Religious terrorism is the communism of the 21st century, the most serious international threat to human rights, liberty, democratic government, and Christian faith we now face. This fact, which has been known for some years by those who have been studying terrorism closely, is now clear to the rest of America amid the carnage of September 11.

In the aftermath of that attack, government officials suggested that the "war on terrorism" would take "weeks or months." It will likely last for decades—perhaps most of the century, as did the struggle against Marxism in the last century. No matter the length and sacrifice involved, Christians have a unique and vital role to play in the historical drama that is unfolding.

Terrorism is "the deliberate creation and exploitation of fear through violence or the threat of violence in the pursuit of political change." (I am indebted to Bruce Hoffman's Inside Terrorism [Columbia University, 1998] for this definition and much of the following analysis.) It becomes "religious terrorism" when a religious ideal inspires or emboldens such actions.

Terrorism has a long history, but the advent of modern, international terrorism occurred on July 22, 1968, when a member group of the Palestine Liberation Organization hijacked an Israeli El Al commercial flight. It shows dramatically how terrorism is not "war" as its perpetrators claim. "For the first time," Hoffman says, "terrorists began to travel regularly from one country to another to carry out attacks. In addition, they also began to target innocent civilians from other countries who often had little if anything to do with the terrorists' cause or grievance, simply in order to endow their acts with the power to attract attention and publicity that ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.