Considering that the vast majority of us aren’t even close to being trained soldiers, cops, military leaders or government policy makers, what is our response or role in a world where the mentally ill son of a fellow church member or maybe the otherwise hip and friendly Muslim neighbor turns out to be a mass-shooting, bomb-toting terrorist wannabe, plotting my demise at a bus stop or at the local grocery mart?
We could live with anger, in fear and mistrust, with our fingers ever hovering over the triggers of our concealed weapons. But speaking for myself on this idea, remembering that I am in no way a trained military personnel, open firing with trembling hands at the local food mart or crowded theater is mostly likely a recipe for further disaster. So, no guns for me. Then what?
That’s not even to imagine the state of mind of someone who lives in constant anger, fear and mistrust. If you haven’t seen a show like “Doomsday Preppers”, with people who have spent lifetimes cultivating that paranoia and sense of entitlement to their ideals and/or safety at all costs, then you should take a few moments to do so. They have allowed that state of mind to rob them of their sanity and humanity. They see the world as everyone against one and have lost their ability to be taken seriously or contribute in any tangible way to the overall good of their communities. So, no doomsday prepping for me. Then what?
Oh, and what do we suppose drives the mass-shooting or bombing lunatics so many are angry, fearful and mistrusting of, to perform these heinous acts of terrorism in otherwise peaceful atmospheres? Oh, yeah. It’s anger, fear and mistrust that has been cultivated until it destroyed their sanity and humanity. So no anger, fear, or unchecked mistrust for me. Then what?
Am I going to allow a depraved terrorist, who violently drove (and even followed) refugees from the family, friends, and country of their birth, to terrorize me into not helping a Muslim man or woman who happens to have had their car break down in front of a government building? I mean, there could be a bomb in there, right? I say this because, with my kids in the car, I was faced with this decision a few weeks ago, and I decided I would not lay down my desire to see all Americans practice their religion without fear, or deny my heart to reach out to all others without discrimination for any amount of ensured safety, and I wasn’t about to teach a fearful mindset to my children either. All we did was pull over to ask if they needed help, and we were rewarded with the most touching gratitude I’ve received in recent memory.
Here’s the thing the people who live their lives fighting terrorism with paranoia don’t consider about those of us who chose not to. We don’t live in denial with rose colored glasses. We know we could be bombed, shot, burned, or abused. It’s just that we chose not to let terrorist rob us of the right to do the right thing no matter what. We let those called to make policy, make policy and those in the police force and military do what they were trained to do. Then the rest of us can carry out our lives according to the ideals and principles our country was founded upon, with huddled masses yearning to be free from the religious and economic tyranny our ancestors worked so hard to establish.
Do those of us who profess to be Christians remember that America was colonized by immigrants and refugees who escaped tyrannical governments and oppressors in Europe that used the bible as the platform for their violence? Do many Americans know that our military and civilian operations abroad would be a total dead end without the help of many Muslims who are also fighting against extremists?
I am not ignorant. I know that peaceful immigrants can give birth to radicalized children who mow down dance clubs, but does that mean I put myself on a pedestal above those problems and turn my backs on those my kindness could even mean the difference between choosing a radical path or a healthy one? The answer to the “Then what?” for me, someone who has no formal training or policy leadership what-so-ever, is to live as it was intended by those who founded our nation. I will makes space for all religions, even though we will have to agree to disagree on our understanding of God, and heap kindness on anyone who may be teetering on the brink of a decision to angrily become radicalized or live in peace. In this land founded on refugees and immigrants, where we allow space for all kinds of potentially violent ideologies (Hello, KKK and Neo-Nazis, or weird cultist compounds dotting the landscape) let’s not lose sight of the fact that we have a rule of law that has withstood and contained the vast majority of intended violence or government coups and continues to search for ways to maintain the relative stability without trampling our freedoms.
One last thing on a personal level that I want to add. Even if all of that fails, and a secret society of Muslim jihadists rises up to take over the nation, establish sharia law and takes my life because of my faith in Jesus as the son of God who gave his life for me, the words of Jesus ever echo in my mind.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” Mathew 16:24-27