I published this shortly after Sept. 11, 2001 (now commonly called 9/11). Part of our comfort lies in clarity.
Where Do People Go Wrong?
Reading the wrong book,
Following the wrong leader,
Using the wrong methods,
Dying for the wrong cause.
Warren E. Berkley
I am not an expert in terrorism. I am not a student of the Islamic religion, nor can I offer any insight into the divisions and sects of that religion (mainstream, extreme, etc.). I have no standing as a pundit or news analyst. I am a Christian, therefore a student of the Word of God, and I write this article based on that identity.
While our reaction to the events of Sept. 11th cannot allow any prejudice, personal battle of vengeance or discrimination toward anyone, we must reflect soberly on the steps that lead people to mass murder in the name of their cause. It seems to me, at least four steps should be noted: Reading the wrong book, following the wrong leader, using the wrong methods and dying for the wrong cause.
Reading the wrong book. The Qur’an is a self-contradictory document and many passages defy any clear interpretation. According to George Will (Jewish World Review, Aug. 17, 2001), the official TV station of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority aired this statement: “All weapons must be aimed at the Jews … whom the Koran (Qur’an) describes as monkeys and pigs … blessings to he who shots a bullet into the head of a Jew.” Whatever arguments might be made about Islamic division, interpretation, etc., there is no doubt that some who read this book are devoted to hatred and human destruction. In this same column, Will reports on a June bombing that did not have children as “collateral victims,” but targets. “Abdallah al-Shami, a senior official of Islamic Jihad, celebrated ‘this successful operation’ against ‘pigs and monkeys’.”
One step toward terror is reading the wrong book. We must resist the temptation to stigmatize everybody who espouses loyalty to Islam as a “terrorist,” but we cannot voice any compromise about the book. It is not the Word of God, does not lead people to Christ and actually advocates violence. The Word of God is the right book to read. It is “able to save your souls,” (Jas. 1:21).
Following the wrong leader. There is one perfect, ultimate Leader! He is not located in a cave or tent, surrounded by an assembly of criminals. He is enthroned at the right hand of God (Acts 2:33; Phil. 2:9-11). No other leader was active in creation (Jno. 1:1-3), was the subject of prophecy (Jno. 5:46), nor was born to a virgin (Matt. 1:18-25). No leader expect Jesus has a perfect record of behavior (Heb. 4:15). No man but Jesus died for us, and by the atoning merit of His death is qualified as our Savior (Jno. 1:29). He was raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15:1-4), and “God highly exalted Him, and gave Him that name that is above every name,” (Phil. 2:9). He is deity, thus to be honored “even as” the Father should be honored. When you recognize who He is and what He did, then respond with a whole heart – with faith that prompts obedience, you are following the right leader; “the author and finisher of our faith,” (Heb. 12:2).
Using the wrong methods. In 1998, Osama bin Laden said it is a religious duty “to kill the Americans and their allies, civilian and military, in any country in which it is possible to do it” (U.S. News & World Report, Oct. 1, 2001, p.76). This is not simple evangelism (teaching to gain converts). This is not just an attitude and manner of rude intimidation. This is war – aggressive, angry and antagonistic – without qualms of conscience; and in fact, the warriors see themselves as doing the bidding of their god and preparing themselves for eternal peace.
May we, in our pursuit of truth and righteousness, never allow our methods to degenerate beneath the cause we advance! Let us plead with people “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ,” bold in presenting His message yet governed by His methods and the attitude He illustrated. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…,” (2 Cor. 10:1-6). Remember: “…the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God,” (Jas. 1:20).
So far we have a deadly combination: Reading the wrong book, following the wrong leader and using the wrong methods. These are steps in the wrong direction. Add to this . . .
Dying for the wrong cause. Based on the evidence that is now public information, about twenty men were willing to die for their cause; an act of slaughter against over 6,000 innocent people. There are causes worth dying for. In defense of freedom and life, men volunteered in great number to suffer and die in World War II. In his bestseller, “Band of Brothers,” Stephen Ambrose relates the stories of young parachutists who served in Easy Company. One soldier wrote to his mother: “If necessary, I shall die fighting, but don’t worry about this because no war can be won without young men dying. Those things which are precious are saved only by sacrifice,” (p.#55, Band of Brothers, Stephen Ambrose, 2001). These brave men were willing to die for the cause of defending life and freedom. In the Roman epistle, Paul wrote about men dying for others. His comments were introductory to the highest example of dying for others: “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love forward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Rom. 5:8,9). So among men there are great examples of self-sacrifice, and in the gospel of Christ there is the supreme example of one dying for the right cause. But dying for a cause is not commendable, unless the cause is right! Sacrifice, personal devotion, zeal and endurance are commendable qualities, unless pressed into service for the wrong cause! Make sure your cause can be authenticated; make sure it is right, then in the work you do to advance your cause – use methods in keeping with the values of that cause!
This is the time to re-examine where your real security is. “I cried out to God with my voice – to God with my voice; and He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing….,” (Psalms 77:1-2a).
Acknowledgment of Resources:
U.S. News & World Report, Oct. 1, 2001.
Jewish World Review, Aug. 17, 2001
Band of Brothers, Stephen Ambrose, 2001