Once again Islamic terrorists have struck London, this time killing seven and injuring forty-eight. The perpetrators mowed down pedestrians on the London Bridge with a van before exiting the vehicle and stabbing civilians in the nearby Borough Market. This marks the third terrorist attack on British soil in seventy-two days, and the second assault on London streets using a vehicle as a weapon. The social media responses to the attacks were predictable. Anti-Muslim sentiment rose from more conservative corners, while those of a more liberal persuasion reminded everyone that Islam is largely a religion of peace, and why can’t we just all get along? At the heart of the varied responses to such attacks are Christian impulses that have been counterfeited and twisted, revealing that we both bear the image of God and are mired in sin.
In the wake of tragedy Christians are tempted to simply pick a side and then find a few Bible verses to support their team. But this is how Christians get played by the godless. “Did God not say?” is one of Satan’s favorite moves, as we see in the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. So wise believers must learn to recognize the counterfeits and construct a thorough Christian vision by applying the whole counsel of God’s Word, not just cherry-picked favorites. What are some of the counterfeit Christian impulses?
First, many Americans, fed up with innocent blood running in Western streets, have called for a swift, powerful military response. This rhetoric was typified in last year’s presidential campaign as then-candidate Donald Trump promised to “bomb the shit out” of ISIS, including their families, and Senator Ted Cruz repeatedly called for carpet-bombing them into oblivion. Street-level versions of the same sentiment include wishes to turn the entire region into a Walmart parking lot. The Christian impulse at the root of these statements is justice. Christians want God to cut down the evildoer. May He break their teeth in their mouths and make them like the snail that dissolves into slime. But indiscriminate bombing, targeting families, and more Middle Eastern interventionist wars pervert justice and breed more violence. This is not to say that there are not just and wise military responses, but that we must make sure that our responses are actually just and wise. For God judges the peoples with equity, including us.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is this tweet from author Jodi Picoult:
On the one hand this tweet “broke the stupid barrier” in displaying an embarrassing cache of naivete, so much so that she deleted the tweet after being lambasted on Twitter. But she’s not as wrong as everyone supposes. The Whos down in Whoville sang because they possessed joy that did not reside in the gifts. It was something that the Grinch couldn’t actually steal. This type of joy is compelling and potent, and it is precisely the type of joy that should mark the Christian. Terrorists can take our gifts and can take our blood, but they cannot take from us the resurrection from the dead. This is our inheritance in Christ, the fountainhead of all joy. Furthermore, singing is at the heart of worship, and true Christian worship is warfare. When we gather on the Lord’s Day we are scaling the heights of the heavenly Mt. Zion, petitioning our Father to make things on earth as they are in Heaven. May His kingdom come and His strong name be hallowed from the four corners of the earth. As Toby Sumpter pointed out on an early CrossPolitic episode, the places where Abraham built altars and worshipped are the same places where Joshua later won battles. Worship is war, and singing is one of our weapons. Of course, a campfire rendition of kum-ba-ya or a celebrity-studded performance of We Are the World will not suffice to topple ISIS. Rather, it will be the gathered church, kids in tow, belting out the great hymns of the faith—and one little word shall fell them.
Another example of twisted Christianity is Islam itself. The Islamic aim to make the world Muslim is just counterfeit postmillennialism. Christianity is a religion of global triumph—Jesus will win the worship of the nations. But we will never wage jihad. We win the world to Christ, not by shedding blood, but by bleeding. Not by taking lives, but by giving our own. Our sword is the Bible, and our weapons are our words. We speak the Gospel in faith, and the nations are discipled.
Lastly, secular societies still feel an impulse to pray in the wake of tragedies. But since they have cast God outside the camp they have no one to pray to, and this is how we have reached the point where people use Facebook to send out good thoughts and positive vibes. What does that even mean, and what exactly does one expect their good vibrations to accomplish? This, too, is counterfeit Christianity. When the nations rage and kingdoms totter we need more than positive thoughts. We need to raise our voices and cry out to the True Sovereign, the Only Wise God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the One who holds all things together by the Word of His power. Now, He could actually do something for us.
The problem for secularists is they cannot shake off the image of God. Because we live in God’s world as His image-bearers we will tend toward certain impulses: justice, joy, love, mercy, evangelism, and prayer. But dislodged from Christ these impulses jump the rails and crash. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the root and the fruit, the source and the goal of all things. Once we remove Him we are left with justice that isn’t just, mercy that invites murder, and prayers to the no-gods in the great emotive sky. But in Christ justice and mercy kiss, we join the angels in heavenly song, and our prayers rise like incense to the throne of Almighty God.