How Should We Respond to San Bernardino?


Screenshot 2015-12-07 08.02.01

Fellow Christians, let’s stop for a moment and consider our response to the specter of domestic Islamic terrorism.

Since the attack in San Bernardino, I have seen a couple different categories of responses on social media. Some are issuing a clarion call to wake up to the threat of Islam, arm ourselves, and stop the flow of immigrants from Syria and other countries. Others are calling for gun control and decrying extremism in any form. Both groups claim the high ground on the issues of personal and national security, protection of the innocent, and plain common sense.

I humbly suggest that we need to wake up to something other than the threat of Islam or lax gun laws.

The San Bernardino attack appears to be an instance of “self-radicalization,” which is a whole different kind of threat than we are used to. At one level, it’s a threat to our national security. How do we prevent seemingly well-adjusted, devoutly religious American citizens from devoting themselves to the type of damage seen in San Bernardino or Boston if all it takes to push them across the line is inspiration from afar? A difficult question, for sure.

But that question suggests a different kind of threat that’s likely to hit much closer to home for many of our neighbors.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are a Muslim man living in America. Your neighbors and co-workers consider you fairly devout because they often see you engaging in your daily prayers, your wife and daughter wear the traditional hijab out of respect, and you occasionally engage others in conversations about your religious beliefs. At the same time, you have absolutely zero sympathy for ISIS or other Islamic terror groups.

The attack in San Bernardino ushers in a frightening new reality. Suddenly, the majority of your neighbors and co-workers appear to view you and your family as a threat. Friendly banter across the cubicles at work is replaced with averted eyes and cold silence. Your next-door neighbor makes a show of cleaning his guns on the driveway when your wife is out in the garden. You have to hide multiple professing Christian acquaintances on Facebook because they won’t stop posting tirades against Muslims. Everywhere you go, you face suspicion and mistrust.

We can debate the best measures to take against the ongoing threat of self-radicalization. As Christians, though we have separate and higher duties to our Muslims neighbors:

  • We owe them love – the kind of self-sacrificial love that set us free from our own suicidal religious inclinations (and our licentious ones).
  • We owe them understanding – the kind of understanding that Christ showed in calling us sons, daughters and friends.
  • We owe them truth – the truth that will stand firm when all terrorist acts, guns and political loyalties have melted away.

In short, we owe them Jesus. Let’s not lose sight of that.


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