You are not to say, “It is a conspiracy!” in regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, and you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread. — (Isaiah 8:12-13).
By Bojidar Marinov / Christendomrestored.com
In the dualistic world of American evangelicalism, every single thing falls into one of two compartments and is forever separated and insulated from the things in the other compartment. The two compartments are the “spiritual” and the “worldly.” So impregnably insulated they are that each compartment has its own set of ethical and operational principles which can not be applied to the other compartment.
In fact, not only the ethical and operational principles are different, but the epistemological as well: the American evangelical turns to one source – supposedly the Bible – to learn the spiritual truths of life, and then turns to a different source to learn the worldly truths of life – usually to the “conservative” media and the political platform of the Republican Party. Sometimes, when this dualism threatens to create schizophrenia too complex for his mind to endure – e.g. when the Republican agenda or the government’s policy are a little too uncomfortably opposed to the Biblical message – evangelical celebrities bring up Biblical verses out of context to justify that agenda or policy. But even then, the “worldly” is left to the world powers, and the division is strictly maintained.
Salvation, redemption, and sanctification, for example, are strictly “spiritual.” They only affect the soul and spirit of the individual man and have nothing to do with his social activities or with the economics or government of his society. Well, may be they can be applied in a limited way to his family or his church, but that’s about it. The wall of separation protects the activities and policies of the world – and especially of the civil government – from any interference by Christ’s salvation, redemption or sanctification. Individual salvation – which is called “the gospel” by modern evangelicalism – can’t be allowed to have any influence on justice and righteousness of the society in general. On the other hand, courts, legislation, foreign policy, taxation, education, the economy, and many other things are strictly “worldly” and shouldn’t even mentioned in sermons (except as abstract parables) or in “preaching the gospel.” Neither should we ever try to find the spiritual principles for those in the Bible; these issues are secondary, unimportant, and in general morally neutral. They should be left to the world, and more properly to the civil government to decide according to principles that certainly are not found in the Bible.
I said “evangelicalism,” but the same applies to the modern American Reformed churches as well. Dualism has replaced Biblical Christianity as the dominant operational faith in almost every church, denomination, and seminary in the US. The only difference is that the Reformed seminaries have constructed a neat rhetoric to justify their dualism: the Two Kingdoms Theology. The broadly evangelical crowd is still lagging behind in codifying their dualism into a systematic rhetoric.
Terrorism, as a theoretical issue and a practical social problem in our society, is one of those issues that fall entirely in the “worldly” box. Its definition and analysis are left to the political pundits who, by default, never look at the spiritual nature and roots of terrorism. It is either treated as just another crime against the state, or declared part of Samuel P. Huntington’s inevitable “clash of civilizations.”1 The solutions, therefore, are left to the political elite and its standing armies of the military, police, espionage agencies, and immigration services. The assumption is that since the function of the civil government is to “provide safety,” therefore the political elite controlling that government can be trusted to “solve the problem of terrorism.” Of course, that elite is quick to propose and carry out the only solution it ever has to anything: war.
What has been missing is a Biblical analysis of terrorism, and therefore Biblical solutions to it. An analysis which would look at terrorism, terrorists, their motivation and their tactics and strategy from a covenantal perspective, that is, ethical/judicial perspective. An analysis which would take in account individual men and their self-conscious moral commitments; individual men on both sides of the dividing line – both those who commit terrorist acts and those who are their victims and, more importantly, their “target audience.” An analysis which would look at man in his covenantal standing before God – created, fallen, and regenerate or unregenerate – and through this understanding of man try to understand his culture and his civilizations. An analysis which would take the Biblical concept of civil government as a limited reactive judiciary over against the modern neo-pagan concept of civil government as a quasi-divine pro-active executive, and apply the dichotomy between the two to understanding the nature, origin, and solutions to terrorism.
An analysis which would place terrorism – and especially Islamic terrorism – against the backdrop of redemptive history between the first and the second comings of Christ, and apply the demands and the power of the Gospel of Christ to both our thinking and our action concerning terrorism.
