The Doc File

The online journal of Luke Dockery

Tag: War (page 1 of 2)

Syria, Obadiah, and Us

If you have paid any attention to the news over the last several days, you are aware that there is a country in the Middle East plagued by civil unrest and violent atrocities, and the United States finds itself in the position of determining if and how to intervene. Sounds like a story that we’ve heard several times before, doesn’t it?

Knowing the proper response to the messy situation in Syria is difficult. I am not a foreign policy expert, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers. This helpful article has made the rounds on the internet, and basically suggests that although there is no good solution and military action is likely to be unhelpful in the long term, it is unacceptable for a brutal regime to attack its own citizen population with chemical weapons and not be punished for it (I recommend that you read the article linked to above if you haven’t already).

As I think about the situation in Syria (and similar conflicts in other parts of the world in which the U.S. has sometimes intervened in and sometimes not), I can’t help but think about the little Old Testament Book of Obadiah.

We don’t talk about Obadiah all that often. It is short—only one chapter long—and is hard to find tucked away in the minor prophets. Basically, the Book of Obadiah is a judgment against the people of Edom which proclaims their coming downfall. The Edomites were the descendants of Esau, and thus cousins of the Israelites. Obadiah’s suggestion is that, as close relatives of the Israelites, the Edomites should have come to the aid of Judah during its conflict with Babylon, but they didn’t, and will be punished as a result (Obadiah 1.10-14). I find verse 11 to be particularly haunting (emphasis mine):

On the day that you stood aloof,
on the day that strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates
and cast lots for Jerusalem,
you were like one of them.”

Now, I am aware that the situation of Edom and Judah (and Babylon) in Obadiah’s time and the situation today in Syria and the U.S. response to it are not direct parallels. I am further aware of the need for caution when it comes to seemingly removing a passage of Scripture from its context and applying it elsewhere.

But at the same time, I’m also aware that Scripture teaches certain principles that seem to apply regardless of context, and I think this is one of them. The Bible teaches repeatedly that God blesses people not so they can hoard those blessings, but so that they can be a blessing to others. The Bible teaches that we are supposed to consider others to be our neighbors, and rather than ignoring their plight, to step in and help them as we can. The Bible teaches that when we come to the aid of the “least of these,” we are coming to the aid of Jesus Himself.

So, that brings us back to Syria. What are we to do? Again, I am not a foreign policy expert, and in a real sense, I’m not qualified to give an answer. But at the least, it seems that we should consider tactical missile strikes against chemical weapons stockpiles (as the article above suggests).

But maybe a different question that I am (somewhat) more suited to answer: what would the Bible suggest that we do? Biblically, I think we have to do something. At least try to help. Something more than standing aloof and being like one of them, which is the response I have unfortunately heard from several Christians. They give excuses like:

  • We shouldn’t get involved because it will be expensive.
  • We shouldn’t get involved because it’s none of our business.
  • We shouldn’t get involved because we have problems of our own to deal with.
  • We shouldn’t get involved because it will make other countries more annoyed with us than they already are.

Are those good enough reasons to justify standing aloof on the sidelines? I really don’t think so. In fact, I think the Edomites could have used some of those same excuses, and God wasn’t too pleased with them.

Exit Bush

George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, is president no longer.

Bush’s time in office has been hectic, and his second term has been characterized by the continuation of an unpopular war, a faltering economy and sagging approval ratings.

For the most part, I don’t think Bush has been given a fair shake.

Sure, I don’t agree with everything he’s done, but he’s also had a lot to deal with. From the most threatening attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor, to a crippling hurricane, to a vice president who accidentally shot someone in the face, President Bush couldn’t really get a break.

From the beginning, people have claimed that he was an idiot because of his famous misstatements, and I’ve mentioned before that I think that’s unfair. Bush actually scored a very respectable 1206 on the SAT, and based on that score, his IQ has been estimated to be around 125, which would put him in the top 10-15% (and therefore, more intelligent than the vast majority of people who make fun of him).

And much has been made about his low approval ratings, but I think we should be pretty careful about judging the success or value of someone based on the fickle feelings of the mob. Abraham Lincoln was an unpopular president as well, but with the benefit of historical context, he is considered by many to be the greatest president in our history (I’m not saying that Bush is the equal of Lincoln, but he’s certainly not the abject failure that he’s been made out to be either).

At the end of the day, whether you agreed with him or not, I think there is one undeniable fact about the presidency of George W. Bush: he made his decisions based on what he thought was the right thing to do, not what would make him popular.

That’s an admirable characteristic. It’s a characteristic that we generally try to instill in our children. And one that is pretty rare amongst politicians.

So goodbye President Bush, and thank you for your service. I tend to think that history will be kind to you. Certainly kinder than we have been.

