Syria and “Just War” by Fr. Bill
After a quiet and lovely mass last night a parishioner sat and asked if I had a moment. This person is one who takes her faith very seriously and strives to live the truth of the Gospel of Jesus. She quietly asked, “What does God want us to do with this possible War in Syria. I am conflicted.” Her conflict arouse, as it does for many of us, in the potential for lost lives, a history of ‘cooked’ intelligence information, and a war weary public in the United States. She knew me well and asked for the short version of the Christian response to this dilemma. Those that know me know that I tend to go on a bit.
First, I recommended that she look up “Just War Theory” which was interesting trotted out during the second Iraq War (here is a link www.catholic.com/documents/just-war-doctrine ). Next we considered what the overreaching Biblical context is. One of the most dominant themes in both New and Old Testaments is defense of the poor and oppressed over and against the powerful and ‘haughty.’ The Prophets decried the economic and real violence of Israel against her people (see Hosea and Amos ) we may also turn to the New Testament to glean some of the divisive nature of Jesus message: Matthew 10:34-42; his response to abusive religious practice is found in the four Gospels most notably the beating of the money changers. However, all of this is suggestive and certainly must remain in its own historical context.
The Law of Torah does not strictly forbid war. It does demand justice. The Ten Commandments properly translated does not say, “Thou shall not kill” but rather, “Thou Shall not commit murder.”The God of Judah and Israel in the great books of the story of the children of Abraham experience God as active force both in peace, war, vengeance, and from time to time even used non-believing kingdoms to restore justice (Ezra Chapter 1 see Cyrus King of Persia).
So, the conclusion is this: In some cases it appears that Christians may engage in acts of war; there are moral imperatives that are at work. The question of intervention into Syria is still a question to be wrestled with. Is the information accurate, we’ve been burned before? Are there any existing alternative to military intervention that might be effective? Are all options exhausted? Questions will remain that I do not have answers for. So, investigate, pray, remain hopeful and remember “Yea I shall be with you, even until the end of the age.”