Also from the Mark Twain quote:
(Damascus) has looked upon the dry bones of a thousand empires, and will see the tombs of a thousand more before she dies.
When we talk of being part of a Christian tradition, we do need to widen that to encompass Judaic, Greek, Roman, Arab. Talk of a thousand empires may be a little exaggerated … but our spiritual and cultural traditions have been nurtured and fashioned over many millennia, and they’ve come down to us interpreted and recreated through (for the UK) a fifteen-hundred-year Christian history. When we try and conjure value systems without that spiritual content we are doing simply that – conjuring. Belief is one thing, faith is another, they can be disavowed, but to disavow our Christian tradition, to imagine that our values have simply an evolutionary explanation, is to deny history. I italicise simply. Scientific and cultural evolution work together. The former doesn’t have the conceptual framework remotely to encompass the latter, any more than the latter can explain the former (not that anti-evolution and intelligent design protagonists haven’t tried).
To get back to Damascus – ‘will see the tombs of a thousand more before she dies’. Thing long, think in terms of centuries, even millennia. Every generation thinks it has solutions, and every generation comes up short. Put the rights of man and democracy in that context: if there is a promised land it will not come out a eureka democratic moment, it will evolve over historic time.
For Syria, as for all of us.