My friend, Chris (one of my traveling companions a year ago in the Land of the Holy One) has also been blogging about the Middle East lately, and he is a very thoughtful guy. I commend to you, in particular, both Anxiety and Change and The God Who Makes All Things New.
I am struck especially by the conclusions he draws, and with which I completely concur.
(1) Grasping at the perfect answer, and attempting to control outcomes, are stock responses to anxiety. Thoughtful theology– thoughtful grounding in the Transcendent One– guards us from over-reliance on our own frail human capabilities, guards us from over-reaction to events, and gives us patience for issues to ripen– so that our policies actually have a chance to fulfill their intent.
(2) If it is too soon to discern whether, where, or how the God Who Makes All Things New is acting in the Middle East (and it is too soon), one thing that the Biblical account makes clear is that God’s involvement in history is surprising, disruptive of human totalistic schemes of domination and uniformity, and biased toward the weak and powerless. We should watch for these things in the Arab world; we should watch for them in the United States, too, as history continues.My own reluctance, I suppose, to wade into matters that are admittedly "above my pay grade" is more theological than political for precisely these reasons. It is easy, in the midst of anxiety, to seek easy answers and control. We yearn for certitude and the "hand of God" - until we lose interest and the twenty-four hour news cycle takes us someplace else. Things can change on a dime. My own view is that we are witnesses to "crisis" in that double-edged meaning of the word: opportunity and danger. And it's way to early to tell which will win out.
I am reminded that the Exodus event took forty years according to the tradition, and the Exile was longer than that. Along the way, any "snap-shot" taken would have been just that. All those quail falling from the sky in the Sinai? The golden calf? Psalm 137? Ezekiel 37?
So we'll have to wait and see, and hope and pray. Change always stirs up anxiety, but change may also lead to new possibilities. God's will may or may not be good for American foreign policy concerns. As Christians we pray for, and work for peace and justice first; and perhaps also work toward a foreign policy that values these things above narrow, short-term political goals.
I think that Chris is right: we'll have to see what kind of fruit ripens here to figure out how God has been in the midst of it all. Along the way, though, I agree that if it is surprising, and if it disrupts ancient schemes, and if it is tilted toward the weak and powerless, then it is likely that we'll one day be able to look back and discern the work of the Holy Spirit here. In the meantime we can keep praying the prayer that never fails: "thy will be done." And a close corollary to that one: "Lord, make us instruments of thy peace..."