We view nations as political corporations. We call them “a body politic.” I’m not sure that conforms to Old Testament usage, which refers to the ethnos, more nearly like ethnic groups and tribes. The O.T. nation was represented usually by the king, after the time of the judges. So, you would have the representation of the ethnos through the behavior of a king. In that sense, the ethics of the king were still personal ethics, though he carried in himself his whole people. The classic passages in the Pentateuch on how a king should behave, along with Romans 13:1-7 and a few verses from Peter and Proverbs carry the bulk of the didactic teaching on the behavior of rulers. I do not know how the “general equity” of these passages and the illustrations — good and bad — in the Scripture walks over to our current, dying constitutional democratic republic.
Jimmy Carter, in my view, confused the ethics of a person today with the ethics of a political entity. He wanted a ruler to be all things to all people. MAYBE that would have been possible in the O.T. economy, though I doubt it. Romans 13 seems to me to make it clear that the ministry of the civil ruler is that of justice IN HIS REALM (not someone else’s realm). The civil magistrate has no ministry of mercy, or of rule in the church, nor in the rule of the family, except where these other loci of governance intersect with justice. An example would be if a father wished to execute his aberrant son. He had to have the concurrence of the ruler to do that. President Carter wanted the civil state to be a father, mother, and all else to everyone, across the world. It is unfortunate, in my view, that the Westminster Standards refer to the civil magistrates as “nursing fathers.”
A couple of years ago I had a letter exchange with a columnist in World magazine. In passing, she indicated that the U.S. should have intervened in Rwanda to end the genocide sooner. I did not write her back on that point but I strongly disagree. Rwanda is not our realm, corporately or even in the person of a kingly president. There is no end to that, as we have had so many opportunities to learn since 1865. You can date international meddling backwards past the beginning of our nation, but it is crystal clear in the Monroe Doctrine which expressed regional hegemony for the New World.
One of the reasons I fault Teddy Roosevelt is his parading around the world of America’s “big stick.” We had no business in the Spanish-American war. We had no beef against Spain. Perhaps our meddling in that war prevented the development of internal statesmanship in Cuba sufficient to carry them on after they had obtained independence, in that or in a subsequent war. They never did, and we have meddled in Latin America ever since.
We meddled in WWI and thereby earned a role in the production of WWII. Franklin Roosevelt picked the war with Germany by picking one with Japan. He wanted us in. (There is evidence that he knew of the plan to attack Pearl Harbor, but wanted it ot happen to get us into the war.) Once one starts meddling in others’ affairs, it becomes devilishly difficult to stop. Had we not helped to absolutely CRUSH Germany in WWI, the treaty of Versailles would not have made Germany ripe for Hitler. Had we not meddled in WWII (by picking the fight), two of our enemies might well have exhausted themselves against each other — Russia and Germany. Instead, Russia came out much more powerful than she should have and the “cold war” ensued. Germany (and Japan) were made military sycophants to the U.S. after that war. Both still are.
We have meddled:
In Lebanon, which is today a mess.
In Kuwait, earning us eventually Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan. What business was it of ours if one Islamist ruler craved the wealth of his smaller Islamist neighbor?
In Grenada, a proxy demonstration warlet against Cuba’s Caribbean expansionist notions.
We actually kidnapped a head of state (Noriega) from inside his own nation, brought him into ours, charged him with violating OUR laws on HIS soil (!), and he languishes to this day in a Florida prison. What were we thinking? The problem was American noses snorting up cocaine which had passed through his nation and that of his buddy state, Cuba. We should have de-criminalized cocaine and then freed the Church to deal with the hearts which want to snort up cocaine here. Noriega needn’t have been involved.
We meddled in Vietnam, propping up a corrupt government because it was said to be less corrupt than the communists. Of course, it was a proxy war against China and Russia.
We have had troops on the ground in Haiti in the 20th century almost more than half the years of that century, and it remains a basket case.
We supported Pahlavi in Iran and — Okay, I’ll quit with this list of entanglements, because you can continue the list on your own.
What should a nation do when other people are being enslaved, murdered, etc? I believe we “lift our lamp beside the golden door.”
