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NAE’s Leith Anderson: Evangelicals oppose strike against Syria

NAE president Leith Anderson says evangelicals disagree on Syria, but 62.5% of the leaders he surveyed oppose military intervention.
NAE president Leith Anderson says evangelicals disagree on Syria, but 62.5% of the leaders he surveyed oppose military intervention.

NAE president Leith Anderson says evangelicals disagree on Syria, but 62.5% of the leaders he surveyed oppose military intervention.

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) represents tens of millions of Americans from 45,000 churches and more than 40 denominations, universities, and institutions. Because of their broad reach, the NAE has historically been influential in the shaping of public policy at the national level. As Congress debates the possibility of military action, I asked Leith Anderson, president of the NAE, for a statement on the matter. He was gracious enough to provide the following personal statement, which is exclusive to Religion News Service:


Evangelicals don’t agree on everything, including what to do about Syria.  We grieve the  horrific loss of 100,000 lives and the displacement of more than two million refugees in a civil war that is frightening the world.  We abhor the use of chemical weapons that have killed civilians, including hundreds of children.  But we have the same questions and worries as millions of other Americans and members of Congress on how our country should help.

On September 3, the National Association of Evangelicals surveyed evangelical leaders to ask “Should Congress authorize direct U.S. military intervention in Syria?” Sixty-two and a half percent said “no.”  Thirty-seven and a half percent said “yes.” I was surprised because I expected the answers would be the other way around.

We’ve gotten ourselves in a corner with a clear threat of retaliation against Syria for crossing the “red line” of deploying chemical weapons.  Since the chemical atrocities of World War I there has been an international consensus that chemical weapons would never be used again.   It’s happened, and most agree there should be serious consequences.  But, does that mean America should inflict those consequences alone, without a resolution from the United Nations or broad support from our European allies and the Arab nations of the Middle East?

Our world has so many injustices and some of the worst are initiated by governments. These injustices should be confronted. Someone must speak up and stand up for the poor and suffering who cannot defend themselves. Since the United States is the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth, there is an expectation that we lead against unjust and cruel regimes. Yet, we know that we are not big enough, powerful enough or prosperous enough to police hundreds of nations with billions of people. The difficulty is deciding when we will intervene and when we will allow injustices to go unchallenged.

What we don’t know is whether a military attack on Syria would help or hurt Syria’s neighbor nations from Turkey to Israel and beyond. Some think that doing nothing will communicate weakness and put neighbor nations at greater risk. Others think that Syria might respond to a U.S. attack with its own attack and provoke an explosive regional war throughout the Middle East. We just can’t know in advance what might happen.

Christians are a small minority in northern Africa and the Middle East. They have been tolerated and protected by non-Christian governments for most of the past 2000 years. All that is changing in the 21st century. Christians have been persecuted and attacked in Iraq, Egypt and other nations where burning church buildings, beating believers and chasing followers of Jesus out of their countries has become accepted. Christians in Syria have been victims during the past two years of civil war. We don’t want to make their lives worse.

Is there any option besides launching missiles and doing nothing? Could the United States persuade other nations to join with us in looking for new ways to punish Syria for the use of chemical weapons but also preserve the threat of military options in response to past and potential use of chemical weapons?

The Bible teaches us to pray for our leaders. This is a week for extra prayers as our Congress and President decide what to do about Syria. And, let’s add Syrian leaders to our prayer list. Our request is that God will give wisdom to make choices for a lasting peace in the region. 

Leith Anderson
PresidentNational Association of Evangelicals
Washington, DC
September 4, 2013

“On Syrian conflict, three Christian perspectives”
“Christians in Middle East: U.S. attack on Syria would be detrimental”

About the author

Jonathan Merritt

Jonathan Merritt is senior columnist for Religion News Service and a contributing writer for The Atlantic. He has published more than 2500 articles in outlets like USA Today, The Week, Buzzfeed and National Journal. Jonathan is author of "Jesus is Better Than You Imagined" and "A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars." He resides in Brooklyn, NY.


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  • It is good to hear and read about churches doing something,But our Lord did accomplish all things perfect,not misleading or biased. when speaking about syria all should be said ,not only choose what pleases some “opportunists ” or things that have very low credibility . Syria is at war for the last 3 years. Most of the killings are not done or initiated by the regime.We have witnessed all those murderers and blood thirsty people from all over the world ,killing, kidnapping beheading,raping , amputating, slaughtering ruthlessly, burning churches, massacring villages ,mass graves..butchering children, all in the name of “God Almighty”, why mention the Gas incident which yet is not clearly reported officially by the UN inspectors ,and leave aside and not talk about the rest ,condemn it raise your something for God’s killings , as massive as it be is not important as long as it is not caused by MDW??? what is this man talking about like a Pharesee ,who looks only at one side of the problem and mentions nothing about the MAIN PROBLEM. Nobody is in Syria for the sake of Democracy ,the big lie of the west,or humanitarian purposes, or protecting civilians ,enough is enough ,nobody believes these lies anymore >>>>>>>>>>>>

  • Little disappointing to hear you say, Syria should be punished.
    Syria and Government s done nothing wrong, we are the victims. Syria is protecting its people against extremist Islamic Terrorist.
    I cant believe the United states wants to help them, the same people who killed 4000 on Sept 11.

  • President Leith Anderson’s comments are the most thoughtful and sane that I have read to date. I have a very difficult time believing that our political leaders think any kind of military intervention would lead to any solution but rather escalate the already volatile situation in the Middle East. Such interventions by our country have not worked in the past so why is it thought it would help now? We all need to pray that the majority of our Congress will press for a more sane solution.

  • I found Pastor Anderson’s comment that .” I was surprised because I expected the answers would be the other way around….” somewhat alarming and a surprise to me. Is he communicating his personal opinion and values, or is he that out of touch with the NAE membership? I am one who opposes military action and agree that prayer is our most powerful weapon.