American Missionaries and Politics

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you have perceived that I like to talk about political issues.

There are two balances that have been difficult for me to strike over the last six months. First, I want to talk about things that are important to me, but I don’t want to offend people who support us. I know this is largely irrational; people support us because God has called them to do so and because they believe God has called us to minister the gospel. Politics are important, but the gospel is most important, and we are in full agreement on that point; the rest is details. Nevertheless, I don’t want to give unnecessary offense to anyone, especially those who have committed to helping us.

Second, as an American living in Eastern Europe, I see firsthand the effects of American foreign policy on citizens of other countries. Of course, all the usual caveats apply: America cannot solve all the world’s problems, nor is it responsible for all the world’s problems; the American gov’t doesn’t speak for all Americans; policies aren’t wrong just because they hurt some people (just about every policy helps someone and harms someone else); et cetera. But it hurts me to see how blasé some Americans are (at least online) about political decisions and how they affect people that I know personally. Even if those decisions turn out to be justified, there are still people experiencing the consequences.

Being an American missionary living abroad has caused my positions to evolve on some issues; on other issues, I feel confirmed and strengthened in my previous positions. I’ll give an example that I hope to elaborate in a future post. If you know me at all, you know I’m a pretty extreme “libertarian” in American terminology (though I prefer to call myself a “Manchester Liberal“), and I’m generally opposed to foreign intervention by the US military for pragmatic rather than pacifistic reasons. Prior to moving to Lithuania, I was skeptical of alliances such as NATO and worried that American involvement in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine would only make things worse in the long run and be a quagmire for the US.

Yet now that I’m here, I’m glad for the Baltic States’ participation in NATO, because that makes an invasion by Putin highly unlikely (he would basically be declaring war on the US). The situation in Ukraine is more complicated, but I can see the value of international defensive alliances that make the possibility of “hot” war very slim between nuclear and nuclear-allied countries. If Ukraine were in NATO or the EU, perhaps Putin would never have made his move; if the entire world lines up on two teams who each possess the power to destroy the other, then both sides have a strong incentive to pursue peace. (I hope to talk about economic sanctions and how those are misunderstood by many in the West, but that’s another post.)

These aren’t developed arguments, but you can start to see how the situation is complex and should not be oversimplified. I guess that’s the lesson of life: It’s complicated. Each of us has a paradigm, a worldview, a lens through which s/he sees the world, and we integrate new evidence into that paradigm all the time. I certainly think that my current paradigm does a great job of explaining new evidence that I encounter, but I know that no individual paradigm or point of view can encompass or explain all the evidence, so I know I’m wrong and inconsistent on some issues. The trouble is that I don’t know where those inconsistencies are–if I knew which opinions were wrong, I wouldn’t hold them.

About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, transplanted to Pennsylvania...lived and taught in Eastern Europe for six years…Old Testament professor, ordained minister, occasional liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth.
This entry was posted in Culture-Economics-Society, Giffones in Lithuania. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to American Missionaries and Politics

  1. Pingback: Rethinking Sanctions: Putin’s Peaches | think hard, think well

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