Nothing is as dangerous for the state as those who would govern kingdoms with maxims found in books.—Cardinal Richelieu from Testament Politique
Russell Moore, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), wants the U.S. and President Donald Trump to confront China over religious liberty. However, Dr. Moore’s foreign policy advice delivered in the Wall Street Journal conflicts with Dr. Moore’s already espoused economic priorities regarding tariffs on China hurting Lifeway’s business. Dr. Moore seems to believe that China should be punished for hurting its own people, but doesn’t want China punished for its predatory economic conduct. His foreign policy priorities mimic his immigration priorities—where foreigners are valued over Americans.
Dr. Moore advanced three policy demands/suggestions in the WSJ essay. He wants the US ambassador for religious freedom to have unsupervised meetings with religious dissidents in restive regions of religious turmoil. He wants to punish individual Chinese government officials “responsible” for the religious persecution. Lastly, he wants economic sanctions.
Dr. Moore also decried viewing China as a market for American companies.
Dr. Moore asserted, “We are tempted to see the Chinese people merely as units of economic possibility rather than as human beings in peril, with real lives and souls.”
Wait a minute. Russell Moore argued against the imposition of certain new tariffs on China for economic reasons. Specifically, it might raise the price of Bibles since most Bibles are now printed in atheistic communist China. Or, more even specifically, because it might hurt Lifeway’s profits by reducing demand.
In a public comment against the proposed tariffs, Dr. Moore advanced this clearly economic argument:
“Extending tariffs to such printed materials will hurt the diverse readership and publishing industry in the United States…Higher book prices, however, will mean a higher barrier of access to and lower demand for printed books. The ramifications will be manifold: consumers reading for pleasure may be less inclined to purchase books; students and teachers at all levels will be burdened in the administration of their education; and professionals will be limited in their search for and sharing of knowledge.”
And contrast that with how Russell Moore wants Beijing punished for engaging in religious persecution. He wrote in the WSJ, “In 1998 Congress passed the International Religious Freedom Act, which allows the executive branch to impose sanctions on nations it deems systematic violators of religious liberty. Last year the State Department labeled China a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ under the law, and now the president should enact new sanctions directly linked to Beijing’s violations.”
Sanctions are fine. Just not any sanctions that might hurt Lifeway’s bottom line.
This duplicity is too much. Moore wants free trade for Lifeway but is willing to risk a widening conflict between the US and China through a round of sanctions.
Consistency? Not so much.
It is stunning. Dr. Moore will punish China for its treatment of its people but opposes sanctioning China for predatory economic behavior that hurts Americans.
Foreigners and immigrants are more important to Russell Moore and his ERLC than Americans.
Also, Dr. Moore’s foreign policy naïveté would create greater conflict between the United States and a rising China. A great power conflict would be inevitable given Dr. Moore’s foolish foreign policy.
There are two important points to consider in Dr. Moore’s foreign policy prescriptions. First, China rejects the promotion of human rights as Western imperialism. As Henry Kissinger explains through a quote from Deng Xiaoping:
“National sovereignty is far more important than human rights, but the Group of Seven (or Eight) often infringe upon the sovereignty of poor, weak countries of the Third World. Their talk about human rights, freedom and democracy is designed only to safeguard the interests of the strong, rich countries, which take advantage of their strength to bully weak countries, and which pursue hegemony and practice power politics.” (Kissinger, World Order, p. 230).
Another problem is how China would view an American official supervising its internal treatment of religious minorities. This ignores China’s complicated relationship with Western powers. It was the goal of civilizing the world that brought Western colonial powers into China (not coincidentally pushing free trade.) China bristles at anything it perceives as Western meddling.
Simply, the situation with China is too complex for Dr. Moore’s policy advice. It contradicts his already offered economic demands to prevent tariffs that would harm Lifeway. Also, it ignores the historical context of Sino-US relations.
Not to mention it illustrates Dr. Moore’s anti-American agenda. From immigration to religious liberty, Dr. Moore prioritizes foreigners to American citizens. Conservatives should ignore him. His thinking is dangerous and destructive of the national interest.
America must promote religious liberty; however, it must do so with a grasp of the geopolitical context. China’s worldview is fundamentally different than Washington’s. We must remember that or risk real conflict.