Tag Archives: Terrorism

Do You Personally Know Any Terrorists?

When you read the question in the title, you probably said to yourself, “I don’t think I know any terrorists, but wouldn’t it be interesting if I did?” The right answer to the question in the title might seem obvious to you at a casual glance. What if I told you, however, that you do not know the definition of a terrorist, and therefore, you probably do not know that you do know one or more terrorists? Philosophers always refuse to argue with each other until they have defined their terms, although they will argue at great length about the definition of the terms. People who study contemporary culture need definitions, too, because the definitions change frequently.

On July 7, in Russia, the nation that was the core of the former Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin signed a law that gives new meaning to the words terrorist and terrorism. If that law had been signed by Barack Obama, it is highly likely that you would have recognized immediately that you know one or more terrorists very well. The horrifying aspect of this news is that there are forces in the USA this very day who would love to see this “anti-terrorism” law enacted in the United States.

Many aspects of the law have already been common in other nations for quite a while. For some time now it has been illegal in Tajikistan for persons younger than 18 to attend religious services except for weddings and funerals. In Uzbekistan, the only legal version of the Bible is the one approved by the national government, and possession of even that Bible is illegal if it was purchased anywhere except a store approved by the national government. In Turkmenistan, all religious activity must be confined to buildings legally registered as houses of worship. Those nations are mostly secular nations where a perceived need to limit the ability of Muslims to recruit jihadis led to suppression of all religions. If anyone asks Putin why Russia needed this law, it is likely that this is the answer he would give. You probably believe that something must be done to make it hard for groups like ISIS to recruit young people willing to die for them, but you probably do not believe that allowing a mother to tell her children Bible stories at bedtime qualifies as making her a potential ISIS recruit. Russia’s new “anti-terrorism” law begs to differ with you. In the eyes of the Russian government, a mother who reads Bible stories to her children or teaches them a bedtime prayer is engaging in extreme behavior that warrants arrest and fines. Legally, she herself can only pray inside a building legally registered as a worship site, and that is also the only place where she can teach her children how to pray—or model prayer for them or let them practice prayer.

Watch for the Freedom From Religion Foundation to propose the same law in the United States of America.

Here are some of the details of the Russian law, as cited by Steve Berman at the Resurgent:

Under the law, all personal evangelism on the streets and in individual homes is now restricted. Evangelizing outside registered churches will result in fines. Christians meeting in homes are not allowed to invite unbelievers.

Christians wishing to share their faith must secure government permits through registered religious organizations. Even with such permits, they are not allowed to witness anywhere besides registered churches or religious sites. Churches that rent rather than owning their facilities will be forcibly disbanded.

Besides rendering evangelism illegal, the law will also punish not reporting violations. Russian believers and missionaries will be under constant scrutiny of officials and even neighbors.

Individuals found guilty of violating the new law will be fined up to $800 USD, while organizations found in violation will be fined up to $15,500. Foreigners found in violation will be deported. All aspects of the law also apply to internet activities.

 

Why do I think anybody will want that law in the United States?

The answer is that there are plenty of people in the USA who do not like any of the behaviors restricted or forbidden by this law. For example, many secular thinkers consider it child abuse when a parent tells a child that he or she is sinful. Secular thinkers believe a child is appears magically when a clump of cells in a woman’s uterus bursts out with arms, legs, and a head at an event called “birth.” To them, that child is a blank slate, unsullied by the world, ready to be led into self-actualization as the outcome of a journey of discovery called childhood. Secular thinkers believe that a child cannot possibly be a sinner, because the child has not yet made any choices. To teach a child about sinful human nature and then tell the child he or she must repent of bad attitudes sounds crass and unfair to secular thinkers. When a parent teaches a child the tenets of the Christian faith, secular thinkers call the parent an extremist.

Secular thinkers also consider it to be an example of extreme behavior when somebody silently reads a Bible on a public bus, or offers to pray for someone met in a grocery store. Barna Group discovered that almost 50% of non-religious adults in the USA consider Christianity to be extremist. They uncovered a long list of behaviors that many Americans now consider to be extreme, and you might be shocked to read the list:

  • Refusal to participate in and celebrate lifestyle choices that conflict with personal religious convictions
  • Demonstrate against immoral behavior (The people who consider it extreme to demonstrate against abortion consider it admirable to demonstrate for #blacklivesmatter. Hmmm)
  • Preach a religious message in a public place where nonbelievers might hear it
  • Teach children that homosexual behavior is morally wrong
  • Pray aloud for a stranger
  • Protest government policies that conflict with personal religious convictions (but demonstrating for standards that make a person feel good about himself is desirable and something to mimic.)
  • Leave a high-paying job to be a missionary in a third-world country
  • Read the Bible silently in a public place
  • Attend church every week
  • Tell a stranger about Jesus and ask him to follow Jesus

These behaviors are considered extremism by 50% of non-religious people, but a surprising number of people who claim religious connections also consider these behaviors to be extreme. It isn’t all that surprising, when you consider how few professed Christians ever attend church or read the Bible or pray aloud anywhere. All these behaviors are illegal in Russia since July 7, and as Barna would confirm, a great many people in the USA consider them to be detrimental to peace and good order. It is not inconceivable at all that somebody could soon propose that the USA pass a law just like the one in Russia.

