It is not only religion, and not only one particular religion, that produces murderous subcultures. Sometimes these subcultures are nationalist, sometimes racist, sometimes anarchist, and often a combination of many ideologies and convictions, many loves and hatreds. As we grieve Manchester, let us not forget murderous subcultures closer to home. Much closer.
Every time more civilians are killed, it gives further weight to the idea that we have lowered value of human life — or at least, the value placed on Iraqi lives. Imagine the response, by comparison, if 200 American aid workers were killed in an errant strike. The seemingly low threshold for civilian safety makes the fight against ISIS harder, not easier. It makes ISIS propaganda more believable. At the very moment when ISIS should be gasping its final breath, these incidents inject life into their militancy.
Recent polls show that 68 percent of black Americans think the government should provide monetary reparations to descendants of slaves. That this most recent call for reparations, from a global governing body, has largely gone ignored in the same week that Congress gave sweeping support to the JASTA bill suggests to black citizens that the United States government is comfortable pursuing justice for others’ terrorism but less interested in taking responsibility for its own.
In a spirit of remembrance of the terrible events of Sept.11, 2001, as well as the policies that came afterward leading to endless wars, I want to call your attention to a statement that Sojourners put together in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, entitled "Deny Them Their Victory.” This document was developed in consultation with Jewish, Muslim, and Christian clergy, and the breadth of participation has made it an extensively inclusive religious statement, with more than 3,900 signers. Its insights feel just as true today as they were then. Now 15 years on, it is worth reflecting on the ways we have succeeded in living up to the values stated below, as well the ways we have failed to do so.
While fewer than half of Americans — less than 40 percent — endorse the idea of banning Muslims and Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. and erecting a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Republicans and Democrats have strikingly different opinions.
The Christian tradition calls its followers not to bear false witness. So how do we live out this calling? What does it mean not to bear false witness against Muslims in the age of ISIS? Here are three false assumptions, if not outright lies, often repeated about Muslims and terrorism, along with some facts that can help us have more honest conversations about our Muslim neighbors and about the violence we encounter in western nations.
I’m convicted that my desire to applaud this “security at any cost” rhetoric and policy is a temptation to worship the idol of safety. It is not something to be admired, it is something to be acknowledged, questioned, and repented of (turned away from). Worshiping the idol of safety greatly inhibits our ability to worship the crucified and risen Jesus.
Terrorists want to “terrorize” us. They want to make us angry and hostile. They want us to react and overreact to them. They want us to suspect, to racially and religiously profile, discriminate against, and attack all Muslims. Because that will help the terrorists recruit more young Muslims to their cause — and make it harder for other Muslims to work against them. They want to politicize everything and turn people’s attention away from the massive losses for human life that these evil terrorists represent.
We must deny them their victory. Here’s how.
I am this broken and bleeding world.
I am Brussels, blown apart, the strewn limbs, the piercing wail of a mother for her baby.
I am Yemen, at the marketplace, charred bodies of children face-down in the dust.
I am Syria, families cramming into boats as guns and missiles chase them from the shore.
I am Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, pockmarked by bomb blasts, orphaned children hiding away from clear blue skies.
I am the growling of empty bellies drowned by the sound of gold pouring into the bottomless coffers of the war machines as they devour their sustenance and spit out death in return.
I am generation upon generation of silenced and vanished victim buried in the ground and trampled.
I am slain from the foundation of the world.
The actions of the shooters like those in San Bernardino, Paris, and very probably Brussels are difficult for most people to understand. But the work of scholars specializing in extremism can help us begin to unravel how people become radicalized to embrace political violence.
Security experts Alex Wilner and Claire-Jehanne Dubouloz define radicalization as a process during which an individual or group adopts increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations. The process involves rejecting or undermining the status quo or contemporary ideas and expressions of freedom of choice.
Newly radicalized people don’t just agree with the mission and the message of the group they are joining — they embrace the idea of using violence to induce change.
"Instead of preaching, perhaps what is more appropriate is, in fact, confession of how hard it is to actually love our enemies,” says Pastor Jarrod McKenna.
Though this video reflection for Common Grace’s Love Thy Neighbour campaign was filmed a few weeks ago, its pre-scheduled release today goes right to the heart of enemy love and offers a Christian response to terrorism in the days after shocking attacks in Brussels, Istanbul, and elsewhere.
“This teaching is the most often quoted teaching of the early church, because it is the teaching that sums up the cross the easiest,” he says.
As France marks the anniversary of the terrorist shootings that targeted a kosher supermarket and a satirical weekly, a new report warns anti-Semitism here continues to rise, taking a myriad of underreported forms.
“Violence targeting Jews and Jewish sites has led to a heightened sense of insecurity, and an increasing number of Jews are relocating in or outside France for security reasons,” U.S. advocacy group Human Rights First wrote in a report published Jan. 7.
God’s been telling the story of restoration since Genesis when we were created selem Elohim, in the image of God. We were created into perfect communion with God. From Genesis 3 until the end of the Old Testament, we see a narrative of a people in exile and God giving opportunities for reconciliation and restoration of relationship that humanity is incapable of accepting. Reconciliation is an exchange of something worthless (our condition of sin) for something immeasurably worthy (communion with God).
In the New Testament we see a biblical narrative through Jesus of now-but-not-yet restoration. In Jesus we see the coming of the Kingdom of God and get to be reconciled back to God. We even get a glimpse of an eternity where there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain.
If we truly believe we are the image of God, it changes how we approach the image of God in the world. Our call then is to actively partner with God in taking the world somewhere.
