War between Iran, Israel, and the U.S.—which could militarily entangle Russia—is becoming probable. Christian leaders have played an influential role in shaping this deeply troubling state of affairs by encouraging their flock to vote Donald Trump into power—which a stunning 81% of Evangelicals in particular did. Some of the most influential among them, including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) founder John Hagee, et al. pressed Trump to abrogate the Iran nuclear agreement, move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem without offering the Palestinians reciprocity, and effectively encourage Israeli territorial expansion in the West Bank, which Palestinians claim as part of their future state. The Trump administration's policies on Jerusalem and the Israeli-Palestinian issue have not only reinforced Iranian leaders' threat perceptions of the U.S. and Israel but have also provoked the ire of the broader Muslim world, as the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation has made clear. Although leading Arab-Muslim states, including Saudi Arabia, have subordinated these issues for the time being to the priority of addressing Iran's threats to their security, the disposition of Jerusalem and the Palestinians will inevitably return to the fore in a violent way in the absence of substantive negotiations. Russia will also exploit divisions between the U.S. and the Arab-Muslim world over these issues to re-insinuate itself in the region. The seeming intractability of these problems compels one to ask the question, is America doomed to perpetual conflict with the Muslim world? It seems so, if the views of Evangelical leaders such as Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress remain politically ascendant. Graham has described Islam broadly—which approximately 1.6 billion humans claimed as their religion as of 2010—as an “evil” religion.  Jeffress has described it as a “heresy from the pit of Hell.” Perhaps some intelligent nuance would better serve us. In a speech before the Israeli Knesset on January 22, Vice President Mike Pence addressed the Iranian public, “We are your friends, and the day is coming when you will be free from the evil regime that suffocates your dreams and buries your hopes.” Self-declared prophet and astrologer John Hagee believes that Iranian and Russian advances in Syria are indicators of the fulfillment of supposed prophecies of the biblical book of Ezekiel 38-39, in which “God” manipulates the minds of human beings to cause them to go to war with each other—all for his glory. Hagee’s church claims 22,000 active members and his political organization CUFI boasts four million. These leaders seem to be inclined by the distorted religious prism through which they interpret world events, to believe that America is indeed fated to remain locked in conflict with the Muslim world until Christ returns (whenever that may be). Such depressing prophecies are self-fulfilling and therefore potentially avoidable, if we humans follow our higher, more empathetic instincts. The Problem of Evil Many Christians—and Americans more broadly—might logically conclude that Iranian leaders are evil based on the following supporting evidence: they lied to the world about their development of a nuclear weapons program, are pursuing the annihilation of the state of Israel, have obfuscated and obstructed accountability for the brutal Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad even after his use of chemical weapons, they repress the rights of Iranians, etc. None of these facts are in dispute. It is important, nevertheless, to be judicious with such a potent, roughly 1,000-year-old word as 'evil', which the Oxford Dictionary defines as "profound immorality and wickedness, especially when regarded as a supernatural force" and "of a force or spirit embodying or associated with the forces of the devil." One cannot negotiate or compromise with evil, or otherwise does so at great moral and existential risk. Political leaders accordingly wield the word 'evil' to coalesce public opinion firmly in support of confrontational policies determined necessary to defend vital national security interests. Mirroring the rhetoric of American and Israeli hawks, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, describes the U.S. as "the Great Satan". We know why Iranian leaders are arguably "evil" but most Americans probably have little to no knowledge of why Iranian leaders demonize our own government. Concluding that Iranian leaders are simply evil precludes us from even wondering why they hold reciprocal views; instead we assume that their religion or ideology dictates their hostility. Trump's former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, in his book The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies, co-authored by Michael Ledeen, concludes, "Tehran's war against the West is not based on a desire for territory, or on real or imagined grievances; it is rooted in the nature of the Islamic Republic...." Flynn and Ledeen omit much from the sordid history of U.S.-Iran relations, without which it is impossible to appreciate the drivers of Iranian leaders' hostility against the US. A full accounting of U.S. actions against Iran—including orchestrating a coup against the democratic government in Tehran in 1953, supporting the repressive Shah of Iran for two and a half decades without regard for the human rights violations of his security forces, and deliberately enabling Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s—would produce an image of the U.S. that most Americans would prefer not to see because of how closely it has at times resembled that of our enemies. As much as peace between the U.S., Iran, and Israel would be preferable, this may not be possible. Iranian leaders might be too psychologically captured by their desire for self-aggrandizement and revenge in lieu of any semblance of justice to be willing to make the necessary compromises. It is also important to note that the U.S. and Israel have not exactly been amenable to substantive compromises under the Trump and Netanyahu administrations. Neither international relations nor the human emotions they are rooted in are fixed realities however. These are difficult to change, particularly when they are so deeply connected to humiliation and trauma, but not impossible, as Saudi Arabia's moderation of its policies encouragingly demonstrates. The Arab-Muslim world has communicated its willingness to make peace with Israel since 2002 and Egypt and Jordan have had peace treaties with Israel since 1979 and 1994, respectively; albeit not until after several major rounds of conflict. Jesus taught that the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love one's neighbor as oneself, including one's enemies. One might apply Christian values to foreign policy in terms of diplomatic poise motivated by the desire to minimize unnecessary suffering in the world: the foundational value of just war theory. This would entail maintaining, in dynamic tension, military deterrence and clear communication of a willingness to compromise on reasonable terms. Indulging in our baser desires to conquer and humiliate, in contrast, will eventually bring more suffering upon us, as well as the millions of human beings who will be trapped in the middle of another layer of an already highly volatile conflict. Transformational diplomacy with Iran will admittedly remain an elusive prospect, at least while its current Supreme Leader remains in power. Nevertheless, the Trump administration should continue to explore the potential for it while there is still time before yielding to the overriding morality of self-defense of the U.S. and its allies. About the author: Thomas Buonomo is the Humanist Studies Coordinator with the American Humanist Association and a former Evangelical Christian. His writing on Middle East affairs has been published by the Atlantic Council, Middle East Policy Council, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Securing America's Future Energy, and other publications. His views do not represent an official position of the American Humanist Association.  