In case the means of enforcing these restrictions in Russia was not clear, just contemplate what it would mean for you and your church.

  • What if it were illegal to meet for worship in a building not licensed as a place of worship?
  • What if a licensed building had to renew the license every five years, or even more frequently? What if a license were only issued if the application for a worship license had to include the names, addresses, birthdates, and attendance record of at least 150 people in order to be valid? What if the approval process for a worship license included personal government interviews of every person listed on the application?
  • What if it were illegal to engage in any sort of commerce (Christmas bazaars, for example) on the property of a licensed worship facility?
  • What if no private dwelling could be used for worship under any circumstances? (illegal to have a prayer meeting in your living room, illegal for your family to read the Bible and pray around the kitchen table at breakfast, illegal for you to teach your children the Ten Commandments or Bible verses such as John 3:16 in your house or your yard)
  • What if it were illegal for a youth mission group to pray on the front porch of a house they were rehabbing for a week?
  • What if you could be arrested if your neighbor complained that you told him that he should follow Jesus? Or even if you told him that following Jesus was the best thing in your life?
  • What if it were illegal to pray with your co-worker whose marriage is struggling, even if you prayed in the bathroom away from the work areas?
  • What if it were illegal for you to stand in front of a Planned Parenthood clinic and counsel women considering abortion to consider life instead?
  • What if it were illegal for a licensed worship facility to open its doors for worship unless a licensed worship leader (pastor) was present to conduct all the proceedings? (Your pastor is on vacation, no supply is available, and members want to worship anyway. Then what?)
  • What if you could be arrested if police investigated a neighbor’s report that you were teaching your children Christian songs, and during the investigation in your home, they found a Bible that was not a federally approved translation published by a federally authorized publisher of religious materials?

All these things are happening in countries where all religions are considered to be hotbeds of terrorism and all congregations are considered to be made up of extremists.

Russia’s new law may be the first evidence of a first-world nation with a law that so seriously limits religious liberty. It won’t be the last, because the secular thinkers who run the nation of Russia have colleagues around the world who agree with them that religion must be suppressed and contained and silenced. The founders of the USA believed that God himself gave human beings their right to love and serve God, even above the obligation to serve human authority. Many citizens of the US today believe that God does not exist, and that what we call unalienable rights are unearned privileges that the government has the right to grant or withhold. It is not at all inconceivable that the US Congress might soon be considering an anti-terrorism bill that is in actuality an anti-Christian bill.

Do you personally know any terrorists? If you are a Christian, it might be you.

 

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com. Watch for the release of Thrive! Live Christian in a Hostile World, planned for release in the autumn of 2016

 

 

 

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What is the Answer to Muslim Extremism?

Friday’s post looked at what happens in countries where Muslim extremists attain power. Muslim extremists must be distinguished from other Muslims who do not seek to dominate the world, but it should also be acknowledged that few Muslims speak out against Muslim extremism. There are several reasons for this fact, but it does not make every Muslim an extremist any more than silence made every Christian a member of the Ku Klux Klan. There are some simple explanations rooted in human nature.

This post will leap over all those issues and look at the biggest problem for any Christian: how to respond to Muslim extremism and how to live in a world where this ideology is active.

The short and simple answer is this: Christ.

Christians must live Christ-like lives and speak Christ-like words.

This solution sounds suspiciously like the one proposed for dealing with secular thinking. In fact, it is exactly the same solution. It is extremely difficult to put this solution first when people fear for their lives and their way of life. Nevertheless, if Christians fail to put Christ first, they will not be very successful in finding any peace amid the changes taking place every day in the USA. They will not feel at peace with life in a country where any gathering may at any time be the target of violence in the cause of Muslim extremism.

Christians who think like Christ will do one more thing that is a powerful force in response to Muslim extremism: they will love Muslims. Some will confuse loving Muslims with accommodation for violence. Christ-like love does not accommodate evil. Jesus never told Christians to accommodate evil. Jesus said, “Love your enemy.” He did not say, “Let your enemy kill and maim innocent people.” Jesus said, “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” Jesus did not say, “Look the other way while evil runs rampant over a nation.” Jesus said that a Christian will love enemies, absorb punishment while continuing to love the enemies, and attack enemies with prayer-spears of loving intercession. These are the individual, personal responses Christians make to aggressive evil.

