Ancient Political Localism and Internationalism
The ancient world empires (Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome) were all "internationalist" in scope, if not in rationale. All were dedicated to encompassing and assimilating other nations, making them tributaries and, in many cases, reorienting their populace to the religion and social distinctives of the empire. "The ancient dream of one world characterized Babel, Assyria, and Chaldea," Rushdoony writes, "and nations were broken, populations shuffled to break down national ties, and young men of conquered countries trained to high office to help hold the loyalties of their people and give a cosmopolitan and international character to the Empire. The diversity of leadership and the shifting of populations would lead to a ‘melting pot’ society whereby the unified world concept would take root" (Rousas John Rushdoony, Thy Kingdom Come [Fairfax, VA (1970), 1978], 7). This has been the program of political internationalism for several millennia.
As a "tribal" commonwealth, the ancient Hebrew state was distinctly anti-internationalist. Its divinely revealed objective was not the domination of other nations, but the worship of and obedience to God within a specifically circumscribed territory. It was to be a light to the other nations, who would recognize in Israel God’s sovereignly chosen people to whom He had committed His glorious law (Dt. 4:6-8). The Hebrew commonwealth and its law structure was a highly decentralized political system. God’s plan for Israel’s political dimension was strong household authority with an appellate system consisting of representatives chosen from families (Dt. 1:13-18). When Israel sinfully coveted a king like the pagan nations about them, God required Samuel to remonstrate with His covenant people, reminding them of the severe cost of state bureaucracy (1 Sam. 8:1-22). God’s pattern for the Hebrew commonwealth was localism: anti-internationalist by its very nature.
The Roots of Modern Political Internationalism
The political course of the modern world is the outworking of ancient internationalism. The French Revolution was one of the earliest acts of mass political violence justified by abstract principles: liberty, fraternity, and equality. The ideology of the French Revolution prohibited the limitation of its principles to France; the goal of every modern revolution is the violent recasting of every society possible on the basis of abstract principles. These principles spring almost exclusively from the European Enlightenment and its militantly secular program of creating a godless heaven on earth. When given free reign, it always produces a Satanic hell on earth. The communist states of the twentieth century are prime examples. We of the West should not be too smug in this recognition, because modern Western democracies are no less dedicated to this secular ideology — they are simply dedicated to a more benevolent version of it. Their goal is the secularization of the world, usually by the instrument of externally peaceful but nonetheless strong-armed politics, and a relentless propaganda. Nonetheless, as NATO’s recent war against Serbia proved, democratic internationalists are no less averse than communistic internationalists to employing political violence in a quest for world domination. The assaults on a sovereign nation’s territory are almost always justified with high-sounding phrases like "making the world safe for democracy," "protecting universal human rights" or "opposing ethnic cleansing." Political internationalists are hypocrites, however. The same political internationalists who savagely bombed Serbia sat idly by while defenseless Rwandans were massacred to the tune of a thousand a day in 1994. The leaders of Western democracy suffer from selective moral outrage. Clearly, some other motive than "protecting universal human rights" is at work here.
Evil Political Alliances
Further, with the stated objective of "protecting universal human rights," political internationalists are often quite willing to blatantly violate God’s law prohibiting alliances with godless nations (Ex. 23:28-33). In World War II, the United States created an alliance with the Soviet Union against Hitler, and in the Gulf War she created an alliance with Kuwait (and other Islamic nations) against Iraq. In the latter case, she did this despite the fact that there is more freedom for Christianity in Iraq than in most other Islamic regimes, and despite the fact that this alliance meant that the United States would likely be maneuvered into assaulting Christian churches in her assault on Iraq — and this is precisely what happened. From a Biblical standpoint, nations are limited to jurisdiction within their own borders.
The Validity of Private Economic Internationalism
This has nothing to do with private trade. The Bible nowhere prohibits peaceful trade across borders. In other words, political localism does not prohibit private economic internationalism. Political economic internationalism is another matter. When politics uses the powers of economic coercion (allotments of money confiscated by and for the state, i. e., taxes) to prop up (or tear down) other sovereign states (like the United States’ "Mexico bailout"), it has stepped into territory the Bible prohibits. And make no mistake: nations that intervene with other sovereign nations economically will not hesitate to interfere with them militarily. Private economic internationalism liberates the societies involved in trade; political economic internationalism enslaves the societies whose civil governments meddle in economics.
The Secular New World Order
Secular Western democrats in this century from Teddy Roosevelt to Woodrow Wilson to George Bush to Bill Clinton are dedicated to a New World Order. At the end of the recent war against Serbia, British Prime Minister and Bill Clinton wannabe, Tony Blair, exulted in Newsweek ("A New Moral Crusade," June 14, 1999, 35):
The consequences of our success in Kosovo will not be felt in Europe alone. As I said in Newsweek in April, we need to enter a new millennium where dictators know that they cannot get away with ethnic cleansing or repress their peoples with impunity. Imagine how Saddam will react to this victory; imagine the reactions of other dictators who are tempted to resolve their political problems by terrorizing their own people or attacking their neighbors. They will now know that when we say we will act, we are serious. We now have a chance to build a new internationalism based on values and the rule of law.
