Rev. Rich Lang
We must remind our leaders there’s an antidote to imperial warfare: a compassionate heart
As a pastor, there’s a question that continually haunts me: “Are we Christians of any use anymore?”
Do we have anything of substance to offer the public square of ideas and policies? Do we have any wise counsel to provide in matters of war and peace, of economic justice, or solutions to homelessness or how to get along in a society where people are drifting apart? Is there anything that distinguishes the wisdom of the Spirit from the wisdom of those who think they’re primarily secular, scientific, artistic, theatrical or political? I keep wondering if the collective mind of Christ, as it is embodied in Christian preaching and practice, has anything unique to offer the moral imagination of our nation and world.
In the midst of my wondering, an old-timer in my congregation, Dr. Gary Wedemeyer, offered up powerful spiritual wisdom that our politicians rarely think about and hardly ever find the courage to enact. Gary, trained in Christian imagination, asked a simple question: “Instead of bombing Syria, why not drop medicine and educational materials?”
After all, Gary argues, it’s well known that sarin nerve gas was used. It’s also known that injecting the antidote atropine immediately after exposure can save lives, and even providing atropine hours later can prevent further nerve damage. It’s also known that there is a dire shortage of atropine in Syria.
It’s also well known that educating citizens about what to do during a gas attack makes a huge difference. Many people died in Damascus because they hid in basements after the rockets hit. Unfortunately they didn’t know that sarin gas is heavier than air and pools in low places. In the short term, we are likely to save more lives by offering medical parcels containing the antidote and educational materials that people desperately need rather than dropping bombs.
The Gulf War has taught us that while bombing nerve gas stockpiles incinerates some of the gas, the blast also sends it high into the air where it can spread over a wide area. Indeed, bombing military targets kills a lot of innocent civilians, which makes more people hate us.
Unfortunately, we know that our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president has an active trigger finger. Perhaps he doesn’t like the smell of napalm in the morning, but that doesn’t stop him from increasing the body count of the perceived enemy just so he can impose his will.
In such a state, Christians have some words for a leader who assumes that the “land of the free” will never suffer a sudden, horrible collapse: Repent, Mr. President. Repent from repeating the folly that comes upon all empires that seek full-spectrum dominance of earth. Repent, for you are not immune from the consequences of a hardened heart.
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