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Recent terrorist atrocities in Paris, Beirut, and the downing of the Russian passenger plane in the Sinai have awakened a sense of fear and foreboding in many Western countries. Reactions have ranged from the trigger-happy desire to bomb “them” to dust, to calling a halt to the immigration of Middle Eastern refugees (except maybe Christians), to a general suspicion of all Muslims.

Fear is a very basic and often dangerous emotion. It comes from the deepest and most primitive part of the brain, and it must be handled with great care.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, at the outset of World War II, famously said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Unknowingly, perhaps, Roosevelt was echoing the Bible. Over and over God tells us, “Fear not.”

It is especially telling as we begin the season of Advent that the classic readings for the first Sunday of Advent are disturbing, fearful passages in which Jesus describes the close of age in apocalyptic terms. There will be wars and rumors of wars. The very foundations of earth will shake and the heavenly bodies will spin out of orbit. Fearful stuff.

But the last word is not fear and foreboding but confidence and faith. Jesus says, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).

For Christians, the shaking of the foundations, whether from climate change or terrorism, is not a cause for fear but for hope. Christians need to be hopeful people in the midst of chaos, confident in the face of fear. Our world is not in the hands of the terrorists, but in the hands of our risen and ascended Lord. That calm confidence of faith will enable us to deal with today’s crises with wisdom and resolve.

In a recent New York Times opinion piece, columnist David Brooks reminds us that raw fear is exactly what terrorists want to awaken by their heinous actions. That’s why it’s called terrorism. When people are governed by fear, they do desperate and often foolish things. The institutions that keep us free and civilized become suspect, as fear-driven desperation grips people’s hearts.

While we must be vigilant, the best way to fight terrorism is to fight our fears, keep our wits about us, and maintain the free, open, and compassionate society the terrorists seek to destroy. If we become like them, we have already lost the battle.

About the Author

Len Vander Zee is a retired CRC pastor now serving as interim minister of preaching at Church of the Servant CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.  

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Comments

You have got to be kidding.  To equivocate climate change with terrorism, as a potential cause for fear, is hillarious.  Terrorism is real whereas climate change is a fabrication.

I am on my way to Iran, Lebanon and have spent several weeks in Japan, Myanmar and India where I am currently. The beauty of travel is you get to read local papers. In Japan you have a monolithic religion and Buddhism and Shitoism live side by side. In Myanmar and India you also have two major religions who did not always get along. It seem to all right today. In Calcutta we have visited temples, mosques, Catholic and Protestant churches. Currently they live in harmony. Indian papers boasted that in the last 15 years on 4 people they know of have signed up with IS. While we sensed no fear the authorities are vigilant. Full body searches at the Taj Mahal and all other major attractions. The Imdian prime minister want to separate religion from terrorism. That is the same approach as Obama. Both are wrong. And dangerous. You have to clearly define the enemy and these two leaders (and they are not alone) have not done this. Their policies are reactive and have no fundamental objective. Rooting out terrorism is impossible unless you define it. In the case of IS we in fact have an enemy and it is a self declared Islamic State. Their acts of violence are driven by a world view. One, they say, is based on the Quaran. (Or in case of the suicide bombers - how do I get to heaven!)

I trust Mr. Vander Zee has read the articles by Rex Murphy (a Canadian Journalist). Also the articles by the verbose Conrad Black.

We need to deal with regimes who as a matter of principle want to exterminate citizens of certain countries or of certain faiths. The IS folks pick on fellow Muslims and certainly those who are Christains or infidels as they define them. The Muslim community needs to do much more to discredit IS. In France, Holland and other European places we need to investigate roque mosques that brain wash young people. That will a tricky task. Hollande, France's Prime Minister is on the right track here.

As Christians we need to help refugees. But let's do it smart. From the Jordanian and Lebanon camps let's use the FIFO method with a "full pat down". All others who have turned their back on Syria need to go via those camps. Those who have spent big money to have crimials take them out of the country should be sent to the camps that the West builds somewhere. Or continue to route them CSI camps in Jordan and Lebanon to which we give much more aid and human support via medical and teaching staff (which I am sure we can find amount the Syrian refugees).

The West , China, Russia and India need to have a "Marshall Plan" to rebuild Syria and resettle those stuck in the camps or who do not want to migrate to other countries.

Putting climate change and terrorism in one sentence in the article above makes no sense.

The church corporate should get out of the whole climate change issue and become more active in helping with the refugees problem which is the most alarming issue today. Imagine Europe with 25 million unemployed young people looking for something to door get involved in. And guess who stands ready to gather them in via social media etc?