Do you remember that scene in Prince Caspian when Lucy tries to talk to the wild bear? He tries to attack her and she is confused. Why would a bear of Narnia want to kill Queen Lucy? The dwarf, whose name I can never remember, says the most remarkable thing: “Get treated like a dumb animal long enough, that’s what you become.” This is one of my favorite scenes of any movie. What powerful words!
I think it’s good practice to examine ourselves now and again—why we are what we are; why we do what we do; why we believe what we believe. Yesterday, I shared a video with you of a man who, though his heart seemed to be in the right place, made several mistakes in discussing the issue of terrorism. One of the most tragic errors in his presentation was the notion that if you or I were living in some other country, surrounded by oppression and poverty, raised in another religious community, then we would behave as terrorists do.
In an effort to dispel this notion, I thought it fitting to continue the conversation today by talking about why I’m not a terrorist.
One of the points I touched on briefly yesterday is that the numbers do not support the above claim. There are far more people in the same living conditions who do not choose hatred and terror as a manner of living—if living, it can be called. I do think it’s true that we don’t always remember how lucky we are to live in the nation and conditions in which we live. From a worldly standpoint, it is absolutely random and absolutely luck-of-the-draw. From a Christian standpoint, it is the sovereignty of a God who somehow works all things together for our good. So honestly, no—I cannot say what I would think or feel, or how I would behave if I lived in a predominantly Muslim society.
Likely, I would be raised in the Islamic faith. Likely, I would feel differently about capitalism, personal liberty, and a good many other things.
But, the fact that most people who presently live in that climate do not engage in beheadings, rape, and caging human beings up to set them on fire, or blowing up buildings should indicate something to us—something more than just “a small minority of Muslims become Terrorists.”
It should indicate to us a truth that we are beginning to lose sight of, even in the West: Somehow, human beings innately know that it is not right (whatever that means in their own culture) to take the life of another human being. We know that there is something sacred about life, which is why our globe is rich with many faith traditions. It is also why we protect endangered plants and animals. It is why we know that whether we are fighting climate change or denying it, we ought to take the best care of the earth as we can and be good stewards of our planet. Life is sacred. Living things should not be destroyed simply for the sake of destruction.
That is a value that we share in common with our human brothers and sisters. I can’t say that I understand how a person becomes hardened to the sanctity of life, how that conviction shifts into one whereby it is somehow holy to (and somehow mandated by) your god to cause terror and havoc and trauma and death by specific intent. How does a human heart become so filled with cement?
But that is somehow occurring. Nobody is born a terrorist, just like nobody is born racist. These are learned behaviors, fears, and agendas that are twisted into a hatred so deep and so numbing that a person either silences the voice of their conscience that tells them “life is sacred,” or they simply can no longer hear it. But it is not our default position, and so the majority of human beings would not, innately, be terrorists just because they were born into a certain community or a certain situation.
So yes, it is true that I would be a very different person if I were born and raised in Syria, or Iran, or, for that matter, Wisconsin (I’d be a Packers fan—imagine that [and for my Wisconsin friends, I am in no way comparing Packers fans to Terrorists]). But terrorism does not exist as a natural response to the pooh-pooh-heads in the West, otherwise, every individual who is living in those communities where terrorism is rampant would also become terrorists. In this matter, the testimony of the many proves that terrorism is not a cultural norm that we would logically accept if we traded places. Terrorism exists because a radical ideology of hatred and death is allowed to numb the hearts and minds of individuals who otherwise would look just like you and me.
So why am I not a terrorist? The answer is not that I was born into wealth, freedom, security, and every possible advantage. The answer is that mankind is created with the knowledge somewhere in his spirit that life is sacred, and my spirit has not been broken and corrupted into believing otherwise. I am mindful of those who speak to me as if I am a dumb animal, and I refuse to become one. Countless Muslims and Christians around the world agree with me—not in their words, but in their daily decision to not perform acts of terror.
What about you? Are you listening to the voices that tell you you’re a dumb animal, or are you clinging to what the voice of your spirit declares to be true?