Monday, September 10, 2007

How Do You Kill A Dead Man... Or Overcoming the War on Terror

"Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." Hebrews 2:14-15
It struck me some time ago, though now I am just beginning to write about it, that the community of Jesus Christ is truly the only people who can win the War on Terror. We must ponder first the nature of the War, and especially the oddity of the phrase War on Terror. It is strange that we don't say The War on Terrorists or The War on Al Qaida or something of the like, but rather we are waging a war on terror itself it seems... at least according to this phrasing. If we were to be honest, the War on Terror if we wished to be consistent would be a total war, for to wage war on terror is to engage in a conflict that is trans-national, inter-continental, and global (or any other way you would like to say total). This war would mean discovering not only a way to liberate humanity from the scourge of terrorists, but liberate humanity from terror itself. In observing it in this manner, we would also discover that the War on Terror would be a war that must discover a means to rid terror from the human heart.
If we understand the War on Terror in terms of the human heart, it would mean not only removing the object of fear (such as terrorists, or natural disasters, or murderers, etc...) but discovering and somehow eliminating the subjective heart of fear. What is the internal reasoning or rationale for fear (read - terror)? Is there something intrinsically terrifying about suicide bombers, or is there something the suicide bomber knows intrinsically (albeit unconsciously) about the human heart that gives him power, that merits him the title of terrorist? Is there an inherent terror that resides in the human heart, that lies dormant until provoked by danger or threat? Is the response of terror to the terrorist inordinate, i.e. is the terror greater than the threat?
The proud American heart pacified (or perhaps tranquilized) by its creature comforts has lived without a sense of dread, but when that dread is awakened, it also seems to awaken great wrath. Dread is a dreadful thing to live with, and we would prefer to sleep in a slumber of tranquility, though perhaps it is an ignorant tranquility or a naivete. This wrath moves quickly against the objects of fear (as does any creature that is afraid), but I fear moves blindly. The American people have not stopped to ask the question, why am I afraid to die? What truly is being threatened by these terrorists? It seems to me that what is manifestly true is that a way of life is being threatened (no controversy here). But why are we so terrified of losing that way of life? I believe that to lose that way of life causes us to confront our most basic reality, a reality described by Jean-Paul Sartre in which we are "rejected, abandoned by our very nature in an indifferent, hostile, and stubborn world." We would prefer to remain in our slumber of luxury, than be woken up the nightmare that our lives truly are.
The Scriptures put this reality of a hostile world in these terms, "the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men (Romans 1:18)." To be awoken to the nightmare that heaven is against us in our wickedness, that our basic existential disposition is toward a cosmos that is continually telling us that it is hostile to us. Sartre did not need the Scriptures to tell him this, all he had to do was to observe the world and his own experience to discover this truth. Humankind, whether we articulate it or not, is absolutely petrified of the wrath of God as revealed to their conscious experience of the cosmos. We will build whole cultures so as not to experience the cosmos as against us. Our American culture is perhaps the most successful in human history at creating a way of life that enables man to evade this most basic reality. Yet we cannot evade it completely, we are not impervious. The terrorists, although wicked and evil, are messengers, harbingers of doom. They bear witness to what in our worst nightmares is true, all that is is against me... omnipotently against me. And that is the heart of terror.
Terror is not the end of the story. Terrorists have already lost the war. Terror is no longer terrifying... to those who have already died. The dead fear nothing for they have lost everything. There is no way of life to protect, no possessions to secure, no community to defend, for all has been lost. Terror is the experience of the living, but not the dead. The dead have faced the wrath of God. To be clear, there are two types of dead. There are the dead who ever die but ever wish for death (see Keirkegaard's The Sickness Unto Death), and there are the dead who died and now live. It is the latter whom have overcome and are victorious, the former are the defeated. The dead who died and now live are not zombies, they are the resurrected, the living ones... the holy ones... the saints. The zombies are the dead who ever die yet ever wish for death, they are the sons of disobedience, the sons of wrath.
The saints who have died and yet live, these overcomers, these who are more than conquerers are those who will overcome the terrorists. The community of holy ones who have lost all things for the sake of Jesus Christ, who have been buried with Christ, are those for whom there is nothing to fear. For just as they were buried with Christ, they will be raised with Him (see Romans 6). For these there is no longer any fear of death, there is no fear for who can bring a charge against God's elect... If God is for us who can be against us? The wrath of God being revealed from heaven was propitiated by the eternal Son of God on the cross. The cosmos is no longer against those who have died with Christ. For these to live is Christ and to die is gain.
What threat can a terrorist bring against those whose way of life has already been lost? What fear can Al Qaida provoke if those it seeks to kill welcome death as gain? These holy ones have robbed the terrorists of their greatest weapon... terror. These saints are called to send wave after wave of souls to devour the bombs of fear and death with their eternal life. The indestructible life of Jesus Christ is the possession of his saints, this life will swallow up death, and thus the saying will come true "O Death where is your victory? O Death where is your sting?" These saints have not loved their lives, even unto death, and thus have both inherited the crown of life and have triumphed in the War on Terror. The War on Terror was overcome by Jesus Christ on the cross and His victory has become the victory of the saints. Terror is no more.


anjuli paschall said...

i love you. your thoughts, convictions, and passion all move me to think deeper about why i do the things i do and inspires me to live more intentionally and beautifully.

Nate Paschall said...

Excellent Sam. You should seriously submit this post to a magazine or something.

Jedidiah said...

Keep writing Sam. Seriously this post was so challenging.