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Waging holy war

With an enemy defeated, we can turn to praying for his salvation

Issue: "2010 The Year Ahead," Jan. 16, 2010

Chuck Norris does not have stomach problems; he is stomach problems (not an official "Chuck Norris fact"). But during a visit to Brooke Army Medical Center he fell prey to nausea upon learning that Major Nidal Hasan was a patient in the same facility as his victims. "To be honest, [writes Chuck] it made me sick to my stomach and sent shivers of disgust down my spine."

Hasan's shootout at Fort Hood is now considered the worst instance of domestic terrorism since 9/11, and his motives seem clear to anyone who will look. His reported behavior before and during reads like a checklist of jihadist protocol: Post disturbing messages online; give away possessions; visit strip club; shout "Allahu Akbar!" while raining destruction on infidels. Only at the end did his plan go awry.

Hasan no doubt expected to go out gloriously in a hail of bullets. Instead he was cornered by two Texas cops and crippled for life. To compound the agony, at least one of the shots that brought him down was fired by a woman. This must be special hell for the dedicated jihadist: knocked off the fast track to paradise by a lower life form and left with not even a veil of unconsciousness to cover his shame.

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But what if, instead of living death, Hasan could experience rebirth?

Less than 100 miles from Fort Hood is Hearne, "the crossroads of Texas," where freight trains rumble through the night. During World War II those trains brought in carloads of POWs from Germany's Afrika Korps to fill one of the largest camps in the entire POW system. Though some enlisted men were sent to work on nearby farms, most of the prisoners were noncommissioned officers, and thus exempt. They filled their days according to their skills: built theaters and a repertoire company, formed a first-class orchestra from members of Rommel's personal band, crafted fountains and statues that still exist. At least for the first few years, prisoners ate better than the local civilians, who started calling Camp Hearne the "Fritz Ritz."

Such consideration eventually turned enemies into friends: After the war, hundreds of former prisoners came back to visit, and some to live. Their experience was typical of POW camps across the nation, and a precursor of extraordinary efforts by the United States not just to forgive our enemies but to help them recover from the devastation they began. Part of this may have been due to guilt over the Allied fire-bombing of Dresden and Tokyo, but the record stands: No other nation in history has done as much to "love its enemies."

One thing we must remember, though: Before an enemy can be loved, he must first be defeated. The strong man must be bound. The tolerance shown to Major Hasan before his rampage only made him more contemptuous and determined. Now that the tables have turned and our enemy has fallen into our hands, how do we respond?

That's the quandary Joseph faced when the brothers who persecuted him were at his mercy. Fortunately for them, he had gained wealth and power and enough perspective to know that "God meant it for good." Likewise, the USA was rich and powerful after World War II, blessed with the perspective of two wide oceans.

Christians are rich in grace and powerful in prayer, with the perspective of eternity. Nidal Hasan can't receive visits from clergy (Muslim or Christian), but he is receiving cards and letters. Although the mail is copied by government officials before it's passed on to him, no official can hinder what he needs most. The outer man was crippled by a bullet, but only intense, sustained prayer will subdue the demon within (Mark 9:29).

Chuck Norris concedes that our treatment of Hasan is a measure of our greatness, even if (one suspects) he could cheerfully commandeer a tank and run the man over. Good riddance! But our hearts should always be open to opportunity, and hope abides with life: good deliverance!
If you have a question or comment for Janie Cheaney, send it to jcheaney@worldmag.com.

Janie B. Cheaney
Janie B. Cheaney

Janie lives in Missouri, is a columnist for WORLD, writes novels for young adults, and is the author of the Wordsmith creative writing series. She also reviews books at RedeemedReader.com. Follow Janie on Twitter @jbcheaney.

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