Strategic Trends Update:
Coming to America: Tony Blair Faith Foundationby Leisa Garcia, IDB Folio Specialist
Tony Blair made headlines in March with his announcement that he set his eyes on the U.S. as the focus of the expansion efforts of his Faith Foundation. For Blair, this “faith offensive” is a logical move considering the lack of support his foundation has received back home in Britain. For the U.S., it represents a giant leap forward in the ecumenical and interfaith movements.
As a Strategic Trend of interest, the ecumenical movement was originally viewed as a stepping stone along the road to a one-world religion. This movement began as a dialogue be-tween the three religions which sprang from the God of Abra-ham, Isaac, and Jacob: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. However, recent years have seen the movement focus solely on dialogue between the various denominations of Christianity; more specifically Catholic, denominational, and evangelical Christian leaders.
The interfaith movement, with leaders such as Tony Blair, is gaining worldwide attention and support; thus overtaking the ecumenical movement in the development of a global religion. The quote most often used in support of the interfaith movement comes from Dr. Hans Kung, a Professor of Ecumenical Theology and President of the Foundation for a Global Ethic:
There will be no peace among nations without peace among the religions. There will be no peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions.
Indeed, the interfaith movement has developed as a dialogue between different religious traditions (i.e. “faiths”) and spiritual or humanistic beliefs. These “dialogues” occur at both the individual and institutional level to gain common ground; to concentrate on similarities between faiths, understanding of values, and commitment to the world. In other words, the development of a one-world religion in which only doctrines that serve to unite the world’s populations will be tolerated.
Tony Blair Faith Foundation
Blair originally launched the “Tony Blair Faith Foundation” in New York in May 2008 for his charity’s key American partners and religious stakeholders. The initiative did not receive his full attention, however, as he was otherwise engaged in politicking for the role of President of the European Union. When those hopes were dashed in November 2009, Blair’s attention returned to his foundation business, and his eyes turned to the U.S.
Political analysts are not surprised by Blair’s move. Professor Shawn Bowler, University of California at Riverside re-marked, “He comes across as confident and persuasive. He does not talk like a modern robo-candidate in the way so many U.S. political figures do. Blair is very open about his faith and that plays a lot better in the U.S. than in Britain.”
It looks like Tony Blair is at the helm of a major offensive to link politics and religion. The door to his future in the Euro-pean Union may have shut, but he has opened one that he in-tends to launch on the world stage. Many observers have noted that Blair’s charisma and name recognition have placed him in a unique position to accomplish his goals via the work of his Faith Foundation.
On his website, Tony Blair states that he created the foundation to “promote respect, friendship and understanding be-tween the major religious faiths; and to make the case for faith itself as relevant, and a force for good in the world.”
His foundation has quickly garnered close ties with major political institutions in the U.S., such as the Washington-based Centre for Interfaith Action. Blair also supported a meeting of major international organizations active in faith-based approaches to eradicating malaria, which included the White House, the World Bank, the U.N., and the World Health Organization.
Further strengthening his ties to operations on this side of the Atlantic, Blair’s foundation also supports other North American faith-based groups. One example is his endorsement of the initiative of the New-York-based Global Nomads Group to bring young people together through video conferences to discuss global affairs that affect their lives.
In another move to reach the under-25 “Generation Y” members in the U.S., the Tony Blair Faith Foundation teamed up with Yale University to create a three-year Faith and Globalization Initiative. The resulting program offered by Yale University, Faith and Globalization, is co-taught by Yale Divinity School professor Miroslav Volf and Tony Blair. The curriculum explores the issues of faith and globalization in various regions of the world.
Interestingly, Blair’s full focus appears to be on the up and coming generation. In this age group, he knows there are minds that have already been prepared through state school curriculums to accept his message of “one world, one faith, and one action” under his leadership.
Blair’s intent is clear and he is intent on developing his disciples. As the message on his website espouses:
Globalization pushes people closer together. Religious faith motivates and influences billions of people in different ways. The ways in which these two great forces interact with each other and shape the world—for good and for ill—are complex. Our aim is to provide ways to understand more about religion’s relevance to the modern world, and to organize practical projects so that people of different faiths can work together to be a force for good across the globe. All our activities are designed to realize these core goals.
Tony Blair Faiths Act
In August of 2009, the Tony Blair Faiths Act was created. It is the Foundation’s multi-faith social action program which “mobilizes people of faith to work together on issues of health and global poverty in order to help achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.” Faiths Act for Africa aims to “support and enhance multi-faith work in health care and its integration in national health plans.”