I believe you can make a very sound biblical case that God hates empires and will not brook one until Jesus Himself reigns. He put down the Tower of Babel and continues to do so. The U.S. is an empire and is behaving more and more nakedly like one. U.S. Christians have failed to realize this and continue to confuse God and country. We can love our country without necessarily loving its corrupt parts, which today is its government. Yes, our government is superior to the others, but God does not grade on the curve. He normally uses the corrupt nations as a whip on the back of His people. Perhaps that is the role of resurgent Islam.
Every nation serves a god. There is no such thing as a separation between God and civil government. Christians remain confused about that. The Bill of Rights was addressing only what we would call denominationalism. The signal failure of our founders was failure to explicitly compact the nation with the God of the Bible, as expressed in the Reformed faith. They compromised. Perhaps they felt that they had to. I think it would have been better not to have formed the nation absent that compact. Eight of the 13 colonies had explicit established churches when the nation was founded in the late 18th century, along with religious tests for holding office. Yet, the U.S. constitution starts out “We the People…” No higher authority, though the Declaration had listed the Creator God (still not adequate). I believe that arguments launched by such stalwarts as Gary DeMar to the effect that our nation is historically a Christian nation evade the point that we were never EXPLICITLY one. The powerful Christian influence and design is unmistakable, as his writings establish, but when it came down to it, the founders blinked. It just won’t do to imagine that the founders really meant to make us a Christian nation. They knew, and wrote that they knew, that “Mohammetans” and other non-Christians might someday find their way into political power under the system they created.
Since every nation serves a god (even atheist Marxist ones, who serve themselves as god), it follows that every nation is a theocracy. Again, Christians have shied away from that horrid word. After all, we have that horrid example spread out before us of the “fundamentalist” Islamic states. We thus have let “fundamentalist” become a curse word, and the necessity of a theocracy become a horror. So, we have the horror of a nation which worships itself as god and crafts its own theocracy around that misbegotten notion. More and more often now the atheistic god-man inserts his tests of faith into his system. You cannot teach in most schools, if you don’t worship Darwinism. You cannot even organize a degree-granting college in Texas or California if you don’t teach evolution.
All this to assert that I don’t think we can begin to imagine a biblical international ethic until we know first who we are and who we ought to be. I could imagine an explicitly-Christian, constitutionally-limited, federated democratic republic which would be happy to interact with the lost world in commerce and cultural exchange, but which would not attack them unless first attacked. We would specialize in shields (such as “Star Wars”), not spears capable of hitting 12,000 miles away. We would receive refugees in numbers which we would be capable of managing, but would not accord full citizenship to ANYONE who was not a member in good standing of a Reformed church. Immigrants would have to wait for 3 generations to be able to have full citizenship — only then voting, sitting on juries, and holding political office or military rank. We would make reasonably sure that our citizens were protected on the high seas, but once they stepped into another nation they would have to know that their constitutional protections were ended, and the Marines would not come to rescue them (unless, as in the case of the Barbary pirates they were forcibly kidnapped). We would not enter another nation militarily unless they attacked us, or provided safe haven for uncontrolled elements in their population who did. Our response to Pancho Villa was appropriate, as was our incursion recently into Afghanistan, though the latter could have been avoided, if we had minded our business prior to that.
In brief, we would be politically that Puritan “city on a hill,” a political Jerusalem. In the N.T. economy, the Church is to go into all the world and evangelize. Yet, we do not properly evangelize by sending in the military first. Neither do we minister to physical needs by sending in the Marines first, as we idiotically tried in Somalia. The Church is to infiltrate all the kingdoms of the world with the gospel. But Ceasar (the U.S. Government) is not the Church, and he is not to infiltrate. He has to remain within his boundaries. God may enlarge his boundaries, as when a neighboring territory wishes to be annexed (Texas in 1840’s). Or, he may enlarge his boundaries in a just war (we have had, at most, 2 or 3 of those, I think.)
We have before us now an especially dangerous delusion in the form of the Christian Zionists, whose dispensational premillenialism has dragged us into the very argument between Ishmael and his Jewish half-brother. DeMar has nailed that issue. We need to listen to him on that link.