As noted in my previous blog, Monday night saw yet another terrorist attack. A suicide bomber killed 22 people and injured 59 others. Today details of the attack and video of the aftermath have emerged. As expected, the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, condemned the attack.
I have nothing against Theresa May. She seems sensible enough. I want to like her. But every time she addresses a terrorist attack—this makes the second one, I think, during her term in office—she repeats the same worn-out lines of Barack Obama, David Cameron, Angela Merkel, Tony Blair, and even George Bush.
On this occasion, the Prime Minister said three things that are unhelpful, (willfully?) wrong, or meaningless:
First, she condemned the Manchester attack as “a sickening act of cowardice.” The cowardice accusation has been a central part of the Western narrative on terrorism since 9/11. It doesn’t work. A man who blows himself up or flies a plane into the side of a building may be many things—hateful, miserable, deranged, ignorant—but a coward he is not. I am not sure why politicians continually say this. Perhaps they think that calling would-be terrorists names will deter them from terrorist acts. Whatever the reason, it misses the mark.
Many Muslims see themselves as soldiers in an ongoing global war with the West. A man who loses his life while taking a lot of Western infidels down with him is considered a warrior, a hero, and a martyr in the same manner that we consider the men who died at Thermopylae or the Alamo heroes.
Theresa May also said that “Terrorism will never win.” On what does she base this statement? The mood here in Europe suggests many do not share her confidence, and that is because the terrorists are, in fact, winning. Since 9/11, all of our lives have taken a turn for the worse in terms of safety, privacy, travel, basic human interaction, and a thousand other ways. Meanwhile, Muslims continue to flood into the West while Christians suffer persecution in Islamic countries. A Christian who shares his faith in the country of our good friends, the Saudis, risks the death penalty.
Finally, Ms. May offered this hopeful note: “We all stand with the people of Manchester.” Francois Hollande said something similar after men, women, and children were crushed under the tires of a truck in Nice. Angela Merkel said it after the attack in Berlin. It is a frequent refrain: “We stand with you.” What does this mean? In the light of EU immigration and border policy, it appears to mean nothing whatsoever no matter how warm and fuzzy it may make us feel. The people of Manchester have no real reason to believe that anything will change. They will remain as vulnerable as ever to Islamic terrorists.
What Theresa May and other Western policy-makers do not seem to understand about Islamic terrorism is its theological underpinnings. These terrorists are not, as a rule, unhinged, as is often alleged. They are not disenfranchised, embittered middle-class Western wannabes. They are not cowards. They are people who truly believe that dying for their faith will guarantee them eternal salvation.
Think about that for a moment.
Islam guarantees salvation for no one save martyrs. Everyone else takes their chances. If this was what you believed, if you believed there was no other way to be certain that you could avoid damnation, wouldn’t you be willing to at least consider doing the same thing? No doubt you’ll give yourself the benefit of the doubt and say no, that you care about the wellbeing of others too much to do such a thing. But what if you believed that those you were killing along with yourself were the source of the world’s evil and the enemies of your god? I wager it would change your perspective. Eternal salvation is a strong incentive.
Christians understand this in a way that secularists will not and cannot. Every Easter we celebrate the greatest of our martyrs, Jesus Christ. On a recent trip to Oxford, England, I stood in the shadow of the great Martyrs Memorial as I have done many times before. It celebrates—rightly, I think—archbishops Ridley, Latimer, and Cranmer who were all burned at the stake for their Protestant faith. The point is that Christians also believe in the nobility of martyrdom.
But not their sort of martyrdom and not in the name of a false god.
Secularists are ill-equipped to understand an absolutist faith like Islam as events since 9/11 demonstrate all too well. Christians, on the other hand, are superbly equipped to confront it because we can readily see where it has gone wrong: the object of its worship. The character of your god will determine the character of your religion. Get that bit wrong and everything else will be wrong, too. Unfortunately, the sort of Christianity that Muslims have encountered in Britain and Western Europe is soft and theologically vapid.
Christians must return to the Word. It is the West’s—no, the world’s—last best hope.
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