I wrote here recently about Syria and the dilemma facing us of responding to or ignoring the evil acts of the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
I'm glad that we now seem to be in a holding pattern to see if Assad will comply with the U.S.-Russian agreement on how to solve this mess. The holding pattern means we aren't bombing anyone, and that's good, though as the graphic here today shows, there still are lots of people fleeing the country.
But religion scholar Martin E. Marty raises a difficult question in his most recent "Sightings" column. He wants to know why many Syrian Christians are siding with Assad in the Syrian civil war. And Marty wants to know why so many American Christians seem reluctant to stand up against Assad.
Well, let him say it:
"Why do so many Americans, religious Americans, Christian Americans hesitate to act or oppose U.S. action against Assad? I italicized the word Christian
because, from many angles, the 'rebels’' story includes a major
Christian component. It happens that, for all their suffering from all
directions, great numbers of Syrian Christians are siding with the Assad
"As for fellow-Christians at a distance, don’t their Scriptures say that, while they should do good to all people, they should do good especially to those of the household of faith. And Syrian Christians, whose churches have been destroyed and lives taken by the rebels against Assad are certainly of the 'household of faith.'”
Over and over I hear people say they wish churches would stay out of politics. At a certain level I agree, which is to say that churches should never be partisan voices. But all of the great religions offer values and approaches that necessarily instruct adherents on how to view certain public matters and how to respond to them.
And if religions don't equip people to understand and deal with the issues of the day, what good are they?
What especially bothers me about all of this is knee-jerk reactions that either glorify war and draft God into our armies or that immediately throw up the white flag and advocate a pacifist approach when it might be possible to stop additional evil from being done.
And in my view, many people of faith fall into one of those categories and, thus, aren't helpful in bringing about a just resolution.
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MORE REASONS FOR INTERFAITH CONVERSATIONS
The xenophobic response to a woman of Indian origin being named Miss America has something to do with the "racialization of Muslims," this Religion News Service piece correctly notes. It's one more reason for careful, balanced, long-term interfaith dialogue and education. The negative reaction to our new Miss America shames us.
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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it, click here.