People aren’t born terrorists.
No one crawls out of their mother’s womb, finishes weaning and learning how to walk, and then finds their first words to be words of hatred. No one is predestined to become a terrorist, and terrorism isn’t some genetic issue.
Rather, terrorists are created out of otherwise beautiful image bearers of the true and living God. To create a terrorist, there are ultimately three factors that need to be cultivated inside the heart of an individual: fear, hatred, and the desire to get even. If one were to dissect the heart of any given terrorist from any given time period in history, from any given religion or any given culture, my bet is that you would find a potent combination of these three things in each one of them.
Often we use the term “growing terrorists” to refer to those who have already given into fear, hatred, and retaliation who seek to cultivate these emotions in others. This process of growing or creating terrorists is usually seen as something other terrorists do, but the reality is that it’s not always this way.
Sometimes, we are the ones who grow terrorists.
Sadly, the United States is poised to become the victim of their own unintended terrorist growing operation– one that will likely come back to haunt the nation perhaps as quickly as one generation. And when it happens, it will be a terrorism we will be able to blame on no one but ourselves.
In what has become America’s longest war, we responded to a handful of Saudi’s enacting a day of terror on the United States by invading two completely different countries: Iraq and Afghanistan (even though Iraq had zero connection with 9-11). During that war, we have come to rely heavily on drone warfare where Airmen stationed comfortably in the United States sit behind a video-game like screen, and kill people a world away. At first it was hailed as a brilliant way to fight warfare without putting people unnecessarily in harms way, but a newly leaked documents reveal a shocking truth:
The people we have been killing have most often been innocent people. In fact, the documents show that over a 5 month period, 90% of the people we executed with drones were completely innocent. During our drone war, we’ve executed untold numbers of innocent children, we’ve blown up entire weddings, and as we saw just a few weeks ago, we’ve blown up hospitals with our own doctors in them.
It’s time we wrestle with the truth folks. America has been systematically executing innocent people and children, and has spent years creating terror in people who have done us no wrong. This should be outrageous to all of us, regardless of political or religious persuasion. Even conservatives who embrace Augustine’s just war theory should be morally appalled– Augustine would be.
While I am a Christian opposed to all hatred and violence, let me ask you to use some empathy and imagination for a few moments: would it not be understandable and expected for the people who have endured years of watching innocent loved ones killed by American drones to develop fear, hatred, and a desire to retaliate against us?
What if you grew up the son of a simple farmer and several times a day, for your entire childhood, you had to run for cover because you heard a noise in the sky that you thought could be a drone? What if you were celebrating at your older sister’s wedding and witnessed almost your entire family being blown apart or set on fire? What if you saw your uncle blown in half and crawling without legs until he bled to death? What if you were playing in the street with your friends after school one day, and in a flash looked around to only see bloody limbs?
And what if you spent your entire life seeing these gruesome deaths, and knew all of them were just innocent people– people like you?
Who in this situation would be the terrorists?
Jesus promised that those who “live by the sword will die by the sword” because violence is a never ending cycle. America has chosen to ignore Jesus, and as such we’ve spent many, many years slaughtering innocent people in the name of “justice.” Of course, those on the ground far away from the drone operators know that when 90% of the people killed are innocent, that’s not justice at all. This, quite naturally, has planted fear, hatred, and an understandable desire for retaliation in the hearts of children all across the Middle East– the precise outcome Jesus promised it would have.
One day, these children be adults and they will quite naturally seek justice for the thousands they saw slaughtered as they were growing up. They will see themselves as justice-seekers or freedom fighters (and rightfully so) but we’ll just see them as terrorists.
When that day comes, we’ll most likely respond to their aggression in kind– and we’ll grow terrorists from their children, too. Terrorists aren’t born, they’re grown when you water the seeds of fear, hatred, and a desire for retaliation. For some reason, that’s what we keep doing– and yet, we wonder why the cycle continues. It’s time for a culture change, because with a 90% innocent kill rate we’re creating terrorists faster than we can kill them.
For those of us who profess to follow Jesus, we are invited to show the world a new way– the way of love, the way of forgiveness, and the way of non-retaliation. We are invited to be a shinning city on a hill, casting the light of his nonviolent example on the world around us in hopes that one-by-one, more and more people will sign onto this better way of living.
If we as Americans don’t want to continue creating endless generations of people dedicated to annihilating each other, living differently– living the way Jesus invites us to live– is our only hope.