Unholy War?

The devastating terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon on 11th September have resulted in tears, calls for revenge attacks and the widespread view that things will never be the same again. John Buckeridge asked American futurist Tom Sine to predict what new trends he thinks the tragedy has unleashed and what response to the attacks he considers is appropriate.

JB: How has the American media reported on the terrorist attacks?

TS: The Americans are asking how could this have happened to us, the British are asking why. I watched CCN for four days following the tragedy and the ‘why’ question was not being asked. That worries me, as does the characterisation that what has been happening is foreign evil against an American good. There was little attempt in much of the public media to really ask the why question. The ‘why’ question relates to American foreign policy, particularly the need for the US to be more balanced in its Middle Eastern policy. Part of the reason it is not more balanced is frankly, because many in the US really don’t understand the Palestinian side of the issue. Many Americans have no idea that Palestinians have been living under military occupation for decades, that they’ve had over half of their land confiscated for all kinds of reasons. I think it is absolutely essential that someone finds ways to help Americans become aware of the broader issues in the Middle East not just in terms of Palestinians but of all peoples in the regions and their concerns.

JB: Many people consider that these events will have wide ranging implications and most of them are negative.You are a futurist – what do you see as the worrying trends that these tragic events have unleashed?

TS: Futurists would call this event a ‘wild card’ – a happening that abruptly interrupts trends and releases unpredictable and new trends. I think we are in for a time of suffering – but I pray God I am wrong. This could very easily inflame the Middle East tensions and lead to a call for Jihad – a holy war. I believe this war will not be fought according to the rules of the Geneva Convention. Biological and chemical warfare could be used which will release the plagues. It appears that this attack has also pushed us into a global recession which will also cause much distress for people all over the world. We should be involved at a grass roots level reaching out to our Muslim, Arab, Asian, Afghan friends – we need to welcome them into our homes and work with then to find constructive ways to address the tremendous problems under which they live. We should try to influence politicians so that policies can be found to bring a resolution between Israel and Palestine. During the Clinton presidency we came very close. We should pray constantly for the peace of Jerusalem.

JB: In the search for justice amid cries for revenge – what is a measured appropriate response?

TS: That’s a very difficult question. I am reminded of verses in Psalm 46 where it states that God is in control. At times like these we sometimes might feel that God is out for lunch. Evangelical pietism tends to reinforce the view that God only comes close to us at Bible studies and prayer meetings but doesn’t have much to do with the real world. We need as Christians to struggle against that. As a younger man in my 20s I was nearly called up to fight in the Vietnam war. Even though I was a conservative republican in those days I would have had to go in as a medic. I figured that if I couldn’t hunt animals, I couldn ’t hunt human beings. I am a near pacifist, but I understand the need for some kind of a response because of the horrific events. But my concern is that in an effort to protect our democratic societies and this new global economy, that has been developed over the past decade, Our responses may not be measured. In Mustard Seed versus McWorld I predicted ‘that if terrorism does increase, those who are intent on protecting the emerging global economy will take decisive, repressive action to try to quell the threat’. The US leadership say they are going to go after terrorist groups all over the world, not just Osama bin Laden and his compatriots but I’m sure that they will not successfully eliminate all the bin Laden’s of this world.

The American culture has a quick fix mentality. The Gulf War was quickly executed Many Americans expect a quick solution. But I think this will be a prolonged conflict and I’m not sure we will have the staying power against some, for whom this isn’t just a war, but a religious cause. I’m concerned this will open into a much larger conflict that none of us want. The extreme religious right within the US within has a fear that our federal government may become complicit in ushering us in to a one-world takeover. This engenders a strong fear and distrust of the US government by these extremists.

There are Jewish extremist that have expressed a desire to destroy the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem in order to prepare for the rebuilding of the Jewish temple.

One of the things we have to do is battle against the extreme religious fundamentalist edges in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. An American philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote, ‘Any mass movement can exist without a god, but no mass movement can exist without a devil.’ And the devil has to be tangible and vivid. What these extremist groups do is create a vivid devil. With bin Laden and extreme Islamic fundamentalists the devil is America who they call the Great Satan. For the extreme religious right in America it is the federal government, which they see as a great threat to their freedom. Out of fear-mongering these movements can whip up enormous anger which don ’t reflect the values of the faith that they claim.

JB: Have there been any positives to come out of the horrible events of 11th September?

TS: Being an older American I remember World War II – it was amazing how the whole nation pulled together like an extended family. I remember Pearl Harbour and when Britain was being bombed, you have had attacks on your soil within living memory, but we haven’t had the terrorism you have had, which is why these events are so shattering. But like World War II The recent tragedy has pulled our very pluralistic American society together. Pray God that all people of faith remember the call to work for peace and reconciliation, particularly in times of armed conflict. However, what is concerning, is how most churches and individual Christians are blending nationalistic agendas with faith agendas. So advancing the kingdom of God and advancing American interests in the world are viewed as the same. We are moving back into American civil religion, which is not Christianity. We mustn’t blend our faith with nationalism in unbiblical ways.



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