Such analysis has been missing, and therefore Biblical solutions have been missing. And the fault for it lies with the church and its churchian celebrities who for over a century have been preaching a dualistic religion in the name of Christ, one that separates God’s redemption from God’s creation and from man’s society, giving powerful men the opportunity to play gods on earth. But self-deified men and self-deified institutions never solve problems, and never win wars. In the end, they destroy themselves and everyone who follows them. And if the “war of terrorism” continues without any hope for victory, and if we are less safe than we have been before – and more enslaved – it is because we as Christians have dropped the ball.
It’s time to pick it up, and go back for answers to where every Christian should go by default: the Word of God.
Terrorism as ‘evangelism’
Our analysis must start with the obvious observation that terrorism is not just a regular crime. It is true that terrorism involves committing crimes: murder and arson (bombing) are the most common crimes committed in terrorist acts. But these crimes per se are not the essence of terrorism, and the terrorist is not a regular criminal. A regular criminal commits a crime because he is seeking personal advantage or satisfying a personal passion: a burglar wants to enrich himself with the goods of another person, a false witness wants to gain judicial advantage for himself or for his party in court, and a murderer wants to satisfy his hatred or perhaps also to gain economic or other advantage through the death of his victim. At the end, a regular criminal wants to be better off – personally – than he was before the crime. For this reason a criminal would do everything to avoid justice for his crimes – for justice would place him in a worse position than before the crime and thus will destroy the very purpose for the crime.
A criminal, therefore, wants to commit his crimes in secret, away from the public eye as far as this is possible. A thief is expected to act at night (Ex. 22:2; Job 24:14; Matt 24:43; etc.) A murderer would like to suppress the evidence for his murder, and avoid punishment, if possible. It is for this reason witnesses (Deut. 17:6) and investigation (Deut. 17:4) are so important in the work of the courts: a criminal is not expected to willingly supply evidence for his crime.2
This, obviously, is not true about the terrorist. Unlike the criminal, the terrorist wants his acts to be public, to impress as many people as possible and become global news. As a rule, a terrorist – especially the Islamic type – doesn’t try to escape; he continues murdering and destroying until he can do it no more and then he is either killed or turns his weapons on himself. In the case of suicide bombers, self-immolation is an integral part of the act itself. After an act is committed, terrorist organizations usually trip over each other to “claim responsibility for the attack,” even when such “responsibility” is rather dubious. Criminals prefer to remain in the shadows; terrorists openly claim responsibility. Thus, terrorism is not just a crime like the other crimes.
Neither is terrorism warfare, modern popular mythology notwithstanding. Warfare in all its forms has as its strategic aim the capture of resources; and therefore the tactical methods of warfare are designed to achieve the lowest relative expense of resources for the highest relative damage on the enemy, or the highest relative capture of resources. The type of warfare that is the closest to terrorism, guerrilla warfare, is marked by a very high focus on preserving one’s resources – especially human resources – while inflicting disproportional damage on the opponent. The strategic goal is to deny the opponent the easy and cheap use of his resources, and thus make him less capable of waging war.
The terrorist is seldom concerned about such strategic and tactical considerations; the relative balance of resource expense and loss is almost never in favor of the terrorist. In terms of human resources, the supply of willing self-immolators is rarely abundant; in terms of material resources, there is never a return on the “investment.” The real damage in terms of loss of human lives and material destruction is seldom significant enough to cause major disruption in the life of the civilization.
While in real warfare successful operations are repeated as often as possible, for they bring an ever more favorable balance of resources for the successful side, a terrorist organization can’t afford to repeat the same operation many times; it will deplete its resources without making a dent in the culture and the life of its enemies. So terrorism is not warfare – at least not in the classical sense of this word.
Neither is terrorism simply acts of madmen devoid of any rationality. To the contrary, terrorist organizations are usually manned by men quite rational and intelligent, who are passionate about their beliefs and good psychologists. A man with mental issues who kills people driven by his madness doesn’t try to send out a coherent message nor convince his victims to do something. For such a person, other humans simply don’t exist, or at least, don’t exist as persons to whom any message can be sent. For a terrorist, to the contrary, people exist as personalities, and they are very real; in fact, without a very thorough understanding of individual and collective psychology, terrorism won’t work at all. A madman is seldom focused on anything else but his own issues. A terrorist – or at least an ideologue of terror – must understand people very well.
