Thinking Out Loud

March 17, 2019

Thoughts on the Aftermath: “This Is Not Who We Are”

Filed under: Christianity, current events — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:40 am

Jacinda Ardern

re-blogged from Random Thoughts from Lorne

Thoughts on the Aftermath

by Lorne Anderson

This is not who we are,” she said. “This act was not a reflection of who we are as a nation.”

How many times have you heard that? The speaker changes, the message is the same. This time it was New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern

“They (the victims) are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which it is clear this act was.”

Friday it was killings of worshippers at mosques in New Zealand. There was shock, outrage and horror. (Considerably more than for attacks on churches in the Middle East, but I guess no-one gets excited about violence in the Middle East any more.) There was that phrase about how this is not a reflection of who we are.

I’ve heard those words used so many times before. They come after mass shootings of school children in the US, by politicians who can’t see the cracks in the American psyche. The words are spoken by Muslims, insisting Islam is a religion of peace as ISIS uses the Koran to justify beheading those of different faiths. The fanatics of ISIS are not Islam, they say. That Mohammed liked to behead others is something they prefer not to talk about. They don’t want to believe that, like it or not, such violence against “infidels” is very much a part of who they are.

We all have constructed a mental image of what we look like. We don’t check that image in the mirror. We are kind, we are caring, we help others, we are good people. When something bad happens, it shocks us. Even when the bad things happen time and time again. Each time there is shock. We don’t want to face the truth, which is that we are deluding ourselves as to who we are.

When unthinkable violence happens, we shouldn’t be surprised. We are rooted in violence and disobedience, though we may not want to admit it. They are in our spiritual DNA, going back to the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve disobeyed, Cain killed Abel. From the beginning of our race we have been less than perfect. All of us. What differentiates us from the killers is that we have not given in to those sin impulses.

It is who we are – we just don’t want to face that fact. We tell ourselves that terrorists and mass murderers are an aberration when the truth is, they are the norm.

If this is indeed who we are, do we have to stay that way? Can we learn from past mistakes? Can we turn things around? Or are we doomed to stay on the treadmill of violence?

When I was reading about Friday’s events in New Zealand, I had a portion of the New Testament book of James running through my mind, especially the fourth chapter with its words about both inner and outer conflict. I won’t quote it all, but I thought these verses were especially applicable, a guide for those who want the violence to stop.

 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

For most people, those words, and the rest of The Bible, are not taken seriously. Which is sad, because Jesus offers hope for this broken world. Admitting we are all fallen people changes the narrative. Authentic Christianity brings new life, and as individuals change, so too will nations.

Friday’s terror attack in New Zealand was very much a reflection of the nation. But it wasn’t a reflection on the nation. The attack could have taken place anywhere. I doubt there is more evil in New Zealand than any other place.

We don’t want to see ourselves that way. Terrorists and criminals try to justify their actions. Cain, the first murderer, asked “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

How can we stop the cycle of violence? Only through changes in the hearts of individuals. Is that really possible? The Bible says it is.

But are people willing to go that route that would bring about an end to terrorism and mass murder? Are you? Do we really want to change? If not, there will be more attacks like the ones in New Zealand Friday, because this really is who we are.

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December 14, 2018

Strasbourg: From Someone Who Lives An Hour Away

We’ve linked to or reposted material from Lorne Anderson’s blog Random Thoughts from Lorne several times over the past few years. Lorne is a friend, so I get to ask permission after the fact. Montreal born, raised in Ottawa; Lorne has also lived in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Liberia, West Africa. Our interest today is because he and his wife are currently living in Germany, not far at all from Tuesday night’s attack just over the border in Strasbourg, France. When I read his article this morning, even though we covered this yesterday, I thought it was worth returning to the topic for one more day. The title below is a link to read it at source.

Terror Too Close To Home

This was as close as media could get on Tuesday night. The sign in English would possibly be something like, ‘Strasbourg: Your Christmas Capital.’ (Photo credit FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images)

by Lorne Anderson

When they are far away, they are just news items we may or may not pay attention to. It is different when they happen in your neighborhood.

Throughout the day Wednesday, people in Canada were forwarding me news stories about the terror attack at the Christmas market in Strasbourg, France. It is only an hour’s drive from our home in Sulzburg; it is conceivably a place we might visit. Indeed, I was in the city on business in October.

