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  • Christian view on current events

    [i]By my friend, a 21st Century Christian Philosopher[b]:

    THE WAR AT HOME

    I cannot describe how I felt when I heard the news of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. We are partly and appropriately struck silent with the enormous loss of life in the collapse of the Twin Towers, the explosion at the Pentagon, and the highjacked airliners that were crashed. If your loved ones perished yesterday as a result of these acts, please know that you have my deepest sympathy, and our heart-felt prayers go out to all involved. As the Bible says, "when one suffers, we all suffer" [I Corinthians 12:26].

    As I listened to the reports, I felt the same way I did when President Kennedy was assassinated, or when President Reagan was shot, or when Pearl Harbor was attacked -- which I am old enough to remember. Such acts cause grief not just for the loss of life, but for the assault they are upon our deepest beliefs. They assault the very soul of America.

    Terrorism, the warfare of the new century, is engaged in for the specific purpose of destabilizing free societies. The terrorists succeed if free people cower in fear and begin to restrict their treasured freedom and liberties. We should never succumb to terrorist-inspired fear. We can never allow such people to win. Instead, we must renew our commitment to the most fundamental liberties and to the rule of law.

    And we must support our government in its response. God established government to preserve order by punishing evil and seeking justice. Without this restraint on human sinfulness, the strong will prey on the weak, and seek to impose their will on others.

    What is true in relations between individuals is also true in relations between nations. As St. Augustine wrote 1600 years ago, loving God and our neighbor may require using force against aggression.

    And this brings me back to yesterday's events. Christians believe that government has a special duty to punish those who, in effect, invaded our soil and committed these dastardly acts. But we must do so in a just manner.

    As Augustine's Just War theory teaches, any military action must have a reasonable chance of success. In our context, that means being fairly certain as to the identity of the perpetrators. We can't simply strike out for the sake of "doing something" or in a blind rage.

    We need to also make sure that our targets are military ones. Civilians, even those who applaud the terrorists' actions, should never be targeted. Finally, our response should be proportionate. After an event such as yesterday's, we are understandably tempted to lash out with every weapon in our arsenal. But we must be careful not to let our response to the harm we have suffered lead us to commit an even greater harm -- something that our technological superiority makes possible.

    But quickly respond we must, lest the world and more importantly would-be terrorists -- view us as a paper tiger. We either respond appropriately with the sword -- or invite more of the same.

    I am sure that President Bush is weighing right now all the intelligence available to him to find out who is responsible, if any governments are involved, and how quickly the U.S. can retaliate. I have confidence in the President and Secretaries Rumsfeld and Powell. They and those who serve with them are competent leaders who find themselves in a time of tremendous crisis. I urge you to pray with me, for those who grieve and for our enemies, but especially for our leaders as they fulfill their awesome responsibility in this dark hour. May God help us.

  • #2
    [i]By my friend, a 21st Century Christian Philosopher[b]:

    AS THE DUST SETTLES: THE DAY AFTER

    The terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York and damaged the Pentagon were not just about buildings and airplanes. They were about people. People who survived and people who died. The country grieves.

    In the midst of this, Christians are called to be, as Augustine put it, "the best of citizens." But what should we be doing?

    Well, let me begin with practical suggestions. Hospitals in New York and Washington need blood. And whether you're in New York or California, if you give blood, it will get to the victims who need it. Christians ought to be the first ones in line.

    Second, we can volunteer. Yesterday, as exhausted, emotionally spent office workers walked across the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn, they were met by workers handing out cups of water. They had hauled five-gallon water bottles from all over to offer the proverbial "cup of cold water" to those suffering. I don't know about the workers' motivation, but what a touching example of community spirit and love.

    Third, we can listen. The magnitude of this terrorist attack cuts to the heart and soul of many American communities as our neighbors lost friends or loved ones in airplanes and buildings. Beyond that, most Americans spent all of Tuesday and the bulk of yesterday glued to the television -- as did most of our children in schools. People are traumatized and confused. They need to talk, and we can listen and give a reason for our hope.

