Those of us writing here at Providence share a common conviction about politics, namely that we should take human beings and human communities as they are and not how we would wish them to be. Human beings are broken creatures who are often driven by fear and greed. In political community, these propensities only become magnified and more volatile. This realism means that when we face problems such as aggressive nations and terrorism, we do so with sobriety that in order to stop certain people or groups from carrying out their harmful designs we must sometimes use military force. No amount of rational discussion or incentives will deter them from seeking to harm the innocent. Christians however bring to this sober realism the commitment to love their neighbors. To protect the innocent from the aggressor and to punish the aggressor is an act of love, not purely national interest or strategic benefit. This is what separates those who are realists from Christian realists.
As of late, I reckon, this take on politics has fallen on hard times. It’s hard to hold Christianity and realism together. We have Ted Cruz and Donald Trump preaching indiscriminate bombing campaigns to the applause of many. Bernie Sanders thinks that the Middle East is not a problem for Americans and that we should just let Syria burn. Most Christian voices in America are focused on the immigration crisis, with remarkably few Christians talking about intervention in Syria to protect the Syrian people and stabilize the situation. Marco Rubio has been one of the more nuanced and realistic candidates, and still his discussion of issues tends toward a more thoroughgoing realism than a Christian realism.
Into this current vacuum steps the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, to deliver what might be one of the most rousing calls to a truly Christian realistic approach to the current civil war in Syria and the rise of Islamic radicalism in recent memory. The Archbishop delivered the brief speech at the General Synod of the Church of England at Westminster on November 24th. It should be noted that the Archbishop delivered this speech in a resolution that was unanimously approved by the Synod on the current immigration crisis in Europe, primarily calling for protecting immigrants and welcoming a portion to the UK.