Terrorist bombs left eight dead and scores badly injured in London's two best-known parks. In less than 15 years, more than 2,500 civilians, soldiers and policemen have been killed by terrorist acts in the anguish over Northern Ireland. When will it end?
"MAKE A CHAIN," wrote the prophet Ezekiel, "for the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is full of violence." Those words - written more than 2,500 years ago - are truer today than they were then. Conditions, the prophet saw, would get so bad that one brutal crime would follow another just like links in a chain.
The Latest Mayhem and Murder
At this writing the great city of London is seething with righteous anger. The gentility of British pageantry has been disrupted by a double atrocity in Hyde Park and Regent's Park. There was death and mutilation of the worst kind among both men and horses of the Queen's Household Cavalry. If terrorism is anything, it is inherently cruel and utterly unmerciful. Terrorism - via bombing - is one of the ugliest forms of criminal behavior known to man. It is terribly impersonal and usually irreversible. More often than not it removes the human element altogether. More than one would-be murderer has refrained from squeezing the trigger at the last possible second-suffering from pangs of conscience. Not so with a deadly bombing device. It has been timed to blow up under certain stimuli with the responsible party probably miles away. The bomb usually goes off! The natural restraints of human conscience have been removed. Terrorism is also impersonal because it doesn't always just destroy its intended victim. Indeed who were the intended victims of this monstrous massacre? Surely soldiers on ceremonial and entertainment duties are innocent bystanders. Some of these musician soldiers were not even trained for fighting. Not even the horses were spared. Stated Daily Express feature writer Peter McKay: "Somehow the sight of seven horses blasted so grievously that they had to be shot on the spot was almost as bad as seeing dead soldiers ." These are just two basic reasons why terrorism is unacceptable to the truly civilized mind as a means of making political statements. Yet historically there have always been individuals and groups who have used acts of terror for political objectives. How do terrorists then justify violence? Mainly through certain teachings of godless modern philosophers. Wrote Franz Fanon: "Violence is a cleansing force: it frees the oppressed from their despair." Thus violence is neatly rationalized by nihilistic philosophy. "One man's terrorist," say some, "is another man's freedom fighter." The terrorist rejects morality. As Lord Chalfont said in an address to the European-Atlantic Group about one year ago, "You simply cannot do the things that terrorists do if you adhere to the normal moral principles of the human race." Lord Chalfont went on to explain that the terrorist "rejects the political process" as well, being "totally divorced from, and hostile to the whole concept of the political process." Politicians of every persuasion from all over the United Kingdom and Eire categorically condemned the cowardly killing of eight innocent people, not to mention those suffering horrible injuries. And it goes without saying that such terrorist acts are in complete contradiction to the Christian principles embodied in the Sermon on the Mount.
Terrorism in Ancient Days
The court history of King David of ancient Israel teems with political infighting and palace intrigue. But the problem of terrorists began before David ever assumed office as king over all ancient Israel. First there was a long civil war between the House of Saul and the House of David. Joab was David's chief general and Abner filled that particular post with Saul's son, the puppet king Ishbosheth. The tides of battle were increasingly running in David's favor. And it just so happened that Abner and his "head of state" had a falling out over the sexual favors of one of Saul's concubines. An angry Abner then decided to come to terms with David and deliver the balance of the kingdom into his hands. A peace parley soon ensued. Being an astute statesman, David was host to a state dinner in Hebron for Abner and his men. A suitable accord was subsequently reached and Abner began his journey back to Mehanaim. A short time later Joab returned to Hebron from battle and heard "the good news." Immediately Joab requested an audience with David and accused Abner of political treachery in order to gain a military advantage. Then without David's knowledge or consent, Joab dispatched a group of "emissaries" after Abner who persuaded him to meet with Joab for further consultations. The New English Bible graphically describes the cruel murder that followed. "On Abner's return to Hebron, Joab drew him aside in the gateway, as though to speak privately with him. and there, in revenge for his brother Asahel, he stabbed him in the belly, and he died" (II Sam. 3:27). This was an act of terrorism. Abner, perhaps expecting to discuss the implementation of the peace terms, was completely caught off guard. Years later David aptly described this treacherous act as "shedding the blood of war in peace." Abner's murder was more than an act of revenge. There were distinct political overtones. Who is to say that David would not have appointed Abner as captain of the host in place of Joab? Clearly David thought far more highly of the former than the latter. And even the revenge itself was not carried out in a straightforward manner. Abner had once warned Asahel, Joab's brother, twice before he killed him in battle. Abner received no warning from Joab; he was both betrayed and murdered in the guise of peace. Notice David's personal account in conversation with his son and successor, King Solomon (NEB, throughout): "'You know how Joab son of Zeruiah treated me and what he did to two commanders-in-chief in Israel, Abner son of Ner and Amasa son of Jether. He killed them both, breaking the peace by bloody acts of war; and with that blood he stained the belt above my waist and the sandals on my feet'" (I Kings 2:5). Joab was a terrorist at heart even though he did occupy an important position in David's government. And although David quickly disassociated himself and his government from these abominable acts, he was politically powerless to remove Joab from office. The story of Abner's death is filled with pathos and irony. "When David heard the news he said, 'I and my realm are for ever innocent in the sight of the Lord of the blood of Abner son of Ner. . . .' Then David ordered Joab and all the people with him to rend their clothes, put on sackcloth and beat their breasts for Abner, and the king himself walked behind the bier. They buried Abner in Hebron and the king wept aloud at the tomb . .. . [Then] the king made this lament for Abner: "'Must Abner die so base a death? Your hands were not bound, your feet not thrust into fetters; you fell as one who falls at a ruffian's hands'" (II Sam. 3:28-34, excerpts). Here David describes the ignominy of terrorist methods and adroitly forces his guilty general to mourn for Abner. Yet he could not depose Joab and his brother Abishai, the sons of David's sister Zeruiah. There were political as well as family connections to consider. Follow the account further. "Everyone throughout Israel knew on that day that the king had had no hand in the murder of Abner son of Ner. The king said to his servants, 'Do you not know that a warrior, a great man, has fallen this day in Israel? King though I am, I feel weak and powerless in the face of these ruthless sons of Zeruiah; they are too much for me . .. '" (verses 37-39). David was not able to divest himself of Joab to the day of his death. His one serious attempt to replace him with Amasa only resulted in the latter's tragic demise. It remained for Solomon to execute Joab after David's decease.