    Fourth, we can be an influence on those around us. For example, we can love our Muslim and Middle Eastern neighbors. Our instinct for self-preservation will cause us to see someone in traditional Muslim dress or with Arabic features and wonder if he or she represents a threat. At the same time, we know that most Arabs living in America are Christians -- Christians who have fled from the kind of militant Islamic leaders who are suspected of Tuesday's terror. Beyond that, the vast majority of Muslims living in the United States are peaceful and law-abiding people. Christians should be the first to recognize this and befriend those who will find themselves shunned by many.

    Finally and most important, we need to pray. Pray fervently for our leaders. President George Bush has a devout, evangelical faith in Christ. I know from our conversations. National Security Advisor Condolezza Rice, speechwriter Mike Gerson, and others in the administration are strong believers as well. These brothers and sisters need God's wisdom and our prayers.

    Commentator Tim Russett pointed out what a difficult decision the President faces. If his response is too weak, he invites more terrorism. If he orders an all-out assault on the terrorists and those who harbor them, it could provoke extreme elements in moderate Muslim countries to topple their governments. This would have the net result of turning our allies into rogue nations who are willing to aid and export terrorism. Enormous wisdom -- nothing less than God's wisdom -- is required.

    We can also pray that the "quiet, unyielding anger" of the American people of which Bush spoke, an anger that is both natural and appropriate, does not spill over in to rash demands. The President knows he must act swiftly. But for the rest of us, this is a time when our anger must be tempered with patience and restraint. May God have mercy on us.

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    • #3
      [i]By my friend, a 21st Century Christian Philosopher:

      [b]OVERCOMING EVIL WITH GOOD: A TEST FOR AMERICAN CHRISTIANS


      Sher Singh was born in India and has lived in the United States for two years. On Wednesday, when his train from Boston to Washington, D.C. stopped in Providence, Rhode Island, he was arrested -- suspected of involvement in the terrorism that rocked the country on Tuesday.

      Alerted by television reports, a crowd gathered outside the train station. As police led Mr. Singh from the station the crowd whooped and jeered. "Kill him!" yelled one man. "You killed my brother," shrieked another. Mr. Singh, who had absolutely no connection with the terrorism, is a Sikh and wears a turban, a long beard, and a ceremonial dagger strapped to his shoulder.

      Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. In Chicago a crowd marched on a local mosque shouting, "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" Someone threw a fire bomb at an Arab-American community center in Texas. Arab Americans have been assaulted and harassed across the country. A nineteen year old in Chicago commented, "I'm proud to be American and I hate Arabs and I always have."

      Evil, in this world, begets more evil. It's self-perpetuating. And we're already seeing that in the rage against Mr. Singh and people like him. By sharp contrast, Paul wrote to the Romans: "overcome evil with good" [Romans 12:21].

      One of the reasons I believe the Christian Gospel couldn't be a made-up religion as some people think, is that it tells us to do that which is contrary to our human nature. When evil is done to us, the human instinct is to respond with evil. The result is that evil triumphs. In this case, if we responded to the terrorist attacks with evil, the terrorists would win. But the Gospel tells us to act exactly contrary to our own nature, to respond to evil with good.

      The most powerful example of this principle I know is Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko, a Catholic priest in Poland in the early 1980s. The pale, gaunt priest had a two-fold message: Defend the truth, and overcome evil with good. People responded and overflowed his church. The secret police followed him everywhere. He began to receive threats and, finally, one night after celebrating Mass and preaching, Fr. Jerzy disappeared.

      About ten days later, as 50,000 people came to Mass and to listen to a tape of his last sermon, they heard that his body had been found in the Vistula River -- badly mutilated by torture. The secret police braced for an uprising. But on the day of Fr. Jerzy's funeral, the huge crowd that walked past their headquarters bore a banner and shouted what it said, "We forgive." Fr. Jerzy taught them well.

      Only Christians, men and women who are touched by and understand the present reality of the Cross, can possibly overcome evil with good. And if we don't, no one else will. Rage and anger will carry the day and the terrorists will have won.

      This doesn't obviate the government's use of the sword, of military force to swiftly and proportionately respond to these terrorist attacks. We must do that, and our government will. But, as the nation's anger rises, there is a great test for American Christians: Can we live by the Gospel? Will we love our neighbors -- even those who look, sound, or seem like those who so ruthlessly attacked us.

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