Clearly, "bipartisan" has to be the last adjective any journalist would use to describe the current political climate in the United States.
Thus, a 393-0 vote on a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives is an eyebrow-raising moment, no matter what issue is involved. In this case, it's crucial that the issue is linked to the Islamic State and its hellish massacres of religious minorities in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere -- including Orthodox and Catholic flocks that have lived and worshiped in these lands since New Testament times.
ISIS has destroyed ancient monasteries and churches, has razed or looted irreplaceable ancient libraries and sacred art. It has become rational to consider that Christianity may be wiped out in the region in which it was born.
So here is my question: Yes, this is a political story. But, for most readers, is this JUST a political story? Here is the top of the Associated Press "Big Story" report:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Ratcheting up the pressure on the Obama administration, the House has overwhelmingly approved a resolution that condemns as genocide the atrocities committed by the Islamic State group against Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria.
The non-binding measure, passed Monday by a vote of 393-0, illustrated the heavy bipartisan support for action on Capitol Hill. Secretary of State John Kerry is leaning toward making a genocide determination against the Islamic State and could do so as early as this week, when a congressional deadline for a decision has been set.
But the Obama administration officials have cautioned that a legal review is still under way and said it is likely Kerry will not meet Thursday's deadline. House Speaker Paul Ryan chided the White House for the anticipated delay.
"As the administration waffles on this issue and doubles-down on its failed strategy to defeat (the Islamic State), the American people are speaking loudly and clearly on this issue," the Wisconsin Republican said.
This political emphasis dominates the whole report, leaving the impression that this is just another battle between the White House and its enemies in Congress. Or maybe the problem is in the U.S. State Department?
As a political issue, the key question -- which AP covers well -- is whether using the "genocide" label would have "moral and potential legal consequences" requiring the Obama administration to take actions to stop the genocide.
Kerry must also weigh whether the Islamic State group's targeting of Christians and other minorities meets the legal definition of "genocide," which is "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group," according to the U.N. Convention.
"This has to be done on the basis of the legal standard with respect to genocide and the legal standard with respect to crimes against humanity," Kerry said in congressional testimony late last month. "I have asked for further evaluation based on what I've heard in order to test against the law some of my own perceptions and evaluations and see where we come out."
Kerry denied reports that his legal advisers were reluctant to support a determination of genocide but suggested he was not satisfied with their initial opinions.
And so forth and so on. The report does mention a 280-page Knights of Columbus report documenting, by name, 1,100 Christians killed by the Islamic State.
So what is missing? To be blunt: The voices of American believers -- other than the Knights of Columbus -- who are members of the same flocks as those being massacred by ISIS. America contains thousands of Christians whose roots run deep into the "old country," especially Syria, and they have families and church leaders who are still there and caught up in this disaster.
Yes, in my own church, millions of Orthodox Christians include prayers for these persecuted sisters and brothers in our liturgies.
This is especially true in the greater Washington, D.C., area, since Baltimore is the home base for International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), which is highly active in Syria and other lands affected by ISIS activity. I have been watching to see if The Washington Post will notice this highly relevant local angle in the genocide debates.
So far: No.
The bottom line: This is all about Congress causing trouble for President Barack Obama. And all of those Democrats who voted for the resolution? They were just pulled along by political necessity. That would be a hard "no" vote to explain in churches back in the local district.
So we have our answer, so far. This is all politics, not a story that affects real people in real religious minorities, people with spiritual and ethnic ties that bind to Americans who are infuriated by the State Department's silence on issues related to religious persecution in the Middle East.
The Acts of Faith analysis does include this interesting passage:
It’s unclear what evidence Kerry is reviewing. Various advocacy groups are highlighting different religious minorities, groups who live in various conflict areas with overlapping aggressors. Determining what happened and is happening is complex. The Holocaust Memorial Museum late last year put out a report saying its investigators had found evidence that Yazidis -- an ancient faith made up of mostly ethnic Kurds -- were victims of genocide, while the Catholic organization Knights of Columbus last week released a 280-page research document highlighting Christians as victims of ISIS genocide. Meanwhile, in the fall, dozens of members of the International Association of Genocide Scholars signed a document saying it believed ISIS has perpetrated genocide against “Chaldean, Assyrian, Melkite Greek and Coptic Christians; Yazidis, Shia Muslims, Sunni Kurds and other religious groups.”
In other words, this is complicated. However, several genocide experts say it’s unclear what legwork the Obama administration is doing on its own, if any.
“One thing that has troubled me is that I know of no organized government effort to investigate crimes committed,” said Cameron Hudson, director of the Holocaust Museum’s Center for the Prevention of Genocide. Hudson worked for the Bush White House in the mid-2000s and was involved in research then looking into the Darfur atrocities. A large team was sent to interview hundreds of people who fled violence and to take testimony, he said.
In the current case, “the U.S. government is using our report, eyewitness account from humanitarian groups and Christian groups. [In Bush’s Darfur probe] we were able to make independent determinations based on our own people. And I know of no similar [current] U.S. government effort to document crimes committed,” Hudson said. “The [Obama] administration has created a situation where they can be lobbied because they haven’t created research on their own.”
Yes, I noticed that the ancient Antiochian Orthodox Church -- based in Damascus, at a location mentioned in the Book of Acts -- was not mentioned. Same old, same old.
But let me stress that the Holocaust Museum's genocide project is a strong, valid source. This is some of the best material that I have seen in the current mainstream news coverage of this issue.
But where are the other voices? Where are the groups -- yes, most are Christian -- with direct ties to information about what is happening at ground level in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere?
Can't this be a religion story, a human story, as well as a political story about the White House, Congress and the State Department?