Syria, and Running on Emotion

I could have entitled this piece, “Let my people think” except I believe I have already used that one before. On a regular basis I find the need to write such articles. We expect those in the world to run with emotion over thinking, but regrettably we find it in the churches far too often as well.

Instead of using our God-given brains to actually reflect, assess, think carefully, and rationally judge all things – just as we are commanded to do in Scripture – so many of God’s people simply live by their emotions. They run with what feels good.

Instead of carefully weighing things up, they live on emotional kneejerk reactions. They really could not be bothered with doing some hard thinking and evaluating – they prefer to just jump at whatever emotions are flowing through them at the time.

I encounter this all the time. Indeed, just yesterday I put together a PowerPoint talk called “The Importance of Truth”. In it I said that truth has nothing to do with how we feel or our own subjective experiences and emotions. Truth is always objective and absolute, and is not about our fleeting emotions.

Yet on so many issues the believer will simply fall back to the default position of emotional reaction. Plenty of social issues will bring this out big time. I have already written about how hot potato topics like abortion, homosexuality, or gun control really result in all the kneejerk responses:

Well the current mess in the Middle East is another such case, especially the current situation in Syria. I have had all sorts of Christians go ballistic here, suspending the use of their critical facilities, and running on pure emotion instead.

They have insisted that we ‘must do something’ as they react emotionally to the situation there. The chemical weapon attack for example has provoked yet more kneejerk reactions from some of these folks. They insist we must act now.

Yet when I have pressed these folks, they admit they have no idea what is really happening in Syria, nor do they have any clue as to who actually were using these weapons. But that did not matter – all that matters was that something – anything – must be done, and must be done immediately.

So they were fully ready to jump on the Obama bandwagon, and go to war in Syria, simply because it made them feel good – at least they were “doing something”. But what happens if what we do in fact is counterproductive, and actually makes the situation worse?

I told some of these folks that if a shooting occurred in their home, the wise thing for the authorities to do was to first carefully and rationally seek to determine who in fact did the shooting. Simply dropping a bomb on the home as a kneejerk reaction would help no one.

And that seems to be the case here. As I already wrote in my recent piece on Syria, it is not clear who was behind the attacks, but plenty of bits of accumulating evidence point to the rebels there. And reports continue to come in pointing in that very direction.

Consider this just in: “As the machinery for a U.S.-led military intervention in Syria gathers pace following last week’s chemical weapons attack, the U.S. and its allies may be targeting the wrong culprit. Interviews with people in Damascus and Ghouta, a suburb of the Syrian capital, where the humanitarian agency Doctors Without Borders said at least 355 people had died last week from what it believed to be a neurotoxic agent, appear to indicate as much.

“The U.S., Britain, and France as well as the Arab League have accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for carrying out the chemical weapons attack, which mainly targeted civilians. U.S. warships are stationed in the Mediterranean Sea to launch military strikes against Syria in punishment for carrying out a massive chemical weapons attack. The U.S. and others are not interested in examining any contrary evidence, with U.S Secretary of State John Kerry saying Monday that Assad’s guilt was ‘a judgment … already clear to the world.’

“However, from numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the deadly gas attack. ‘My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry,’ said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta.

“Abdel-Moneim said his son and 12 other rebels were killed inside of a tunnel used to store weapons provided by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha, who was leading a fighting battalion. The father described the weapons as having a ‘tube-like structure’ while others were like a ‘huge gas bottle.’ Ghouta townspeople said the rebels were using mosques and private houses to sleep while storing their weapons in tunnels.”

You are invited to read the entire article (see link below). Yet our friends who run on emotion would have had Obama go in, possibly topple Assad, and allow the very ones who were doing the gassing to take power. That would be really helpful thanks. But for these folks it does not matter. They will not take responsibility for their actions. They had an emotional reaction which had to be acted upon – instantly.

Commentators like Thomas Sowell write about this all the time. He reminds us that good intentions are never enough. All of us, especially politicians, need to make sure that the outcomes of our intentions in fact do some good, and do not further damage the situation at hand. I wrote about this elsewhere:

Let me cite just one article of his. In “Good intentions, bad results and intellectuals” he talks about the power of ideas, and how bad ideas – no matter how well-intentioned – can cause a great amount of damage. He reminds us that “both secular and religious ideas have moved the emotions of many — and have moved leaders who moved armies.”

He continues, “If there is any lesson in the history of ideas, it is that good intentions tell you nothing about the actual consequences. But intellectuals who generate ideas don’t have to pay the consequences. Academic intellectuals are shielded by the principles of academic freedom and journalists in democratic societies are shielded by the principle of freedom of the press. Seldom do those who produce or peddle dangerous, or even fatal, ideas have to pay a price, even in a loss of credibility.”

We are all to put hard thinking and critical reflection ahead of mere kneejerk emotional reactions. Christians of all people should know this. But plenty do not it seems. No wonder the church is in such a bad way, and we tend to cause more harm than good in so many areas.

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