The motivation of the terrorist and his ultimate goal is this: sending out a message. The murders, the destruction, the spending of resources and even the sacrifice of his own life are all directed not to his immediate victims but to a broader audience. He knows that his message is at best peripheral to the world and life of that broader audience; if he was to use the conventional methods of “preaching” his message, he would be just a small person standing on a corner of a vast universe.
He lacks the resources to capture a significant part of the media market and make his message mainstream. His message is morally and intellectually inferior to all other ideas in the marketplace of ideas. He is short on time: the more time goes by, the less relevant his message is to that broader audience, and his conventional preaching can’t catch up with the course of history. What he needs is a “marketing campaign” for his idea, a stunt that will make people listen to it. And since the ethical standards behind his message do not condemn murder, arson, or suicide – and even encourage them – his decision is to commit public crimes to make his message heard.
In essence, therefore, terrorism is the perverse counterpart of Christian evangelism.
Both the Christian and the terrorist have a message to the world, a “gospel.” Both messages are religious and ethical, that is, they have to do with commitment to ultimate principles and standards for good and evil. Both the Christian and the terrorist are willing to spend their resources and lay down their lives for their message. The difference comes in their belief about the judgment that confirms the message: The Christian leaves that judgment to God, the only Judge. The terrorist believes his message makes him quasi-divine and therefore he takes upon himself to administer judgment in order to make his message heard. The Christian prays to God to change people’s minds to accept the Gospel without punishing them (Luke 9:54-56; 23:34). The terrorist administers his judgment as part of his message.
This point may seem trivial to some but it is of an utmost importance for our analysis of the situation and specifically the solutions to it. If terrorism is not an ordinary crime, not warfare, and not simply the chaotic work of madmen, then all the modern attempts at solution of the problem with terrorism are doomed to fail. Of all people, we as Christians should know best that a message, an idea, a “gospel” is not stopped by government intervention. Sending more troops half-way across the world will increase government spending but won’t stop terrorism; terrorism is not warfare and therefore warfare won’t kill it.
Giving more power to law enforcement institutions here at home will destroy our liberties but it won’t stop terrorism: terrorism is not an ordinary crime. Psychological profiling of people won’t stop terrorism: terrorism is not a mental deviation, and terrorists are just as sane as everyone else. These measures will only increase the risk of terrorism, they will deprive us of our liberties, but they won’t achieve their goal. Because an idea, a message, a “gospel” is not stopped by government action.
The only way to stop a “gospel” from being preached is through a superior “gospel,” one which will make the target audience resistant enough to make the efforts of the preachers useless. When the “preaching” doesn’t work but instead produces the opposite effect in the “listeners,” then the “preacher” will be forced to review his methods.
Which should lead us to the next conclusion: If terrorism is on the rise despite the war on terrorism, then we are doing something to encourage terrorists rather than discourage them. That is, there is something in our collective reaction to terrorism which the terrorists assess as “success.” We are obviously not only taking their “gospel,” we are submitting to it in a way. What we think is “solutions” – more military interventions and more power to the government at home – is apparently fuel in the fire of terrorism. If the “evangelism” of terror continues, then this must be because its target audience is submitting to the “message.” And unless we stop submitting, there will be no end to it.
In order to stop submitting, we need to understand what we are submitting to in our reactions to terrorism. And what we are submitting to is fear.
