TERRORISM HAS COME TOO CLOSE to home this summer. Twice for me.
Remember the retired school teacher knifed to death in London on Thursday, August 4: Darlene Horton? I graduated from high school with her and with her husband, Richard Wagner, a psych prof at Florida State University; he was teaching summer classes in London, and was due to fly home the next day.
I didn’t know Darlene well. But Rick was a high school friend. He lived at the top of East Avenue hill in Akron, Ohio. Not quite a mile away from my house on Kellogg Avenue. It was a hard bike ride up the hill to his house, but wonderful coasting home.
Rick and I played some neighborhood football on the grounds of Innes Junior High School, halfway between our homes.
We ran track together. He was shorter and a bit tankier than me—or I was a bit lankier than him. I was glad when the coach pitted me against him in the 100-yard dash.
He beat me.
I couldn’t believe it. Those short legs really could move.
I sent him a copy of one of my books earlier this year.
He almost threw it out. He gets a lot of unsolicited books. Someone in the office staff saw the note I wrote him inside the cover, and saved it from the recycle bin.
I saw that Rick got a doctorate at Yale. I asked him if he went there on a track scholarship.
A few minutes after midnight on what became Friday, August 5, I sent him another kind of note entirely. I wrote it minutes after reading the news story about Darlene.
Rick responded a few minutes later—it must have been about 6:30 in the morning, London time. Dawn of the first day without his wife.
As I write this article, there’s no reported proof that Darlene’s death was the result of a terrorist attack. But given the alleged killer’s Muslim faith, and the fact that most terrorist attacks these days come from Muslims, folks are wondering. Myself included.
I’m not sure it matters to Rick. Either way, Darlene is gone.
A dad and his son, dead in France
A few weeks earlier, on July 16, a Texas man and his 11-year-old son were killed when a terrorist driving a big truck plowed through a crowd in Nice, France.
Sean Copeland, 51, and his son Brodie died.
A week or so before that, my son was talking with Sean on the phone.
They were business associates. They had a phone meeting. My son described Sean as one of the good souls, well-liked by his colleagues.
Darlene and Rick fit that description, too.
What’s a Christian to do?
Violence targeting Americans is changing us, I’ve noticed.
Some of us, driven by fear and self-preservation, are pulling away the welcome mat. Foreigners aren’t welcome anymore. Refugees among them. Especially Muslim refugees. It doesn’t matter if they’re just women and kids from a house barrel-bombed in a city of rubble.
There’s no place here for them.
As I think about this, it occurs to me that one of the most common messages delivered from heaven to earth was, “Fear not.”
“Don’t fear, because I am with you;
don’t be afraid, for I am your God” (Isaiah 41:10).
It occurs to me, as well, that however the world may change, nothing has changed about what Jesus called the most important commandment of all.
“You have to love the Lord your God with all the heart you’ve got in you, all the spirit, all the strength, all the mind. And, you have to love your neighbor every bit as much as you love yourself” (Luke 10:27, Casual English Bible).
To explain what he meant by that, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37).
A man, most likely a Jew given the setting of the story, had gotten himself mugged, robbed, and left for dead. He was found by a man from the region of Samaria, in what is now the West Bank—home to mainly Palestinians. Samaritans and Jews back then were about as friendly as Israelis and Palestinians are today.
Yet when the Samaritan saw the helpless man, “he felt for him. He went right over to the man and started treating his injuries” (Luke 10:34, Casual English Bible).
It’s normal to fear terrorism.
But our mission as Christians will always be to love God, love people, and help those at greatest risk.
For more on the topic
- Christian response to refugees
- When Christianity doesn’t make a difference
- Christians not afraid of getting blown to kingdom come