How, then, should we live in this dangerous new world? Christians have a specific calling to fight spiritual wars through spiritual means. Only a few people act in terroristic ways, but all of us have terroristic thoughts. All of us, including Muslims, can repent and be saved, through God's grace.
Cold War II is more daunting in many ways than Cold War I. A few Communists were willing to give their lives to benefit (in their imagination) millions of others, but they themselves could expect only oblivion after death. Suicide bombers are much easier to recruit when the promise of a lush afterlife of sex, food, and fun can cover a multitude of fears. We need to pray for God to change hearts.
While the spiritual war continues, all Americans regardless of theology can unite at a different level in fighting a physical and psychological war. Here is my fifth and last set of five propositions.
During most of Cold War I we lived under terror, facing the possibility of sudden death with a megaton bang. So many things could have gone wrong. Human miscalculation, technical error ... the betting line at times on our getting through without having at least one city obliterated must have been less than 50-50. The United States could have given up. With schoolchildren doing bomb drills under desks, parents could have chanted, "Better Red than dead."
Astoundingly, we survived. The patriotism developed in World War II grew and thrived, nurtured by movies and music that recent cultural leaders have ridiculed. Meanwhile, Soviet leaders turned out to have a sense of societal preservation. Marxist ideology emphasized the importance of industrial development, so the thought of being bombed back to the Stone Age kept the Khrushchevs and Brezhnevs from risking all. Since communism is based on atheism, our Soviet opponents did not grow bold with the thought that when they died they would immediately enter a lush paradise.
Now we are embarked on a new Cold War. We once again live under terror, facing the possibility of destruction-except this time, chillingly, we might have no warning at all. It was startling to see airplanes used as missiles, but a bigger threat may be biological warfare, terrorist style, within which we might already be fatally diseased before we know what has hit us.
We have four lines of defense against biological warfare. First is a reliance on the basic human decency of our opponents-but they showed a chilling willingness on Sept. 11 to go where no man had gone before. Second is a rushed production of vaccines. That is essential, but terrorists have so many options from which to choose that, as in buying life insurance policies, we may be protected against everything except that which finally brings us down.
Our third line of defense is a good offense abroad. We need to get to the terrorists and disrupt their activities before they can kill us and others. That is especially true when fighting gangs like bin Laden's that gain grudging admiration largely for their success. Those groups now have what every bully temporarily has: the ability to say, "Put aside your better judgment and don't try to stop me, or you will be hurt." Once the aura of bin Laden invulnerability is broken, traditional Muslims who see terrorism as going beyond what the Quran allows will have some traction.
Our fourth line of defense is enormously tightened security at home. The Israelis have shown that this can work to prevent mass murder. The greater difficulty in the United States is political, because a generation of schoolkids has grown up not knowing much about history except for a few terrible incidents. Students who do not know who Dwight Eisenhower was have heard about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, the House Un-American Activities Committee and "McCarthyism" during the 10 years afterwards, and so on.
We need to reevaluate that history. Internment was wrong, but some ethnic profiling is needed in wartime when terrorists are coming from a particular ethnic group. Congressional investigations should publicize the existence of numerous terrorist cells in this country; bin Laden has declared war on the United States, and those who support him should have no more rights than Nazi cells had in the United States during World War II. We will need to live with the violations of ideal civil liberty that a war against potential plague-distributors and well-poisoners requires. Do those who complain about thorough wiretaps of suspects understand that hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake?
During the first three centuries of American history, disasters regularly led to national self-examination: Were we, sinners still, at least living in part by biblical principles? (See WORLD, Oct. 13.) In the 20th century a secularized version of the idea became common, often with use of a sentence from the writings of a French visitor to this country during the 1830s. Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Hillary Clinton, Colin Powell, and Pat Buchanan all presented this purported quotation from Alexis de Tocqueville: "America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt used that same line on Sept. 14.
Tocqueville never wrote those words, but the message is nevertheless true. We can learn from Cold War I: Secretary of State Dean Acheson noted in 1947 that "suspicion and resentment" over the treatment of poor minorities in America hurt the nation internationally. John F. Kennedy argued that Jim Crow in the South had to be defeated for Communism to be defeated in Africa. We need greater federal expenditures to follow the constitutional mandate to "provide for the common defense," but when it comes to the subsequent clause-"promote the general welfare"-we need a government that understands the need between providing and promoting. "Promoting" is urging volunteers to come forward, and not getting in the way of compassionate conservative impulses that have shown their effectiveness.
Charities are raising hundreds of millions of dollars for relief for those who have already suffered from terrorist attacks and those who will suffer. If the federal government offers billions in its bureaucratic way, bad charity will drive out good as it often has over the past century, and those in need will once again feel like numbers rather than human beings. Nor should the government get in the habit of bailing out groups hurt by the changed environment. Individuals and organizations are seeing the need to reduce expenses that suddenly seem unimportant. They are applying their dollars to individual, organizational, and national survival. That's as it should be.
One way the United States can display goodness to other countries is through offering food to refugees, as President Bush is wisely having us do in Afghanistan. As much as possible, this should be done using the experience and talent of church relief groups, so that in one stroke we can show how wrong the Taliban is to target with hatred and death threats those who come in love.
Terrorists put all of us on the front lines, and when we're preyed on we tend to pray. Churches have a tremendous opportunity here, particularly if they are seen as serious places to learn about and respond to God's holiness, rather than church lites that merely make us feel better when we remember that the world is not a Garden of Eden. We need to make use of hymns and other historical resources that teach us how other Christians have recognized the inevitability of pain and responded to it. What separates Christianity from not only Islam but every human religion and philosophy is Christ, the Redeemer, and we need to unabashedly preach and teach about the need for and offer of redemption.
On a cultural level, up to now many Americans have tended to ape the moral anarchy of western Europe, home to deserted churches and rapidly increasing single parenting-but that's as much an extreme as Islamic tawhid. America's founders fought for both liberty and virtue, thereby providing a middle road between anarchy and unicity, and that's what we must fight for also. If the struggle is American anarchy vs. Muslim repression, many will ask for plagues on both our houses. But a fight for both liberty and virtue can, with God's grace, win the world's favor.
American patriots in the 18th century built a coalition against the British that included both Christians and those who had different faiths but admired a society built on biblical principles. Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry, who today would be labeled members of the religious right, worked alongside Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, both of whom displayed hostility to Christianity. Christians today must follow the Founders, turning the other cheek at personal offenses so as to turn a united and resolute face against terror.
It's sad that we have to talk about terror. Part of the American dream is for parents to make life better for their children. When I was 11, in 1961, we had nuclear bomb drills in school. I thought the generation growing up now would be spared that, but it looks as if biological and chemical warfare drills might be coming. Will we come through Cold War II without an attack that kills not 6,000 but 60,000, or more? I suspect the odds, again, are against us. More than ever we need fervent prayer that, out of God's abundant kindness, He will once again show mercy.
The new terror is terrible news, but if an awareness of dependence on God's mercy grows into revival and reformation, we can indeed be glad as the apostle James advised us to be. He wrote at the beginning of his epistle, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance."