With the escalation of terrorism running rampant across the West, Britain suffered its third major attack in the past three months, Bastille recuperating from the eighty-six massacred, Paris, Normandy, Stockholm, Brussels and Berlin all under surveillance from terror attacks and civil unrest – just to name a few – the atrocities committed by such extremism seem to be snowballing by the day. It is easy for us to forget what Jesus Christ said when attacked: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?” (Matthew 5:43-46) Summarized on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). I’m sure at times we wish that claim were circumstantial at best, yet it remains an important reminder that there is something greater than this world, and the actions we take here affect there (John 18:36). This does not suggest however we wait around and twiddle our thumbs. Far from it! It means given the situation at large, act in the way that will substantiate the greater testimony to the unbeliever – since it is their soul at stake, and not the believer – this is the crux of the Great Commission, after all.
In all openness, my heart goes out to any and all the victims of these radical acts of violence. It’s rather inconceivable to lose someone you care for in such a way. It does however bring into view that having a full family of parents, cousins, children, siblings and friends is something we implicitly take for granted in a free society. And, it is more than just being free legally, there is this sense of aliveness when liberty hoists its flag. For that to be tattered and burned by way and virtue of freedom itself should be the highest of hypocrisies – just gut-wrenching.
Given that this is somewhat informal and an exceedingly sensitive topic, and I lack the space to sufficiently render this discussion what it respectively deserves, I suppose a portion will have to due. There are only two directions I intend to tread: 1) the qualifications for terrorism compared to other forms of severe violence and 2) what are the alleged and potential solutions for extremism offered by the State.
What we typically classify as terrorism are normal risks and conditions many people face over the world everyday, albeit by a different method. What is socially ordinary and state mandated in other societies is what takes us by surprise. For instance, Christianity is not only forbidden in over 50 countries, the seemingly genocidal conditions set by Islamic nation-states and Communist regimes against Christianity are staggering, approximately 215 million Christians experience high, very high, or extreme persecution every year and thousands of those Christians are murdered for refusing to renounce their faith. Open Doors documents “Christians throughout the world continue to risk imprisonment, loss of home and assets, torture, beheadings, rape and even death as a result of their faith.” Islamic extremism continues to be the dominant force of global persecution, and North Korea remains the most dangerous place to be a Christian for fourteen straight years. Terrorism, in a sense, is the rest of the world coming to us. I’m not playing the “we’re so persecuted card” in light of the horrific acts against humanity as a whole, nor am I claiming Christians are the most victimized, I’m simply making a statement. Despite how the crime was committed, what is the primary difference between terrorism in the West and Christians slaughtered for their faith in the East? Beyond home turf, citizenship and profit margins, when it comes to defining murder you’d be hard-pressed to split a hair!
But that is the problem isn’t it? – We split hairs. Especially when the crime committed doesn’t affect us. We allow superficial things like ‘where they’re from’ and ‘how much will that cost’ get in the way of our conscience daily, despite such an attitude being explicitly and routinely countered in the Scriptures. The words of the apostle Paul come to mind, “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.” (Hebrews 13:3) Yet many, if not most, lie and wait as if the atrocities elsewhere are ‘their’ problem and that their government ought to figure it out for themselves. For those Christian ears, it is our moral duty as followers of Jesus Christ not to fall into Statist ways of thinking. The State does not generate right from wrong – it just states it – and it can very well be wrong. Cornerstone to Christian belief is that true liberty lies beyond state lines.
In lieu of the recent terror attacks in London and Manchester, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May finally said, “enough is enough” — and tougher measures are needed, “They are bound together by the single evil ideology of Islamist extremism that preaches hatred, sows division, and promotes sectarianism. It is an ideology that claims our Western values and freedom, democracy and human rights are incompatible with the religion of Islam,” she continues, “Defeating this ideology is one of the great challenges of our time, but it cannot be defeated by military intervention alone. It will not be defeated through the maintenance of a permanent defensive counter terrorism operation, however skillful its leaders and practitioners. It will only be defeated when we turn people’s minds away from this violence and make them understand that our values, pluralistic British values, are superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate”
I mention this carefully, not to highlight Islamophobia or the like, but instead to isolate May’s use of language about the State taking action. It goes without saying, as a leading political figure, that addressing the nation about matters of security is her duty, but May pedestals “pluralistic British [state] values” as above all else.
