also include war.

The effects of war in general and the recent U.S. military interventions in the Middle East in particular should be obvious to anyone by now. Countless innocent civilians have been killed. America’s regime change agenda has resulted in even more murder, rape, and oppression which has robbed innocent human beings of “the most fundamental right of humankind, the right to life of every innocent human being from the beginning of life to natural death.”

Yet pro-life Christians are enthusiastically supporting candidates for President who are calling for larger numbers of American troops on the ground, more aid to local fighters, expanded airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, and the arming of Sunni tribal and Kurdish forces. Some are even calling for the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad in Syria despite the disastrous results of regime change in neighboring countries such as Iraq. The folly of such approaches recently came to light with the news that U.S.-backed Syrian rebels are currently fighting U.S.-backed Kurdish units. Not only that but U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters are in open conflict with the U.S.’s NATO ally, Turkey. These are just two of the most recent revelations of the counter-productive results of U.S. military intervention.

The problems are not just confined to the actions of political leaders. Pro-life and Christian leaders themselves have also taken steps to undermine the right to life overseas. In a call to action referred to as Iraq Rescue, several influential Christian leaders signed on to a statement that included the following proposals:

“We call upon President Obama and the Congress of the United States to expand airstrikes against ISIS/ISIL with a view to eroding its military power, and to provide full air support for Kurdish and other forces fighting against ISIS/ISIL.  Further, we endorse the Washington Post’s call for the United States to provide arms, ammunition, and equipment to Kurdish forces, Sunni tribesmen, and others who are currently hampered in their ability to fight ISIS/ISIL by a lack of sophisticated weapons and other resources.  The U.S. should also assist with intelligence. We are hopeful that local forces, with adequate support and assistance from the U.S. and the international community, can defeat ISIS/ISIL.”

These are the same tried and failed options that continue to undermine the right to life in Middle Eastern countries. The signers of Iraq Rescue want military intervention in order to protect the innocent people who are being slaughtered by ISIS, but they fail to realize they are supporting the very actions that gave rise to ISIS in the first place (which I have addressed here).

Being pro-life is not limited to fighting for the rights of pre-born babies and the right to life extends to all human beings, not just Americans. If more pro-life Christians would become aware of what is happening in the Middle East and see how our government’s policies are directly undermining “the most fundamental right of humankind,” we could begin to see some real change toward a more life-affirming foreign policy. An election year is a good time for pro-life Christians to ask themselves, “Am I pro-life when it comes to foreign policy? What would it look like for me to be not just pro-life and anti-abortion but also pro-life and anti-war?” As you consider these questions, please visit the Resources page of the Libertarian Christian Institute and Libertarians for Life to give you more food for thought.

Jeff Wright, Jr. is a Chaplain in a "city of lost souls" and holds a Master of Theology (ThM) from Dallas Theological Seminary. His other areas of interest include the kingdom of God, American evangelicalism, the ministry of the local church, and all things Star Wars. He also blogs at Libertarian Christian Institute. You can find him @jeffwrightjr.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Religious Purity Tests Not Working So Well For Christian Conservatives

Erick Erickson just doesn't know which Jesus Jerry Falwell, Jr. is worshiping.

Over at Ted Cruz's new campaign site, I mean, Erick Erickson's new website, The Resurgent, Erickson expressed his concern that Falwell just hasn't thought through how to reconcile his faith with his politics like Erickson has.

He doesn't like that Falwell said of Trump, "Look at the fruits of his life and…people he’s provided jobs…that’s the true test of somebody’s Christianity." After clarifying that he's not questioning Trump's faith Erickson adds, "What I do question is whether Jerry Falwell is so intent on finding a savior for America that he’s descended to worshiping flag waving, America Jesus and not the actual Jesus who carries a banner for truth, not for the Grand Old Party or even America."

I don't care for Falwell's "true test" either. And I have problem with "America Jesus." But I also have a problem with the double standards Christian conservatives are applying when it comes to their religious purity tests for presidential candidates.