But it’s difficult to think about value when we have no buoy for understanding it outside our traditional lenses: for example, our time, our job, and what others tell us they are worth in cash. This, largely, is the world’s paradigm for value so far. But understanding what value really means changes everything—and will be at the center of the decentralized revolution in global coordination that will unfold over the next decade. So, where do we begin?

Let’s start with gold.

Gold is an inherent value. When backing a market, gold allows us to grow a balanced economy well into the trillions. But why does it allow for massive stable markets to form around it? It is gold's permanence that creates stability. We understand that gold will always have value, because it is inherent in all of us, not just in one part of the world, but everywhere, not just today, but tomorrow and for the long haul.

In the 1930s when the gold standard was removed, we learned that the U.S. dollar didn’t need gold to back its economy to flourish. We learned that it was just a symbol for U.S. citizens to decentralize their coordination around the United States economy.

It turns out, common agreement is a philosophy for building shared economy.

And so it seems inherent value is a marker for us to begin exploring what the future could look like—a future beyond gold and the existing realm of credit. And so what else has inherent value? Is education as valuable as gold? What about healthcare? What about a vote that can’t be tampered with? What about an ID that can’t be stolen or erased? What about access to nutrition or clean water? You will find value everywhere you look.

It turns out, we’ve already done the legwork necessary to uncover the most elemental inherent values: The Sustainable Development Goals are commitments grown out of the drive to bring to life basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the closest possible social contract we have to a global, common agreement.

We’ve already agreed, as a global community, to ensure inclusive and equitable access to quality education. We’ve already agreed to empower all women and girls, to ensure pure and clean water access for all, to promote health at all stages of life, and to end hunger.

We’ve already agreed.

Our agreements are grounded in deep value centers that are globally shared, but undervalued and unfulfilled. The reason for this is our inability to quantify intangible value. All of these rich, inherent values are still nebulous and fragmented in implementation—largely existing as ideals and blueprints for deep, globally shared common agreement. That is, we all agree education, health, and equality have value, but we lack common units for understanding who and who is not contributing value—leaving us to fumble in our own, uncoordinated siloes as we chase the phantoms of impact. In essence, we lack common currencies for our common agreements.

