Rand Paul: No War On Middle Eastern Christianity
Did you see that Barack Obama has decided that the US is going to intervene militarily on the side of Syrian rebels? Sen. Paul speaks out. Excerpt:
“It is clear that American taxpayer dollars are being used to enable a war on Christianity in the Middle East and I believe that must end,” Paul said to a packed luncheon during the three-day Faith and Freedom Conference, an event hosted by the socially conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition.
“The Senate is attempting to arm the rebel forces in Syria, many of whom are al Qaeda or affiliates. They do so out of a misguided attempt to stop the violence in Syria,” Paul said. “Instead their actions will bring more violence and more persecution of Christians, who have long been protected in Syria.”
Andrew Sullivan says that Paul is wrong to bring up Christianity as a reason to oppose US siding with the Syrian rebels, on the grounds that to use Christianity as a reason to stay out of war implies that Christianity is a reason to get involved in a war. I don’t buy the logic there, but more importantly, I think Sen. Paul makes a tremendously important point that is rarely heard in mainstream American political discourse.
Middle East Christian communities are anonymous in American political life. We never pay attention to them. American Jews understandably focus their concerns about the Middle East on the welfare of Israel. I don’t blame them. I don’t blame American Muslims either for prioritizing the interests of Islamic countries when it comes to US foreign policy.
But why is it that the only time American Christians speak out on Mideast affairs, it’s in support of Israel? To be sure, I count myself as pro-Israel, but I had no good answer, as a Christian, 13 years ago when I was in Israel, and was asked by Arab Christians why so many of their American brethren ignore them and their plight in our deliberations about the Middle East.
American intervention in Iraq has resulted in the destruction of many Christian communities, and their exile. As evil as Bashar Assad is, his regime has been a defender of Syrian Christians. If Assad falls, it will likely be a bloodbath for the country’s Christians, at the hands of Islamists. Even so, I don’t advocate intervening in Syria on behalf of the Christians. We cannot and should not fight every fight. That said, it is important for American Christians to understand what’s at stake in this fight. Sen. Paul was speaking to a Christian audience. It is perfectly legitimate, even necessary, for him to point out to that audience that by taking the side of the Islamist rebels, the US would be aligning itself against the interests of the country’s Christians, who have been a constant presence in Syria since the very beginning of the Christian faith. The baptism of St. Paul, one of the most consequential events in world history, happened in Damascus, on the street called “Straight,” which is still there.
America’s conduct has been disastrous for the ancient Christian communities in the Middle East, as Andrew Doran wrote in TAC recently. The surprise isn’t that Sen. Paul stood up for Christians in the Middle East today, against his own government’s policies; the surprise — the scandal, really — is that he’s the only one of his status who has.