Erickson praying with Cruz. Credit: AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez.
Erick Erickson's guy, Ted Cruz, just made a severe theological faux pas in New Hampshire yesterday. According to The Dallas Morning News,
At every point on his tour, Cruz asked voters to pray for him and the country, using one of Ronald Reagan’s favorite Bible verses, 2 Chronicles 7:14, as inspiration.

“If my people, which are called by my name, would humble themselves and pray, and seek my faith and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear their prayers and will forgive their sins and I will heal their land,” he said.
So Ted Cruz just equated biblical Israel with America.* Talk about a flag-waving America Jesus! When you're working more and more in your own life to make sure you're worshiping the actual Jesus and not a political Jesus you concern yourself with questions like, "Who is 'my people' in this verse?" "What is 'their land'?" If the answer is "Americans" and "the United States" its time to put in a little more work. I hope Erickson isn't "upping his skirt" just a bit more for Ted Cruz. If America Jesus is no good for Donald Trump, its no good for Ted Cruz either.

Russell Moore of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Comission (ERLC) continues to be highly disturbed by the candidacy of Donald Trump. Trump is twice-divorced. He "destroys families" with his casinos. Unlike Erickson who wanted to be explicitly clear that he was not questioning Trump's faith, Moore knows that Trump is "lost."
Portraying this lost soul as a brother in Christ is not only doing wrong to Trump himself, it preaches an anti-gospel to all who hear.
However, Dr. Moore is no stranger to lowering this theological standards when it suits him. During the 2012 presidential election, Moore explained why it was acceptable for evangelicals for vote for Mitt Romney, a Mormon. Moore said,
The question is not John 3:16 in terms of reading the regeneration of the person's heart. The question is Romans 13: Does this person have the kind of wisdom to bear the sword on behalf of God's authority that He has granted to the state? And can I trust that person to protect society? That's the fundamental question.
Apparently things have changed a bit since 2012. For Romney the "fundamental question" was wisdom in bearing the sword and assurance of protection. Now regeneration of the person's heart is back on the table and Moore knows Trump's heart is not regenerated.

In a panel discussion, Moore went on to make other declarations that would presumably apply, not only to Mitt Romney in 2012, but also to Donald Trump in 2016:
Moore added, "We are going to have to give up -- on both sides -- the idea of president as religious mascot." An Obama-Romney campaign, Moore said, is a "good thing for American evangelicals."
"It enables us to simultaneously honor the king," he said, alluding to 1 Peter 2:17, "and to boldly proclaim the Gospel -- in a way that we see happening all through the Book of Acts. We are able to love and pray for President Obama while we disagree with him on life and religious liberty and marriage and some really important things. ...
"And if a President Romney is elected, we're the people who ought to be able to say, 'We respect and honor this man as president. We're able to ... serve with this man as president, and we're the people who are willing to -- if we're invited into the Oval Office -- say, 'President Romney, here's where we agree with you; here's what we like about what you're doing. And we sincerely want to plead with you to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ." 
Is the President to be a religious mascot now four years later? What has changed? If Trump is a "lost soul," can't Moore serve with this man as president, tell him where he agrees with him, and then sincerely plead with him to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Moore is rightfully very concerned about religious liberty. "What will matter to evangelicals [in 2016] is how the candidate, if elected president, will articulate and defend religious-liberty rights." Trump addressed the matter with the Iowa Faith and Family Coalition: "'I will protect… because we’re not being protected,' Trump said, referencing Christians and religious liberty. He said his first priority if elected President of the United States would be to 'preserve and protect our religious liberty.'" First priority. Isn't that what Russell Moore wants?

It appears that Christian conservatives want to move the goal posts depending upon which players are out on the field. Are we simply looking for character? A defender of religious liberty? A wise leader to skillfully bear the sword? What's good for one election ought to be good for the next, or so one would think. What's good for Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz ought to be good for Donald Trump.

If we, as evangelicals, are supposed to look for people of character, perhaps we need to hear Erickson or Moore speak to the character of the leader who will carpet bomb enemies into oblivion until the sand glows, or of the intrepid executive who can eloquently describe civilians killed in the line of fire as "collateral damage." Does that speak to a candidate's character or is that merely worldly wisdom in bearing the sword and "protecting society"? The answer to that question, among others, would shed much light on the subject of flag-waving America Jesus versus the actual Jesus who carries a banner for peace and truth.

