Last Friday evening President Obama announced that he would be seeking congressional authorization for a limited strike against Syria. Many experts believe that the president already has the constitutional authority for such an attack. However, President Obama’s case for military action in retaliation for the atrocities of the Assad regime could be strengthened considerably if the President could make his appeal to the American people based on transcendent moral principles. But he can’t.
The attempt by President Obama and progressives like Nancy Pelosi to stir up our outrage against Assad for gassing several hundred Syrian children would be more effective if the president and his supporters demonstrated the same compassion for the lives of more than a million children in our country whose lives were ended through abortions last year. Why is genocide in Syria intolerable while infanticide in our country is not only permissible, but considered a constitutional right? By what moral authority do we deny the leader of another nation his “freedom of choice” to exterminate his own people, yet empower our own citizenry to kill their children and even provide hundreds of millions of tax dollars to Planned Parenthood to carry out the executions?
I can hear the liberal howl across America as I type these words. “You pro-life people are always trying to turn every issue into a debate about abortion. There is no moral equivalency between Assad’s heinous acts against his own people and the personal, painful choice of a mother to terminate a pregnancy.” But, alas, there is.
Democrat Nancy Pelosi’s statement to reporters this week about her rationale for supporting military action against Assad was the genesis of my thoughts for this column. Pelosi related to journalists a conversation she had with her five-year-old grandson about the reason for going to war against Assad. “They have killed hundreds of children,” the former speaker of the House told her grandson. “Were these children in America?” the little boy inquired. “No, but they’re children wherever they are,” Pelosi responded. Exactly.
Both the Assad atrocities and abortion represent attacks against the most vulnerable members of society: children. We are understandably horrified by the pictures of endless rows of Syrian children’s corpses. But if we laid side by side the remains of the millions of children who have been aborted in the last 40 years — many during the second and third trimesters with discernable features — I imagine there would be an even greater outcry from the American people.
Yet, President Obama is unapologetically the staunchest defender of abortion of any American president in history, priding himself during his first run for the Oval Office on his100% pro-choice rating with Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America. While an Illinois senator, Obama voted against restricting partial birth abortions — a particularly barbaric act that involves the crushing of a partially-born infant’s head and removal of its brain matter through a suction device. Amazingly, President Obama has consistently criticized the Supreme Court for upholding the constitutionality of a ban on partial birth abortions. Nancy Pelosi claimed to reporters last week that Assad’s actions were “outside of the circle of civilized behavior.” How could anyone believe that the murder of a child inside his mother’s womb would not also fall outside that circle?
Many progressives would counter that while they are not “pro-abortion,” they are willing to leave that decision to women to make for themselves. They see “choice” as a fundamental human right. But why are they not willing to extend that same freedom of choice to President Assad to exterminate the children of his nation? Although Syria has been a party to the Geneva Conventions which prohibit the use of chemical weapons, perhaps President Assad has “evolved” in his thinking since Syria first agreed to such restrictions.
Who are we to impose our morality on another sovereign nation? Just because a majority of nations currently believes it is unlawful to engage in genocide, is popular opinion the best way to decide issues of morality? After all, for many years the majority of people in the United States were comfortable with the idea of one human being owning another.
Make no mistake about it, I believe that Assad’s actions are reprehensible. However, to make a convincing moral argument against genocide, abortion, slavery, or any other injustice one must appeal to a moral code that transcends time and culture. And such a universal, moral code can only come from God. As Yale law professor Arthur Leff asked, “Who among us ought to be able to declare ‘law’ that ought to be obeyed? Either God exists or He does not, but if He does not, nothing and no one can take His place.”
Every American should be praying for President Obama’s success in making and executing the right decision regarding our involvement in Syria. However, as our nation grapples with what to do about the genocide in Syria, as well as the escalating and well-publicized acts of violence in our own country, perhaps it is time that we abandon themoral relativism that has permeated our culture and reclaim God’s absolute and unchanging moral law that includes the words “Thou shalt not kill.” For, as Dostoyevsky observed, without God “everything is permitted.”
Dr. Robert Jeffress is pastor of the 11,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas and an adjunct professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. Dr. Jeffress’ daily radio program is heard on 764 stations nationwide, and he is the author of 20 books.