Government is the God-given power for group action against evil. Christians who are citizens of a republic like the USA have the privilege and obligation to participate in the decisions of their government to resist evil and aggression. Jesus’ admonition about what is Caesar’s points to a wise recognition of the role of government to take action against evil by means of police and military action. In this republic, the government’s actions are shaped in part by the voice of citizens engaged in public discussion of issues. Christians absolutely need to engage in the conversation and speak with simultaneous rejection of evil and Christ-like love for the evil-doer. God always wants his people to speak out and be the voice of God’s high standards. This is one more way an individual Christian can help to contain and diminish the impact of Muslim extremism. This is the place for Christ-like words that love the perpetrators of evil while refusing them the license to continue it. Every parent knows how this works.

Muslim extremism, however, is much more dangerous than childish temper tantrums. It is not something any nation can safely ignore. It is not something any Christian can safely ignore. Christians must speak truth and participate with integrity as citizens in shaping the government response to Muslim extremism. In order to do that, Christians must do first things first.

  • Put Christ first in all our thoughts.
  • Be disciplined in prayer and Bible study in order to achieve maturity in living and speaking a faithful testimony to Christ.
  • Accept the civic duty to participate in the government with voice and vote. Follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in word and deed in the discussion of the problem of Muslim extremism.

Open Doors USA has some very good advice for building the right kind of relationship with Muslims. They recommend Christians use the word Islam as an acronym for

I

Sincerely

Love

All

Muslims

            The book of Revelation has some rich guidance on this subject as well. In this book, Christians will discover that worship is, as Dr. Rick Carlson says, “the great subversive act against evil.” In chapter 8 the prayers of the saints, rising up to God like incense, bring all the chaos in the universe to a complete halt. “There was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” Recognizing that this “event” took place in the realm of eternity, Christians can take comfort in the promise that their prayers have power without feeling the need to try to figure out exactly how long that pause lasted. When prayer and praise rise up to God’s throne, he pays attention. Faithful worship is a power in the battle against evil.

            If Christians love Muslims, they will wisely and rightly recognize the difference between Muslim extremists and Muslims who simply want to live in liberty and peace alongside all the other people of all the other religions that make up the population of the country. Christians who want to defeat and defuse Muslim extremism will love the perpetrators of violence and aggression, but they will participate in a strong, just response that ultimately ends the threat of violence against the innocent. If we want to defeat any form of evil, we must put Christ first in our lives. After that, we must follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in word and deed. In our own strength and puny wisdom, we will never defeat evil of any sort. Christ is our victory over evil, whether in ourselves and in others.

So What if the Boston Bombers were Muslim Extremists?

                The current investigation of the bombing at the Boston Marathon is muddied considerably by an effort in government and media to avoid the reality that the bombers at the Boston Marathon were Muslim. People who want to be called reporters and news analysts tie themselves in knots to project an image of Tamerlan and Dzokhar Tsarnaev as anything but agents of Islamic extremism. They might have actually been found much sooner if neighbors who recognized their photos as young men had not been hamstrung by willful political correctness. People who knew those men refused to tell anyone what they knew, because they were afraid it would cause the investigators to think the bombing had something to do with Islamic extremism.

                Almost certainly, the people who knew these men included Christians. Christians claim to be committed to Truth, as in Christ’s statement, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” but they did not speak up. In fact, the chaos of comments online, on television and on radio, can be safely assumed to include Christians who chose not to tell investigators truth when they knew it. The reason is that like many other people in contemporary US culture, their natural instinct to speak truth when they see it was suppressed, because they have been led to believe that to name something is to attack it. They were afraid that something they said might lead investigators to go looking for Muslim extremists.

                What difference would it have made if the investigators had found the two men earlier and under much different circumstances? What difference would it make if the investigators had been able to apprehend these two men alive and well? A great deal. Half the truth behind this event died with the older brother. A lot of important information was lost because people feared they would be accused of being insensitive and bigoted. Christians are constantly accused of being bigots, and many Christians worry more about what someone might think than they worry about the truth.

                It is important to say all these things, because this situation is part of a larger picture that betrays how American citizens are allowing themselves to be deceived into thinking that they, not the Muslim extremists, are the wicked ones. Please don’t assume that when I use the term “Muslim extremist” I am referring to every Muslim. When I say “Christian” I am not including aberrant behavior such as the Ku Klux Klan, either. When I say “Muslim extremist” I mean it in the way this term is used internationally. It is important to know about this term, because country after country around the world is being driven to violent chaos and terrible instability. Around the world, Muslim extremists are pursuing the objective of making countries 100% Islamic, pure and unpolluted by any other religious belief. In the USA, people do not want to believe that anybody who claims to be Muslim could possibly behave this way. It is not politically correct to believe that there are Muslims in the USA who want this country to be 100% Muslim.

