Posts Tagged ‘terrorism’

Oklahoma_City_bombingFive years ago, the first year I blogged, I wrote this piece about the Federal Building bombing in OKC on April 19, 1995.  The importance of that date is still with us, so I’m updating and republishing these earlier thoughts.

Fifteen years ago today, I was standing in my office at Oklahoma Christian University when one of my colleagues rushed in and said, “A bomb just exploded downtown!”  I thought, “That’s interesting,“  imagining something like a small letter bomb or something that blows up an office, set by some disgruntled employee.

Of course, within minutes the reports started coming of what was until 2001 the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil in modern times.  Now fifteen years later, the country has experienced worse, so it is easy to forget what we learned from Oklahoma City.  Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • Home-grown, flag-waving extremists are just as dangerous as foreign jihadists. Immediately following the bombing, reports of Arab-looking suspects were all over the news; the real bomber, however, was born in New York of Irish Catholic parents, voted “most promising computer programmer” at his high school, a decorated veteran of the first Gulf War, and an outspoken anti-tax, pro-gun, anti-government proponent.  The current extreme political rhetoric and hyper-polarization frightens me!
  • The use of war metaphors does not justify killing innocent people. McVeigh declared war on the federal government, so killing kindergarten children in the Murrah Building was for him an unhappy, but acceptable consequence of his military objective. Neither as individuals nor as countries should we be confused about the morality of killing innocent people for our own benefit.
  • Average people are amazingly good and amazingly brave in a crisis. Immediately following the bombing, police and medical personnel rushed towards the bomb site. One of our church members was among the first police officers to arrive; he crawled into the rubble to pull out a baby covered in ash—but alive.  Vendors brought bottled water, sandwiches, blankets, medical supplies; people of all sorts came to help however they could.  Students at OC with just minimal training in first aid rushed to the scene, wanting to do something to help.  I’m not sure I have ever experienced a greater sense of community.
  • Everyone is damaged; the world is diminished by such acts of violence. Our friend the police officer was so traumatized by what he saw and experienced in the first hour after the bombing that he spent months –maybe longer—seeking help and attempting to recover.  Not only the families of the victims, but the friends of the families of the victims, and the relief workers, and those who narrowly missed being victims just by “chance,” and the man who rented the delivery truck, and people who sell fertilizer, and everyone who works in a government building who goes to work every day, the whole community has been damaged. There are no armies, no federal agencies, no screening devices, nothing that can restore this world to wholeness. We can only forget–which we will with time.

But Christians must live in certain hope, participating with God to transform this world from being a bombed-out shell to a place where swords have been beaten into plowshares and lions lie down with lambs. What we can’t forget is that we belong to the Prince of Peace!

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Boston Marathon bombingThis weekend at least 25 major marathons will be run across the United States. Some have funny names like “Hurt the Dirt” marathon in Rockford, Michigan, or “Jailbreak” marathon in Wautoma, Wisconsin. Other marathons remind of us terrible times: Gettysburg North-South Marathon or Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.

On April 15, the Boston Marathon moved from being one of the most prestigious marathons to one of the most terrifying.  At 2:49pm, two bombs killed two women and a little boy and injured 260+ people—physically!  The bombings also wounded the souls of all of us!

Random acts of violence are among the most heinous because they almost always target people who woke up on any given morning, got dressed, brushed their teeth, kissed their loved ones goodbye, and walked out their doors into Normalcy—whatever that is.

They were not the President who is reminded of the target on his back on a daily basis by the team of Secret Service agents who surround him. They were not the CEO in some South American country who signed the check for Kidnapping insurance or rides in a bulletproof limousine. They threatened no one, they were just . . . you and me.

What makes the wounds of random violence penetrate to our souls—whether it is the work of organized terrorists or of a single mentally-ill person with a backseat full of guns—is fear!

Almost twelve years after 9/11, two million people each day empty their pockets and walk through metal detectors and are reminded of that day of terror. Richard Reid tries to detonate his shoe full of explosives, so now we take our shoes off to be screened. Our belts come off because of the underwear bomber in 2009. Our laptops come out because of the Lockerbie bombings in 1988.  You cannot enter any federal building without walking through a metal detector because of the Oklahoma City bombing.

In fact, just the potential threat against any event has meant screening and major security tactics at major league baseball games, music concerts, at museums, and certainly any political events.

Unless you are almost 60, you can’t remember when the president rode in an open limousine!

So in the Nashville Country Music Marathon, the police have announced  “the deployment of hundreds of law enforcement and security personnel” who will be “very visible” along the 26.2 mile route.  More elementary school teachers will have guns, more movie theaters will guard their rear doors.

More mothers will not let their kids play in the front yard. More kids will carry mobile phones, mostly because their parents want to know where they are. And more preachers will be watched by bodyguards while their congregants sing and pray.

Random violence—the fear of dying–makes us afraid! As a boy, I slept in an unlocked house just seven minutes from where I live today. Now we not only lock the house, but we also set the alarm. Our cars have alarms, our keys chains have panic buttons

—and still random violence can kill our children on the streets of Boston, Oklahoma City, Sandy Hook, Aurora, and the list goes on much too long!

No amount of fear can protect you from deadly random violence.  Just like no amount of exercise or healthy eating can keep you from getting cancer or having a heart attack or getting hit by a bus!

Sure, we look both ways before we cross the street and we put on our seat belts in the car and we eat less red meat and  . . . .the list goes on, growing daily, of what we do to be safe and secure.

—and still we are afraid.  And still we are willing to spend more money and endure greater restriction in the hope of being safe and secure.

and still we are afraid of those who can kill us anyway!

Here’s the word from God today for you and me:

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.

 Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.(Hebrews 2:14-15 NLT)

“Slaves to the fear of dying,” that’s the phrase that convicts me.

If you want security and safety so that you will never die and no one you love will ever die—then you will always be afraid! And you will still die.

If you want to live free from the slavery of the fear of dying, then you can have that freedom through the One who promised: “Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die” (John 11:25-26).

Then you can run your race without fear.

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