June 22, 2018
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For answers on Syria, why not ask, ‘What would God do?’

Khaled Abdullah | REUTERS
Khaled Abdullah | REUTERS
A protester loyal to the Shi'ite Muslim Al-Houthi group, also known as Ansarullah, wears a headband with a picture of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad as he attends a demonstration against potential strikes on the Syrian government, in Sanaa September 6, 2013.
By Susan J. Maxwell, Special to the BDN

To strike or not to strike?

Given all the debate surrounding Syria, there is obviously no easy answer. We argue back and forth on both sides. We tear at the same fabric that weaves our desire for retaliation with deep compassion for the complexities of our decisions.

But I think we forgot to ask the most important initial question.

No, not, “Who will be our allies?” Not, “What will Bashar al-Assad think if we do not interfere?” Not even, “How can we take advantage of this situation to manipulate potential voters?” The most important question we forgot to ask is, “What would God do?”

Why do we shy away from asking the most obvious and important question of all? Why, when most people would likely agree that something created the Earth, us and its resources, do we snub the creator of all that we share?

I am a Christian because the story of Christianity is how I make sense out of God’s creation, God’s activity and my place in the world. I also like the word God. But we all know there are vast equal, beautiful voices who also believe in a creator, giving it a different name. In turn, you — my brothers and sisters — express your understanding of creation and your place within the grand scheme of things in just as valid a voice.

When we say God, The Universe, G-d, Spirit, Allah, Divine Being, One, Creator or your word, do we not all have a shared sense of what we are talking about? We are talking about the source from which we either choose to believe or simply know we come from. Our divine parent.

So why, given that most people share a belief that we come from some creator, do we not consider the source from where we come when we are wondering what to do? Why do we not ask Spirit for Spirit’s help? Are our egos really so large that we think we can handle it without the universe’s input? Did Assad pray prior to killing? Maybe. But did he really wait for the answer?

The funny thing is, I would not be surprised to know that our “allies” do in fact pray to God for some guidance, only in private. But why not come together in prayer? I can only think of two answers: We — all people, all 7 billion of us — do not really believe in our creator’s ability to affect us, or we are not interested because we would have to share the goods, so therefore we choose to handle it without God’s counsel. What are we afraid of?

I think, given all the poverty, economic imbalances, injustices, marginalizing, abuses of power and control — the list goes on; add your own despair — it is rather clear that we are keeping God out of all our systems and decisions. And that is frightening. Furthermore, it is proof that we cannot make things better for everybody without coming together. Despite our rich and needed differences, we still share this magnificent planet and its place in the cosmos. So why not ask for help from the source who gave us our very lives in the first place?

What if we did not first question whether we strike back at Assad? With all that we know, it would have been riveting to hear Secretary of State John Kerry say, “We know that we all belong. Let us pray for help.”

Let us come around a table and pray. Invite me, I would be more than happy to lead such a prayer. Even invite Assad to participate. Brave is not fighting back in the crushing sense that we are used to. Brave is asking for Allah’s help and being willing to let God reveal the answer. Brave is listening to Adonai.

Susan J. Maxwell of Whiting is a former student of Bangor Theological Seminary. She now studies at Andover Newton Theological School in Newton Centre, Mass.

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