The following is a statement from President Marvin A. McMickle originally written to be shared among the American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) as points for consideration as military action in Syria is considered.
As Christians we are not exempt from having an opinion or voicing a position concerning the possibility of our nation launching a unilateral attack against Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons. We cannot view this possibility solely through the eyes of US foreign policy or US national security interests. The Lord of the church is not an American; Christ is sovereign Lord over all of creation. Christ has as much love for the people of the Middle East as for the people of the American Midwest. What action is really in the best interest of our brothers and sisters in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and all the other nations in that region that may be impacted if any military action taken by this country results in an escalation of what is essential a civil war?
With that in mind keep these six questions in mind as you do your Bible study and personal devotions:
1. What will a limited missile strike accomplish against a regime that has no regard for anything except remaining in power at all costs? It may result in increasing their resolve to do so. Like Viet Nam and Iraq, getting involved is one thing, but getting out is another matter. What do we do if Assad releases another chemical attack against his own people? What, exactly, is a targeted, limited missile strike meant to accomplish against a regime that has been murdering its own people with conventional weapons for the last two years?
2. Why is it that we can never find the money to provide healthcare for all of our citizens, but we can always afford to launch missiles that cost $1.6 million each? We are right back where Martin Luther King, Jr. was in 1968 with the War on Poverty being defunded by the war in Viet Nam. We are already spending $15 billion each month on the war in Afghanistan. Is there no limit to what we will spend to destroy? Conversely, is there no amount of human suffering in our own country that can prompt us as a nation to address and resolve the escalating problem of poverty right here in the US?
3. Has anybody noticed that the number of Americans killed by hand guns in our own streets has greatly eclipsed the number of persons killed in the chemical attack in Syria? Why haven't the President and Congress convened to address and resolve that crisis? Our government has essentially been in gridlock. Why is this the only thing they are willing to work together to resolve? My own city of Rochester is plagued with gun violence, but I do not see the New York congressional delegation running to the nearest TV cameras to express their outrage over that.
4. If the US strikes Syria unilaterally are we not opening the door for other nations to act unilaterally on matters that we may think are not justified? What moral authority are we losing by taking this action? Like it or not, the United Nations and international law do not support the actions our nation is discussing. There does not seem to be Congressional support for such an attack. Polls suggest that most Americans are opposed to another military adventure in the Middle East, especially where clear US interests have not been defined. Will the President really wage war on his own without any significant base of support from some quarter?
5. When do we as Christians actually listen to Jesus as he talks about "blessed are the peacemakers" and "living and dying by the sword?" Are we allowing a vague sense of patriotism to mute our clear sense of devotion to the teachings of Christ? After ten years of war and $1 trillion in costs, neither Iraq nor Afghanistan are substantially better off as a result of American militarism. Why would this intervention end up any differently? Even once "anti-war" voices like John Kerry and Barack Obama now seem to be almost alone in beating the drum for military action. "When will they ever learn?"
6. Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Jordan are neighbors of Syria or major players in that region of the world. If what Syria has done is so horrific then why are none of them lining up to retaliate? Why must the US once again be the policeman of the world? Surely there are some diplomatic and sanctions options that should be considered ahead of launching a military strike on a nation more than 8000 miles from our shores.
It may be that what we are faced with is a matter of international prestige. Those in the White House and its administration may wonder what other nations will think of the US if we do not strike following the use of chemical weapons by Syria? There is, of course, another question, which is what other nations will think of us if we do act unilaterally without any meaningful international support? These are political questions that for the moment seems to be under debate without regard to the values and views of the faith community. At the very least we people of faith ought to think through what our political leadership seems to be determined to do in our name and with our money. If we agree with the idea of a strike then we will have to live with the consequences of that action. If we do not agree with such a military strike then we ought to say so loud and clear, and say so ASAP!