Christmas, Easter and Pentecost (Please, don’t forget Pentecost!) are the three big celebrations of the Christian year. But there’s another feast that pulls them together and points us to the final and certain future. It couldn’t arrive at a more opportune time.
After the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, one headline read, “Islamic State threatens attack on Washington, other countries.”And why not? Look at the Paris attacks. They were so simple: a rental car, seven radicals, some guns, a few explosives and a planned route through nighttime dining and entertainment centers, the Paris equivalents of Dupont Circle and Metro Center.
Those of us living in the D.C. area remember the October 2002, “Beltway Sniper.” Two guys with one gun and an old car terrorized us all.
John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, after a crime spree across the South, drove here and randomly shot thirteen people sniper style, killing ten. After the first shootings, fear took hold. We avoided going outside. Gas stations put up tarps to hide customers pumping gas. Schools canceled outdoor recess and field trips, shielding children getting out of or on to school buses. One night, our son called from college in a panic: “Is mom okay?” One of the killings — a woman — occurred in the parking lot of my wife’s favorite Home Depot.
Creating widespread panic, it seems, is child’s play, and the Paris attacks have produced the inevitable and predictable reactions. Across France, people are engaged in anti-Muslim protests. Anti-immigration parties across Europe are expected to dominate in national elections in the coming months. Walls are being built; boarders are being closed; President François Hollande declares that France is now at war with ISIS.
Meanwhile in the U.S., “Orlando Muslim family claims it was targeted by gunfire.” Mosques claim they’ve received bomb threats. Presidential hopeful Donald Trump calls for a “study” of U.S. mosques with the option of forcibly closing some. Half of U.S. governors refuse to allow Syrian refugees to settle in their states including Alabama Governor Robert Bentley who, according to the Washington Post, said, “As your Governor, I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way.”
Even more frightening is counter-terrorism expert Harleen Gambhir’s argument that these reactions play right into the hands of the Islamic State. “The Islamic State’s strategy is to polarize Western society,” writes Gambhir. “The group hopes frequent, devastating attacks in its name will provoke overreactions by European governments against innocent Muslims, thereby alienating and radicalizing Muslim communities throughout the continent.” Through this strategy, she writes, the Islamic State “seeks to set conditions for an apocalyptic war with the West.”
And that, oddly enough, brings me to the as yet unnamed Christian feast. This Sunday, the last of the Church Year, we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.
Read the rest at The Stream.