For as long as I can remember, American foreign policy has been promulgated on an economic basis, primarily in the form of economic aid and trade. Diplomacy aids this agenda, with military involvement a sort of last resort. American administrations have set a course which insists that freedom comes with wealth, wealth comes from development and trade, and so economics should be the driving force in foreign policy.
Now there is undoubtedly some truth in this view. But there are two problems with it. First, China may not be getting the point. A report in The Economist (October 24th) questions the idea that growing Chinese wealth will create political freedom. In fact, the report suggests, there are indications that just the opposite is true. Many Chinese seem content with their authoritarian regime, especially since, when push comes to shove as in this recession, the government can intervene on citizens' behalf - to the tune of $600 billion - without having to go through all the politics essential in a democracy for getting things done. Moreover, in spite of huge economic gains over the past decade, there is little indication of a let-up in political repression in China.
The second problem relates to our own history. It wasn't wealth that led to freedom in America. Rather, it was religion, the intellectual and moral consensus of a Christian worldview that obtained for generations up to the Founding, and that served as a framework for the documents and system of government which allowed a free people to prosper.
But why doesn't anyone suggest to an American president that perhaps the best way to promote freedom abroad is to encourage religious liberty, in particular, the freedom to worship and serve God which provided the basis for our own freedom? Do we consider that the American experiment is a one-and-done proposition? Are we too fearful of offending other religions by pointing to our nation's history as a guiding factor in American foreign policy?
Christians in particular should be encouaging this approach to foreign policy. We are part of the worldwide Body of Christ; we know that Truth, not wealth, makes men free; and we should be concerned that our government would so easily deny its own heritage and experience for the false god of wealth.
Wealth can never make us free. That is the job of Truth, and Truth awaits all who will seek it in the faith of Jesus Christ.