Fixing a hole

Believe it not, there’s cause for hope in this story.

New York City authorities said Sunday they thwarted a terrorist plot that would have targeted returning military personnel, post offices and police stations with crude pipe bombs inspired by an al Qaeda magazine.

Authorities charged Jose Pimentel, 27 years old, with providing support for an act of terrorism, conspiracy and weapons charges. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Mr. Pimentel, a United States citizen born in the Dominican Republic, was arrested on Saturday after having been watched by the NYPD since May 2009. (Source)

A lot of people tend to associate terrorism with Islamic countries. But over the years, we’ve witnessed a number of individuals born in the West who have become “radicalized” and turned into terrorists. Many people wonder how this can be happening.

In his best-seller “America Alone: the End of the World as We Know It“, Mark Steyn provides lots of useful insights into many of the problems plaguing the West. He’s also a very skilled writer, combining wit with incisive logic. I highly recommend the book. You’ll find it instructive and hilarious. On the particular subject above, he masterfully sums up the problem with these few words:

Why do radical imams seek to convert young Canadian, British and even American men and women in their late teens and twenties? Because they understand that when you raise a generation in the great wobbling blancmange of cultural relativism, a certain percentage of its youth will have a great gaping hole where their sense of identity should be. And into that hole you can pour something primal and raging. (America Alone, Introduction, page xxi of the 2008 paperback edition)

Very well put.

I would add that it’s not just the imams that are doing the pouring. The secular values of individualism and materialism are flooding a lot of those souls too.

Yet this problem presents a tremendous opportunity for Christians, because into those souls you can also pour the message of Christ’s salvation and healing. The very existence of such radicalized Westerners is a testimony to the abundance of the harvest that is available. For every radicalized person, there are probably dozens more who are confused and disillusioned with the empty promises of the secular post-Christian world. They’re not at the point where they could be turned into terrorists, but they’re certainly looking for hope, for something better.

In my view, the Occupy Movement was a great example of this phenomenon. Here was a bunch of people, mostly youth, who were occupying and protesting without being able to clearly articulate a platform. The only thing they really had in common was a malaise for the status quo. They didn’t know where the answers were, but they sure knew where they weren’t.

Within this context, today’s media has created an intimidating environment for Christians involved in the new evangelization. Christians are portrayed as backward, inflexible, illogical and intolerant. It then becomes tempting for us to keep a low profile and to not attempt to spread the Good News because we have some sort of inferiority complex. After all, how can a sophisticated worldly person ever be open to the Gospel? You’d be surprised.

We need to act with a quiet confidence, knowing that we have the Truth and they don’t. We have what they’re longing for, not because we’re smart and clever, but because we were fortunate to have it revealed to us. So there’s nothing to boast about, but much to be confident and proud about.

Some people are ripe for instant conversion. Add water and stir. Others will only come around after years of being sensitized to the true Gospel. For example, some people in the Occupy Movement are so convinced that the problem is “out there” and not in the sin within their hearts. Until they turn that corner, they’ll remain angry and dissatisfied.

We can help them get there.┬áIt’s time for Christians to do some of the pouring.

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