By Pastor Rasheed Z Baaith
“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”(Matthew 24:6)
There are words to describe what happened in Paris a week ago but I don’t have them. It is not that we haven’t seen death and destruction before because we have and we will again I’m sure. But never like this, never on this scale perhaps except for Sandy Hook Elementary or Chicago on a week end or at a Bible Study in Charleston, South Carolina. Reciting those facts is not an attempt to diminish what happened in Paris, it is just for us to understand that the panorama of murderous mayhem is not new. It is growing larger and larger.
Each event is more barbaric, more inhumane than the last blood filled vista. This most recent awful moment made clear to the world the meaning of the word “terror.”
Survivors said the shooting seemed to last forever. They heard the sounds of bullet after bullet after bullet. Death coming they said, in short very controlled bursts, shooters so calm they seemed to be disconnected from the triggers they were pulling. To those who survived the shooters seemed unaffected by those who were breathing their last breath or thinking their last thoughts. The shooter recognized no common humanity. They came to kill and they did.
What are we to think about all of this? How are we supposed to comprehend the escalating volume of deliberate brutality fueled by a sectarian aggression that is uncompromising, fierce and remorseless? What, most of us wonder, kind of unyielding passion is this?
I think our answers can be found only in the Bible. I know most of us don’t even want to hear that supposition. We want to believe that God is disengaged from what is happening in the world or at the very least neutral about events. That thinking is the major difference between those we call religious radicals and ourselves. Part of what’s radical about them is their belief that God is involved in every moment, every circumstance, and every movement of life. Too many of us think we’re in charge of the show. That’s a particular kind of arrogance I can’t understand.
So what does the Bible say about what is going on today? It says that men will be “heartless, unappeasable, false accusers, without self control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous…” (ESV) Sound familiar? Does that describe those who do these shootings? Whether the shooters are here in America, Paris or anywhere else.
But most of us don’t want to believe the Bible is the answer to this global madness. We’ve become too intellectual, too educated, too sophisticated for whatever the Bible has to offer.
We don’t mind church but we want a Christ less, Cross less church and we want a Bible that can be viewed as “stories” not history. We certainly don’t want to believe it is a Word from God or a Book is holding the key to understanding our horrible and perplexing present; or is prophesying more of the same for the future. But Paris may change the way some of us think.
There is more to the Paris narrative. It is forcing America to make some hard choices. Will it be true to itself and the American idea of taking in “huddled masses yearning to be free,” or close its harbors of safety out of a fearful dismay?
There are of course extremists on both sides of that question. There are those who believe America should open its doors to just about anyone and there are those who believe just the opposite. Some of the debate puzzles me because America has shut the door to most Haitians for years. I don’t recall any mass indignation about that injustice. Still, America is about to learn that idealism however lofty is one thing and reality, however dreadful another.
As for you and I, we can decide to be afraid or we can decide to do what David did and rest in the LORD.
Think about it.