It is possible to concieve that with the severe criminal acts and vehement corruptions caused by one religion comes the reckoning of all religion, and more specifically, the Abrahamic religions. It is reasonable, and I would hope not foreseeable, that there will come a point when the State will pick and choose which religion is legal and which religion is prohibited in the name of security, peace and progress. Of course, some people may just want a solution for radical Islam now, but given that not all Muslims commit these crimes of zealotry, how would the State ban ‘radical’ Islam if violence is prohibited already? If a ban were to occur, there seems to be four potential actions the State may take into affect to counteract Islamic extremism: 1) prohibit Islam as a whole, 2) prohibit all three Abrahamic religions, 3) prohibit all religion, or 4) prohibit all religion except for one state-religion. Perhaps that is far too bold of a claim, I admit it sounds a bit more worrisome than I actually perceive it to be, why would one kind of assault, heralded as virtuous by one religious sect, affect another if not all religious freedom?
When I was a adolescent, from what I can recall, the park was open all night for anyone until one evening when a teenager died in the lake; he went canoeing in a thunderstorm, the canoe tipped and he drowned. It was a terrible incident. But, instead of having parents tell their children not to swim at night, the town instead closed the park by nine o’clock for everyone. It only took one person to make one poor decision for a prohibitory law to be enacted for everyone else. This idea that ‘children are not safe here’ extended from the household to the courthouse. Of course, this is a much weaker illustration in comparison, but the point stands analogically. How far are free people, namely politicians, activists or the like, willing to extend their ‘parental authority’ in order to protect their family from harm? In a welfare society that anticipates the government will inevitably handle matters for them, parenting is less and less a thing for parents. With that said, there are several pressing reasons that quickly come to mind that serve to succour total secular security: a) the secular State views all religion as equal concepts; b) on one side, the history of world religions all showcase negative intimacy with a state and culture and as a result contain prior “criminal” history; c) on the other side, there has never been a documented secular age free from religion and its affects on culture (even the twentieth century atheistic regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and so on are often labeled in secular scholarship as religiously motivated from peripheral belief and not completely secularized – though I personally do not believe a religion free world is possible, it is neither here nor there); d) Abrahamic religions seem to elicit the most resistance to state authority given that all three prioritize God over government, howbeit in different contexts and varying magnitudes.
Again, to get back to the main question at large: How would the State resolve extremism? In this thought exercise, keep in mind; the modern secularized State lumps all religion under one roof as equally make-believe (mere preference) while more people per capita in each nation can attest to believe in ‘something bigger and beyond’ than not. So how to handle it? It would most certainly cause mayhem! After all, humanity has never experienced a day without it, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere, anytime soon. Certainly the measures taken by the State would need to scratch that itch or treat the symptom, more or less. If this hypothetical event were to occur, in short, religion would need to be supplemented and regulated with national socio-moral codes by order of the State. More bluntly put, the State would take the parental authority, responsibility and choose a sole religious outlet, or make/mix one up, that bests fits the societies algorithmic needs. This may sound preposterous, I do not doubt, and I wish I were obliged to agree, but unfortunately, there is tangible precedent for this not so innocuous threat. Despite the fact that the twentieth century was the bloodiest century in human history, heralded by state driven manifestos, some of which found its sole purpose in eradicating religion (Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao Zedong, to name a few), it seems the same snowball just continues to roll into different territory. In Canada, the french province of Québec, attempted to ban all religious iconography (i.e. cross, kippa, turban, niqab, etc.) in public sectors and spheres in the name of security and ‘religious neutrality’, even motioning as far as to ban burka, niqab-wearing (Bill 62); a similar policy was, more or less, accepted in France. In the United Kingdom, the government officially banned the teaching of creationism in the British equivalent of public schools for a “broad and balanced curriculum”. – Just to point out a few red flags. I think, if matters were to hasten with vibrancy, the definition and limitations of Liberty would be put through the wringer. And even if all this chatter ends up being fruitless the sheer fact that it is receiving so much attention is troubling.
If, hypothetically, the State were to ban all religion equally, there would need to be a middle course solution as a socially counteractive measure to relegate violence in its place, perhaps by merging the most favorable and least offensive aspects of all the major religions together, and then offer the new one world religion as the solution to the violence. By deduction, the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) would add the most resistance to such an ideological action in the West, ‘standing in the way of peace and progress’, and would, more than likely, be labeled radicals, fanatics, zealots, extremists, terrorists and so on. What is now called “Islamophobia” would later become “Religiophobia”. It is also possible, with the rise in neurological study and development, that there may come a time when the secular State will attempt to claim that it can predict how extremist tendencies develop and take preventative actions in the name of national security.
