Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle have issued statements in support of President Obama's decision on Thursday to provide "limited" airstrikes on Iraq. However politically popular the decision may prove to be with the Capitol Hill crowd and conservatives in particular, does it follow that Christians should also support the bombing?
Some Christians, particularly on the left, are struggling with the strategy.
Pentagon and Army officials have indicated the "limited" approach announced by the White House is meant to serve as a deterrent and if the military advances by ISIS stop, then the bombing would also be discontinued. Early Friday U.S. fighter jets targeted and hit artillery supplies belonging to ISIS, an extremist Muslim group that has been responsible for thousands of deaths, most notably Christians.
Religious and political differences aside, it's important to note that the last four presidents – beginning with President George H.W. Bush – have either attacked or invaded Iraq.
For me, this confirms the fact that regardless of religious convictions or pressure from religious groups, conservatives and liberal administrations alike have decided that military action in Iraq has been in the best interest of the United States. Yet some Christians on the left dispel that notion, saying such action should be avoided at all cost.
In a column that appeared in The Huffington Post in June of this year and quoting from his book The Uncommon Good, Jim Wallis of Sojourners advocated that the U.S. adopt a strategy of giving the enemy food and other necessities as opposed to dropping bombs.
"Rather than making our enemies hungrier or angrier, we should feed them. Instead of embracing policies that cause our enemies' loved ones to die of thirst, we should give them something to drink. This is not naïve pacifism, but a shrewd way to turn the tables and change the situation."
Most Christians may agree that Wallis' recommendations are commendable. But they are hardly effective in dealing with terrorists who are considered "extreme" by extremist standards. ISIS has reacted to the U.S. airstrike by using women as human shields in hopes it will deter the attacks or serve as a propaganda tool if civilians are killed or wounded. But I hear little of those in oppostion to military action asking ISIS leaders to curtail their barbaric actions.
What ISIS is doing should be reason enough for Christians to support such an attack for the cause of protecting religious liberty.
Wallis, like others on the "progressive" side of Christianity, have long encouraged administrations to avoid military action at all cost. I reached out to Wallis on Friday for his reaction but was told he was traveling in South Africa and has yet to release a statement on today's bombings.
During his weekly radio address on Sunday, Pope Francis mentioned that recent actions in Iraq have left him "in dismay and disbelief." Although he did not specifcially express his support for the U.S. airstrikes, he seemed to demostrate his support for the action saying, "I thank those who, with courage, are bringing succour to these brothers and sisters, and I am confident that an effective political solution on both the international and the local levels may be found to stop these crimes and re-establish [the rule of] law."
Foreign policy concerns already seem to be trumping religion on the left side of the aisle. For Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) to go against the leader of his party would be political suicide given one of his top priorities is to try and keep a Democratic controlled Senate after the November elections. In short, Reid is not going to move too far away from President Obama on military action in Iraq.
Reid issued a statement from his home state of Nevada on Friday saying, "I support President Obama's decision to send humanitarian air drops to the thousands of stranded Iraqi civilians who have been forced to flee their homes and are at risk of dying. I also support the President's decision to launch air strikes as long as no combat forces are on the ground. These air strikes are the correct action for our national security, they will protect American interests and save lives in Iraq."
Across the aisle and on the opposite side of the Capitol, newly elected House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy issued his own statement in support of the airstrikes aimed at preventing further violence on Iraqi Christians and moderate Muslims.
"I support the targeted air strikes authorized by the President. Frankly the threat posed by ISIS requires a more fulsome response and a more comprehensive plan than has thus far been put forward by the Administration," stated McCarthy. "We shouldn't wait until terrorists are at the doorstep of U.S. personnel or are threatening thousand of civilians with death on a mountaintop to confront this threat."
McCarthy's response is not unique given the GOP typically favors a more heavy-handed, military approach and it appears he is getting support from conservative evangelicals whose primary concern has been the on-going persecution of Iraq's Christians.
Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Conventions Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission also issued a statement on Friday praising the President's action as "humanitarian."
"President Barack Obama is right to take action to protect religious minorities, including Christians, in Iraq from ISIS," said Moore. "He has my prayers. Those families stranded on a mountaintop, fleeing torture, rape and beheading deserve justice and compassion. As Christians, we should pray for the president and our military leaders to wisely administer the sword of justice (Rom 13:1-3). As part of the global body of Christ, we must also pray fervently for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Iraq and across the Middle East (Heb 13:3)."
Given the dire situation in Iraq that the Obama administration has allowed to get out of control, an aggressive airstrike only temporarily stops ISIS from persecuting Christians and moderate Muslims who disagree with them ideology and tactics.
Christians may not agree on the aggressive military strategy being conducted by the White House, but lets pray President Obama's order – albeit late – will stop the religious persecution that diplomatic attempts have failed at. The Christian community, regardless of thier political or social leanings, would be wise to support President Obama and encourage him to protect Middle East Christians now and in the future.