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Jihad in Our Streets
Today is the nineteenth anniversary of what we now call just "9/11." Islamic terrorists hijacked four planes in the early morning of September 11, 2001, and flew two of them into New York City's World Trade Center Twin Towers, while another hit the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and a fourth crashed into the hills of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Around 3,000 people lost their lives that morning, and a nation grieved and soon retaliated in war.
Even nearly twenty years on, the bruise is still tender for many Americans, especially those who lost loved ones in the attacks. Yet, we are seeing signs of it beginning to fade in the American consciousness. This year's ceremonies and tributes are muted, shortened, and subdued—because of COVID-19, of course—but also because the country is painfully distracted by perhaps more destructive issues in its streets.
The Islamists who flew the planes into symbols of American strength and pride longed to bring "the Great Satan" to its knees. They cried, "Allahu ackbar!" ("God is greatest!") as they met their self-inflicted ends, but close to their hearts was another phrase, "Death to America!" which Islamists still shout across the Middle East, especially in places like Palestine and Iran.
Today, "Death to America!" can be heard coming from the mouths of protesting—rioting—Americans, many of them young, white liberals, as they self-righteously trash the nation of their birth for its supposed historical and present-day systemic inequalities. The spirit of jihad has jumped its bounds, eagerly infecting a generation of deluded, mis-educated American youth to take to the streets in the rebellious rage, vandalism, and violence of what they view as a holy war.
Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and their ilk would probably never openly call what they are doing "jihad" or "holy war"—these terms are far too religious for these mostly atheist and secular progressives—but their actions belie their irreligious façade. Their holy words come from Karl Marx, Saul Alinsky, Derrick Bell, and the 1619 Project. The universities are their mosques, and far-left professors are their imams. Deviation from political orthodoxy is tantamount to heresy and results in shaming, shunning, excommunication, and persecution, also known as "cancel culture."
Front and center in their movement is what is known as "virtue signaling." Its definition on Dictionary.com will suffice: "the sharing of one's point of view on a social or political issue, often on social media, in order to garner praise or acknowledgment of one's righteousness from others who share that point of view, or to passively rebuke those who do not." Adherents, then, must show their "faith" in certain ways to be considered orthodox.
Recently—in places like Rochester, New York; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Washington, DC; among others—rioters have begun demanding that bystanders signal their solidarity with them. They have taken to the tactic of accosting diners as they eat, crowding them and shouting obscenities at them to repeat certain slogans or to raise their fists in salute to their cause. They have trashed businesses—many of them restaurants, some of them minority-owned—when management or customers have resisted their intimidation tactics.
Such scenes are becoming all too common in urban America in 2020.
On January 27, 1838, a young Abraham Lincoln spoke before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois. Denouncing mob violence and the chaos and potential tyranny it breeds, he said:
He would probably be appalled to see his words coming to pass in our day.
Jesus warns in Matthew 24:6-7: "And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom."
Our translations tend to be essentially literal, and sometimes they hide more specific meanings. These verses, for instance, warn us, not just about national wars, but about revolutions, coups, and ethnic violence as well. The sense is that we will hear a great deal about war in its many forms as time marches toward Christ's return. It is, sadly, a significant part of the sinful human condition, so conflict will be a constant factor.
Left unsaid but undoubtedly underlying this teaching is the realization that we must learn to deal with such tensions. A few verses later, after mentioning famine, disease, natural disasters, persecution, betrayal, hatred, deception, lawlessness, and spiritual decline, Jesus instructs, "But he who endures to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 24:13). In saying so, He suggests that we can do little about it: It will happen, and it will affect us, but we will not be able to solve it. The only thing left to us is to endure it, our faith in Him intact, no matter what happens.
This instruction goes against the grain of many of us. We want to help! We want to provide answers! We want to make things right! We want to restore our nation to greatness! We want to bring peace! These are noble intentions. But Jesus mentions none of them in the context of the increasing difficulties of the end time. In the entire passage of this "signs of the times" prophecy (Matthew 24:3-31), He gives only five general instructions to follow in response to these days of distress:
So, while political jihad storms down our city streets, the elect of God must face the times with thoughtful, calm, faithful endurance, praying for God's intervention and mercy. We must put on the mind of Christ, as this is how He faced His own "end time," and now He sits in glory. We have the promise that we will, too, if we follow His lead in everything (see Colossians 3:1-4).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh