Dismantling Chemical Weapons – A right policy for the Kingdom of God

Today, the chemical weapons in Syria are being destroyed. This is a rare moment of turning swords into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4). May we have more of such moments!

But such moments do not come accidently. And it is useful for us as Christians to ask about our role in beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. If the world has invested so much in the study of war, should we not invest a little in the study of peace?

The world is full of weapons of mass destruction.  We do not even need WMDs to create mass destruction.  Machetes in the hands of hatred, and we have the massacre of Rwanda. This is not a justification for WMDs. It is the recognition great evil can still be perpetrated by implements not even intended for war.  But we recognize that chemical (and nuclear) weapons have the potential of doing incalculable damage with a single use, and they are indiscriminate in their killing. This makes them so horrifying. So we rightly celebrate the destruction of the weapons of mass destruction.

The current issue is Syria’s use of chemical weapons on its own population. (Like Saddam Hussein’s use against the Kurds in Iraq.)   Syria’s action draws a response from America, specifically, Obama. He has warned that the use of chemical will trigger US involvement in the Syrian internal conflict. Assad (Syrian President) decides to test US resolve and proceeds with the use of chemical weapons against his own people. As America moves towards a limited strike against Syria (ostensibly to destroy their chemical weapons), Obama faces both domestic and international pressure not to strike Syria.

Russia’s policy on Syria: Only a UN resolution has authority for military action (such a resolution requires Russia’s agreement).This places some arbitrary law/resolution above human life and suffering, and supports a tyrant state that kills its own people (which is also the Soviet legacy especially under Stalin).

China’s foreign policy: Non-interference into internal domestic affairs of sovereign states. China is remarkablely consistent in this. They persecute Christians and tell the world, “It’s not your problem, stay out.” Cambodia creates killing fields; Rwanda massacres its own people, Syria poisons its own people, and China says, “Not my problem – or yours.”

US domestic sentiment: Assad’s enemies are worse than Assad. Look at Libya today, it is in chaos, and a hotbed of Islamic militants, don’t repeat Libya. It’s not our problem. Why be a moral policeman for the world and have the world hate us? We cannot afford it.

As US action becomes imminent, Syria caves in, and agrees to the Russian brokered deal to destroy its chemical weapons and avoid a US attack.  The media calls it Russia’s diplomatic coup. It is not. Russia might write the words, but it is America that makes Syria sign and act on it.

If you read my blog, you know I am not a supporter of Obama (nor do I give blanket support for any president).  But in this matter, I believe Obama did a brilliant job and the credit is his. In fact, his presumed weakness (foreign policy) turns out to be is strength, and his presumed strength (US domestic economy) turns out to be his weakness.

I like to suggest to you that we need to actively support those public policies that turn swords into plowshares.  Of course, some people can foolishly argue that the same rules must apply to everyone in the international community.  That is to say, if Iran is required to give up its nuclear weapons program, Israel must also give it up. On the surface, it sounds reasonable.  But in practice they are saying that we must disarm the police when we disarm criminals. Iran is a genocidal regime and they must be contained.  Can we say that North and South Korea should live with the same rules when one is a thug and the victim?

Righteousness is not equality. The USA has numerous imperfections.  But it has done more good than any other nation, and has not abused its power in the same way that other global powers have. The whole Asia Pacific region is indebted to America for driving out the Japanese during WW2. On gaining the victory, America did not hold on to territories in Asia except for minuscule parcels of land to retain a deterrent presence.

The Singapore government is completely right in looking to America for geo-political stability since Singapore came into being. Where else can we find security, or any sense of fair play? We are a tiny city state. Can we look to our neighboring countries for help? When was the last time China came in the defense of a weak nation? Does Australia have the military muscle? 

The Kingdom of God has come with Jesus Christ.  In Daniel 2, the prophecy is that there will come a rock uncut by human hands that will come and smash all the kingdoms before it. It will grow into a mountain and it will cover the earth. 

It is clear that Daniel is talking about God’s Kingdom. Christians have argued as to what it looks like in terms of how it can happen, who will rule, how laws with be made, would it be a theocracy, would it be an existence beyond what we can explain today, etc.  Christians agree that Jesus will return to earth and will establish his kingdom here. We are not agreed on what that means.  But it is not important.  It is like the people in the past—squabbling about the Messiah as the conquering king or the suffering servant and they were unable to reconcile the two.  Jesus comes and becomes the fulfillment of both.  Do we work to bring out the Kingdom of God, or will Jesus himself bring it to pass? The answer is “Yes.” Why do we need to choose either?

When we become too clever, we repeat the mistake of the Jews who try to reconcile the Messiah as conquering king and suffering servant. We will know more about the kingdom when Jesus returns and brings in the fullness of the kingdom. But in the meantime it is clear that we are to also bring in the kingdom based on the authority of Jesus by making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20).

There is a social-political dimension to bringing about God’s Kingdom on earth. We are to do our part in supporting peace in the society, and peace in the world.  Sometimes this peace can come about only through a roundabout way, like the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria. Sometimes peace comes through war as in WW2. But our clear objective is peace. We dream of the day when there will be no more rogue nations, no terrorists, no deviant groups bent on hurting others. But this does not come through wishful thinking or by looking to heaven. We have our part to play. 

Most of us are not politically connected, but we are the grassroots.  Grassroots opinions that are healthy will condition political policies. I understand a healthy Christian view of the world as “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).  In the current Syrian situation, Obama did the right thing. But many Christians oppose him.  Not on the ground of right and wrong, but on grounds that US action does not benefit the US. It is only when leaders stick to what is right that there is peace.

I disagree with the media and conventional public commentary (not new), and ascribe credit to Obama, not Russia for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. The media is consistently misguided in their understanding of world events because they do not see it through the eyes of faith, through eyes that seek first the kingdom of God.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace. The weapons of war are all contrary to the character of Christ is some way.  But the world is not yet a peace.  There will be wars and rumors of war.  There will be more inventions to kill and maim.  But in our lifetime, we have seen significant gains for peace.  We have seen the global moral rejection of chemical weapons. We have seen the moral rejection of anti-personnel mines that maim and kill indiscriminately. And in God’s good leading, we hope to see the rejection of more egregious weapons of war, and look forward to the day when we all beat swords into plowshares.

Peter Eng
7 October, 2013

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