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Do Christians in the Middle East — specifically in Syria and the surrounding countries — deserve our contempt or our sympathy?
According to Ted Cruz and Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post, “contempt” about sums it up. Levantine Christians have often allied themselves with the likes of the Assads and the Husseins, and oppose Israel, often with flourishes that would quicken the hearts of the worst kind of Anti-semites. In short, they support bad actors and oppose our friends.
Ross Douthat, however, argues that some restraint and sympathy are in order. Christians in the region are too scattered and too few in number to defend themselves; long faced with the genocidal hatred that ISIS has harnessed, they allied themselves with Baathist strongmen who can offer power and protection in exchange for loyalty. That Baathism is motivated by Arab nationalism (in which the Christians could participate) rather than Muslim hegemony (in which they could not) made the decision all the more obvious. The Assads, after all, are Alawite and Michel Aflaq was a Christian.
The sad truth may be that both judgements are equally true. Faced with murderous Islamists on one side and Baathist thugs on the other, it’s not hard to see how joining the latter is — objectively — the superior choice for Middle Eastern Christians. On the other hand, the necessity of that choice doesn’t obviate one of responsibility for the actions of the side one joins, even if doing so as a weak minority.
In our contempt for moral relativism — particularly on easy questions — we sometimes act as if all moral calculations are a matter of basic arithmetic. Sometimes, however, it’s vastly more complicated and involves solving for multiple variables at the same time.: That it sometimes doable, but it’s always much harder.