Raising Our Sights

During a state visit to Great Britain last week, President Bush, as was expected, defended his Iraq policy. The president, noting with blunt honesty that past policies in the Middle East have failed, portrayed the war as part of a larger effort to defeat terrorism and bring democracy to the Islamic world. What wasn't expected were the examples Bush invoked as he so eloquently made his case. It's hard to imagine a more historic setting for the speech: the Banqueting House in Whitehall Palace under ceilings painted by Peter Paul Reubens. If the setting was ornate, his message was plain: We are fighting a war against "evil in plain sight." He told the distinguished audience of foreign policy experts that the duty America and her allies face is a moral duty. It may have political and military ramifications, but it always comes down to the obligation to protect ourselves and others from "a chaotic world ruled by force." Because we believe in the "God-given dignity of every person," the president said, our "mission" goes "beyond the balance of power or the simple pursuit of interest." God. Moral. Mission. These are words that set sophisticates' teeth on edge. However, the president embraced them. He said that "Americans have, on occasion, been called moralists who often speak in terms of right and wrong." Where did this come from? It was, he said, "inspired by . . . the tireless compassion of Lord Shaftesbury, the righteous courage of [William] Wilberforce" -- both evangelical politicians, I might note -- "and the firm determination of the Royal Navy over the decades to fight and end the trade in slaves." That is, the source of courage, compassion, and determination is Christianity. The president traced a line from English Christianity to our own: "It's rightly said that Americans are a religious people," he told his audience. "That's, in part, because the 'Good News' was translated by Tyndale, preached by Wesley, lived out in the example of William Booth." An appeal to morality in the notoriously amoral world of foreign policy is enough to raise eyebrows and prompt snickers, particularly in Europe. Invoking religion, especially Christianity, in a positive way is beyond the pale. Yet that's what the president did. Why? Because he understands something that the experts don't: America's idealism and our willingness to come to the assistance of others are rooted in our religious beliefs -- specifically, the evangelical Protestant beliefs that shaped this nation from the start. You don't have to endorse every action taken by the U.S. abroad-who does? But you must acknowledge that America has been a force for good in the world. Our idealism, which has prompted us to get involved when others, particularly in Europe, stayed on the sidelines, is the product of a worldview shaped by our Christian heritage. That's why this president, regardless of what his critics may think, was right to acknowledge the connection. What he's asking of us can't be justified solely by an appeal to self-interest. In order to deal with the "evil in plain sight," we must see the evil, call it by name, and have the courage to confront it. Those are skills we learned from the likes of the great Christian abolitionist William Wilberforce. Please call us here today for a copy of this speech (1-877-322-5527). It's one you need to read, and you probably won't see it in your local press. For further reading and information: "President Bush Discusses Iraq Policy at Whitehall Palace in London," White House Office of the Press Secretary, 19 November 2003. Learn about the Wilberforce Forum. Clifford D. May, "Bush Plays the Palace," National Review Online, 19 November 2003. Claudia Rosett, "Is Iraq like Vietnam?Wall Street Journal, 19 November 2003. Janice Shaw Crouse, "Founding Mothers," National Review Online, 20 November 2003. BreakPoint Commentary No. 031103, "Mankind Is Our Business." BreakPoint Commentary No. 030929, "The Other Terrorists." Kevin Belmonte, Hero for Humanity: A Biography of William Wilberforce (NavPress, 2003). William Bennett, Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism (Doubleday, 2002). Victor Davis Hanson, "Classics and War," Imprimis, February 2002. Michael Novak, On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding (Encounter, 2001).


Chuck Colson



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