First there was outrage over the bombing of innocent people in Syria by Assad. Many persons of faith called us to pray for the dead and dying children and their loved ones. Then there was outrage over the bombing of an airbase in Syria by Trump. Many persons of faith called for us to pray for the retaliatory bombings to stop.
In these calls to prayer, Assad and Trump were somehow linked as partners in terrorism. Trump out-Trumped Assad; and Assad out-Assaded Trump. Both were demonized and we were asked to pray that both would be stopped by a benevolent, loving God that surely preferred the prayerful pacifists over the wrongful warmongers. I would love to agree, however…
The children having seizures and suffocating to death after being hit by Assad’s chemical weapons ~ were killed by weapons that were outlawed. It is true that this is not the first (nor will it be the last) time that innocent people have been killed by attacks by both sides. But let not the confusion lull us into prayer as the last on only resort of those who feel sickened and powerless over war and its many victims.
Unfortunately, Obama’s “line in the sand” fiasco and his subsequent failure to be congruent with his own admonitions and threats resulted in many, many deaths of children and other civilians. Obama proved that, for whatever reasons, he was not necessarily a “man of his word” and that is not the best posture to assume when staring-down dictators. Having been raised in a military family by a “dictator” or sorts ~ I cringed when Obama blinked. And for good reason. Look what happened when the warring world smelled weakness and advanced.
Prayer is not enough. I am confident that Assad would be thrilled to learn that all we were doing was gnashing our teeth and praying. It is far easier to shoot someone when they are in prayer than it is when they are fighting back.
I am not naïve to the complexity of this situation. I am very aware that our own, anti-bacterial American hands are not by any means clean. Pray for or curse me if you wish ~ but part of me wants very badly to destroy Assad and his minions and enablers. And pray again for me if you wish, but I also want pain to be inflicted on America for our complicity with death and our support of those victims from whom we may profit by defending ~ and those victims whom we ignore because there is no money or other advantage in it for us.
But I have a plan!
I am going to get up off my knees, stop my narcissistic praying that ultimately makes good-ol’-me feel better while the subjects of my prayer are dying ~ and I am going to commit even further to do what little I can to extend assistance to a Syrian refugee family. A plan to do so is already in the works. I will also preach about this atrocity. I will build and rebuild and rebuild again the bridges to peace and justice and radical hospitality that others are hell-bent on destroying. I will propagate agencies willing to help others. And, yes, I will also pray. And my prayer begins now: God have mercy.
Dwight Lee Wolter is the author of several books, including, “A Life Worth Waiting For! (Messages from a Survivor)”; and the New York Times self-help best seller, “Forgiving Our Parents.” He is also pastor of The Congregational Church of Patchogue on Long Island where he writes and produces many political, interfaith and artistic endeavors, including “The Spirituality of Popular Music.” He blogs at dwightleewolter.com