The worship of fear
Fear is ubiquitous in the world after the Fall. Whether we are dealing with terrorism or with anything else – crime, the economy, the family, the church, education, etc. – we are always dealing with some form or version of fear. Based on Biblical evidence, fear is the most powerful psychological and moral motivator, twice as powerful as love, which is the second most powerful motivator (about 1,400 instances of “fear,” “dread,” “terror,” or similar words compared to about 700 instances of “love” and “charity”). Between fear and love, it is only expected that fear will be more powerful when we are talking about fallen human beings: love requires a certain level of self-negation and sacrifice (1 Cor. 13:5), while fear is entirely motivated by self-preservation. It was the first recorded emotion of human beings after the Fall (Gen. 3:10), and it remained a major emotional factor in their behavior throughout the whole Bible. As a matter of fact, even though we don’t have a specific record of fear before the Fall, God’s warning in Gen. 2:17 seems to indicate that God used some form of fear as a motivator even before the Fall.
Expectedly, with human nature changed after the Fall, the threat of negative sanctions was put to an even greater use. While God obviously prefers that our commitment to Him be based on the positive motives of faith, hope, and love, His admonitions to His redeemed people are never unbalanced in favor of only positive emotions.
The Second and the Third Commandments given from Mount Sinai specifically declared the threat of sanctions for idolatry and the use of God’s name in vain (before a positive promise was given in the Fifth); and in general, the very manner of giving the Decalogue was calculated to produce fear in the hearts of the listeners (Ex. 20:18-21). The chapter which states the “greatest commandment” according to Jesus, Deut. 6 (see v. 5), ends with the admonition to “fear the Lord” (v. 25), and then the next chapter is devoted to giving a good foundation for that fear in God’s promised negative sanctions for disobedience. That fear is a more powerful motivator than any positive emotions is also clear in the fact that in Deut. 28, the list of negative covenantal sanctions (vv. 15-68) is four times as long as the list of positive promises (vv. 1-14). Wisdom itself is defined – multiple times – as “fear of the Lord” (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 9:10; 15:33; Job 28:28; Prov. 15:33; Micah 6:9).
None of this is to mean that fear is sufficient and that love is not a needed motivator and emotion. To the contrary, even though fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, we also see that God pushes His people to adopt love as their chief motivator. Jesus declared the greatest commandments to be “You shall love your God” (Matt. 22:38), and traces true obedience back not to fear but to love (John 14:15; 15:10). John repeats the same principle in his epistles (1 John 5:2, 3), and adds that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18), because “God is love.” The Apostle Paul makes love his most “excellent way” (1 Cor. 12-13). So while God takes in account man’s depraved nature and makes a lawful use of fear as an appeal to man’s selfish heart, He doesn’t want the redeemed man to be driven primarily by selfishness and therefore fear. As Joel McDurmon describes the problem with fear as a motivator:
There’s also a darker side of fear. There is godly fear, but there is also ungodly fear: fear of men, and fear of idols. And if God wills that even the godly form of fear – which still appeals to the selfishness of man – diminish as a factor in the life of His redeemed people, how much less will He tolerate ungodly fear. In one form or another, the command “Do not fear” is the most frequently used single command in Scripture, even more than the command “Have faith.” The importance of this command is emphasized by the fact that the list of those whose fate is the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8) starts with the cowardly and the unbelieving. And no wonder, since ungodly fear is directly related to lack of faith. For example, the motive for the Israelites to refuse to enter the land was fear (Num. 14:9), and yet, the author of Hebrews interprets it as lack of faith (Heb. 4:2).
Jesus also contrasts faith to fear in several places (Matt. 8:26; Mark. 5:36; Luke 8:50; etc.). Thus, if the righteous shall live by faith (Hab. 2:44; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38), then the reprobate shall die by fear; and indeed, our salvation is described as being freed from the bondage of fear (Heb. 2:15).
Fear, then, is not simply an emotion, it is a religious sentiment, a form of worship, or may be even the essence of worship itself. Whether we admit it or not, whether we are aware of it or not, we worship the things we fear. No wonder fear of anything else but God is forbidden, and no wonder it is the most frequently mentioned command: It is idolatry, and it falls under the very First Commandment. “Whom did you fear when you didn’t fear Me,” God asks in Isaiah 57:11. Jer. 10 contrasts fear of idols with the worship of God. On the bright side of this equation, people convert to God when their hearts are filled with fear of Him: In the Book of Esther, many became Jews when the fear of the Jews fell on them (Esther 8:17); and in a similar situation in the New Testament, fear fell on every soul and thus the church grew (Acts 2:42).
