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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

On Syria

Last Thursday in our "Bible Study" class we continued to read the letters of St. Ignatius, a martyr who lived in the first century in churches connected to the Apostles and the second generation of Christians. I wish we had more information from this period. Ignatius, on his way to die for Jesus, writes various churches. The influence of Paul is obvious in places. We also see how immersed in the Scriptures Ignatius is by the constant allusions he makes to the Bible. One of the lines was especially poignant at this time. He was exhorting one local church to send ambassadors to his home church because God had granted "peace to Syria." Two thousand years later aren't we praying for that same peace?

We are all confronted with difficult decisions. It is tempting for us to impute bad motives to politicians in general and to politicians of "the other party" in particular. We like to speak of "purity" in beliefs and practices. We all do it, it is hard not to. I find myself saying, "the politicians this" or "the politicians that" out of habit. I actually know a few politicians and I think they are good people. Well, as good as people get (we are all sinners after all). It is easier to impugn folks whom we do not know.

I do not know the President's motivations in Syria. I tend to be less sympathetic to his views because he and I disagree about a great deal (except we both love the White Sox, currently a painful endeavor!). I must admit I find it uncharacteristic of him to talk about bombing Syria. This is not what one would expect from such a vocal, even harsh, critic of Bush. And as always seems to be the case, the pro-military Republicans can always be counted on to support military interventions, except when led by a Democratic. Politics does impact our view of things.

The Pope has come out against violence. No surprise there. Since the Middle Ages ended the popes have tended to be more spiritual than temporal rulers. Their value systems have been corrected by faithfulness to Jesus and the Gospel Kingdom rather than the seduction of earthly power and kingdoms. I found it strange that the Pope's stance was viewed with such disdain by some commentators. It appears it was spun as an attack on Obama. Odd.

I think the Pope's view is pretty much in sync with the majority of American's views. Bombing Syria does not seem to be a good idea. First of all, what is to be accomplished by it? Bombing a place several weeks after you promise to bomb it would seem to be guaranteed to have diminished impact. The atrocity of chemical weapons may warrant some outside intervention, but the make-up of the warring factions (which includes the radicals of Islam which are our dire enemies) seems to muddy the waters. Today they announced there have been multiple massacres, though the government has done the most. One can assume the government has an advantage which has led to this imbalance. Once someone else is in charge will the war crimes continue with a new set of victims? One would think so.

The last decade has shown many of us the futility of interventions. American families have buried their dead. Millions and millions of dollars have disappeared to create large explosions and devastation, or provide medical care for men and women who are shattered in mind and body. This cost seems far in excess to what has been accomplished. Many of us get WWII. It was awful and evil but the purpose made sense. What does it mean to intervene in a country where the soldiers you are training turn around and blow up your mess hall or drop a hand grenade in your meeting? What really has been accomplished? Has it been worth it?

Most of my life we have been in one "police action" or another. The carnage has always been in the name of some greater good. I do not believe the politicians are motivated by sinister desires. I do not think that they are trying to be evil. I think they are in over their heads, it is hard to understand all the connections and consequences. It is hard to know if one should act or not. And in the end, we citizens are always free to change our minds. Politicians are stuck with the follow up.

The Bush years is a good example-- there was  overwhelming support for military intervention. The same people who cried out "Let's Do It!" now say "It was a bad idea." I am probably one of those people. That is why the fact that most of us think Syria should not be bombed cannot be totally trusted. In three years, if we do nothing, it may be that people (us) will be saying "We should have bombed then when we had the chance, then "this" wouldn't have happened." Perhaps.

I think I am siding with the Pope this time around. War is evil. Always. It is just sometimes other evils make war necessary. Bombing Syria seems empty to me. It seems like wanton destruction which could potentially lead to more. Maybe the President will make his case for doing it. I am doubtful.

I think we need to pray for peace. We need to seek a way to live without the constant recourse to guns and bombs. We need to seek first God's Kingdom. Nothing less will satisfy. I feel for the people who have to make the decisions and pray for them. However, I did contact my Senators to let them know what I thought. Hopefully, we will celebrate peace in Syria again, some day....


  1. Just been reading Jeremiah 18: 1-6
    After praying for my own formation, I decided to pray that God would get busy re-fomationing the US - and maybe the whole world.

  2. Amen, brother David! Jeremiah would certainly say "you get it!" in your sentiments expressed above.