How Should US Christians Think About Syria?
Mark Movsesian analyzes why the fate of Syria’s Christians has been all but invisible in the debate over what the US should do about the chemical attack. He makes some good points, and then talks about a couple of factors that Christians should consider when thinking about possible American responses. Among them:
As to the second concern, the vaguely Rawlsian idea that people should put aside religious commitments when they take a position on a potential military strike—well, there are many responses, but I’ll just give two. First, it’s not at all clear that a military strike, which likely will benefit Islamists in the opposition, is in America’s interest. Second, the Rawlsian objection reflects an entirely unrealistic understanding of how the world works. In a pluralistic society, people have multiple commitments–religious, ethnic, ideological, familial—that cut across national borders. Everyone knows these commitments influence people’s decisions about foreign policy. African-Americans cared deeply about US policy with respect to South African apartheid in the 1980s and care deeply about US policy in Africa today; Americans Jews care deeply about US policy toward Israel; American Muslims care deeply about US policy toward Palestine; and so on. Should Christians alone check their commitments at the door? Should they alone be embarrassed to raise the dire situation of co-religionists in other countries? Where’s the sense in that?
He’s right, of course, but there’s this odd sense in our culture that Christians have to argue always and everywhere at a self-imposed disadvantage because they are Christians, as opposed to believers in a minority faith.
It’s like this. Say you are an American of Southeast Asian descent. News reaches you of the terrible tsunami there that may have killed hundreds of thousands of people. Are you entitled to feel special anguish, or to have special concern, for those people, among whom could be your relatives, or family members, or members of your ethnicity or religion? Or is it morally out of bounds for you to think of the Southeast Asian victims of the tsunami with any more moral concern than you would, say, the victims of an earthquake in Iran or Italy?
Nobody thinks like this in the real world.
If you had five extra seats on the last chopper out of Saigon, and 25 people were on the tarmac waiting to get on it, would you give no extra consideration to your wife and four children who were among them? If you wouldn’t, I think you are something of a monster, quite frankly — even if your decision left me, my wife, and our three children on the tarmac watching your helicopter fly away to freedom.