This adds a new layer to our analysis: fear is not only an instrument of the terrorists to spread their “gospel,” fear itself is a “gospel,” an idolatrous religion which wars against the faith in Christ. Therefore, the very succumbing to fear as a result of a terrorist act is already a surrender to the religious demands of the terrorists. A terrorist says, “Fear me and accept my message.” While most of the time his target audience doesn’t accept his message, it still succumbs to fear, which itself is a form of worship. This succumbing to fear is a sufficient reward for the terrorist: he may have not been able to “convert” his audience to his religion, but he has made them worship it in a way through their fear.
Logically, then, if terrorism is on the rise, and if our war against it seems to be fruitless, there can be only one explanation: we in the West are succumbing to fear in one way or another. We are giving evidence to terrorists that their strategy works, that as a result of their actions, the West is abandoning its professed religious and ethical values and is reacting exactly in the way the terrorists want it to react.
If there was no such surrender, terrorism wouldn’t seem to pay off; if it pays off, then we have been manipulated by the terrorists. We as a culture have responded in fear, and we have disobeyed the command “Do not fear.” We have become the “cowardly and unbelieving” of Rev. 21:8, and we are getting a foretaste of the lake of fire in the increased terrorist activity of our day. We have failed to pass the test.
A Failure of nerve
It’s a shame that with all the preaching and teaching and writing on the issue of “trials and tribulations,” American Christians are so ignorant concerning the real nature of the concept of “trial” and how it works. And because they are ignorant, when a real trial comes to the American church, it fails to pass it, most of the time. The cultural defeats of the American church, of course, must be traced ultimately to the abundance of false doctrines which diminish the Gospel to a few propositions about salvation, diminish the victory of the Gospel in history, and diminish the scope of God’s covenant with His redeemed people to their religious meeting Sunday morning. But a great deal of the cultural defeats of the church was caused also by the practical failure of the church in general to pass one trial after another, thus leaving the impression of being ridden by inconsistency and hypocrisy.
Because Biblically, that’s what a trial is: a test for consistency.
When we as Christians go out in the world to preach the Gospel, when we declare the salvation of Jesus Christ, we inevitably declare the ethical and philosophical principles which that Gospel demands of us. We are not simply giving some intellectual information to the world; we are challenging the world with a set of ultimate principles which declare the nature of God, the nature and the future of man, and most importantly, the standard for good and evil these truths proclaim. Practical good and evil, not just theoretical; that is, good and evil as applied to our own individual lives, but also to the life of our institutions, be they family, church, state, business, schools, etc. The world around us, of course, won’t remain passive while we are challenging it; it will respond with its own challenges.
These challenges are not going to be against the theoretical truth of our claims about God and man; they will be about our willingness to live consistently up to the same moral principles we preach to others. Ultimately, everyone knows God exists, whether they admit it or not; the issue is, “Should I submit to that God?” And the first and most obvious excuse is, “Christians themselves are hypocrites, even they do not submit to Him completely, because when a trial comes, they abandon the very principles they preach.”
It’s easy to stick to one’s principles when one is not challenged. It is when a person’s feet are put to the fire and he is asked to verbally denounce or practically abandon his principles, when the quality of that person’s faith becomes obvious. Job’s wife was an example of a person verbally denouncing her principles in times of trial. And she became Job’s real trial: while Job accepted his fate without complaining, his wife was the one urging him to “curse God and die.” And what was the challenge and the nature of that trial? “Do you still maintain your integrity [completeness in Hebrew]?” (Job 2:9). At the bottom of every trial there is a temptation to abandon one’s integrity and deny his professed foundational principles. The trial of terrorism is no different.
