Opinion

Defending Middle Eastern Christians isn't just morally right — it's politically brilliant

Though you wouldn't know it from listening to Ted Cruz

Very few politicians have reached high office without taking gambles along the way. It was risky for Ronald Reagan to run against the Republican establishment, and to embrace supply-side economics. It was risky for Bill Clinton to embrace the Democratic Leadership Council, even though it was also obvious that the Democratic Party had to move to the center to regain national office. It was risky for Barack Obama to run against the reputedly invincible Hillary Clinton as a freshman senator. It was risky for Paul Ryan to grasp the third rail of politics and propose ambitious budgetary and entitlement reforms, and yet it raised his profile to the national level.

Well, here's another risky political opportunity that's there for the taking for an ambitious politician: Become the standard-bearer of Middle East Christians.

Like all things worth doing, it is potentially risky. The safer course may be to demagogue the issue, as Ted Cruz has. Perhaps, as Régis Debray said, Middle Eastern Christians are just "too Christian for the left and too foreign for the right."

But I honestly don't think that's true. I really believe that most conservative Christians in America — who make up the vaunted base of the Republican Party, the base that plays such a key role in presidential primaries — are Christians first and conservatives second. There is huge political gain to be reaped for a conservative Christian politician to become the standard-bearer of oppressed Christians in the Middle East.

Millions of politically active U.S. Christians are dismayed by the oppression of Middle Eastern Christians. But they're not sure what to do about it. They need someone to tell them — and to consistently hammer the importance of this issue so that it goes from priority 17 to priority 1. And once the time for presidential primaries rolls around, all those voters will surely remember that a politician took a stand for what was right.

So what should this standard-bearer do? Well first, talk to the people involved. I'm sure they have lots and lots of ideas.

Second, speak up. The bully pulpit has a lot of power. Speeches from the floor of Congress. Speeches with religious leaders and to religious — and secular — organizations. Petitions. Fact-finding missions on the ground. YouTube videos. Sometimes relentless repetition is the only thing that works.

Third, monitor the situation, and make sure American Christians are up to date on the latest. The United States seems to finally have gotten off its behind and provided at least enough assistance so that Kurdistan can push back ISIS and become a safe haven for Christians. But the decision to train and arm so-called vetted and moderate Syrian rebels will almost certainly mean more weapons to jihadists; the standard-bearer should listen to Middle Eastern Christian communities and point out (loudly) when U.S.-made weapons are used to slaughter priests and nuns.

Fourth, introduce a bill to give Middle Eastern Christians political asylum in the United States. Secularist France has done it; it's a shame that Christian-majority America hasn't. France's Socialist foreign minister Laurent Fabius has done photo-ops with persecuted Christians off the plane. America also needs more aid for persecuted Christians.

It's a shame that I should have to make the argument for doing this on the basis of political opportunity, and not what's right. But the world is not perfect. And it just so happens that, every once in a while, what is politically clever and what is morally right do intersect. This is one of those opportunities. It would be foolish not to take it.

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