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.    


10 thoughts on “Syria-ously?

  1. Paul

    I agree with a fair number of your points, and disagree with quite a few. Rather than address each of them, I will just question your acceptance of the assertions that 1) there was, in fact, a chemical attack and 2) that it was launched by the Syrian government. While I am unconvinced of the former, I am downright skeptical (to put it mildly) of the latter. It may be rather quiet here; but there is plenty of doubt in the “international community”.

    I raise this point because it may be a very significant contributing factor to the statistics you cite. Ignoring it, in my mind, casts aspersions on the motives of those who choose against intervention. What if we jump into the fray, but it turns out that we do so in support of the real perpetrators?

    Also, allowing for a moment that the assertions are true, what makes it genocide? That seems to be a term that gets thrown around quite carelessly these days. I’m not saying that it isn’t a bad thing; I just don’t see what makes it genocide.

    1. I agree with you about the proof aspect. Obviously that is part of what Congress is trying to determine- whether the evidence is there about who gassed whom, and another reason for why we should not intervene. Regarding genocide- don’t call it genocide then, but also don’t fall onto the other side and insinuate that it is morally preferrable if people are killed by bullets and bombs rather the chemicals, no matter who is responsible.

    2. Robert Stare

      Either way genocide or not, this is a civil war and we can’t discern amongst the players. We should not get involved. Obama backed himself (us) into the corner and is using Congress as an excuse or scapegoat regardless of their vote Y/N.
      Bo Stare

  2. I’m not in favor of the US policing the world, especially without the support of the UN or other nations. My only problem is that I look back to Nazi Germany in WWII, and the massive destruction that took place while the US held back for so long. Why? It may be said that it was the popular belief that we stay out. The American public had experienced enough hardships through the Depression and did not seek another round of conflict. Of course that’s just one reason.

    One of my favorite quotes from Edmund Burke comes to mind bringing with it some dissonance. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good peeople to do nothing.”

    So what should we do? I do firmly believe we need the support of our Congress and the UN. President Obama is right to seek authorization through Congress even if some people see it as covering his (you know what I mean). It adds to the credibility of whatever decision is made. Our democracy is based on a system of checks and balances.

    I agree that we should support refuge relief as Christians and a nation. It’s a lot less expensive than war, and the human thing to do. Additionally, if the only support comes from non-ally nations in the region, guess with whom these refuges will ultimately affiliate themselves.

    We need to pray for wisdom and justice. What we don’t need is to divide our own country with political rhetoric on the issue.

    1. Good point about Nazi Germany, but while we are looking back we see where jumping into Iraq got us. Hindsight is always 20/20, that is why we need to make the right choice based upon what we know to be true in concert with the rest of the International Community. Remember what got us into WW2 wasn’t what Germany was doing to the Jews, it was that we were attacked by the Japanese.

      1. Paul

        There are those who claim that FDR and others high up in his administration knew that the Japanese attack was coming, and allowed it in order to provide a rationale for entering WWII. But I don’t know what supposedly motivated FDR to enter the war in this scenario.

        Still, our current administration has shown a propensity toward toppling Middle Eastern regimes and has been threatening the Assad regime in Syria, in particular, for some time. Might not this alleged chemical attack provide just the rationale needed for entering that conflict?

      2. Dave, I’m not sure about the intent of your last point. Yes, the US jumped in after Pearl Harbor. That doesn’t dismiss the moral question regarding the fact that we stayed out of the conflict while the Holocaust was taking place in Nazi Germany. It is fact that we did not enter that war in it’s earlier stage, but was it right? (The Catholic church has received much critism on their part.) The only right thing I can see about it, is that America was there to end the war after those nations that had fought earlier were exhausted. We infused new energy which ultimately brought peace.

        I also agree with you and Paul that we need facts. Who is the real villian? We can’t continue to hand over weapons as we have in the past, only to find them used against innocent people in the future. It’s really tough to know the players in the Middle East. It seems that Israel may be our only ally.

  3. Brian Sullivan

    I remember essentially the same message given by you back in 2003 regarding the build up to the Iraq war. Congress and our president at the time didn’t listen then either (I thought you were spot on then as I do now in this situation).

    What I find disturbing is the number of Christians who then found it their “patriotic” duty to support that president for what was basically a lie, only to see many of the same Christians condemn our current president for wanting to take action regarding something we do know to be true. Makes me think of Gandhi when he said: “Christ, I very much like your Christ. Christians, not so much……”

    Thank you for being consistent, it speaks more to the faith in Christ that we share more than one might think.

  4. Tim Lorman

    I really like what you have to say about this Dave and I will be praying that our Congress passes something close to what you suggest here.
    I truly believe that God can change hearts and move in our nations capitol, but I am going to contradict myself here. I do not believe there is a politician in Washington #1 with the wisdom to suggest such a thing or #2 the the courage to state it if they did.
    I will be in prayer that something close to this is presented.
    God Bless

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s