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Condemnation of terrorism is what is needed
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Saturday morning, I met a Vietnam vet named Chavez.  Half or more Cherokee, a quarter German, and a quarter African-American, descended from a young slave woman, an Indian girl left pregnant, then abandoned by a land-holder, and a step grandfather who took her under his wing, this seasoned soldier has been on disability for decades.  His handicap doesn’t derive, though, from the wounds he received in ‘Nam.  They were inflicted in Ansbach, Germany. And, no, Chavez told me, he wasn’t attacked unawares by the enemy.  Rather, it was American Military Police who nearly killed him, and then conspired to hide the fact from the authorities.

The full truth about why American MPs would try to kill a fellow citizen may only be known by God.  Chavez said he was trying to defend another soldier named Rodriguez.  The M.P. were racist, and had it out for them.

I didn’t have time or the means to validate this story.  But I do believe that the injuries which almost took Chavez’s life were inflicted by Americans who, for all intents and purposes, were supposed to be working with him.

In a half-hour of conversation, we made no reference to Fort Hood, Texas.

But I couldn’t help taste the bitterness of a dedicated soldier whose own brother-in-arms turns against him with lethal force.  Of all the horrendous shootings which have happened in the United States in recent years, this one is particularly worrisome.  Soldiers are supposed to be fused together in mutual loyalty and combat preparedness.  Even if Hasan could not face or accept his coming deployment, this way out makes absolutely no sense.

Six years serving at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. no doubt took a severe emotional toll on Hasan.  We have only heard the faintest echo of what physical, psychological and emotional traumas he witnessed there, perhaps with only minimal resources to bring the healing and restoration he must have envisioned when he first began his studies.  I have a hard time believing that he was simply a pawn which some fanatic Islamic organization had been cultivating in the petri dish of a terrorist cell planted deep within the United States Military.  This seems too far-fetched.

Still, as his Muslim name first came out on the afternoon news, I couldn’t but feel my heart sink.  Standing in the locker room with a dozen men of perhaps four continents, I’ll never forget the silence that followed the all-too-predicable sound of that three-piece name: “Nidal Malik Hasan”.

You could have heard the sound of a car-bomb exploding in far-off Bagdad - without the aid of any instruments to transfer its deafening thud, and the sickening wrenching of buildings as they collapsed, and the screaming of innocent woman as they clutch the torn-apart bodies of their dead children.

I would have preferred it if Hasan hadn’t been yelling, “God is great!” as he wielded his weapons and mercilessly turned Fort Hood into a mortuary.

During a four-hour conversation with a young, idealistic, and extremely articulate Muslim in Kenya, as we rode together with my buddy Harun en route for Nairobi, the three of us dug into one another’s religious traditions to explore which one was most likely to incite violence among its devotees.

Though we Christians have certainly proved ourselves capable of the worst atrocities throughout our long and complicated history, one thing is certain: looking to the example and teaching of Jesus Christ, we have absolutely no excuse.  “The only people who don’t think Jesus was non-violent are Christians,” Ghandi was credited as saying.  Unfortunately, our example of violent behavior may have some non-Christians convinced of the opposite.

But the simple fact is, Jesus established his Church and spread his Gospel, not by the sword, but through the Cross of Calvary and the blood of the martyrs.  His early followers preferred torture and death than to take up the weapons of warfare and to serve the political ends of a worldly monarch.

The followers of the Lamb of God disavowed or re-interpreted the Hebrew scriptures advocating Holy War and the utter destruction of entire peoples.

No territory nor political boundaries were so essential to Christ’s disciples to justify the shedding of blood - especially innocent human blood - in their acquisition or defense.  Even the infamous Crusades were not undertaken simply for the re-possession of land, but rather to liberate the sanctuaries and the essential land-passages from those who had taken them by force.

But, of course, the Crusades cannot stand the test of Christian revelation.

“What about Islam?” we asked our new friend.  “Does it not advocate the slaughter of infidels?  Was Mohammed the Prophet not a warrior, whose ‘kingdom’ was established, not by persuasion, but by military invasions?”

Holding a smiling child beside his beautifully veiled young wife, our friend explained that Mohammed was actually a reasonable and compassionate ruler.  In fact, his own interpretations of the Koran strictly forbid the killing of innocent people.  I believe our friend was telling the truth. I will have to study Islam more deeply.  But what I really need from Muslims is what I seem to hear too rarely: a concerted, corporate condemnation of terrorism.  Until I hear more of that, the words “Allahu Akbar” will grate my nerves.