When a War on Terror Becomes a War on Ourselves
“Fear” is a powerful motivator. What we don’t know, what we can’t control, what has the potential of taking our value, those we love, and our lives, these ideas are the seed bed of fear. When a catastrophic event of global proportions occurs, fear is seeded in our personal and communal lives. Whether it be a natural disaster, or a human act of death and destruction, fear plants firmly in our mind and begins making its way to our heart. If fear makes its way to our heart, it becomes a semi-permanent condition.
Fear in our hearts manifests itself in one of two ways: as a growing anger, or as a constant anxiety – often both. Fear as anger motivates revenge, violence, murder, and death. Fear as anxiety motivates paranoia, seclusion, mental health degradation, physical health problems, and accelerates death. Fear, takes your life one way, or another.
The terrorist attacks on American soil on September 11, 2001 took thousands of lives and planted fear in a nation of over 330 million people. That fear drove the war on terror, ultimately taking the lives of 2,996 Americans on 9/11, and another 6,800 members of the armed services through 2021. According to Brown University’s “Cost of War Project” the cost of the war on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan was over $8 trillion and 900,000 lives on all sides. That is the measurable cost of fear. According to the APA, since 2001, Americans taking antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications increased over 70%! This is our modern response to fear driven anxiety and depression: medication. Now, I am not saying that medication is an evil; however, it masks a great problem. Dealing with the fear. Our culture is now officially fear driven: combative politics, COVID, climate change, cost-of-living, and the general malaise of the economy assault our well-being every day. Medication, avoidance, denial, and violence seem to be the coping methods of choice.
But not for those of us in Christ
This is a gentle reminder for all of us who would claim Jesus as our light, love, and salvation. God says to Abram, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great” (Gen 15:1 NASB95). Of course, Jesus has said to us:
28 Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows
These are not the only passages. Jesus also says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18), or as the author of Hebrews reminds us, “for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” so that we confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?” (Hebrews 13:5-6).
This should be an unquestionable aspect of being in Christ. Revere, respect, and love God alone. Love your neighbor, even love your enemy; but fearing – literally allowing anyone or anything but God’s majesty and immensity to drive your mental well-being – is destructive. When we sense fear coming on, or overwhelming us, we must turn to God. God alone will sustain us, rescue us, and protect us.
As a nation, the United States responded to the attack of 9/11 as any other nation in the West. We sought out the perpetrators, not simply for retribution, but in order to guarantee, at least for the short-run, that such an attack would not happen again. That was 20 years ago. I cannot speak with surety that terrorism is gone. We know that the architects of 9/11 have been revealed and destroyed; however, you cannot destroy evil; you cannot destroy an idea. As long as Evil exists, violence and terror are part of the lot of humankind. The one solution would be Christ, the Prince of Peace, Son of God. The life that He gives does not fade, does not forsake, and has power over fear. Do not fear; follow Jesus.