Within the next few days, the U.S. will almost certainly lead a military strike against Syria. Up until now, our official response has been to support the Syrian rebels in their struggle against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Well really, we didn’t support the rebels until it looked like they actually had a chance…. and also after Assad was killing many of those Syrian citizens who were rising up and demanding change. So, to show them that killing people is wrong, we armed the rebels so that they would be better able to kill people. But now it seems that there is proof that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons to kill hundreds of people. So, to show them that killing hundreds of people is wrong, we are going to send a bunch of Tomahawk Missiles in there and kill hundreds of people.
And on and on and on…. It seems we have learned nothing. And when I say “We,” I don’t mean the United States. I mean The Church.
Right after 9/11 (and right before the US military response in Afghanistan and the “Shock & Awe” campaign) I sat down for dinner with a group of friends from Church, and I said that if we really wanted to be a “Christian Nation,” we would use the money that we would have spent on killing people and spent it on loving our enemy–loving them with roads and schools and hospitals. I was a vocal critic of George W. Bush, but if he would have stood up and said, “Because of what I believe about Jesus, I believe that I am called, as the leader of this country, to love the people of Afghanistan and Iraq…. and that does not mean killing them,” I would have gone door to door for him in the next election.
These sorts of ideas (loving your enemy) are dismissed as naive fantasy, utopian, and unrealistic when it comes to matters of international policy. But just think about where we are now: Iraq is teetering on becoming a failed state, and there were over 1,000 people killed there by terrorist bomb blasts in that country last month alone. For what we have spent on the war in Iraq, we could have provided our kids with free higher education for the next 58 years. Imagine if when the Muslim world thought of the United States of America, they thought of humanitarian aid instead of drone attacks–We might even have the moral authority to have our words actually mean something when we criticize Bashar al-Assad for using Sarin gas against people.
The Church has a responsibility to stand up and say to the U.S. government, “We are NOT behind you on this.” It almost certainly won’t change the course of events over the next few days (or years, probably), but at least we will have said it. And maybe if we say it loud enough, somewhere in the world, someone might hear it and know that these military actions are not supported by the people who claim to follow Jesus. A lot of Church people like to claim that the USA is a “Christian Nation.” This is complete horse crap. If the Church could pull their heads out of their guns for a moment and really start looking like Jesus, I think we would see that the best thing we can do is yell at the top of our lungs, “WE ARE NOT A CHRISTIAN NATION!!!”
So I am just one Christian, but I’m going to say this as loud as I can: President Obama, I am not behind you on this. I don’t care about what you said about a “red line” before in reference to chemical weapons. A military strike will do nothing to turn the tide of the war in Syria other than to “show them we mean it” when we draw a line in the sand. People don’t need to die just so we can show the world we mean business. There has been too much killing already, and this belief in killing people to stop people from killing people is nonsense. It will only end with even more dead people, and the US having more enemies and more people willing to strap a bomb to themselves to kill us. Jesus’ call for his followers to love our enemies is not a naive utopian fantasy–It is the only outline for peace that actually works. I believe you when you call yourself a follower of Jesus…. Follow him right now.
God help us. And I include the people in Syria and the rest of the Middle East in that “us.”