Abortion, Part 3: How I Vote

This is the third part in a series on abortion, and specifically on why I feel abortion is the single most important issue when it comes to voting. My views on abortion are based on certain philosophies and premises, which you can catch in Part 1 and Part 2.

In this post, I’m going to shift gears a bit and try to explain how I vote in general. It’s been a difficult post to write in a lot of ways, but it’s been good for me to flesh out my thoughts.

Abstaining From Politics

As a quick note, I should mention that there are some who believe that Christians should abstain from politics and voting altogether. After all, our true allegiance is to Christ, not some earthly office or entity, and Christianity is about being salt and light, not about getting others to do what God wants via legislation.

While I respect that view, I also believe that the thinking behind it is flawed—I’m confident that God wants us to use every avenue we have to influence others for good and inject the values of His Kingdom into the world, including our political voice.

Political Parties

On my Facebook profile, my political views are listed as “Inconsistent”. I described them as such not because I consider them to be inconsistent with each other, but because I consider them to be inconsistent with either of the two major parties that dominate our political landscape today.

Generally, I have conservative views on economic issues. As a product of (among other things) Harding University’s Belden Center for Private Enterprise, I believe that capitalism, low taxation, and limited government regulation of business are generally good things.

That being said, those views (some of which are pretty strong) don’t really impact my vote that much because at the end of the day, no matter which party is in control, as Americans, we are among the wealthiest people in the world. If our economic recession lasts longer than expected and cuts deeper than expected, as Americans, we will still be among the wealthiest people in the world.

Instead, the side of politics that matters more to me are the “social” issues, or maybe a better term (which I’ll use for the rest of this post) would be “moral” issues. From a Christian perspective, it’s fundamental that morality is more important than money—how good you are is more important than how rich you are.

And that’s my major problem with the Republican Party—while they may agree with me on many moral issues, when push comes to shove, they just don’t consider those issues to be as important as money. And worse, I think some Republican candidates don’t care about them at all, but just pay lip service to them in order entice me to vote for them.

Of course, on the other hand, you have the Democrats, who I disagree with on a lot of moral issues and disagree with on economic policies.

So here I am, inconsistent with both major political parties, determining my vote based on the issues that I think are most important—the moral ones.

Moral Issues

Christians (and others) who support pro-choice candidates are quick to point out that there are a lot of moral issues besides just abortion—and they’re right. There’s a bunch of them, and I could probably do weeks’ worth of posts covering them all, but instead, I’ll just briefly mention a few in order to illustrate that my views are somewhat scattered across the political spectrum (I won’t mention abortion, since that’s the subject of the next post).

As I’ve mentioned before in a previous post, the teachings of Jesus on the “Least of These” influence my thinking on a lot of these issues:

“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

(Matthew 25.41-46.)

Environment

God created this world for us to use, and also for us to take care of. This idea of stewardship represents a balance that I think a lot of people miss.

Having said that, I think the case for Global Warming (or, “Global Climate Change” now that statistics show that we’re not warming as originally predicted) is unconvincing, and has become overly politicized, as evidenced by the fact that the significant number of scientists who have refuted global warming have been silenced and ridiculed.

Gay Marriage

God defined marriage as being between one man and one woman, and as Christians, I think we should do what we can to support that definition. To me, that certainly includes opposing gay marriage, but at the same time acknowledging that, with the divorce rates we have, American heterosexual couples are doing a good enough job of destroying marriage without help from anyone else. Let’s protect marriage, but let’s also admit that homosexuals aren’t the only ones who are bringing damage upon it.

Immigration

The Bible is pretty clear as to how we are to treat the foreigner—with hospitality. Because of this, I have very little patience with the general position of the Right on immigration.

I realize that we have a lot of illegal immigrants in this country, but I’m also virtually certain that the vast majority of them would choose to become legal if it were easier for them to do so. That’s what I call the iTunes Effect: when the iTunes store gave people an affordable, legal alternative to stealing music, many, many people immediately took advantage of it. I may be naive, but I think immigration would work in much the same way.

Furthermore the U.S. has always been a country of immigrants. It’s how we got our beginning, and it’s what gives us our identity. The Statue of Liberty actually says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free…” but all too many people seem to want to add an “unless they’re from Mexico” clause to the end. I think that’s ridiculous. And sad. And not biblical.

Poverty

I feel convinced in my own mind that ideally, it should be the job of the Church, not government, to take care of the poor, but considering that Christendom as a whole hasn’t done a very good job of that, government helping out might not be a bad idea.

I question whether or not the typical policies of the Democratic Party really help out the poor that much, but at least, in theory, their heart is in the right place. And to those with more conservative views who think that taxation basically amounts to stealing (a view I’m sensitive to), I think it’s important to remember that Jesus didn’t say, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s—unless he asks for more than you want to give him.”

