The Christian Left in America is missing in action on the West’s imminent military strikes against the Syrian regime. As of this writing, Sojourners, a prominent face of the so-called evangelical left, has not posted a single item in response to President Obama’s decision this week to strike Syria. This is not surprising considering the broader movement the press calls the anti-war left has, for all intents and purposes, disappeared since the Obama Administration came to power.
This is a President who campaigned as the anti-war candidate and was celebrated by the evangelical left for it. I’m reminded of then-candidate-Obama’s words during the 2008 campaign: “I believed it [war in Iraq] was a grave mistake to allow ourselves to be distracted from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban by invading a country that posed no imminent threat and had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.” Yesterday Obama was disturbed that we would allow ourselves to be distracted from fighting Al Qaeda, yet today we prepare to enter a war allied with Al Qaeda against Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria.
Jim Wallis of Sojourners was deeply engaged in the opposition to the war in Iraq. In an article entitled, “Iraq: It’s Finally Over–And It Was Wrong”, Wallis wrote, “From the outset, this war was fought on false pretenses, with false information, and for false purposes. And the official decisions to argue for this war and then to carry it out represented the height of political and moral irresponsibility—especially when we see the failed results and consider both the human and financial costs.”
Will a similar standard be applied to President Obama’s wars? That question has already been answered: No.
In addition to his aggressive drone strike policy, President Obama has committed troops to several engagements during his presidency with almost no complaint from organizations such as Sojourners. In October of 2011, President Obama sent troops to Uganda and South Sudan to join the fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army. Obama deployed anti-missile batteries to the Turkey-Syria border to protect against shelling from Syria in January of 2013. In February of this year the President deployed American personnel and drones to Niger to support French missions in Mali. Obama again deployed troops in April, this time to Jordan, in preparation for military action in Syria. Obama committed troops once again in June to deploy to Egypt as part of a “peace-keeping” mission. Add to these troop deployments the hundreds of missile strikes from the President’s weapon of choice, the drone, and it’s difficult to understand the disappearance of the anti-war left.
A possible explanation could be that these Christians are more “anti-GOP” than they are “anti-war” and they really don’t want to rock the boat while their guy is in office. He’s carrying out the Lord’s work, after all. Some unpleasantries must be overlooked on behalf of the greater good. Case in point: San Diego’s “Filthy Filner.”
In a city where Democrats have been starved out of the mayor’s office for decades, many progressives in a position to stop or impede him were willing to overlook Filner’s reputation because he was a champion of liberal causes. “it’s a cost-benefit analysis,” explained David Rolland, editor of San Diego City Beat. ‘He’s a jerk, but his politics, from our standpoint, were right on the money.”
So those who accuse their opponents of waging a war on women were willing to overlook repeated, unwanted sexual advances, to put it mildly, against women because the offender championed the right causes. This phenomenon seems to be the reason why the same Christians who put Obama in office over opposition to the war in Iraq are unwilling to speak out against his interventionist policies in Syria and elsewhere.
However, before the Christian Right becomes hoarse from yelling “hypocrites!,” we need to ask ourselves, are we doing the same thing? I mean, this war in Syria is a “bad war,” right? In a related discussion a friend of mine quipped, “It’s like 2003 again, except with the teams flipped.” I think he’s right but why? Have conservative Christians seen the error of their ways and adopted a pacifistic ideology? Or, is it simply because “our guy” isn’t in office? I believe that if Mitt Romney were in office proposing the same military interventions as Barack Obama, conservative Christians would largely support them.
If it is 2003 all over again, except with the teams flipped, what does that mean for the state of politics and representative government in America? If we would support military strikes in Syria if Romney had won the election, what does that say about us? Was Iraq truly a good war while Syria is a bad one? If so, why? Was the war in Iraq immoral enough to protest in the streets but hundreds of drone strikes throughout the world and military intervention in Syria is not? If the answer is “no” then where are the anti-war protests? What exactly are the principles we would never compromise no matter which party is in power?
The debate over military intervention in Syria (or the lack thereof) is an excellent occasion for soul-searching by Christians of all political persuasions. We cannot change our principles each time a politician changes office. Let us take a stand based on our convictions rather than the priorities of any one political party.