The Common Good

On Syria: Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right

Right after 9/11, I asked a kid in my neighborhood what we should do in response. His answer: “Those people did something very wrong ...” He thought pensively and continued, “But two wrongs don’t make a right.”  

Hand holding the world, Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock.com
Hand holding the world, Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock.com

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As Martin Luther King taught us, you cannot fight fire with fire, you only get a bigger fire. You fight fire with water. You fight violence with nonviolence. You fight hatred with love.  

As a Christian, a follower of Jesus the Prince of Peace, I am deeply troubled about the possibility of a military response to the violence in Syria. Jesus consistently teaches us another way to respond to evil, a third way – neither fight nor flight. He teaches that evil can be opposed without being mirrored, oppressors resisted without being emulated, enemies neutralized without being destroyed.  

I am praying that the nonviolent imagination of Jesus and MLK would move the leaders of our country and our world to find another way forward than violence. 

When I heard U.S. military leaders calculating the collateral damage of an attack on Syria (“classified” information), something feels terribly wrong. Christ once scolded his own disciple who tried to use the sword to protect him. After healing the wounded persecutor, he said to Peter, “If you pick up the sword you will die by the sword. Put your sword back.”  

Over and over we have tried to use the sword – in Iraq, in Afghanistan, now possibly in Syria … and the sword has failed. The cure becomes as bad as the disease. When we fight fire with fire, we only get a bigger fire, and a bigger mess.   

Two wrongs do not make a right.

Shane Claiborne, author of The Irresistible Revolution, is a founder of The Simple Way (@thesimpleway) community in Philadelphia.

Image: Hand holding the world, Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock.com

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