Responding to Terror

This weekend my wife was in the drug store. The pharmacist was the first to confront her. "This is obviously the end times," he intoned. "Things are going to get much worse, and then the Lord will come. Tell Mr. Colson to keep an eye on the king of Spain, Juan Carlos." I don't know what Juan Carlos has to do with it. The only thing I know about him is that he read Born Again and loved it. But I guess he's a candidate for the anti-Christ. I might dismiss the pharmacist's response, except that in one hour of shopping Patty was confronted by two other customers who told her that the end is near. "It's finally come! This is it! Get ready for the Lord's return!" If this is how Christians are thinking about the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, it confirms my worst fears. During the Gulf War, the world was concerned about the proper use of military power. Christians in the past have been vitally concerned with this issues and have advanced the just war doctrine, which has shaped the understanding of Western society. During the Gulf War, Christians in America said nothing, choosing instead to speculate about the End Times. One book about prophesy and the Gulf War shot to the top of the best seller list only to be forgotten weeks later when it's dramatic speculations proved utterly false. Meanwhile we left questions of power, justice, and international relations to secular thinkers and in the process gave the impression that we don't know and don't care. It was a bad witness and must not happen again. Make no mistake, Jesus is going to return. Obviously, I believe that. But like C. S. Lewis, I refuse to speculate as to when. Rather than speculate, I want to concentrate on the great and unique contribution Christians can make in this hour. Christians need to focus attention on the issues surrounding just war. The President must respond to the terrorist attacks forcefully and quickly. The Bible teaches that the government has the power of the sword to preserve order and do justice. At the same time, the power of the sword has to be tempered by the restraints of the just war doctrine. Beginning with St. Augustine some 1600 years ago, Christians have thought and written about the appropriate use of military force. Today we need to be the ones who insist that the response to the terrorist attacks be proportionate, that it doesn't create a greater evil, and that civilians are not targeted. I have been watching the television and I have yet to hear the question of just war raised. If we don't bring these issues into public discourse, no one will. Now, don't get me wrong. Of course, as Christians, we are a community of eschatological hope. We live in the constant expectation of Jesus' return. That will be the most glorious day in all of human history. But it's our hope. And though we may talk about it amongst ourselves, this is not the time to inject it into secular discourse. People will simply dismiss us as a fringe group. The fact is that this country is hurting and grieving. It is perplexed, frustrated, and confused about what needs to be done next. This is the time that we can come alongside and offer compassion, mercy, understanding, and good instead of evil. And we can contribute to the public debate that will inform our nation's actions in a way that reflects God's standards of justice.


Chuck Colson



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