In a Sept. 3 poll, most U.S. evangelical leaders expressed opposition to a strike on Syria. When asked whether Congress should authorize direct U.S. military intervention in Syria, 62.5 percent said no, while 37.5 percent said yes, according to the Evangelical Leaders Survey.
“Like millions of other Americans, evangelical leaders are questioning what the long-term impact of a U.S. military intervention would be on Syria and the surrounding areas,” said Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). “There is no way to know, but most of our leaders think military action against Syria is the wrong way to go.”
Evangelical leaders raised concerns about the lack of military strategy in Syria, the current level of U.S. credibility in the region, what kind of leader would replace President Bashar al-Assad, and the impact such an intervention would have on Christians in Syria.
Deborah Fikes, Executive Advisor of the World Evangelical Alliance, said, “Seeking other options of deterring Syria and holding their government leaders accountable would be a wiser strategy. The United States should work in tandem with the international community and within the confines of international law instead.”
The survey highlighted the complexity of how best to respond to human rights violations. Some noted the moral basis for participating in a strike, but questioned whether such a strike would lead to peace. Others believe that a response targeted at al-Assad is appropriate in light of the atrocities committed under his leadership.
Of those who support a Congress-authorized military intervention in Syria, many included qualifications to their support. One leader said, “As long as we do it the right way — meaning a long-term strategy, protecting our allies and without self-serving political motives.” Other supporters noted the importance of international cooperation and particular consultation with Israel and other allies.
Anderson said, “Evangelicals don’t agree on everything, including what to do about Syria. But they do agree that the loss of 100,000 lives and displacement of more than two million refugees in a civil war is a clarion call to prayer.”
Jay Barnes, President of Bethel University, said, “There is no good answer to this. Evil is rampant and whatever we do will not help — other than to ask for God’s intervention.”
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.