*To read more on the identity of biblical "Israel" see:
How I "Stand With Israel!"
Christians Love Them Some Israel! Why?
He Said What?! More on the Identity of "Israel"

This post originally appeared at the Libertarian Christian Institute.

Jeff Wright, Jr. is a Chaplain in a "city of lost souls" and holds a Master of Theology (ThM) from Dallas Theological Seminary. His other areas of interest include the kingdom of God, American evangelicalism, the ministry of the local church, and all things Star Wars. He blogs at JeffWrightJr.com and the Libertarian Christian Institute. You can also find him @jeffwrightjr and facebook.com/PursuingTruth.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

On White Privilege II

Race, Injustice, and the Single Garment of Destiny

Despite what Macklemore says, we honor people when we actually afford them the dignity of being responsible for their own successes and shortcomings. We dishonor people when we invent special rules for (socially and politically constructed) groups which lower expectations for them. Not only is it dishonoring, it is racist.

"Choosing our options," rather than being a privilege, is a reality for each individual. How degrading and harmful it is to imply to someone that they have no choice. Life never has been and never will be "fair." Each one of us makes choices from where we stand today.

As the 1%ers of the world, I suppose all Americans are blessed with privilege while the rest of the world is left with scars. As the privileged global 1%, what choices are you making that will determine what you achieve? But I'm gonna be me so please be who you are.

"Should I even be here marching?" "Is it okay for me to say?" Have we (are we "we"?) regressed to the point where these are serious questions?

He might not have been a hip-hop/pop artist but a decent lyricist from a previous era wrote,
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
Damn, a lot of opinions. A lot of confusion. It's almost as if this ground hasn't been tread before.

If we spent less time othering one another into ever-narrowing constructs and more time honoring the gains of previous generations we could skip already-answered questions and take action. What if you actually read an article, had a dialogue, looked at yourself, got involved? Psst, no one is stopping you. The narrow, provincial "outside agitator" question has already been answered.

Our generation has created an entire industry out of undermining the network of mutuality and tearing apart the single garment of destiny. We were all many steps ahead to begin with before we chose to undo progress by proudly segregating ourselves into narrow, provincial social constructs of victimhood. Now our artists are riddled with angst over whether they can speak out about injustices against another race.

Success is not the product of white supremacy and lack of success does not make one a victim. The dark clouds of racial prejudice will not soon pass away while so many are committed to deepening the fog of misunderstanding and locking us into, rather than lifting us from, our fear drenched communities.

Jeff Wright, Jr. is a Chaplain in a "city of lost souls" and holds a Master of Theology (ThM) from Dallas Theological Seminary. His other areas of interest include the kingdom of God, American evangelicalism, the ministry of the local church, and all things Star Wars. He also blogs at Libertarian Christian Institute. You can find him @jeffwrightjr.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Getting to the Root of ISIS and the Syrian Refugee Crisis

A Response to Russell Moore’s “Why Christians Must Speak Out Against Donald Trump’s Muslim Remarks”.

The least courageous act in American politics right now has got to be denouncing Donald Trump. Who hasn’t taken their turn explaining why Trump is supposed to be The Worst Person in the World™? President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Russell Moore, weighed in with his “Me Too!” last week with the twist of positioning his denouncement as a defense of religious liberty. Moore doesn’t want the state to curtail the liberties of Muslims because then the state may infringe on the liberties of Christians next. He wants the state to provide security and order “but we must not trade soul freedom for an illusion of winning.”

I first have to give an obligatory statement since there are some who think that anything less than a full-throated attack on Trump must imply support for him: this post is not a defense of Trump or any of his pronouncements. I’m more interested in what religious leaders like Moore choose to spend their personal influence and political capital on.

In pronouncements like these, Moore seems to be at least partially motivated by his long-term project of giving the SBC a public relations makeover. We may be conservative Christians, but we’re not that kind of conservative Christian! I suppose denouncing Trump assists Moore in continuing to pivot away from the old Religious Right/Moral Majority movement with which the ERLC was associated under its predecessor, and towards a more Millennial-friendly form of engagement.

