Analogous to the question that the Christian American must face of how far scriptural values are to be pushed in a secular America is the general question of how far American values are to be pushed in the world at large. And just as American evangelicals appear passive about expressing their convictions in the domestic marketplace of ideas, so the country in general seems more and more reticent to export its national values beyond its own boundaries.

True, with our Promised Land mythology, we have had a history of “carrying the big stick,” and if we have seldom engaged in political imperialism we have more than once made up for it by extending our economic tentacles around the globe. We have exported Coca Cola, cheap jazz, and jeans until it is small wonder that countries with a modicum of taste and culture have not established aesthetic tariff barriers to keep us out! The universal appreciation for Puccini’s Madame Butterfly quite clearly shows that our worldwide adventures have left a trail of broken hearts, whatever else they may have accomplished.

Moreover, a special danger is now seen in crusades in behalf of “Western values”: the danger of letting the end justify the means. Hochhuth’s drama The Deputy and Carlo Falconi’s Silence of Pius XII tell the sobering story of a pope who, because of his crusade against Russian Communism as the greatest of all evils, compromised his spiritual authority by not speaking forthrightly against the genocidic activities of the Third Reich, in the vain expectation that Hitler would at least save Europe from Marxism. Such a fundamental blunder easily leads to a reconsideration of whether ideological crusades do not often do more harm than good.

But again the drunken man staggers to the opposite wall. Just as we petulantly fell into an irresponsible isolationism after our World War I disenchantment, so today we run every danger of abrogating our responsibilities as bearer of the torch of freedom, now that our enemies have castigated us and our friends misunderstood us for our tragic involvement in Viet Nam. William Lederer, in a book published as long ago as 1961, characterized us as A Nation of Sheep for our irresponsiveness in foreign policy.

OnOn the day before Christmas, 1975, Religious News Service reported that “the number of people in the world living in a democratic society reportedly dropped by 40 per cent in 1975—the sharpest dip recorded by Freedom House since it began assessing the trend 24 years ago.” This is horrifying. What responsibility do we have as a nation to prevent or to reverse such trends?

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Our current foreign policy of détente, as expressed most eloquently by Secretary of State Kissinger, would appear to offer little response to this question beyond maintaining defensive strength in our own right and continuing to voice our historic beliefs in the value of free society. This seems hardly enough when, as Kissinger’s even more eloquent adversary Solzhenitsyn has rightly maintained, the free world has a holy responsibility to relieve the miseries of the millions of people suffering under totalitarian governments with neither the possibility of legal redress of grievances in their own homeland nor the possibility of emigrating to a life of dignity elsewhere.

We grant that full-scale offensive war against totalitarian powers could be suicidal in a nuclear age, but was there sufficient excuse for not responding to the Czechoslovakians when, like Paul’s Macedonians, they pleaded, “Come over and help us”? And is there any way to justify our not attaching rigorous conditions (release of those jailed or confined to “psychiatric hospitals” because they exercised freedom of speech, permission for Jews and others desiring to emigrate to do so and so on) when we agree to supply totalitarian countries with the raw materials, products, or food supplies they request of us?

Novelist Jean Dutourd, in his Taxis of the Marne, reminded his own people of the contrast between the France of 1914, which had the dynamism to use taxis to get its reinforcements to the front to save the country, and the France of June, 1940, when “the Generals were stupid, the soldiers did not want to die,” and the country, by trying to save its life with no higher purpose, lost it. Bruckberger, another Frenchman, observes:

What ill luck, how great a misfortune it is for us all, that it should be the ideology of the Communist Manifesto, and not that of your Declaration of Independence, which is now conquering so large a part of the world and firing the imagination of the colored races. Americans, for this you may well be to blame, just as undoubtedly all Christians are to blame for the fact that today the name of Lenin is held in greater veneration in the world than the name of Jesus. We Christians have failed in missionary spirit. And you, Americans, have been too ready to look upon the Declaration of Independence as a document designed for yourselves alone and not for other nations. How fatal an error.
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Americans, it is time to admit that you have erred; it is time to recognize that the Declaration of Independence is not yours alone. That solemn Declaration was made not just for you, but for everyone; not just for the men of one time, the eighteenth century, and one place, America—but for the whole world and for all the generations of mankind.

At a time when the idea of detente has such a positive connotation and so much stress is placed on not interfering with the internal affairs of other nations, it is worth emphasizing that the National State is not the be-all and end-all of human life. The National State is a relatively modern development, and the notion of its absoluteness comes from such doubtful sources as realpolitiker Machiavelli (Il Principe) and atheist Thomas Hobbes (The Leviathan). Scripture insists that states, no less than individuals, are subordinate to God’s laws. When Christian apologist Hugo Grotius became the “father of international law” by creating that discipline through his great work De jure belli et pacis, his fundamental principle was that nations are subject to higher laws than the ones they themselves deign to create.

If we have any reason for existence as a nation, it is surely our historic stand for freedom—freedom without which living becomes mere existence, that freedom which is a necessary condition for the meaningful proclamation of the eternal riches of Christ. In Lincoln’s most famous evocation of freedom, he did not limit himself to his own country but declared: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” And Julia Ward Howe, a year earlier, made the essential connection between God’s redemptive work in Christ and the national purpose to which we are (or should be) committed: “As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.” When we no longer are willing to die for the freedom of others, we shall no longer merit freedom for ourselves.


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