In other words, "We are laying down a police-state ultimatum to all you rogue nations out there: fall into line with our politically internationalist pipe dreams, or we’ll bomb you into submission." This implies, among other things, the erasure of localism, sectionalism, and nationalism, and the installation of a one-world civil government (subordinating all other governments); a one-world court; a one-world banking system; and, eventually, a one-world police state. Interestingly, these objectives are not fundamentally different from those of Marxism. Marxist Communism and Western Democracy are simply rival versions of political internationalism. Both are relentlessly dedicated to world domination — by political violence, if necessary.
Many citizens of Western democracies are not political internationalists at heart, but are easily lured into the mentality of political internationalism by elitist politicos intent on nothing less than a worldwide power grab. The political instability of other sovereign nations, the suffering of her citizens at the hands of a totalitarian regime, the poverty resulting from foolish statist economic policies — all of these seem like good warrant for political invasion of one sort or the other. But they are not.
The Limited Role of Civil Government
The Bible is quite clear about the role of civil government. The civil magistrate is to suppress and punish external evil in terms defined strictly by God’s law; thereby, he protects the judicially innocent (Rom. 13:1-7). For most practical purposes, this reduces to the early American trio of the defense of life, liberty, and property (not to be equated with the French Revolution’s liberty, fraternity, and equality). Implied in the defense of this trio is a defense from foreign invasion — the protection of borders. None of this includes the commitment to invade any other nation’s borders — even to eliminate "human rights abuses." Tyranny committed by the civil magistrate (like all tyranny) is evil, but invasions of sovereign nations by other sovereign nations bent on correcting "human rights abuses" usually create a new (and often greater) tyranny all their own. The Biblical approach, in terms of modern language, is to be "hawks" when protecting one’s own borders and "doves" when penetrating another nation’s borders. This is sometimes called isolationism. It is not. It is non-interventionism.
The Necessity of Religious Internationalism
While the Bible forbids political internationalism, it most emphatically advocates and requires religious internationalism. Christianity is a catholic (or universal) religion, and the church of Jesus Christ is an international phenomenon. In fact, the only substantive distinctive between the older and newer administrations of the covenant of grace is the internationalization or globalization of God’s covenant plan. That plan no longer concentrates on ethnic Israel, but on the international church of Jesus Christ. This means, among other things, that Christians are required to spring into action to defend their oppressed and persecuted brethren throughout the world (1 Cor. 12:26). To oppose internationalist political involvement is not to deny internationalist religious involvement. In the recent war in Serbia, for example, numerous Christian ministries (for example, Macedonian Outreach) responded to the refugees and victims of war (and especially the victims of the savage NATO bombing). Further, the church is urged to pray diligent imprecations (godly curses) against tyrants in Belgrade — and in Washington, D. C. (Rev. 6:9-11). Christians are required to assist their brothers (and even their non-brothers (Lk. 10:25-37) in every way appropriate to their own calling and capacity. They are required to press the claims and dominion of their sovereign King, Jesus Christ, throughout the world with the goal of making disciples of all nations and subordinating them to Christ ’s authority. (Mt. 28:18-20). Thus, the proper internationalist response to political tyranny is not military invasion, but religious invasion.
This has nothing whatever to do with political internationalism. Each nation brought under the authority of Christ and His law retains its own distinctives and mores. Religious internationalism does not entail political uniformity —in fact, it virtually demands political diversity. The only One World Government the Bible knows anything about is the government of Jesus Christ (Is. 6:9).
Political internationalism, whether Marxist or Western, is almost always an assault on Christian internationalism. It is an attack on the sovereign, universal claims of Jesus Christ and the Holy Scriptures. Tyrants lust to control the world politically in order to resist Christ’s control of it religiously (Ps. 2). In other words, modern politicians want to play God. But God has no rivals — and the glorious prophecy of Daniel 2 is that the single final world empire is that of Jesus Christ — a highly decentralized political order anchored in a highly "centralized" religious order — centralized in the Person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
- P. Andrew Sandlin
P. Andrew Sandlin is a Christian minister, theologian, and author. He is the founder and president of the Center for Cultural Leadership in Coulterville, California. He was formerly president of the National Reform Association and executive vice president of the Chalcedon Foundation. He is a minister in the Fellowship of Mere Christianity.. He was formerly a pastor at Church of the Word in Painesville, Ohio (1984-1995) and Cornerstone Bible Church in Scotts Valley, California (2004-2014).