Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals, said that the NAE recently surveyed evangelical leaders to ask whether Congress should authorize US military intervention in Syria. “Sixty-two and a half percent said ‘no.’ Thirty-seven and a half percent said ‘yes.’ I was surprised because I expected the answers would be the other way around.” Evangelicals do not often agree on a lot, but I think this is a significant response.
The Syrian civil war is a nightmare with more than 100,000 dead and over a million people displaced. The recent chemical attack which killed somewhere between 500-1400 has evoked moral outrage from most of the Western World. Since World War I there has been a general international consensus that “all is not fair in love and war,” and that chemical weapons should never be used. The fact that such weapons were used upon one’s own people presents a special case of injustice that begs to be confronted and rectified.
However, does that mean that there should be intervention even if it is a relatively limited punitive missile strike? Apparently our allies do not think so nor a majority of the American people. There are three major views that make up the landscape of Christian response to war and the use of force. The first is the Just War theory held by most Catholics and conservative Protestants who believe that war is justified if certain criteria are met. The second is the Pacifist position which believes that violence in any form is incompatible with the gospel and that Christ’s command to “turn the other cheek” is not just a personal ethical response to evil, but a national one as well. Recently, there has been a third view called Just Peacemaking, which sees itself as a corrective to both of the major views.
In scanning the response of those who hold these views, I have seen a consensus that a punitive strike by the United States acting alone is neither justified nor wise. They have brought up a variety of concerns that no one is answering: What American interest are we protecting by such a strike? Won’t such a military action add to the human suffering and not alleviate it? How would this affect Christians in Syria and in that part of the world; would it add to their persecution like what happened in Iraq and is happening in Egypt? Would such a strike help or hurt Israel and Turkey? Finally, what is the point of such an intervention? A regime change; do we really know who the good guys are? I like what one proponent of the Just War theory said, “Saving national credibility is important but does not make a war just…It seems that the Administration is giving an altar call for a limited war, without having preached the sermon to make the case.”
What I hope for is that Congress will vote against such a strike and instead will draft a resolution that strongly condemns Syria’s action as unconscionable to the American people and to humanity. The resolution should call for the UN to live up to its principles by making a rigorous case for international intervention in the Syrian crisis and holding Russia complicit to the genocide taking place in Syria. As one writer in the Chicago Tribune said, “make Russia own Syria.” The resolution should also state that if the United Nations fails to act, the US will pull out and demand that the UN move its ineffective organization to Brussels or Geneva. This is a significant moment where we can use what moral leadership we have left to call the only organization in the world created for such a time as this, to put up or close up. One final point to the resolution, Congress should designate additional funds for the Syrian refuge relief effort and call upon the international community to also increase their efforts to alleviate the civilian suffering.
I do not expect Congress to pass my resolution. That is why we need to pray for our country, Syria, and the world—for God to accomplish what we cannot.