Another aside before I address my main concern, Mark Krikorian at National Review points out that under 8 USC §1182:
Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate. Legality does not equate to morality. However, if Moore is concerned that Trump’s proposal is such a detriment to “soul freedom,” perhaps he should call for the repeal of this provision of the law.
One last aside: other candidates such as Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or Rand Paul will likely call for some sort of temporary restriction on individuals coming from “high-risk” or “war-torn” regions – but not all Muslims. If those restricted regions are places like Syria, Iraq, Libya, etc., then such a measure would have the effect of banning law-abiding Muslims from entry into the United States. Will Dr. Moore also denounce these candidates, or will the rhetorical emphasis on “high-risk” rather than “Muslim” be enough to satisfy Dr. Moore’s concerns about religious liberty?

My main concern is that Dr. Moore is merely denouncing one particular possible solution to one particular consequence of a much larger catastrophe.

Why is there a Syrian refugee crisis? People are fleeing to Europe and America because ISIS is terrorizing the region and causing these individuals to escape and seek safe refuge. Why is ISIS doing this? According the 2014 statement of IraqRescue.org, A Plea on Behalf of Victims of ISIS/ISIL Barbarism in Iraq, a statement endorsed by Dr. Moore,
The so-called Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS/ISIL) is conducting a campaign of genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and others in Iraq. In its fanatical effort to establish a caliphate, ISIS/ISIL has engaged in crimes against humanity by deliberately causing mass starvation and dehydration, and by committing unconscionable acts of barbarism against noncombatants, including defenseless women, children, and elderly persons. 
So, ISIS wants to establish a caliphate, but why is this happening now? Why had we never heard of ISIS prior to the last couple of years? The statement from IraqRescue.org hints at the answer:
It is also worth bearing in mind that our own nation is not without responsibility for the plight of victims of ISIS/ISIL genocide. What is happening to these people now, and the further threats they face, would not be happening but for errors and failures of our nation’s own in Iraq. This can and should be acknowledged by all, despite disagreements we may have among ourselves as to precisely what these errors and failures were, and which political and military leaders are mainly responsible for them. The point is not to point fingers or apportion blame, but to recognize that justice as well as compassion demands that we take the steps necessary to end the ISIL/ISIS campaign of genocide and protect those who are its victims. 
The cited “errors and failures” occurred, obviously, during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent withdrawal in 2011. The authors of the statement acknowledge that the rise of ISIS can at least partially be attributed to U.S. intervention in Iraq. Why did the U.S. invade Iraq to begin with? Depending on who you ask, the answers range from “WMDs” to “blood for oil” to “9-11.” Generally speaking, the Americans who supported the war in Iraq were convinced of the importance of “hitting them over there before they hit us over here” despite whatever official reasons were cited for invading Iraq.

But why would “they” hit “us” over here? Why did al-Qaeda attack the United States on 9-11-2001? None of these events occurred in a vacuum. A common reason cited at the time, and is still believed today, is that the extremists “hate us for our freedoms.” They hate us for our western values. They won’t stop until Shariah law and a global caliphate are fully established worldwide. But American freedoms and western values have been established for centuries, so why would Islamic extremists choose that particular moment in history to strike?

A useful summary of known motives for 9-11 is noted on Wikipedia:
“In Osama Bin Laden’s November 2002 ‘Letter to America’, he explicitly stated that al-Qaeda’s motives for their attacks include: Western support for attacking Muslims in Somalia, supporting Russian atrocities against Muslims in Chechnya, supporting the Indian oppression against Muslims in Kashmir, the Jewish aggression against Muslims in Lebanon, the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia, US support of Israel, and sanctions against Iraq.” [see page for various citations] 
One phrase arguably captures Bin Laden’s stated reasons for attack: America’s foreign intervention.

America was “hitting them over there” long before 9-11. The First Gulf War began in 1990 after Saddam Hussein invaded and annexed Kuwait, placing the Iraqi military within striking distance of the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. President George H.W. Bush deployed U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia, along with others from a 34-nation coalition. President Bush promised Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd that the troops would be withdrawn once the war to free Kuwait was ended. That promise was not kept. In 1990 the United Nations Security Council also adopted Resolution 661 which imposed economic sanctions on Iraq that lasted for over a decade. American intervention in the Middle East stretches much further back including, for example, the U.S.’s admitted role in the assassination of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq in 1953.

