I, and perhaps most Americans, have been watching the collapse of the Afghan government to Taliban forces. It happened so swiftly after twenty years and billions of dollars of support from Western governments. I vividly remember the two commercial jets colliding into the New York City Twin Towers as I walked into the trading room on that awful September Tuesday morning. I was on jury duty and the judge dismissed the jurors due to ‘disturbing events.’ I glanced up at an overhead TV screen just as the second massive jet flew into the World Trade Center. One day’s horrific events cascaded into the events we see now in Afghanistan.
I also remember the images of NATO forces routing the Taliban with superior weapons and later watched the slow transition towards a new Afghan government after the brutal Taliban rule. NATO forces were constantly fighting the Taliban and other terrorist groups throughout the rugged, hostile Afghan terrain. The fighting and the loss of life never seemed to end. Last year, I listened to President Obama’s recorded autobiography and his questioning of the Afghan strategy. He kept asking, over eight years ago, “What is the purpose of US forces being in Afghanistan and when will we exit?” President Trump was also determined to remove US forces from Afghanistan. He decreased the number of troops and negotiated an exit agreement, yet he departed his Presidency while troops were still in the country.
My blogs are not political, and I am not going to second guess historical decisions. It is what it is, and I will leave this debate to others. My focus is on the Christian response to the human horror splashed across the media: children separated from their families, people standing in sewage to show officials their papers, others hanging from departing aircraft, soldiers giving water to civilians fainting in the blistering heat, and Kabul streets lined with armed Taliban soldiers stopping cars as the frantic flee to the airport. We are witnessing a modern day fall of Biblical Jerusalem, only this time it is civil war, and Western forces are leaving rather than occupation by the Roman army.
As I pondered these scenes, I asked a group of Christian men, “What should be the Christian response to this tragic event?” The men got quiet, and one asked for a response from a retired Air Force colonel who had served overseas. He discussed the issues and stated that he would have never put troops into Afghanistan. A retired minister recommended Reinhold Niebuhr’s (1892–1971) book, Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics. Niebuhr wrote this book in 1932 as he observed the rise of Nazism. There is incompatible conflict between individual morality and social life. Humans can be both individually moral and socially immoral. For example, German ministers preached the Gospel and supported Adolf Hitler.
I watched a PBS interview with an Army Chaplain who was asked about her role during the Afghan airlift operations. She responded that she got only three hours of sleep because the soldiers were continually lining up to speak to her about what they witnessed. The men and woman soldiers performing this heroic humanitarian operation are also fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters. Witnessing thousands of fearful families try to flee their desperate conditions is mentally taxing. These brave soldiers were asking the same question I pondered.
I walked away from my discussions without any definitive answers. I know the Holy Spirit is present in Afghanistan, sustaining and illuminating. Jesus endured the worst of humanity, even death, yet rose to eternal life. God is transforming and redeeming throughout history. These truths I faithfully believe. The Western soldiers in Afghanistan reach out to God as do the Afghan Islamic, although each views God differently. Both faiths live in a fallen world.
For now, I can only pray for peace, the peace that only Christ can deliver. “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6–7) My reasoning demands an actionable solution. But sometimes, it cannot be found. In these situations, I turn to prayer and ask for peace.