                There are a lot of Muslims in this country who have no interest in destroying anything. There are a lot of Muslims in Kenya and Indonesia who don’t want to destroy anything, either. To speak of Muslim extremism is not to speak of them. To speak of Muslim extremism is to talk about a force that all people must feat. Many countries have suffered because of the work of Muslim extremists.

                Here is some representative news from a few countries under assault by Muslim extremism:

IRAN

                Most people already know that Iran is an Islamic republic. Few know that Christianity has been active in Iran since Persian converts on the Day of Pentecost returned home to share the good news of Christ. In the early 1970’s, Iran was targeted by Muslim extremists who wanted Iran to be a pure Islamic state. After the revolution in 1979, historic Christian churches were tolerated, but they had to be registered with the government. With the solidification of power under the leadership of the ayatollahs, who are the power behind Iranian Muslim extremists, registered churches are being forced to close, one or two at a time. Before the revolution that established the current regime, Iran was a model of liberty and prosperity among nations in the Middle East, most of which struggled economically. Today, it is one of many Islamic republics led by an extreme ideology that demands the nation be 100% Muslim. In fact, the current president is not shy about his preference that the whole world be 100% Muslim.

PAKISTAN

                In Pakistan, Islam is the state religion, and all law must be compliant with sharia. According to the Constitution, every person is free to believe any religion. There has always been a cultural preference for Islam, but in recent years, activism by Muslim extremists has resulted in numerous arrests of Christians for the “crime” of blasphemy. More than one victim has been exonerated when it was discovered that the accusation was fraudulent. Nevertheless, during the current month, Muslim mobs have torched two predominantly Christian communities and assaulted individuals fleeing the fires. Witnesses say that the police ignore the reports or stand by and watch it happen. The constitution may establish religious liberty, but the government does not enforce that right.

SOMALIA

                Islam is the state religion in Somalia. Sharia is the law of the country. The constitution specifically says that “No other religion than Islam can be propagated in the country.” Muslim extremism has escalated over recent years. The rise of extremism has been propelled by Al Shabaab militants who move freely and attack people with impunity. Beheadings of Christians common. Police, the agency of government tasked with keeping peace and good order in society, ignore reports of violence against Christians or other non-Muslim residents.

INDONESIA

                This country is 87% Muslim, the most populous Islamic republic in the world. It is interesting to compare the work of Muslim extremism in Indonesa with the work of Muslim extremism in Kenya, where the population is more than 80% Christian. Indonesia’s constitution guarantees the right of citizens to choose their own religion, but during recent years, Muslim extremism has taken up the cause of purging the population of non-Muslims. In theory, police should protect any citizen from violent assault, but when Muslim extremists complain to local officials about the presence of Christians, local officials lock the church buildings and send heavy equipment to tear the buildings down. The local officials fear pressure from radical Islamic groups, and the national government has not seen fit to intervene.

KENYA

                In 2010, in response to Muslim activism, a new constitution was enacted in Kenya. There had been considerable religious freedom in the era immediately after independence, and even today, the population is 80% Christian. Muslims make up about 10%. Yet in 2010, Muslim activism, sometimes quite extreme, resulted in a new constitution, which provides special treatment in special sharia courts for Muslims. The violence associated with Muslim activism has escalated since passage of the constitution, and today non-Muslim businesses, non-Muslim individuals, security agents, and especially Christian pastors are targeted. Shootings in churches, street violence, and personal assaults on non-Muslims are increasing. All non-Muslims are under threat and many are fleeing the country. This country is only 10% Muslim, yet Muslim extremists have succeeded in terrorizing 90% of the population so thoroughly that all non-Muslims feel threatened.

Think about the pattern in these countries. There was a time in each of these countries when populations made up of many religions lived and worked peaceably together. At some point, Muslims became politically active and Muslim extremists began to apply violent pressure in the culture. In some cases the campaign to create an Islamic republic has succeeded. In others the campaign is ongoing. When Americans contemplate the work of the bombers in Boston, the story should motivate all citizens to look at what is actually happening in the culture of the USA. The violence that shows up in a monstrous act like the bombing at the Boston Marathon is only one feature in a landscape that most citizens don’t examine deeply. There are people in Iran who remember that it used to be a free and prosperous society. There are people in Kenya who remember that it used to be a free and prosperous society. There are people in Egypt who remember that it used to be a jewel of the Mediterranean nations. What happened? Muslim extremism.

American citizens all should care whether the Boston bombers are connected with Muslim extremism. American Christians should be especially attentive to detail in this investigation. Everywhere Muslim extremism grows strong, religious liberty suffers, and Christians usually head the list of religions suppressed by Muslim extremism. There is no reason to make up facts or warp our interpretation of the facts. We simply need to be wise and careful. Do the work it takes to find all the facts about this bombing. Kenya is a cautionary tale of what can happen to a predominantly Christian country that does not guard its religious liberty.