When an average American says we’re “fighting them over there,” “them” means terrorists, Islamic radicals, religious zealots. However, the record of what the U.S. is actually doing “over there” suggests something quite different. The United States has actually been opposing secular, non-Islamist regimes in Iraq, Egypt, Libya, and Syria resulting in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and the ongoing efforts to overthrow Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

During these campaigns the United States has actually found common cause with various groups of “rebels” in the regions, sometimes consisting of al-Qaeda affiliates and, of course, Islamic extremists. The U.S. has armed, trained, and financed various “rebel” groups in order to bring about regime change in these nations. The rise of ISIS itself came about largely because of American intervention in the region, as the signers of “Iraq Rescue” admit. Among America’s allies, wealthy financiers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar are funding ISIS and the Al Nusra Front in order to help Sunni Muslims “suffering under the atrocities of the Assad regime.” Another American ally, Turkey, is suspected of being complicit in the sale of ISIS oil which provides millions of dollars to the organization. And going back to the Soviet-Afghan War of 1979-89, American support of the Mujahideen and Osama Bin Laden is well-known.

What’s the point of the history lesson? And what does this have to do with Russell Moore’s call to denounce Donald Trump’s proposal to close the borders to Muslims? All of this is important because the issue of what to do with refugees and other migrants from the Middle East and beyond is not an isolated problem. Only so much good can be accomplished by deciding how best to handle the refugees apart from understanding what’s causing the refugees in the first place. The rise of ISIS (including “homegrown” sympathizers) and the subsequent Syrian refugee crisis are directly related to the U.S.’s foreign policy commitment of interventionism.

“Fighting them over there” is a myth. The U.S. has repeatedly sided with Islamist extremists in order to carry out its policy of regime change. Once regime change is accomplished, everything changes and the temporary allies become enemies. Rebels become terrorists. The people we financed, armed, and trained are now using all of this against us. This dynamic has directly led to the rise of ISIS which has caused the mass exodus of refugees from Iraq and Syria. The answer to these related challenges is not more war and more intervention. The interventionist policies of the Unites States government is directly related to all of these problems in the first place.

A final word concerning liberty. Dr. Moore rightly champions the cause of religious liberty for all people, but what about the rest of our liberties? Moore makes two contradictory statements regarding freedom and liberty:
The U.S. government should fight, and fight hard, against radical Islamic jihadism. The government should close the borders to anyone suspected of even a passing involvement with any radical cell or terrorist network. But the government should not penalize law-abiding people, especially those who are U.S. citizens, for holding their religious convictions. 
Moore also states,
We are in a time of war, and we should respond as those in a time of war. But we must never lose in a time of war precious freedoms purchased through the blood of patriots in years past. We must have security, and we must have order. But we must not trade soul freedom for an illusion of winning. 
“But the government should not penalize law-abiding people.” That’s a big “but.” Surely Dr. Moore can see that the entire War on Terror has been one long exercise in penalizing law-abiding people with warrantless wiretapping, torture, kidnapping, detention, the expansion of the surveillance state, seemingly random no-fly lists, the Patriot Act itself along with the abuses of the act, the end of habeas corpus rights, and more.

All of this has been done in the name of fighting radical Islamic jihadism. All of this has been done in the name of responding as those in a time of war. Civil liberties are being lost in the name of security and order. Preserving religious liberty is much easier to accomplish when we protect all of our liberties.

I encourage Christian leaders such as Dr. Moore along with all Christians to examine the root causes of our present challenges with ISIS and the Syrian refugee crisis. These are not isolated incidents and cannot be treated as such. More war is not the answer. More intervention consistently makes things worse, not better. Denounce reckless, demagogic rhetoric if you want. But don’t stop there. Denounce the actual actions, not just rhetoric, of the politicians whose policies have resulted not only in the loss of religious liberty but also in the wanton destruction of innumerable lives in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere in the Middle East.

This article originally appeared at the Libertarian Christian Institute.