Faith Acts around the world is a “global movement of grass-roots action mobilizing ordinary people of faith across the globe to raise awareness and funds to help eliminate deaths from malaria.”
The movement is led by Faith Act fellows: “Thirty young people of faith from the UK, USA, and Canada who are spending 10 months as ambassadors for the Millennium Development Goals.” Its global network of Faiths Act volunteers is spreading the movement further. Volunteers are asked to sign the Faith Acts Declaration on the website which states:
I commit to working together with people of all faiths to fight against disease and poverty. Together we will demonstrate religion as a force for good in today’s world.
While this commitment to do good works sounds benign on the surface, the deeper context of eliminating a relationship with our Creator and Savior to use “religion as a force” is of concern to many Believers watching the rapid expansion of this interfaith movement.
The Advisory Council of Religious Leaders
The advisory council that Blair has united with in his foundation includes, among others, David Coffey, president of the Baptist World Alliance, a network of churches in Virginia that is active around the world, but is particularly active in the U.S.
Another notable council member is Belinda Stronach, founder of the Belinda Stronach Foundation in Toronto, Canada. Stronach is a philanthropist, businesswoman, and former politician. Blair intends to open an office in Toronto to develop a relationship with her foundation.
The most recognizable member of the advisory council is Rick Warren. The addition of Warren to the advisory council brings additional visibility to the interfaith movement and its focus on social issues. Warren addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 2008 where he described his own P.E.A.C.E. Plan. His plan addresses the global giants of pandemic diseases, extreme poverty, illiteracy, corruption, global warming, and spiritual emptiness by partnering ALL faiths.
Many of Warren’s goals correspond with those of both the Tony Blair Interfaith Foundation and the United Nations Millennium Goals.
The United Nations Millennial Goals
During his time as Prime Minister, Tony Blair helped to advocate the Millennium Development Goals drafted by the United Nations because he believed “they represent the world’s values for the future.” His Faith Foundation intends to assist the United Nations in reaching these goals.
The U.N.’s deadline for accomplishing these goals is 2015, and they include:
1. End Poverty and Hunger
2. Universal Education
3. Gender Equality
4. Child Health
5. Maternal Health
6. Combat HIV and Aids
7. Environmental Sustainability
8. Global Partnership
From a secular worldview, the U.N.’s Millennium Goals are noble. However, from a Biblical eschatological worldview, we realize man cannot contain or reverse these conditions while man and creation exist in a fallen state. While striving to do so, the Book of Revelation presents a different ending to their efforts.
Additionally we would ask ourselves, what benefit would there be if all of those goals were accomplished, making life itself better and more comfortable for mankind everywhere, without coming to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and therefore spending eternity separated from God?
It is answering that question that brings true faith and uni-ty in our efforts to care for our brothers and sisters as we await His return and a true New World Order.
In John 17:17-23, Jesus prayed to the Father that the ones that the Father gave to him and all of those who would believe on Him through their word would be sanctified through the truth of God’s Word. The unity Jesus prayed for was a unity based on the truth of God’s Word—a unity based on the faith which was once (and for all) delivered unto the saints (Jude 3), the traditions or teachings which were taught by the apostles whether by word, or their epistle (2 Thess 2:15; 3:6); and the faithful Word “that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”
We are warned against being unequally yoked in our relationships or our endeavors in 2 Corinthians 6:14, 17:
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?...Wherefore, Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the LORD…
Dr. G. Campbell Morgan spoke to the dilution effect of our witness and strength when we are yoked to unbelievers when he said:
There is a toleration which is treachery. There is a peace which issues in paralysis. There are hours when the church must say NO to those who should ask communion with her, in the doing of her work, upon the basis of compromise. Such standing aloof may produce ostracism and persecution; but it will maintain power and influence. If the Church of God in the cities of today were aloof from the maxims of the age, separated from the materialistic philosophies of the schools, bearing her witness alone to the all-sufficiency of Christ, and the perfection of His salvation, even though persecuted and ostracized and bruised, it would be to her that men would look in the hour of their heartbreak and sorrow and national need. The reason why men do not look to the church today is that she has destroyed her own influence by compromise.
This is a time to be a watchman. The interfaith movement is gaining great strides, especially among the world’s youth. The mixing of religion and politics is a heady formula for those seeking prestige and power on an ever-tightening global stage.