Yesterday President Obama kicked back to Congress the decision to punish the Assad
government of Syria, Chemical warfare notwithstanding, most Americans do not want another Iraq which again spirals toward civil war despite our efforts: the tragic loss of American lives, thousands of wounded soldiers and immense treasure. The British Parliament has now refused military action to punish the Syrian government for its chemical and conventional weapons genocide. Why this reticence? When our gut tells us Assad should not get away with it.
What is it the Middle East that we in the West can never seem to fix? From the Crusades to failing British and French colonial rule. From Mubarak in Egypt, the Ayatollahs in Iran, and Gadaffi in Lybia. From Ben Gurion to Netanyahu’s determination to drive the Palestinians from their homeland for a greater Israel.
It’s the idea that if you are not of my religion/ethnicity, you are not an equal citizen. Or, you are not welcome to live here unless you observe my religion and its laws. We have a religious state, and anyone who is not part of our faith, is either a second-class citizen or an enemy we must fight.
So Muslim Brotherhood followers torch Coptic Christian church buildings in Egypt. Iranian Christians experience imprisonment. Sunni Iraqis blow up Shiite markets and mosques. Syrian Alawites brutally slaughter civilians while attacking their Sunni enemies. Israeli settlers and soldiers evict farmers from their land and build walls to prevent their return.Because they have a “God-given” right to take the land from its owners.
Democracy is incompatible with a religious state. When a Jewish State inevitably denies human rights to the people it rules who are “other,” is that “democracy” at work?
When religion enters a conflict, the sides become entrenched in their positions, knowing “only we are right because God told us so.” Irrespective of what religion it is. Jesus answered the question long ago—to avoid mixing religion and political power:http://lloydjohnson.org/2013/07/09/god-and-caesar-in-the-middle-east/
The founding fathers in the United States had that divine wisdom to avoid the pitfall of mixing religious belief with political institutions. Some early Americans had fled Europe just to escape that marriage of Church and State.
Western governments miscalculate badly if we fail to understand these centuries-old religious/political conflicts. Or think despite them, we can introduce western democracy overnight by warfare. Or money. Neither guns nor butter will work. Multiply the 3.7 billion dollars we give to Israel every year for 60 or more years. You do the math. It hasn’t worked to bring peace. The problems escalate every year.
In my surgical career, there are just some diseases we cannot overcome. Mesothelioma is one. In the Middle East the solution is not in not in sticks or carrots. We can’t fix the
trouble. Jesus told a wonderful story about a hated “other” who became the rescuer of an injured Jewish man. It was in answer to the question, “who is my neighbor?” Quoting from the Jewish scriptures about loving God intensely and our neighbor as ourselves, he said all the law is summed up in these two ideas.
The passage he quoted from Leviticus in the Torah ends with “I am the Lord.” How can any of us possibly love our neighbor as ourselves? Perhaps only when we understand who is Lord and who we are. It happens in the heart and mind for those who seek him irrespective of religion. He changes the heart…changes us. I think the good Samaritan understood that and followed him. I suspect there is no other solution. We can’t seem to do it by ourselves. Nor can anyone in the Middle East. Jesus knew that all along. He can be found if we look.