Marquette Theologian Mark Johnson on Terrorism
Here is just a piece of his most recent post, which might well provoke you to read the entire thing. Speaking of the beheadings that ISIS has committed, Johnson observes:
The President has spoken of them as appalling and barbaric, while others say that those who took these four lives—there will be more—are brutal and savage.Thus the striking thing about the behavior is ISIS is its anachronistic nature. People with access to 21st century social media, 21st century travel and 21st century weapons show a primitive worldview.
But these descriptions both mislead and fail to get to the heart of the matter. . . . Brutal things are done by brutes—lions, bears, snakes, sharks—which are animals devoid of reason. Our human reason or intelligence is the cause and hallmark of our dignity. Brute animals, by contrast, operate in the physical world of nature, red in tooth and claw, where they must kill or be killed. So they attack and kill without thinking, acting instead on the instincts given them by nature, and nature’s God. This is why we don’t put animals on trial when they kill a human being.
So also, savage things are done by savages—humans in pre-civilized cultures, we might say—who indeed are humans possessing reason, but who have not yet had the range of corrective experiences from history and religion that lift cultures to a point of fuller human living and interaction: no belief yet in individual human dignity and worth, and no system of the rule of man-made law with a right participate in their own governance, and to appeal to impartial judges.
Anybody reading (say) the Book of Judges might well be appalled by the bloodshed it contains, but it recounts events over 3,000 years ago. What excuse does ISIS have?
Johnson’s conclusion is that the terrorists have simply chosen not to think. That’s a choice for which they can, and should, be held morally responsible.