Open YouTube. Play John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Pray. Write…
Unless you live in a cave, you know that the US congress is debating whether or not to intervene and use force in Syria. I make absolutely no claims to be an expert on Middle East affairs. Though I do keep myself reasonably abreast on current affairs, I have no expertise in foreign relations and would quickly refer you articles as this one in the Washington Post that answers very basic questions about Syria, or to our friends at Common Dreams, who make a compelling case to the average progressive to avoid intervention.
Pope Francis immediately took to Twitter on September 2 echoing Pope Paul VI’s words to the United Nations General Assembly nearly 50 years ago: “War never again! Never again war.” Francis called on people of faith, and the entire world, to fast and pray today, September 7th, in a collective effort to bring about peace in Syria. Francis called military action futile. “To the leaders present, to each and every one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution.”
Bashar al-Assad has allegedly used chemical weapons against his civilians, killing over 1,400. Do we make a quick surgical strike? Do we send a message to Assad that this is unacceptable? What will happen if we do? Would this be justified? Many Christians have used St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Thomas Aquinas’ just war theory in the past as a general guideline for wrestling with such a heavy decision. In his article, ‘The Catholic Case Against a War in Syria’, Fr. Edward Beck explains how this action would not fit even those criteria, asking if peace really is the motivating factor.
Acknowledging the complexity, I turned to my most trustworthy spiritual advisor. “What are we to do as people of conscience, who desire peace, without remaining passive observers?” I asked my three-year-old niece.
Me: “Anna, this country hurt a lot of people and a lot of people are dying and we’re thinking about making sure they don’t do it anymore by making things explode, maybe even people. Is that a good idea?”
Anna: “No, silly!”
Me: “So what should we do?”
Anna: “Here. You take Lady [from Lady and the Tramp] and I’ll take Spot [another stuffed animal, hopefully with expertise in foreign affairs] and we’ll talk. No fighting.”
Me: (in my own voice) “I feel…”
Anna: “No, Uncle Adam! We have to use our pretend voices.”
Something struck me about her insistence to use pretend voices. Pretend voices come from somewhere within our imagination, but they are decidedly not us; they preserve our egos and all of our preconceptions and desires inherent in our real personalities. She was suggesting that we talk about it, not from the place of us, but from another place that comes from within, from our imaginative, heart-centered sense – the same place that contains the capacity to imagine peace, or comfortably talk in high-pitched, pretend voices.
I will always be the peace-making idealist, and am comforted reading articles that offer alternatives to bombing and finding that I’m not the only one. At our core, I have to believe that we all want peace and healing in this often-fractured world. Maybe we have different means of achieving peace, but since all of us are created in God’s image and likeness, I have to believe that our likeness is one of peace and war goes against our essential nature. I, for one, will be joining Francis in a day of fasting and prayer. Until and after that, what else can we do?
Pray. Pray for peace as if the world depends on it, because it does. Let’s start there. Be peace. Be peace in your home, in your family, in your community. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide our President, our Congress, and all with whom these decisions rest. Send love to Syria. Pray for Assad. Pray that compassion becomes him. Pray for the families in Syria. The ones who have lost loved ones. Ask God’s comfort to come to them.
Close your eyes and imagine a world where there is no more war. Even if it is your pretend voice…