While some apostasy may consist in verbally denying one’s principles, most of the time the temptation is to continue paying lip service to them while at the same time abandoning them in practice. This temptation is widespread, and people succumb to it even without trials, just out of the habit of convenience or hypocrisy. Those of us who have strong ethical convictions but weak ethical nature are very often easily duped into adopting a superficial language of faithfulness and obedience while at the same time re-interpreting practical applications to fit our own passions. “I have carried out the command of the Lord,” Saul told Samuel in 1 Sam. 15:13. “Really, and what is this bleeping of sheep and lowing of oxen, then?” Samuel asked. “This, er, this we brought to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but the rest we have utterly destroyed.” The meaning was clear: The people had practically abandoned their first principles; but Saul had an excuse which verbally made it sound as if they were still faithful to those principles.
In this particular case, Saul and the people were motivated by greed for riches and perhaps for power; the situation is even worse when the most powerful motive – fear – is involved. When fear enters the scene, Christians are often eager to excuse their submission to it with all kinds of righteously sounding words: “prudence,” “wisdom,” etc. The mark of such an apostasy is usually the claim that the current situation is somehow so different from all other situations, such an emergency that it requires suspending some of the moral principles of the Bible – at least for a time. “Yes, I believe we need to obey the Bible, but this is a different situation and we need to use wisdom.” As if wisdom can be anything else but obeying God, no matter what our perception of the “situation” is.
And when it comes to terrorism, Christians completely fail the test, abandoning their principles at the excuse that “the situation is different.”
Ideally, Christians would subscribe to these ethical and judicial principles:
1. We are obligated, individually, to help the stranger and to make sure he has equal access to all the economic opportunities in the land (Matt. 25:35, 43; Num. 9:14; Deut. 23:15-16; 24:21-22).
2. The government is not allowed to control the movement of non-criminal individuals. It is lawful to cross a border – even the boundary of private property – as long as there is no harm done (Deut. 23:24-25).
3. When there is harm done, liability is personal, not collective, and must be established on the basis of two or three witnesses (2 Cor. 13:1; Deut. 19:15). A person can’t be held legally liable for the crimes of even his closest relatives, let alone for the crimes of others in his group (Deut. 24:16). Only God is allowed to judge collectives, as He does in limited cases. Human courts can only try individuals, not collectives. (Christians know this principle very well when they respond to gun-control advocates or to accusations that the crimes of a few Christians represent all Christians.)
4. True justice is retributive and restitutional, never preventive and pre-emptive (Rom. 13:4). Giving the government power over non-criminal individuals because they may commit crimes would declare the government being capable of reading hearts and therefore divine.
5. No matter what happens, and no matter what danger is perceived, the Principle of Just War applies to foreign policy: A Christian can never lawfully advocate for aggressive war abroad as a solution to a problem at home, for targeting innocent life in vengeance for crime (Deut. 24:16; 2 Kings 14:6; 2 Chr. 25:4). Christian foreign policy must revolve around evangelism of populations and Christian war theory must be focused on punishing criminals in power in response to specific crimes, not target their subject populations.
These are righteous Biblical principles, and Christians have used them since the very beginning of the Christian church, both as an apologetic method against their persecutors (see, for example, Tertullian’s Apologeticus) and as legal principles in a Christian civilization (see, for example, Magna Carta, Blackstone’s Commentaries, etc.).
But terrorism, apparently, is a trial too harsh for American Christians to stand. Suddenly, these principles are forgotten, and American Christians want to be “wise” and “prudent.” Why? Because all of a sudden, after centuries of social and political experience with wars, terrorism, immigration, etc, “this situation is different.” The good Biblical principles above are then abandoned for the opposite principles:
1. The stranger should be subject to different rules than the homeborn, and his access to the economic opportunities in the land should be limited. There should be different laws for the stranger and for the homeborn.
2. The government must be given the power to control the movement of non-criminal individuals, even to the point of banning its own citizens from traveling without passports or other means of identification. Because, you know, security trumps liberty.
3. All foreigners must be guilty by default for the crimes of a few, unless proven innocent by a process of vetting, which, of course, is in the hands of the Federal government. Real witnesses for individual crimes are not needed, rumors of crimes establishing a collective guilt are enough, and suspicions based on irrelevant speculations or false data. “97% of them are young men in fighting age!” “60% of the women of Sweden were raped by Muslims!” “All the crimes in Norway were committed by immigrants!” “ISIS fighters take over a German town!”
