My heart is heavy today as I suspect yours is. In San Bernadino, CA another act of terror from a religious extremist. 14 dead and 21 injured. It was a holiday party. The irony in this can’t be ignored. A religious extremist commits mass murder at a party celebrating the best of religion.
The drum beats are growing. How do we protect ourselves from such people? There used to be an idea about “rules of engagement”. These rules were first conceived by none other than St. Augustine, who imagined such a thing as “just war”—the idea that sometimes war is unavoidable and if it is, then there are ways to conduct it that are humanitarian.
The religious extremists are conducting a campaign that appears to have no rules of engagement. Innocent civilians are not only NOT avoided, but they are targeted as “high value”. The enemy we face lurks amongst other innocent civilians and uses them to provide cover—they know we are reluctant to indiscriminately attack a general area without regard to who is in that area.
More and more we are hearing talking heads suggest that we should throw off the old rules and behave in a like manner toward these extremists. Our frustration threatens to inform our decision-making.
During this season when we honor and worship the birth of The Prince Of Peace, it would be wise for us to consider who we are as a people—who we are at the very core of our being. We would be wise to re-examine the values that gave rise to our greatness as a people. Let’s be clear—none of us wants to live in fear. Up until September 11th, 2001, we were insulated from these kinds of attacks. Since then, the enemies of God—trying to convince the world that they commit such atrocities in the NAME of God—have waged a campaign of hatred.
However, we ought to ask ourselves if what we want in the end is to become that which we claim to despise? If we try to satisfy our own “bloodlust,” we become what we despise.
This is a time to grieve and to enter into a season of prayer and deep reflection. Where is God at work in all this? I believe with all my heart that God is near in these events.
We might be wise to keep our eyes and ears open to what God is up to.
Kristin Clark-Banks is the pastor of Forest Hills UMC.