Opinion: "Foreign Policy and Faith" by William McKenzie

July 17, 2006

Source: The Dallas Morning News


On July 17, 2006 The Dallas Morning News ran an opinion piece by columnist William McKenzie on the connections between foreign policy and faith. He writes, "What do Muslims in the Middle East, evangelicals in Texas and Pentecostals in Brazil have in common? More than you might expect, and enough to make us think about how they influence the globe. These are three of the most dynamic and fastest-growing religious traditions. If we don't understand them, the forces shaping everything from elections in the United States to upheavals in Latin America to policies in Iraq will sweep right by us. With that windup, here's what these three have in common: a shop-floor approach to religion. No pope to guide them. Few big denominational headquarters. No super-imam to make a final ruling... The flip side to all this personalization and flexibility is that they challenge U.S. policymakers. As she tries to sell America around the world, Bush aide Karen Hughes can't very well call one evangelical leader and tell him that Pat Robertson is killing us in the Middle East every time he pops off about Muslims being little devils. There's no single evangelical leader who can suggest to Mr. Robertson that perhaps he could find a more tactful way of expressing himself, unless he really wants to upend our aims in that volatile region. The lack of a go-to guy in these traditions particularly presents a problem when it comes to Iraq. While the declarations from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani matter to many Iraqi Shiites, there is no Sunni cleric with similar clout... These are the under-the-radar characteristics the United States needs to understand if it is going to deal effectively in parts of the world where religion plays a huge role. Some may find religion a yawner compared with seeing the world through traditional means of powerful politicians or the size of a nation's army, but those people risk missing what's really going on."