4. The function of the civil government is not justice anymore but “safety” and “security.” Which means preventive justice and pre-emptive executive action. Which boils down to “Show me your papers.” And eventually the concentration camps.
5. The perceived danger of Muslim terrorism justifies aggressive war in retaliation, directed against people who have nothing to do with the terrorist acts but are themselves victims of oppressive regimes.
In short, somehow our generation had the bad luck of living in times so overwhelmingly oppressive and dangerous that abandoning fundamental ethical and judicial principles is now “wisdom” and “prudence.” Somehow our times have changed the meaning of “safety” to mean not “God’s protection” but “state tyranny in violation of God’s Law.”
McDurmon continues in his treatment of fear as a motivator:
The life of fear will manifest in compromises of commitment to God’s Word in all areas of life such as parenting, honesty in business, honesty with money, political decisions (including voting), personal grudges, and much more. It can manifest in personal dejection and paralysis. . . .4
The ultimate end of any trial is to test the willingness of men to compromise their ultimate commitments – whether verbally and overtly or practically and covertly. Fear as the most powerful motivator, and as a religious act of worship itself, is present at every trial. When men react to a trial with the excuse that “This is a very special situation, different from any previous situation,” they have already submitted to fear, and the logical outcome of this excuse is compromise. Men who do not submit to fear will stand firm in any situation and will refuse to change their principles because of any perceived danger or threat.
From the perspective of the terrorists, then, Christians – and the West in general – have failed the test. From a Muslim, religious perspective, the real offense of the Western civilization is not its military might but its superior qualities like liberty and justice which attract the huddled masses of even the Muslim world. Ordinary Muslims are painfully aware of that difference; they know tyranny and corruption when they see them, and they can’t help but notice that their own religion has never been able to produce such a high level of integrity in the society as Christianity has produced. Many former Muslims have testified that this is what converted them to Christianity. Some just want to imitate it and participate in it in a quiet, neutral way. (Whether it is possible or not is another story.) Consistent Muslims are offended at that difference. And because they can’t produce a culture of equal superiority, their solution is to challenge the West into abandoning its values. “Let’s try them to see if Christians will stick to justice and liberty when it’s overcome by fear.”
And, as it appears, Christians fail the test and fail to stick to justice and liberty. They instead succumb to fear, and abandon their professed ethical and judicial principles. And they start advocating tyranny and injustice as solutions to the problem, just as the terrorists want them to.
The politics of fear
For the side observer, it seems strange that Americans, and Christians in particular, should be so overcome by fear of terrorism as to abandon, or to temporarily suspend, their professed fundamental principles be they the Bible for Christians, or the Constitution for conservatives in general. If anything, our society today is the safest society that ever existed in history; our culture today is nowhere close to dealing with gigantic challenges as in the past. During WWII, Britain was heavily bombarded by German bombers, and yet the British motto was, “Keep calm and carry on.”
They understood that the purpose of the air war was fear, and they refused to submit to fear; and neither did they call for closing the borders for refugees from war-torn Europe. In a more striking example, the tiny nation of Switzerland, despite the open threats from the Nazi government, despite the amassed military formations on its borders, and despite the several cases of Nazi terrorism and sabotage on Swiss soil, refused to succumb to fear. The Swiss continued to keep their borders open for refugees from Germany, and even for Jews; adding insult to the injury by even arming the Jewish refugees to take part in the defense of the nation in case Germany invaded.5
Reformed missionary to his native Bulgaria for over 10 years, Bojidar Marinov preaches and teaches doctrines of the Reformation and a comprehensive Biblical worldview. Having founded Bulgarian Reformation Ministries in 2001, he and his team have translated over 30,000 pages of Christian literature about the application of the Law of God in every area of man’s life and society, and published those translations online for free. He has been active in the formation of the Libertarian movement in Bulgaria, a co-founder of the Bulgarian Society for Individual Liberty and its first chairman. If you would like Bojidar to speak to your church, homeschool group or other organization, contact him through his website: http://www.bulgarianreformation.com/
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