Christians, Terrorism, and Vehicles Ramming Pedestrians
Six times in the past year, vehicles have been used by terrorists against unsuspecting pedestrians for the sole purpose killing them. What happened today is scary, because it is the first time that the terrorist was motivated differently than the previous attacks. The previous five attacks were done by ISIS-related extremists. The sixth, which happened earlier today, was led by what seems to be a normal man, pushed to the brink by the news and his perception of the threat at hand.
Darren Osborn, age 48, seemed by all outsiders to be a regular person, a father of four. Yet earlier today he screamed, “I am going to kill all Muslims” as he rammed his van into worshipers in front of a mosque, injuring ten and killing one. He is quoted as saying, “I’ve done my bit” and “I’d do it again.” It seems to me that he was retaliating. He took vengeance into his own hands.
I’d like to spend this blog processing this from a variety of different angles with regard to Christian thought and theology. Also, I hope it goes without saying, I am saddened by the actions which took place today and pray for God’s comfort on the innocent Muslim victims.
1. The principal of forgiveness.
One of the most fantastic things about Christianity is the way that it inspires its adherents to forgive those who wrong them. So, for the sake of argument, let’s say we find out in the next week or so that Darren Osborn lost a friend in last week’s attack on the London Bridge. How would God enable someone like Darren to approach it differently?
When Charles Roberts killed five of ten hostages in an Amish community called Nickel Mines, the grandfather of one of the murdered girls responded, “We must not think evil of this man.” Further, at the funeral of murderer, the Amish outnumbered those related to Charles Roberts. The Amish even set up a fund to help Charles Roberts’ family.
In Turkey, there were several missionaries who were teaching the Bible to five Muslim men. The men had a secret plan to kill the missionaries, and then proceeded to torture them prior to finally slitting their throats. The wives of the missionaries, being interviewed on Turkish national news, repeatedly forgave the killers saying, “They know not what they do.” This was a direct quote from Jesus who forgave those crucifying him.
This Easter, in Egypt at least 44 Coptic Christians were attacked by ISIS terrorists in a suicide bombing. The wife of one of the deceased told the press, “I’m not angry at the one who did this. I’m telling him, ‘May God forgive you, and we also forgive you. Believe me, we forgive you.’” Earlier in 2015, twenty-one Coptic Christians were beheaded, and similar messages of forgiveness came forth.
Christians believe that that they must forgive their enemies, because God forgave us when we sinned against him.
2. The role of the government.
Another resource for such a situation is the Christian teaching that the government plays a unique, God-given role in establishing law and protecting its citizens. It is clear enough in Scripture passages such as Romans 13:1-7. There is also the formidable work of great scholars such as Abraham Kuyper, who recognized that the state was authorized by God to carry forth certain tasks.
So imagine, for example, that there truly was a credible threat to peaceful citizens of a nation. Should they take matters into their own hands? The Christian can say, “No, God has given the government the authority to make that declaration. It is not my choice, I am not in charge of that.” A person of Darren Osborn’s persuasion, then, would be able to say, “God is in control of the laws of this land. The British government is not in favor of destroying the Muslim population. Although I disagree with this, I will submit myself to God.”
This is an interesting line of thought. Hopefully a Christian would not, in the first place, think that destroying the Muslim population would be a good thing. But even if a Christian did come to that conclusion, other Christian principles would work to hold back that evil from coming to fruition.
(There is more to say on the role of government, feel free to comment!)
3. The justice of God.
If you have been on this earth for very long, you have experienced anger. You have experienced evil firsthand, in one form or another, and you have been overcome with the desire to eliminate it yourself. Those coming face to face with terrorism, no doubt, have felt this stronger than I have.
If we are going to not act, but simply allow the perpetrator to go unpunished, then we need a compelling reason, deeply rooted in our hearts, to forbear and not exact revenge. Christians should have this. God says, in his Word, several times. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.”
In the Bible, he deals with evil in several ways. Sometimes immediately, with human means (think Haman hanging from the gallows). Sometimes he deals with it after a long period of time, like God’s punishment of Israel’s sins in the Assyrian and Babylonians conquests. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Check it out here). Finally, we know for sure that he will deal with it eternally as he judges sin and evil once for all at the end of time, and renders to each person what they deserve.
Christianity is a full-orbed system of thinking, with many intersecting lines of thought coming together to speak into any given situation, so there is always more to say! Feel free to tell me what you think in a comment.
A Prayer: Heavenly Father, we need you to reign in our hearts if there is going to be a lasting peace. Please help in these tumultuous times, and guide us on your eternal path of love and forgiveness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.