Now we find ourselves at the nexus of the real paradigm of Blockchain, allowing us to fuse economics with inherent value by proving the participation of some great human effort, then quantifying the impact of that effort in unforgeable and decentralized ledgers. It allows us to build economic models for tomorrow, that create wholly new markets and economies for and around each of the richest of human endeavors.

In late 2017 at the height of the Bitcoin bubble, without individual coordination, planning, or the help of institutions, almost $1 trillion was infused into blockchain markets. This is remarkable, and the revolution has only just begun. When you realize that Blockchain is in a similar stage of development as the internet pre-AOL, you will see a glimpse of the global transformation to come.

Only twice in the information age have we had such a paradigm shift in global infrastructure reform—the computer and the internet. While the computer taught us how to store and process data, the Internet built off that ability and furthered the conversation by teaching us how to transfer that information. Blockchain takes another massive step forward—it builds off the internet, adding to the story of information storage and transfer—but, it teaches us a new, priceless and not yet understood skill: how to transfer value.

This third wave kicked off with a rough start—as happens with the birth of new technologies and their corresponding liberties. Blockchain has, thus far, been totally unregulated. Many, doubtless, have taken advantage. A young child, stretching their arms for the first couple times might knock over a cookie jar or two. Eventually, however, they learn to use their faculties—for evil or for good. As such, while it’s wise to be skeptical at this phase in blockchain’s evolution, it’s important not to be blind to its remarkable implications in a post-regulated world, so that we may wield its faculties like a surgeon’s scalpel—not for evil or snake-oil sales, but for the creation of more good, for the flourishing of commonwealth.

But what of the volatility in blockchain markets? People agree Bitcoin has value, but they don’t understand why they are in agreement, and so cryptomarkets fluctuate violently.  Stable blockchain economies will require new symbolic gold standards that clearly articulate why someone would agree to support each market, to anchor common agreement with stability. The more globally shared these new value standards, the better.

Is education more valuable than gold? What about healthcare or nutrition or clean water?

We set out in 2018 to prove a hypothesis—we believe that if you back a cryptocurrency economy with a globally agreed upon inherent value like education, you can solve for volatility and stabilize a mature long lasting cryptomarket that awards everyone who adds value to that market in a decentralized way without the friction of individual partnerships.

What if education was a new gold standard?

And what if this new Learning Economy had protocols to award everyone who is helping to steward the growth of global education?

Education is a mountain. Everyone takes a different path to the top. Blockchain allows us to measure all of those unique learning pathways, online and in classrooms, into immutable blockchain Learning Ledgers.

By quantifying the true value of education, a whole economy can be built around it to pay students to learn, educators to create substantive courses, and stewards to help the Learning Economy grow. It was designed to provide a decentralized way for everyone adding value to global education to coordinate around the commonwealth without the friction of individual partnerships. Imagine the same for healthcare, nutrition, and our environment?

Imagine a world where we can pay refugees to learn languages as they find themselves in foreign lands, a world where we can pay those laid off by the tide of automation to retrain themselves for the new economy, a world where we can pay the next generation to prepare themselves for the unsolved problems of tomorrow.

Imagine new commonwealth economies that alleviate the global burdens of poverty, disease, hunger, inequality, ignorance, toxic water, and joblessness. Commonwealths that orbit inherent values, upheld by immutable blockchain protocols that reward anyone in the ecosystem stewarding the economy—whether that means feeding the hungry, providing aid for the global poor, delivering mosquito nets in malaria-ridden areas, or developing transformative technologies that can provide a Harvard-class education to anyone in the world willing to learn.

These worlds are not out of reach—we are only now opening our eyes to the horizons of blockchain, decentralized coordination, and new gold standards. Even though coordination is the last of the seventeen sustainable development goals, when solved, its tide will lift for the rest—a much-needed rocket fuel for global prosperity.

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.”  —George Washington
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.