The Chicago Council on Global Affairs has issued a report that argues U.S. foreign policy suffers from an ill-informed “uncompromising Western secularism” and argues that religious understanding and training of foreign policy personnel should become mandatory and that religion should become “an integral part of our foreign policy.”
It is about time. The report, the work of a task force headed by R. Scott Appleby of Notre Dame and Richard Cizik of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, pin points a phenomenon that I am sure most readers have encountered. I call this the “Easter bunny with real estate” syndrome. You meet someone who is ostensibly smart and well educated but they can’t get their head around the idea that religious people have an intellectually justifiable worldview, that religion is not merely a private peccadillo but an on-going intellectual and spiritual tradition that is rich in ways the dominant secular worldview is not. They think of religion as the Easter bunny with real estate.
This initiative is especially important because in America, operating always under the accursed influence of lingering Calvinism, there is a tendency to reduce religion to ethics. This tendency so dominates the intellectual landscape on both the left and the right that it is very difficult to resist. In the rest of the world, religion is culturally enfleshed in ways that are deeper and more intellectually provocative than the American reduction permits. If we fail to grasp that, and understand it, we will fail to understand other cultures than our own. Indeed, by focusing on this abroad, perhaps we will better see the deficiencies in the way we Americans relate religion to culture. We can hope anyway. And, let’s hope also that the White House and State Department will take the Chicago report to heart.