Just a little bit ago I was having a conversation with my mom about today’s events from London, where a group of terrorists killed several innocent people on London Bridge. Her and my dad had a cruise scheduled to London and around the British Isles later this summer. However, they’re both having some health issues and it looks like they’re going to have to postpone it. Mom was saying that after reading about the events today coupled with the suicide bombing at pop concert in Manchester a couple of weeks back, that just maybe it was good thing that they’re probably not going. In short, she was scared a little bit.
And you know what? I can’t blame her. After the concert bombing I found myself actually worrying about them going over there. I have to admit that I was a little scared too. A lot of people throw a lot of bravado around saying that if you’re afraid, then the terrorists win. Well, there’s some truth to that for sure. The point of terrorism is to inflict terror and fear. Fear is a common reaction, and my observation is that a lot of people who throw around the bravado have never had to deal with a situation where their life is actually in danger. I mean outside of military or law enforcement personnel, most of us in the United States go about our daily lives free from a lot of fear about our continued existence.
Fear is common, fear is reality. When we see the violence going on in the world fear can be a natural reaction. Then we want to respond to our fears, or have our government respond to our fears, to make it seem like they’re doing everything they can to keep us safe. Then we suggest a lot of things that we probably wouldn’t even speak about under normal circumstances. Maybe we want to prevent members of a certain religion from entering our country. I have heard some people say that maybe we need to develop an internment policy like the US had in World War II with people of Japanese descent.
But then….what about this guy?
This man is a known white supremacist, and he’s pictured here literally draping himself in the American flag at a free speech rally. Well, earlier this week he murdered two men and critically injured a third as they tried to come in between him and two girls, one wearing a hijab, at a train station in Portland.
Is there a difference?
All of these killers used an ideology of fear and violence to justify their actions. Both the London killers and the Portland killer did their deeds out of a certain sense of loyalty or patriotism. The London killers likely felt that they were defending their faith. The Portland killer felt like he was defending his country in some deranged way.
What’s the difference and where do we draw the line? Since 9/11 white guys with guns have killed many more Americans than Muslims have. Do we prohibit white men from entering the country? Do we round them up and inter them in camps?
I’m not trying to make light of things, and I’m not peddling a political argument. I’m honestly asking what makes us respond to these situations differently? I’m also wondering how we can respond to the both in a similar fashion without being destructive to anyone?
John has an idea:
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18 CEB).
I’ve posted this verse before in response to these kind of events. You know what? It hasn’t gotten any easier for me to live by these words, to try to respond to my fears in this way. It is totally against our instincts to respond to fear and the violence that feeds it with love and mercy.
Yet that’s what Jesus did, and that’s what he calls us to do.
To be honest, it’s tough. Really, really tough. But perhaps through his grace every little bit of progress we make might help make the world a little better place.
This post is dedicated to all who have lost their lives to fear and violence in recent weeks. May God grant them eternal rest and peace and may he give comfort to their families and friends. May He bring healing to those who suffered injuries.