Our media elite habitually underestimate the power of religion and the power and consequences of ideas in modern life. It has been absolutely fascinating to watch the media response to the deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood. With the facts slowly trickling out, some are beginning to revise their assessment of what actually happened and why.
In that shooting, Army psychiatrist Nidal Hassan fired over 100 shots, killing 13 and wounding 29. Early on, many were reluctant to tie his violent outrage to his Muslim faith. Now, he is being charged by a military court with thirteen counts of premeditated murder. His pro-Islamic, anti American views before the shooting are becoming more well known. His attempts to communicate with a jihadists imam who encouraged Muslims to kill US troops is now known. His shout of “Allahu akbar” (Allah is the greatest), the jihadist battle cry, as he opened fire on the soldiers, now appears to have been an earnest and deadly terrorist shout.
Many in the media wanted to quickly dismiss any connection between Hasan’s Islamic faith and his action. Some were calling him “a nut case.” Others said “he snapped.” Still others blamed it on stress. Some said his shooting was the tragic byproduct of two wars. Despite the fairly obvious clues, many kept telling us that we don’t and can’t know his motives.
Well…..that was then. It is looking like we do know what his motives were. So what do we do with this? And why this strange disbelief, especially in an age of terrorism, that his faith had anything to do with the shooting? For that matter, why does our government increasingly take this view point (e.g. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano tells us that we should not use the phrase “Islamic terrorism,” but refer to it as “man caused disasters.”) The best explanations, I suspect, is that our culture is driven by three deeply held ideas which we are unwilling to give up but are being tested.
Three Deeply Held Cultural Beliefs That Are Being Tested
First, many hold to the idea that all religions are the same, so why would we want to criticize one. That would mean we might have to commend another (which no one wants to do). Yet to anyone who looks carefully at the claims of the major religions, let alone the claims of Christianity and Islam, this idea is so patently misinformed. There are huge differences between the two faiths (their views of God/Trinity, Jesus and salvation, for starters).
Second, many hold to the idea that there is no true or false religion. In the current post modern climate, we don’t take the issue of truth seriously. So we try to tolerate every idea, except ideas that claim to be true. The extreme multiculturalism of the day is unwilling to weigh the merits and claims of Christianity or Islam. And yet, the Bible presents Jesus as the way, the truth and the life. The implication being, that religions like Islam, are NOT the way the truth and the life, but rather are false paths, and dare we add, demonic deceptions, to keep us from the path to life. This is not to say there is no truth, or good in Islamic belief or culture. It is to say that it’s a road that leads to spiritual darkness and destruction.
Third, many hold to the idea that Islam is essentially a religion of peace. There is a liberal assumption at work in our culture behind this, that people are basically good, and no one would really intentionally do evil things. So, in Hasan’s case, we have to medicalize our assessment of his actions—so we say, he was a sick man, and ignore any evidence to the contrary.
While many Muslims are peaceful and productive citizens, I for one, am not convinced of Islam’s essential peacefulness. Only when you submit to Islam, for that is what the word means, do you get peace. But outside of submission, there can be no deep peace for the infidel.
Islam’s origins and its writings justify religious violence. For 1000 years, from Mohammed to the decline of the Ottoman Empire, Islam was an expansionist force, spreading as much by sword as conversion from the Pyrenees to the Philippines. With the decline of world wide communism, we have seen militant Islam on the rise. As of 2007, the majority of the top terrorist organizations identified by the US State Department are Islamicist. Of those nations that severely persecute Christians, the majority are also Islamic.
What Do We Do With This?
There are two temptations we can easily fall for as we assess Fort Hood. The first is to respond naively and say that Islam has nothing to do with modern terrorism. Of course, this is factually false. The second temptation, is to respond to the Fort Hood shootings by concluding that all Muslims are terrorists and un-American. But this is clearly false as well. Many of the 6 million Muslims who live in this country are loyal Americans and have contributed to our society.
The Fort Hood tragedy should be a wake up call to Christians. On the one hand, it should remind us that ideas and religions do have consequences. These two faiths are not the same and lead in very different directions. It is cultural stupidity to become neutral about all faith or to run from Christian truth as the West is currently doing.
On the other hand, this shooting should also remind Christians of the relevance of the gospel and the opportunity we have to share this treasure with others—including our Muslim neighbors. I believe there is a longing in the hearts of many Muslims for someone like Jesus. I have a hunch that many will be more drawn to the Prince of Peace, who strapped a cross on to his back, than a terrorist who straps explosives on to his back. The sheer destructiveness of Islamic violence does not make many Muslims proud.
But not only that, remember that Islam is primarily a religion of law. Its obligations become a heavy burden. There is a longing in many hearts for good news of grace which can be found in Christ alone. Perhaps that is why so many Muslims in America (some 20,000 a year, by some estimates) are coming to faith in Christ these days. (It is easier to reach Muslims in America with the gospel than it is in their native lands).
It would be a shame if the Fort Hood incident made us more naïve about Islam, or more hardened to Muslims. Instead, let this incident prompt us to be more ready to engage Muslims with good news that can really liberate people and bring joy to their souls.