At the same time, I see a lot of inconsistency regarding political views on poverty. If poverty was such a big deal to the Left, you would think they would also oppose things like state lotteries (which statistics have shown feed off of the poor) and alternative fuel sources such as ethanol, which take food (corn) and turn it into fuel when thousands of people around the world starve every day. It makes me wonder if poverty is the Left’s lip service issue just as abortion is the Right’s.

War

I know that this is a major issue with some people, so I may not do it justice in my brief comments, but I’ll try.

I’m not a pacifist. I think war is a terrible thing, and should be avoided when possible, but I also think it can be justified. I think that’s a Biblical view, although I respect the opinions of those who disagree.

Regarding our current war, I know it’s very unpopular, but if we’re honest, I think we’d acknowledge two things. First, back when war was declared, the vast majority of politicians (although our President-Elect is a notable exception) and the vast majority of American citizens were in favor of it. I think too many people are trying to deny responsibility for that. Secondly, having made the decision to go to war, it’s incredibly irresponsible to just pack up and leave in the middle when all indications are that things will get worse if you do. That might be the case now, and it certainly was the case back when the Left first started demanding a pullout.

Having said that, if all the Iraq War accomplished or all it was about was removing a dictator from power who had committed genocide on his own people, then I think it was justified. Similarly, if Hitler had decided not to invade every country in Europe but had still gassed every Jew he could get his hands on, I think war would have been justified in that situation as well.

Conclusion

Once again, my point in bringing up all these issues is not so much to convince anyone on any particular subject, but rather to illustrate what I believe is a consistency among my views on different moral subjects, but an inconsistency between the moral views I hold and the views generally held by either major political party.

So what does that leave me with? Since there are clearly a lot of moral issues, and my views on these issues don’t all line up neatly with a specific party, how can I ever choose to vote for one candidate or another?

Well, if all issues were created equal (you can see where I’m going with this), I wouldn’t be able to—I’d be locked in a stalemate of conscience. But that’s not the case. Sometimes, the magnitude of a particular issue can make it so important that it should take preeminence over all others.

Slavery was such an issue, and abortion is another.

War Hero


Two political posts in a row? Yuck. I’ll keep this one short.

Everyone knows that John McCain was a war hero and a POW in Vietnam. What I wasn’t aware of were some of the impressive circumstances of his time in captivity. From Wikipedia:

“In mid–1968, McCain’s father was named commander of all U.S. forces in the Vietnam theater, and McCain was offered early release. The North Vietnamese made that offer because they wanted to appear merciful for propaganda purposes, and also wanted to show other POWs that elites like McCain were willing to be treated preferentially. McCain turned down the offer of repatriation; he would only accept the offer if every man taken in before him was released as well.”

If only being a war hero were all it took to make someone a viable presidential candidate, I think we’d have a winner.

“The Most Noble And Benevolent Instincts Of The Human Heart”

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Neville Chamberlain, maybe because, not unlike Fred Merkle, he is another example of a historical figure who is remembered primarily for his biggest mistake.

Of course, in Chamberlain’s case, his mistake was more significant than losing the National League Pennant.

Chamberlain, the Prime Minister of Britain from 1937-1940, is (in)famous for his “policy of appeasement”—an attempt to deal with the rising threat of Nazi Germany through diplomatic channels rather than military action.

This policy led to his being duped by Adolf Hitler into signing the Munich Agreement in 1938 in hopes of maintaining peace in Europe, but in reality, it just allowed Hitler to overrun Czechoslovakia without interference from Britain and France.

Chamberlain returned to Britain among cheers, declaring that “peace for our time” had been accomplished. But then, as it became clear that Hitler was less interested in freeing Germans from the Sudetenland and more interested in taking over the world, the cheers ceased and Chamberlain’s popularity plummeted.

He lost his Prime Minister position by May 1940, and would be dead by November of that same year.

Winston Churchill, a great critic of Chamberlain and his eventual successor as British Prime Minister, eulogized him in the House of Commons in this way:

“It fell to Neville Chamberlain in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man. But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? What were these wishes in which he was frustrated? What was that faith that was abused? They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart—the love of peace, the toil for peace, the strife for peace, the pursuit of peace, even at great peril, and certainly to the utter disdain of popularity or clamour. Whatever else history may or may not say about these terrible, tremendous years, we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity according to his lights and strove to the utmost of his capacity and authority, which were powerful, to save the world from the awful, devastating struggle in which we are now engaged. This alone will stand him in good stead as far as what is called the verdict of history is concerned.”

People who are filled with hope and idealism are often disappointed in life and taken advantage of by others, but I don’t think that makes them any less admirable.

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