(A Facebook Post.)
The event of America’s bombing in Syria was indeed tragic. The events that stirred it—the act of a foreign body over the course of seven years, time and again, raining chemical weapons upon the people within her borders—an atrocity. Was the U.S. attacked? No. Did the United States, an outside entity with the muscle to act, do something to discourage, and perhaps even bring an end to, the atrocity? Yes.
I’m curious… If you are up in arms about America’s reaction to stemming the chemical attacks in Syria, what is your position regarding the taking of the lives of the unborn?
As Christians who live by confession, at what level are the dealings of a foreign body regarding the person(s) within her physical borders any of your concern? A pregnant woman who decides to terminate the child, does this affect you, that is, is it happening within your borders? No. Is intervention even necessary, then? If yes, how do you come to this decision, and whose job is it to intervene and help the helpless? And in the end, what does intervention look like?
I dare say that between nations, sometimes it looks like Tomahawks descending on an airfield. In other circumstances, it may appear as one person standing in the cold and holding a sign in front of a Planned Parenthood facility. Either way, Eberhard Bethge, a friend of Bonhoeffer, wrestled with one aspect of the dilemma in a way that seems to make little sense to most radically-individualized-freedom-loving-don’t-mess-with-me-and-I-won’t-mess-with-you politicking Christians in the 21st century. It could be that many don’t get the need to respond in Syria because there is no consistency in their understanding of the fellowship of humanity as part of their community—whether the one in need lives across the street or across the ocean. A good number of us, in fact all of us, have a tendency to live and serve in gradations. Bethge wrote about a group that was completely disconnected from his own—the Jews—but he offered an interesting angle concerning (or allowing) suffering/atrocity among them as it related to the Church’s confession of Christ:
“The levels of confession and of resistance could no longer be kept neatly apart. The escalating persecution of the Jews generated an increasingly intolerable situation… We now realized that mere confession, no matter how courageous, inescapably meant complicity with the murders, even though there would always be new acts of refusing to be co-opted and even though we preach ‘Christ alone’ Sunday after Sunday. During the whole time the Nazi state never considered it necessary to prohibit such preaching. Why should it? Thus we were approaching the borderline between confession and resistance; and if we did not cross this border, our confession was going to be no better than cooperation with criminals. And so it became clear where the problem lay for the Confessing Church: we were resisting by way of confession, but we were not confessing by way of resistance.”
In other words, confess as you must, but to be consistent in the confession, it may be necessary to act at certain levels and in some uncomfortable ways when the neighbor is helpless and in need of a protector. The struggle for the Christian is in doing so (or supporting) in a way that, all along the course, arises from the desire to be faithful to Christ and His Word.