Beyond this sounding like a George Orwell novel and it simply being a total exercise of possibility, not immediate probability, just speaking freely, I say all of this for one particular reason: Despite the fact terrorism is occurring more and more frequently in the West, terrorism happens everywhere on a much more frequent, extreme pace. The State, without a moral reference point transcendent of itself, can equally terrorize any faith from a place of authority. It has before and there is no tangible precedent to suggest it will not again. Extremism, in religious and political spheres, is the symptom of a much deeper issue.
As a matter of dignity, respect and love, the same qualities Christ was crucified to preserve for each person, we ought not to categorize or trivialize these matters of violence into a generalized lump sum of Islam. We must maintain compassion for each individual affiliated and affected by terrorism on a personal level as Christ “so loved the world” and who does that exclude? (Luke 6:27-36) Lest we forget, that before Ishmael, Isaac and Abraham was Adam and his son Cain, a man unadulterated by political beliefs and personalized religion, and yet most notably, was still extremely corrupt; a “slave to sin”. In a modern sense, it is by this today and through that tomorrow. As a Christian, I believe that we have all violated our purpose in some way; and religion, whatever shape or form it may take, is the attempted human expression to tie back some sort of ultimate meaning from lack thereof. At bottom, extreme acts of violence and terrorism is a sad, misconstrued way to bind back some transcedent purpose. For anyone who may struggle with this issue, take comfort in knowing there is supreme resolve to fill that void in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. True liberty is a belief away.
Matlock Bobechko | June 9, 2017 – 11:33 AM EST substantive revision April 23, 2018 – 5:45 PM EST
 Christianity Today. Jeremy Weber, ‘Worst Year Yet’: The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian – Islamic extremism now has a rival, according to 2017 World Watch List. January 11, 2017 9:00 AM. Infographics provided by Open Doors. http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2017/january/top-50-countries-christian-persecution-world-watch-list.html
 The Guardian. Kate Lyons and Garry Blight, Where in the world is the worst place to be a Christian? Monday 27 July 2015 14.24 BST. Persecution of Christians has increased dramatically in parts of the world. Here we list the top 25 most anti-Christian countries. Infographics provided by Open Doors. https://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2015/jul/27/where-in-the-world-is-it-worst-place-to-be-a-christian
 Major news media coverage typically broadcasts or reports on content that is going to sell or turn a profit, which means those topics are the most relatable to the greater sum of target viewership. The more people watch (or read), the more money earned – simple. But the viewer must connect with some sort of relatable point or object of reference to the subject matter at large since, quite honestly, just being a human isn’t enough. If the viewer is American and, say, the subject is from somewhere of weak relatability to America, it can potentially reduce viewership and thus revenue.
 Emphasis added. “‘Enough is enough’: Theresa May says tougher measures needed to clamp down on Islamic extremism” National Post, Bloomberg News and The Associated Press. June 4, 6:04 PM ET 2017
 National Post. Chris Selley, “Quebec ‘values charter’ is as stupid and divisive as we feared”. September 10, 2013, 12:18 PM EDT
http://nationalpost.com/opinion/chris-selley-quebec-values-charter-is-as-stupid-and-divisive-as-we-feared. Also: National Post. Graeme Hamilton, “Quebec passes bill banning niqab, burka while receiving public services”. October 18, 2017, 5:33 PM EDT. http://nationalpost.com/news/politics/quebec-passes-bill-62. Also: National Post. Graeme Hamilton, “Ban The Niqab, Keep The Cross?” Published on December 7, 2017. The cross is publicly acceptable as a mere piece of preferred Quebec heritage and nothing more. “Sadly, secularism seems to be invoked just to take away rights from religious minorities”. http://nationalpost.com/feature/ban-the-niqab-keep-the-cross.
 Huffington Post. Yasmine Hafiz, “Creationism Banned from UK Schools”. June 25, 2014, 12:28 EDT 2014, updated June 25, 2014, 12:59 EDT. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/creationism-banned-uk-schools_n_5529693.
 National Post, “. . . 23 percent think muslims should be banned: poll”. March 13, 2017, 1:15 PM EDT.
http://nationalpost.com/news/politics/most-canadians-favour-values-test-for-immigrants-while-23-per-cent-think-muslims-should-be-banned-poll Also: National Post. Graeme Hamilton, “A quarter of Canadians think religious diversity is a bad thing”. November 16, 2017 4:12 PM EST, last updated November 29, 2017, 3:20 PM EST. http://nationalpost.com/news/canada/new-poll-finds-religious-diversity-continues-to-divide-canadians