civil war

The Ethics of a Syrian Military Intervention: The Experts Respond

Syria illustration, Aleksey Klints / Shutterstock.com

Syria illustration, Aleksey Klints / Shutterstock.com

As the Obama administration readies for a probable military strike against Syria, Religion News Service asked a panel of theologians and policy experts whether the U.S. should intervene in Syria in light of the regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. Would the “Just War” doctrine justify U.S. military action, and what is America’s moral responsibility? Here are their responses, which have been edited for clarity.

God Didn’t Choose Sides at Gettysburg

RNS photo by Samuel Murray

Statue of Father William Corby at Gettysburg battlefield by Samuel Murray. Photo courtesy RNS.

During the July 1-3, 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, there were Christians and Jews on both sides of the conflict who knew the answer to the question “Whose side is God on?”

Or at least they thought they did.

In 1861, Confederate President Jefferson Davis declared: “Our cause is just and holy,” and the South self-assuredly adopted as its motto Deo vindice (“God will vindicate us”). In the same year, Julia Ward Howe composed the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” with the triumphant words: “He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword. … I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps. … Glory, glory Hallelujah, His truth is marching on.”

Al-Khatib and Al Jazeera: Listening to Victims in Syria

Violence in Syria illustration, Lightspring / Shutterstock.com

Violence in Syria illustration, Lightspring / Shutterstock.com

What the heck is going on in Syria? If you are like me, you have a problem keeping all the players straight, and the unfamiliar Arab names don’t help. Thankfully, the Syrian president has a relatively easy name to remember, Bashar al-Assad, but keeping track of who’s who and which side they’re on is a real challenge. Frankly, even when I can keep track, I’m very skeptical that I am getting anything close to the truth from news outlets, the White House, or our State Department. The talk about a “red line,” no-fly zones, arming terrorists, and weapons of mass destruction sounds a lot like the falderal we were being fed going into the Iraq war. So what’s a good citizen of the world to do? If I can’t make sense of the news accounts myself, who can I find to help me out? And if I can’t trust my government to sort out the good guys from the bad guys for me, how can I ever figure out what, if anything, my government should be doing in my name?

Standing with Syrian Refugees

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Young children sit inside a tent in the Za’atari refugee camp. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Our ministry with the Mafraq Church helped us see the desperate need for volunteers and funds to help the Church continue this vital ministry. Thousands of Syrians continue to make their way to Jordan fleeing the violence. Already more than 500,000 Syrian refugees live in Jordan. The refugee camps are overcrowded. We visited the Zatari Camp that has become home to more than 130,000 people. As far as the eye can see, the visitor can observe row after row of tents and small mobile units. The main street is packed with refugees while numerous shops, vendors, makeshift hospitals, and NGO distribution centers have sprung up in response to the plight of the refugees.

Other refugees are finding temporary residence in rooms, apartments, and warehouses in towns and cities outside the camp. The number of refugees in Mafraq has even surpassed the number of Jordanian residents. Church volunteers distributed basic items such as mattresses, blankets, small gas cookers, and gas containers. In addition, we delivered food baskets containing $50.00 worth of groceries to each family we visited.

Secession Theology Runs Deep in American Religious, Political History

Photo: By Júlio Reis, via Wikimedia Commons

Civil War secession map, Photo: By Júlio Reis, via Wikimedia Commons

Corruption has gone too far. The righteous must break away. Hope now rests with a holy remnant that will honor foundational texts. 

The message sounds familiar. A church schism? No, mounting calls for secession from the United States.

Since President Barack Obama won re-election, more than 750,000 Americans have petitioned the White House website to let their respective states secede, from Alaska to Iowa to Maryland and Vermont. Those leading the charge are framing it, observers say, in terms that suggest a deep-seated religious impulse for purity-through-separation is flaring up once again.

But this time, it’s playing out on a political stage.

“Today's secessionist movements are just the latest example of a long parade of breakaway groups [in American history] seeking to restore some lost ideal,” said Peter J. Thuesen, professor of religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. “The problem is that the ideal is invariably a mirage.”

Don't F— With Me!

Photo: Angry man screaming, olly / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Angry man screaming, olly / Shutterstock.com

Physical violence is what happens when the violent force of words is not enough.

It’s possible that we are just beginning to see the start of that in our world today. The words, language, and rhetoric within politics and religion is growing in intensity all the time. Insults, name-calling, and unfounded accusation are normal and even expected.

When one side is called out for their language, they simply excuse themselves, pointing out that their opponent is doing the same thing. So it goes. But what happens when the force of the rhetoric reaches its limit? Violence.

The Key Missing Feature in the New iPad3

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Boy sorts through minerals looking for gold at a mine in Congo, 2006. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.



Here it is, the “resolutionary” iPad3, with breakthrough retina display, quad-core processor and 4G LTE wireless connectivity. This next-generation technology is captivating and if you’re an Apple fan, as I am, you’re going to want to trade in your iPad2 and put your name on the waiting list for the iPad3.



And yet, as a human rights activist, it gives me pause. With the innovation of the iPad 3, comes some critical missing features — including conflict free minerals from eastern Congo. To date, Apple has been a leader on this issue, but I know they can do more.

Racial Jeopardy and American Politics

Lisa Sharon Harper

Lisa Sharon Harper

During a roundtable chat with a group of emerging young evangelical leaders recently, someone posed the question: “Has America become a post racial society?”

Well, we haven’t had a race riot in a while — does that mean race isn’t relevant anymore?

A black president just gave the State of the Union Address. How about that? Does that mean America’s OK with the race thing?

Our nation is a more ethnically diverse nation than it’s ever been. Does that count for anything?

Scholars across disciplines agree that what we think of as “race” literally was invented here in the 17th century to delineate castes within a system of extreme privilege and subjugation.

So, rather than thinking about the dreaded word, “racism,” to answer the question, perhaps it would be more helpful to think about how our society has been “racialized” and then ask if such a racialization still exists or reverberates in today's American culture.

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