This is really an old story. In his book "Special Providence," Walter Russell Mead writes that U.S. missionaries have influenced U.S. foreign policy since the early 19th century, especially its idealistic Wilsonian tradition. "In the missionary movement," writes Mead, "there has been a concerted, two-centuries-old attempt by an important segment of the American people to transform the world."
Wilsonianism has traditionally been associated with mainline Protestantism, but the initiative is shifting to evangelicals, who are not --- as elite opinion might have it --- solely represented by televangelists railing against the latest liberal outrage. "If you read about the life of Christ and decide 'I want to live a life of servanthood,' you don't have much time for the negative stuff," says Fikes. This makes for a better, more loving and tolerant Christian image to project to the rest of the world. "It grieves me," Fikes says of some of the inflammatory comments about Islam made by Christian leaders in the aftermath of Sept. 11.
The new Christian activism is reflected in the idealistic rhetoric that has become a staple of Bush's foreign policy. The danger is that some of the well-intentioned naivet?f liberalism's attitude toward the world has been transferred to the Right. But conservatism's traditional interest-based hardheadedness probably needs a little leavening with something higher and softer. "Love can do a lot," says Fikes. Midland has set out to prove it.