The news has been filled with Syria the past couple weeks. And Egypt the couple weeks before that. I have to say, there’s something refreshing about it. At least the media is talking about something significant, something that affects lives, something that has implications for our common humanity. Other than that, it’s anything but refreshing. It is a global conundrum where everyone seems to agree: “The U.S. has no good options.”
But I’m not here to share my opinion on the Russian plan or what the President should do if it fails. I’m here to talk about how this fits into the Story–you know, the Story of this world and God and humanity. Which brings me to Food, Inc. For those of you who don’t see the obvious connection between a documentary about the American food industry and the current crisis in the Middle East, let me explain myself. My wife and I watched Food, Inc. a few years ago. It was disturbing. Not just to see the story behind what we put into our bodies. But to look through this window into the human situation. Not pretty. Here’s what I saw: We humans are experts at solving problems…without paying attention to the problems our solutions will cause. We make an adjustment to make our farming easier without attention to the ways this will disrupt the animals, plants, and ecosystem. We mass produce food to make it more available without attention to what this does to the nutritional value of the food. We make food cheaper without attention to how it affects laborers, jobs, and the economy. This is the human story. We solve one inconvenience only to create a deeper predicament.
See what I mean about Syria and Egypt? And Iraq and Afghanistan? And Korea and Vietnam? And so many other situations. There has been lots of conversation in Christian circles recently about whether Adam and Eve were historical figures and whether Genesis 1-3 even intends to present them as such. But regardless of your position on this, it’s hard to deny the truth of Genesis 3, aka “The Fall.” In this story, Eve and Adam face the temptation to improve their lives their way. Eve hears the logic of the serpent, and then the text says, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” In other words, she decides that her solution to her “problem” is better than God’s wisdom…and proceeds to pitch this miracle solution to the rest of humanity (who knew better).
Hopefully, we have learned something from Afghanistan, where we armed rebels to get rid of one regime only to empower the Taliban’s rise years later. Hopefully, we have learned something from Iraq, when a “quick use of force” to dethrone one dictator and capture another terrorist turned into a war that dragged on for a decade. Hopefully, we might consider even the lasting effects of our own Civil War, when the use of force may have brought about one good cause, but also left divisions, hostilities, and hard hearts among fellow Americans for years to come. Hopefully, we will learn the lesson of Food, Inc. that sometimes our brilliant solutions to certain problems actually cause THE PROBLEM (sin, brokenness, darkness, etc.) to weave its way ever-deeper into the fabric of our world.
I don’t presume to know what Jesus would do if he were the 44th President of the United States (not that he could get elected). I do know that with legions of angels at his disposal, Jesus chose the path not of least resistance, but of greatest sacrifice. And told all who would follow him to do the same. This is the path that will weave healing into the fabric of the world. Being willing to house Syrian refugees? Listening to our brothers and sisters who are actually in the midst of the conflict? Using our voices to redirect national resources into serving those in need rather than enforcing our will militarily? Encouraging our leaders to ask what is good for the Middle East, not just how can we achieve American interests? This is just a brainstorm. But it is what we need: creativity; thinking outside the box of war vs. appeasement; a willingness to take the narrow road that leads to Life when the well-trod wide path lures us with a quick fix.
Created in God’s image, we humans have a natural bent toward problem solving. We will keep digging our hole deeper, however, until we are willing to sit at the foot of the Cross, listen to the Story of the Gospel, and be trained in the Way of Christ: the Way of creative love, loving sacrifice, and a sacrificial commitment to the healing of the world.