My son’s public school is amazing. The community is everything I had hoped it would be. There are several parent and grandparent volunteers who come in and out of the building daily to help in the classroom, playground and lunchroom. At first, I had wanted to make a big fuss about security and locking the front door during the school day. I thought that was going to be my platform, my soapbox. But after the crying incident, I decided that something in me had to change. I didn’t want to live in fear anymore. I didn’t want to let fear drive me. After some reflection, I had to shift that fear and move to a place of hope and love. Hope that this kind of violence would never touch my school community. Belief that our community is strong and committed and that love would ultimately win and have the last word.
From a religious perspective, the hardest thing about confronting evil is the painful human tendency to only see it in others, in our enemies, and not see any on our side because of the blurred vision caused by the specks in our own eyes, to paraphrase the gospels. In discussing ISIS, we should clearly use the language of sin — the enormous sin of the ideological hate of ISIS finding its victims all over the world.
Whether you like it or not, Christians are called to help the world’s most abused, hurt, helpless, exploited, and destitute.
If you’re a follower of Christ passionate about social justice, of if you attend a church that claims to be enthusiastic about global missions, or if you’re part of a Christian organization that facilitates ministry, you’ve been handed a golden opportunity — the ability to minister to millions of people in desperate need.
This is a chance to be radically countercultural — to glorify Christ through selfless sacrifice, hospitality, and love. Being a Christ-follower isn’t easy, and it will require hard work, but it’s worth it.
Just like you, I was horrified when I learned of the terror attacks in Paris on Nov. 13. The scale, precision, and barbarity of these crimes are hard to fathom.
My first reaction was sadness for the victims and a desire for peace. My second was a sense of mild panic. If they can do this in Paris, they can certainly do it in my city!
My third reaction, one I’m not particularly proud of: I thought about how much I’d like to see the people responsible for these acts hunted down and destroyed.
I’ve been thinking a lot about 9/11 lately. I remember the way that we as a nation went through a similar three-step process. We went from shock and sympathy to fear and paranoia, and finally to the conviction that we must annihilate those who attacked us.
It all happened so quickly.
My friends and colleagues are generally aware that before I began working at Sojourners, I was a patent examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for six and a half years. What most of them do not know, however, is that I interviewed for that job — a five-minute drive from the Pentagon — on September 11, 2001.
Early that morning, I decided to take the Metro rather than drive to the USPTO’s offices in Crystal City, Va. I reasoned that if I got the job, I would want to get some idea about my future daily commute. This would prove to be a fortunate decision later on.
Even before the end of my trip to Crystal City, I had already heard news of the first World Trade Center tower being hit. When I arrived at the office, I hoped the interviewer would remember me after our conversation. He did — but considering the significance of all that happened that day, my concerns about employment now seem minuscule in hindsight.
The violence of our world seems to be spiraling out of control. Every news outlet is filled with the latest tragedy and for many, the violence has struck closer to home than they ever imagined. Sadly, much of the violence is being done in the name of religion. Religion — at its best — is designed to be a conduit for right relationship. At it’s worst, used as a tool for manipulation and violence. While the former is certainly happening, the latter appears to be one step ahead at the moment.
If ever there were a time where the work of peacemaking seemed soft and unrealistic while proposing some kind of fairy tale future reality, it is now. If ever there were a time to set aside the way of reconciliation for the way of revenge, it is now. Peacemaking appears to be a royal waste of time reserved for the ignorant idealists.
Yet, if ever there were a time the exact opposite case could be made, it is now. In recent history, there has never been a time peacemaking is more necessary. In fact, the moment we deny the necessity for peacemaking, we deny the very mission of God and the vocation of God’s people. God’s work is peace — the holistic repair of relationship — and the vocation of God’s people. We aren’t pawns in a divine drama that will end in an atomic holocaust allowing us to apathetically put our hands up in resignation because “everything is going to hell.” No, the Jesus Community is to announce the reality of God’s kingdom and participate in God’s activity of making all things new. And not just in some future world, but NOW.
Where do we start and how do we keep hope in a world of war?
We need to give up peace for Lent.
It’s been 14 years since our government declared war on terrorism. How are we doing? It feels like a disastrous game of Whack-A-Terrorist, doesn’t it? We kill one terrorist hiding in one hole, and out pops another one from another hole. Now we are facing the newest threat, a terrorist organization seeking to set up a nation-state, ISIS or IS, as its leadership prefers to be called. The Islamic State, at least, would be a concrete opponent. If they hold on to territory and establish a functioning government, we could at least declare war on a tangible target. Though regrettable it would at least make sense within the logic of war in which states fight other states.
In a recent article for Patheos.com, David French uses Christian Scripture as a justification for “responding to ISIS with wrath and vengeance.” French is a lawyer, a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve and senior counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice. He claims that, according to the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, while individuals are called upon to love their enemies, there is no such call placed on governments. In fact, God has instituted governmental authority in order to execute his wrath against evildoers. And apparently, or so Romans 13 puts it according to French, to know who the evildoers are one simply needs to look at who governments are punishing. French quotes the relevant passage, Romans 13:3-5:
For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. [Emphasis added by French.]
French concludes that American Christians should have no difficulty determining the correct response to ISIS. Why? By the fact of determining that justice must be executed against ISIS, our government has determined that their violence is not only an offense against American citizens (he names the beheading victims, journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff) but against God himself.
French’s analysis strains credulity. Doesn’t he realize that the Romans to whom Paul was writing were themselves victims of government persecution? Does he think that these persecuted Christians felt they were being justly punished? And what about Paul himself, a Roman citizen who was persecuted and executed by the Roman government? Doesn’t French realize that by his own argument, the Roman authorities were executing God’s judgment against Paul? And by his own analysis, French is a captain in a military force that is from its origins a justifiable target for God’s wrath. Why? Because the founding act of the United States was a rebellion against a government, and “whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” (Romans 13:2)