Sunday, December 6, 2015

Counting the Tragedies from the San Bernardino Jihad Attack

Trying to assess the magnitude of the loss in last week's massacre committed by two devout Muslims...

A composite photo of all 14 victims from the San Bernardino shooting rampage. They are top row left: Robert Adams, Isaac Amanios, Bennetta Betbadal, Harry Bowman and Sierra Clayborn. Second row from left: Juan Espinoza, Aurora Godoy, Shannon Johnson, Larry Daniel Kaufman and Damian Meins. Bottom row from left: Tin Nguyen, Nicholas Thalasinos, Yvette Velasco and Michael Wetzel. (Courtesy of family / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Times has put up a very respectful piece honoring the San Bernardino shooting victims. Short bios with photos portray a very diverse group of good, dedicated people. You can read their stories here, and then say a prayer for the repose of their souls, and for God's care for their families.

It's important to reflect on the loss. Perhaps like many of us, I've been focused in my earlier posts on the attack and the details surrounding it, the connections to ISIS, and the ongoing threat from Muslims inspired to zealously follow the example of Muhammad and the words of the Koran.

I'd like to reflect now on the depths of the tragedy of San Bernardino from a different perspective.

In the Orthodox Church, at the Midnight Office, we pray:

for protection...  from plague, famine, earthquake, flood, fire, sword, invasion by enemies, civil war and sudden death; and that our good God, who loves mankind, will be merciful, kindly and easily entreated, turn away and dispel all wrath and disease stirred up against us, and deliver us from his just threat that hangs over us, and have mercy on us.

In the Orthodox view of life and salvation, sudden death is a tragedy, because those who die unexpectedly are deprived of that final time of preparation for eternity which a final illness provides. Who among us is repenting until their last breath? Who among us would feel prepared to face the judgment if we were confronted by violent attack by "sword, invasion by enemies, civil war and sudden death"?

So we pray for the souls of those whose lives were cut off so suddenly, without that time for preparation. May God have mercy on their souls!

There is, however, another element to this tragedy, which I wish to explore, and that concerns the deluded, deceived jihadis, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik.

We must not forget that these two people were also created in the image of God. 

How deceived they became by immersing themselves in the Koran and the example and words of Muhammad! How tragic that they took Islam so seriously that they allowed their God-given conscience to be nullified, neutered, deadened. 

And then, having murdered their God-given conscience, they then proceeded to plan and implement the wicked, evil, bloodthirsty mass murder of other people created in the image of God! (And people who had thrown them a baby shower only months earlier!?)

Do we see how the one murder leads to the second? 

But this is not merely an individual tragedy. This is the tragedy at the very heart and core of Islam.

Perfect submission to Allah necessitates the perfect adoption of the sunnah, the Way, of Muhammad, which leads inexorably to the death of the conscience, which is the restraining power (cf. 2 Thess 2:6) that the enemy of mankind Satan is always trying to remove so as to seize control of God's children.

Let us consider which Way is True and which is false: 
  • the Way who said "I have come that they may have Life, and have it abundantly" (JN 10:10), 
  • or the false prophet who said, "I have been commanded to fight against people till they testify that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah" (Sahih Muslim 1:33).

Sadly, there is an infernal, diabolical spiritual power fueling Islam, which means we shall continue to suffer more and worse terrorist attacks by Muslims against people everywhere, all around the globe. It is only going to get worse. This will be the unending war of the 21st century, if the Lord doesn't return first.

This should be a wake up call for all of us. 

For Muslims, consider if you really wish to continue down the road to perdition charted by your false prophet. If your conscience pricks you, and tells you, "Leave Islam! Get out now!" LISTEN TO IT! BECOME A CHRISTIAN!  There is NO SALVATION IN ISLAM!

But for Christians, jihad terror attacks are also a wake up call! We must be fighting zeal with zeal, fire with fire. Yet our fire is the fire of the Holy Spirit. In the words of Blessed Hieromonk Seraphim Rose:

Christian compromise in thought and word and negligence in deed have opened the way to the triumph of the forces of the absurd, of Satan, of Antichrist. The present age of absurdity is the just reward of Christians who have failed to be Christians.

It is futile, in fact it is precisely absurd, to speak of reforming society, of changing the path of history, of emerging into an age beyond absurdity, if we have not Christ in our hearts; and if we do have Christ in our hearts, nothing else matters.

Now one cannot be a half-hearted Christian, but only entirely or not at all.

The last element of tragedy in the San Bernardino massacre which I wish to mention is the loss of forgiveness.

It is immensely hard — in fact, it is humanly impossible — to forgive evil such as this. This is why so many people have such a difficult time grappling with the challenge of Islam. It provokes powerful responses. Anger, denial, hatred, rage... 

But for Christians, we can strive to do as Jesus did on the Cross, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." This is impossible on our own, but with God, all things are possible. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to forgive even the one who is sawing off our head, who is shooting us up with AR-15s, who is crucifying us.

Muslims are blinded by lies. We are called to love and forgive them, even and perhaps especially the murderous jihadis. But we do not forgive Islam itself, for Islam is false, a lie foisted upon the world by the father of lies.

We confess the truth, exposing the lie, even as we love and forgive those deceived by the lie. They too have been created in the image of God, and we hold out for those who will listen the Word of Life, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that they may turn and be healed.