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The American Fortress: A Christian Opportunity

One of the lessons I remember from my study of U.S. history in high school is that the United States is protected by two oceans on our east and west coasts. Europe’s problems could not negatively impact our nation because we were separated by 3,000 miles of ocean. Our northern and southern borders are secure because we have friendly neighbors.

Our land is rich in natural resources. Our universities are the best in the world. The dollar has been the world’s reserve currency for the last seventy-five years, and English is the lingua franca for the global system. We are truly blest.

More pertinent to the image of fortress, our military is without equal. We spend more than twice our nearest competitor which is China—649 billion in 2018 to 250 billion for China. If you take the top ten military spenders and remove the United States, China and Russia from the list, the remaining seven countries are our allies. These allies include 28 European states within NATO, and several additional allies from Asia. We have more than 800 military bases in 70 countries.

How do our competitors stack up? China has a lone ally in North Korea and has one overseas military base. With the exception of North Korea, China has no friends in Asia. She is surrounded by anxious neighbors which include Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, Indonesia, and India.

Russia has one ally in Syria with an overseas base in that country. She faces a European Union with a combined population of 500 million people and a GDP of 17 trillion dollars. Russia counters with a population of 144 million and a GDP of 1.6 trillion. The European Union outspends Russia militarily by three to one.

Taken together these factors add up to the American fortress. With the exception of Russian long-range nuclear missiles, no other threats exist to the American homeland. No other country in world history has been as protected. The image of an American fortress needs to sink in. We have little to fear. As fear recedes, we become more open to the better angels of our nature, more open to the messages of goodness and love that come from God. Our responsibility as Christians is to apply these messages as they relate to our lives. This includes the messages that pertain to the world of international politics.

We need to tell our leaders that nuclear disarmament is a top priority. It is a sad fact that arms control is dying. The Intermediate Range Missile Forces Treaty was signed by Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev in 1987. It eliminated all nuclear missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. Trump plans to exit the treaty. He has also denounced the New Start Treaty which limits long-range strategic missiles and which expires next year. To make matters worse, deterrence is being weakened by the development of new, high tech weapons like the hypersonic weapons that travel five times the speed of sound. These weapons will limit warning time and place arsenals on high trigger alert with the chances for miscalculation greatly increased.

The United States, Russia, and China are currently spending billions of dollars to modernize their nuclear arsenals. The crazy thing is that military strategists have never found a rational use for these weapons. The God that centers my life is messaging that there must be a better way.

We Christians need to take action on the climate change front. We need to communicate to our leaders that now is the time for a commitment of greatly increased resources to attack this problem. Even more important and perhaps more difficult to address, we need to change our individual behavior in significant ways to reduce our carbon footprint. God is urging me to work to protect this precious planet for my grandchildren.

The Congressional Research Service has estimated that the United States has deployed military force overseas more than 200 times since the end of the Cold War. For all of our good intentions and this characterization may be far too charitable, most of these interventions have created outcomes that are disappointing at best. These interventions have led to untold casualties, both military and civilian, have cost trillions of dollars, and have destabilized the states we set out to help. We need to communicate to our leaders that the United Nations is a much preferred institution to play global traffic cop, and that we are willing to provide the funding to make UN interventions effective.

These interventions have often been designed to create democracies in states with no history of democratic rule. Foreign aid to these countries has most often targeted building their military. Imagine if we had used the trillions of dollars spent in military interventions to build up people. Imagine if this money had been used to educate children, build hospitals, dig wells, electrify rural villages, and build roads and bridges. I bet the God who roots for these people would say Amen.

Christians are often reluctant to apply the messages of goodness and love they receive from God to the world of international politics. Recall the messages that flooded your awareness as you watched on TV a story about the adjustment problems of an Iraq war veteran with PTSD. Those messages were telling you, “ this war is wrong.” Or recall the messages that floated through your awareness as you watched on the evening news Australia burning. My messages on that tragedy were telling me that climate change needs to be addressed in a far more significant way than most governments are willing to consider.

Many people view the outside world as a jungle, as a very dangerous place. This is especially true when applied to the world of international politics. Such an image stimulates fear which closes the mind to messages from God. Replace the image of jungle with fortress. I am protected. Make that your new mantra. As fear recedes from your awareness, the messages of goodness and love from God will grow louder. Act on those messages with full confidence because they come from the amazing mysterious force that brought human life to this planet. To cooperate with this magnificent voice within us to make the world a better place should be our highest calling.

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