Another Outbreak of Terrorism
Another outbreak of terrorism marred the story before David's ascendancy to the kingship of all Israel at Jerusalem. After Abner's murder, David's lament had made it abundantly clear that he hated terrorist methods. But some of his own men still didn't get the message. They didn't perceive the mind of their own chief. The grisly account follows. "Rechab and Baanah .. . came to the house of Ishbosheth [puppet king] in the heat of the day and went in, while he was taking his midday rest. Now the door-keeper had been sifting wheat, but she had grown drowsy and fallen asleep, so Rechab and his brother Baanah crept in, found their way to the room where he was asleep on the bed, and struck him dead. They cut off his head and took it with them ... to Hebron" (II Sam. 4:5-7, excerpts). Now notice David's reaction to this act of terrorism-even when ostensibly done to further the fortunes of his own government. "They brought Ishbosheth's head to David at Hebron and said to the king, 'Here is the head of Ishbosheth son of Saul, your enemy who sought your life . .. .' David answered . . . 'I seized the man who brought me word that Saul was dead and thought it good news; I killed him in Ziklag .. .. How much more when ruffians have killed an innocent man on his bed in his own house? Am I not to take vengeance on you now for the blood you have shed, and rid the earth of you?' David gave the word, and the young men killed them ..." (verses 8-12: excerpts).
The Frightening Parallels
The vagaries of human nature have not changed. The anarchists of antiquity used violence to obtain political and personal ends. The only differences today lie in mass communications , advances in science and technology, newfangled weaponry and the level and style of such violence. Joab had no ticking time bombs or sophisticated two-stage weapons to carry out his evil aims. But terrorism was roundly condemned by those who were even half-civilized in the pre-Christian world just as it is today. By divine standards David's own credentials were nothing to shout about. Listen to his own testimony: "'I had intended to build a house in honour of the name of the Lord my God; but the Lord forbade me and said, "You have shed much blood in my sight and waged great wars"...." (I Chron. 22:8). Yet all of his life David consistently and zealously resisted terrorist activities. David despised "shedding the blood of war in peace." He always punished the perpetrators of terrorist acts no matter how long it took. Many statesmen today are expressing that same determination. Said Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: "These callous and cowardly crimes have been committed by brutal and evil men who know nothing of democracy. We shall not rest until they are brought to justice." And Shadow Home Secretary Roy Hattersley stated: "We are absolutely determined that such murderous mayhem shall not succeed." The Ulster question has plagued the British government and the peoples of Ireland for more than a decade. And. Westminster undoubtedly has not been without many faults and mistakes in dealing with the Irish dimension. But the editors of The Plain Truth take no political position on the questions surrounding Northern Ireland . That is for the parties themselves to work out. We do take a strong moral stand against grievous crimes perpetrated by terrorists anywhere. Terrorism can never be a valid means for righting human wrongs. It has no place in any civilization and that goes double for Christian-professing nations.
Sure End of Terrorism
"Terrorism," said Paul Johnson, "is the greatest evil of our age, a more serious threat to our culture and survival than the possibility of nuclear war, or even the rapid depletion of the planet's natural resources. Civilization not only has a right, but a positive and imperative duty to defend itself." A terrorist always knows when and where he will strike next. The authorities don't always know this. How, then, can society rid itself of terrorism? Not until the time that the kingdom of God finally arrives to rescue this troubled world from its self-inflicted woes. Not until the time when "they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isa. 2:4, KJV). That time is near! A New Age is soon to visit this earth. Terrorism will pass into history because the present ineffective governments will all be replaced by the government of God. You can understand by requesting two free booklets: The The Wonderful World Tomorrow - What It Will Be Like and Just What Do You Mean... Kingdom of God? Only the kingdom of God can rescue this world from the violence and terror that have beset this world from the beginning of history.