Syria and Catch-22’s

The politician in me is worried aboubombs1t the United States (and the UN’s) response to Syria’s (alleged) use of chemical weapons.

We target military sites…or so we say.  We try to do “surgical strikes.”

But I’m a pacifist; these things scare me.

The Christian in me isn’t worried, though.  The Christian in me, the person of faith in me, is absolutely terrified.

I’m terrified at the video on CNN of the child being doused in water to wash off the chemical agents as he convulses (even if this video is not authentic to the current situation…although it appears it is…it is absolutely horrifying).

I’m terrified that many times we target “military sites” and hit schools and children and people doing business.

I’m terrified that a “surgical strike” actually means we’re just cutting out another slice of our humanity in a failed attempt to show power.

I’m afraid that non-intervention will just result in having to ignore continuing genocide while we sing Christmas carols again this year.

I’m afraid that non-intervention will be a stain upon our moral conscience.

I’m afraid that intervention will be a stain upon our future as the wrong people get the wrong weapons that we manufacture, which means that the wrong people will get paid to continue building weapons with no other purpose than to kill other people, which means that the war machine monster gets fed instead of starved, which means…

Death. A lot of death.

I come from a faith tradition that lifts up a “two kingdoms” doctrine when it comes to the world.  Essentially it asserts that the world is ruled by God, and the world is split into two kingdoms.  The spiritual kingdom of God is ruled by grace, while the kingdom of humanity is ruled by rightly ordered governments and principalities (an extension of God’s Law)*, and we live in both simultaneously.  First of all, I’d argue that Martin Luther never fleshed out this so-called doctrine, and that attempts to do so by scholars are largely just defenses for their own political ideals.  In short: I don’t buy it.  It makes me a bad Lutheran, I guess.  But I think it makes me a good Christian, even if I am so reluctantly.

Secondly, if you show me a rightly ordered government I’ll ride my unicorn over the moon.

I think people of my generation (I’m on the millennial bubble with a cursed 1980 birth year) look back at World War II and largely figure it was “just war.”  But when I listened to (the one time) my grandfather talk about flying over occupied China and being absolutely piss-pants scared about what he was doing and how he was doing it, I’m not sure I even know what “just war” means no matter what metric you put in front of me.

I know people shouldn’t be slaughtered.  I also know people shouldn’t fly planes built to kill other people.

I’m terrified because I care about life, and this is a catch-22.

And a church that is radical enough to understand that only God can redeem in any sort of lasting way is a church where our soldiers and our conscientious objectors are both honored and prayed for, and where our loudest shout as people who claim to be of God is one for the catch-22 nature of this whole damned business.

If life is sacred, that means all life.

And I’m typing this as I hold my son, and I see my son in that little boy being doused in a futile attempt to save his life. And I know he’ll die. And I know we can’t allow these things to go on, and yet I also know that fighting violence with violence only perpetuates violence.

And so…yeah, there we are.

And I am wondering what the church will say about this.  Drumbeats for war are antithetical to the message of Jesus.  Watching innocents (or even the guilty, I would argue) be poisoned and killed without some sort of action is antithetical to the message of Jesus, too.

But real sacrifice for the other…the heart of the message of Jesus…who is really willing to do that?

I just wanted to be honest here. This is what this reluctant Christian is meditating on today.  And I know we will, and should, do something.

I just want to lament about that “something”, whatever it ends up being, and stand with Rachel as she weeps for her children.  And your children.  And my children.  And Syrian children.

All of us.


*Many thanks to Pr. Mark Williamson in encouraging me to better define and make more distinct the modern formulation of this “doctrine.”  While I don’t agree that it is a doctrine, I shouldn’t cut it short in deference to brevity.

3 thoughts on “Syria and Catch-22’s

  1. “The Christian in me isn’t worried, though.”
    Gag; he’s going to say “It will all work out, kumbayah.”

    So i was glad for the authentic response:
    “The Christian in me, the person of faith in me, is absolutely terrified.”

    I feel the same way.

    At a rally days after 9-11, I remember grabbing my congresswomen’s hand and pleading – we don’t want bombing. I saw such sadness in her eyes. It’s hard to apply personal morality to governments.

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