News of the attack brought a jumble of thoughts to my mind. As a journalist I was bemused by the coverage I read that described the suspect as having been radicalized in prison. It was supposedly a religious radicalism, though the particular religion wasn’t mentioned.

I get that. The media don’t want to imply that all followers of a certain religion are dangerous, so they omit the name. It was obvious anyway, given that the attacker, since killed by police, was allegedly shouting in Arabic.

I didn’t fully realize the effect locally until my wife mentioned she passed through two police checkpoints Wednesday on her drive home from a neighbouring town. It was thought the suspect may have crossed from France into Germany.

If the intention of terrorist attacks is to stop people from gathering, they are pretty much a failure. There was a deadly attack on a Christmas market in Berlin two years ago, but that doesn’t stop people from attending them today. I think most of us figure the odds are that there won’t be an attack while we are there.

I don’t know if there is much thought to security at these things, though from the news reports there was a lot of police presence in Strasbourg. Certainly there is none at the small-town markets in my area.

Even the bigger markets I have attended haven’t had much visible security. I don’t recall seeing police last year in Colmar, France or Vienna, Austria, this year. I did see police in Freiburg last month, but they weren’t at the Christmas market itself, rather keeping an eye on a street demonstration a block away. There have been lots of people at every market I attend – and I don’t expect that to change.

My first thoughts though upon hearing news of the attack was not about market crowds but of individuals, people I know here and how they would feel upon hearing the news. Becasue I think the intention of many terrorists, though they may not be able to articulate it, is not to strike fear into the general populace, but to sow a generalized fear of Muslims

In Europe, certainly here in Germany, it seems to me most of Muslims are immigrants and refugees. They don’t speak the local language well, they don’t dress like Europeans, they seem different. Integrating into European society (or any new society) can be challenging at best. When people view you with distrust because of your background, it is much harder. When they stare at you when you walk down the street, when you feel the mistrust when you shop for groceries, you wonder if it is worth it to try and fit in to this new society. You might as well give up – you will never be accepted as a full member of society.

That is the terrorist’s ideal. They don’t want Muslims to become French, or German or Canadian. They want them to remain part of a closed society. They want them to remain in bondage.

How we react to a terrorist attack says a lot about who we are. Are we willing to allow terrorists to set the agenda and convince us that all members of an entire religion are evil, intending our destruction? (Please note, I do think there is a difference between the religion and most of its adherents.)

Think about it. How would Jesus have responded? That is how we should too.

 

December 13, 2018

Strasbourg Christmas Market Shoppers Weren’t Expecting Bullets

Reports of killing rampages which take place in Europe may seem a world away, but it’s different when you walked those same streets just five months earlier. You have a mental picture which no television news crew can come close to approximating. You remember how those streets fit together. You remember the crush of people when you were there. You try to imagine what you might do or where you would run if the same thing had happened on the day you visited.

Crowd scenes have always been potential threats. For as long as I’ve lived, I’ve been aware of men switching their wallets to their front pockets and women clutching their purses more tightly. But of late we’ve realized that every concert, every sporting match, every trip to the shopping mall is fraught with the possibility of a random act of violence being carried out by someone mentally deranged or having a political agenda.

As we walked the streets of Strasbourg earlier this year, those thoughts are always in the back of your mind, but they are buried deep — very deep — as you take in the sights and sounds and smells. The people at the Christmas market on Tuesday night were no doubt in the same head-space; not expecting anything the second before the bullets could be heard.

The city we saw was beautiful. In the collage above, the upper left corner looks like it’s from a tourism photo. The tour boat came by at the right time and there was a young couple, possibly on their honeymoon, standing next to us who I chose not to photograph. We had crossed the border from Germany an hour earlier and after an unnecessarily long bus ride, had been let loose in this picturesque place that stated so clearly we were now in France.

Christmas Markets are a big deal in Europe. Our friend Lorne has written about them extensively. When you’re in the moment of a scene like the one upper right, you never think of people firing shots into the crowd; you never consider your vulnerability. Your brain doesn’t say, “I could be dead in the next five seconds.”

Which is how it should be. You ought to be able to enjoy an occasion like this in relative security. But that’s not the world we live in.

As of this morning the confirmed death toll is 3, with 13 people injured.


(I’ve included enlarged versions of the two pictures mentioned below.)

 

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