Is it Un-Christian for Christians to Defend Our Fellow Christians?

Since nobody else is advocating on behalf of Syria’s Christians, maybe that ought to be our job.

By John Zmirak Published on December 23, 2016

The mainstream media narrative of recent events in Syria is hand-wringing and intensely moralistic. If all you read were standard liberal media, the account you’d get of what’s happening in Syria would be something like this:

Innocents are dying because the West lacks the moral courage to step forth and protect the weak. Especially Muslims. Those thuggish, bigoted Russians are cooperating with an evil dictator to slaughter women and children, all because they wanted a democracy. If we expect them to settle for anything less than we have here, it’s because we’re inherently racist. President Obama tried to pressure the Assad regime, but Congressional Republicans tied his hands, and the result was a massacre of civilians. For shame.

Turn to hawkish neoconservative sources, and as they see it here’s what went wrong in Syria:

Obama’s muddle-headedness, cowardice and desire to placate the Iranians prevented America from decisively aiding the moderate rebels in Syria, who share our values and wanted to install a U.S.-friendly regime, in coordination with our Turkish and Saudi allies. Instead, thanks to the weakness of the liberals and the Russian connections of the Trump team, Putin has gained a valuable strategic base in the Mediterranean region, and moderate Muslims have learned that they cannot trust us. So more of them are going to rally to the Islamists, such as ISIS. We should have seen that Assad is a dangerous dictator, and intervened decisively as we did in Iraq, to remove him.

Based on his statements on the campaign trail, it seems that the Trump administration takes another view of what happened in Syria, one that tracks with traditional, Jacksonian “realism” in foreign policy. Here’s that narrative:

Like every other Arab Muslim country, Syria has no tradition of democracy or religious tolerance. Because the Assad regime is secularist, it finds it useful to protect the rights of religious minorities, especially of one million Christians.

The “Arab Spring” revolts that President Obama encouraged across the Middle East might have started with the tiny minority of secularized Arabs on Facebook, but they were quickly taken over by the intolerant Sunni Muslim majorities. That happened in Syria, too — where the main rebel groups are allied with al Qaeda and funded by Saudi Arabia — who are no more tolerant of Christians or dissident Muslims than ISIS is. The aid we tried to send to “moderate” rebels mostly ended up in the hands of radical Islamists, who have terrorized Syrian Christians and other religious minorities.

Now in Aleppo, these al Qaeda allies used tens of thousands of civilians as human shields, but the Russians and Assad attacked them anyway, and won. If we help to bring down Assad, the result will be much like Iraq: an Islamic tyranny ruling over a smoldering ruin of a country. (See the NY Times for a heart-breaking account of what the U.S. invasion left behind for Iraqi Christians.) So forget it, we’re staying out. The Russians are welcome to that quagmire.

Leave aside for now the intrinsic merits of each of these views — which there isn’t space to settle here. Let’s consider how each of these narratives affects us emotionally as Christians, whether applied to Syria, Muslim immigration or other related issues.

Since nobody else is advocating on behalf of Syria’s Christians, maybe that ought to be our job.

Preening About the Purity of Our Intentions

The first narrative convicts us of sin, and gives us the chance to beat our breasts. So that’s appealing. Since we are looking out for Muslims instead of our fellow Christians, we also get the chance to be high-minded and disinterested, which offers a pleasant buzz on a Christmas morning. “Thank you, O Lord, that I am not as other men. …”

The second view lets us bash an unfriendly president for not resolving an intractable foreign quagmire. Since Obama has succeeded at advancing the LGBT agenda and keeping our abortion laws the laxest on earth, it feels good to point out his failures — especially on issues that really matter to him, such as protecting Muslims. Furthermore, he wounded our national pride by letting Russia replace us as the “decider” in Syria. The Russian regime is still the enemy of our freedoms and always will be, no matter who is in charge. We feel morally certain of that.

The third narrative both attracts us and repels us. On the one hand, it seems natural to care in a special way about the religious freedom of our fellow Christians, especially in one of their last safe havens in the Middle East, where Jesus was born. We realize, too, that there are dozens of Sunni Muslim countries who are looking out for the interests of the Syrian Sunni majority — while no country on earth seems to care much about the Christians except (perhaps for cynical reasons) Russia. Since nobody else is advocating on behalf of Syria’s Christians, maybe that ought to be our job.

But the moment we assent to any of that, we start to feel guilty, don’t we? Surely as Christians we ought to be above religious tribalism, to care as much about the rights and interests of Muslims as of Christians? In fact, that temptation of tribalism is so powerful a part of our fallen nature, we probably ought to bend over backwards to resist it — and hence to try wherever we can to help the Muslims instead of the Christians, because that’s what Jesus would do. Wouldn’t He?

It’s this last twist of our heart-strings that explains most of the chaos that’s tearing apart the continent of Europe, where church leaders are complicit in the mass colonization of their countries by intolerant Muslim migrants, while Christian religious refugees freeze and starve in the desert. A twisted Kantian caricature of disinterested duty has replaced true Christian charity in the hearts of too many believers. We preen about our purity as the real world burns down around us. And the heirs of that desert bandit and warlord Muhammad chuckle softly into their beards. They know what Muhammad would do, and they are doing it.

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