I was chopping zuchinni and bell peppers on Tuesday afternoon when I learned that the United States was considering a military strike on Syria. Standing in my kitchen, tuned into National Public Radio, I heard US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announce that the US was “ready to go” when it comes to launching a military response to the alleged use of chemical weapons on the people of Syria.
“We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take,” Hagel told BBC News.
I tuned into the broadcast for the next 45 minutes, uneasy in my belly, focused in my brain, open in my heart.
“We can’t go without a reaction when confronted with chemical weapons. … It must be punished, it cannot remain without consequences.”
What is the response of a person of faith to such information? What is the call for a woman of compassion, a man of prayer, a person concerned for all of creation when confronted with news of war and retaliation?
A week earlier, I had read about the suspected use of chemical weapons in the attacks outside Damascus and watched as print media published images of the victims. Updated death tolls are staggering: 1,429 people killed, including 426 children.
It’s heart-wrenching, this news, these horrific, unfathomable kinds of crimes against humanity — the consequences of a people at war.
As our leaders discern an appropriate response, my faith, education and imagination brings me into questions of next steps alongside those of our world’s leaders.
What is the root cause of this Civil War in Syria?
Who are the factions that are sparring?
What are their needs?Wants?
What is the role of any onlooker, any leader, any humanitarian, any relative outside this war zone?
What does it mean to answer a chemical weapons attack or provide further consequences?
Can we put out a metaphorical fire with more fire?
What would a teacher or middle school principal do if this was a hateful attack in his or her hallway?
What would a prophetic, unpopular Christ request in the face of such venomous activity?
I get to the hopeful, bottom-line of my prayerful inquiry and ask:
What response would transform the circumstances and foster an environment for peace, well-being, and thriving for all involved?
Is it radical to not want to retaliate on the persons responsible for using chemical weapons? To assert that consequences are unnecessary, because they already naturally exist in the warring heart, the warped leadership, the sad, and terribly hurt humans at the helm of this Syrian regime, and the countless dead.
Nothing will bring back the dead.
But, as a world of resourced humans, we are able to address the needs and wants of the people on the ground. And we are able to respond with compassion. With diplomacy. With love. With our faithful human witness to the atrocities that have preceded and included these attacks.
I pray about what’s next and I ask you to join me.
Will you hold space for a non-violent response to the already at war and weaponized world? Will you help me seek solutions that honor the dignity and God-given gifts of all involved? Will you help me see the face of Christ in each person, from the Syrian President and Defense Minister to each citizen of this Middle East Region, to the US and British and French leaders, to the Russian and Chinese and Iranian allies, to those at the helm of Al-Quaeda?
Will you help me “Live + Jesus”?