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Exploring Christian and Muslim terrorism

Ground Zero, New York City, N.Y. (Sept. 17, 2001) -- An aerial view shows only a small portion of the crime scene where the World Trade Center collapsed following the Sept. 11 terrorist attack (Credit: US Navy / Chief Photographer Mate Eric J Tilford)An essay claims that Wade Michael Page was a "Christian terrorist." The author, a noted Christian scholar named Mark Juergensmeyer, claims that Page "thought he was killing to save white Christian society."  He concludes: "If the hard-talking, swaggering al Qaeda militants can be called Muslim terrorists, certainly Page can be called a Christian terrorist."

While there's no evidence that Page was a practicing Christian (a fact Juergensmeyer acknowledges), he was clearly a white supremacist and neo-Nazi.  To the degree that members of those groups consider themselves Christian (some do, though many do not), do they then deserve the title of "Christian terrorist"?  Juergensmeyer is right: if we blame Islam for 9-11, we could then blame Christianity for the Milwaukee tragedy.

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America, Turkey, and Russia: expanding empires

Risk the board game of world domination by Parker Brothers, a division of Hasbro, French version (Credit: Damien Mathieu via Flickr)Three disparate themes caught my eye today.

First, the U.S. Navy is moving small, unmanned underwater vehicles to the Persian Gulf to help find and destroy sea mines.  Dozens of the German-made vehicles, known as Sea Fox, were purchased by the Navy in February.  The Pentagon has also added four MH-53 minesweeping helicopters and four minesweeping ships—bringing its total to eight.  Our military presence in the region of the Persian Gulf has been increasing for some time.

Second, Turkey is making plans to build an oil pipeline linking southern Iraq and Turkey, a move that would place Ankara in direct competition with Iran for Iraqi oil fields.  Turkey seeks to lessen its energy dependence on Russia while increasing its stature in the region.  The Turkish prime minister is also suggesting a consolidation of his political party with a rival political group, a move that would strengthen his position in Turkey and across the Muslim world.  And he is making plans to visit the United Kingdom from July 26-28 as he expands his global influence.

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The Cuban Missile Crisis, 50 years later

In October 1962, an American U2 spy plane secretly photographed nuclear missile sites being built by the Soviet Union on the island of Cuba (Credit: John F Kennedy Presidential Library)Cuba is one of my favorite places on earth.  It's been my privilege to make seven trips to the island; each time I've encountered New Testament Christianity.  More than a million Cubans have become Christians in the last 10 years.  Cuban Christians inspire and challenge me with their passionate, sacrificial commitment to Christ as their King.

My love for Cuba caused me to read with great interest Graham Allison's essay in the latest Foreign Affairs journal.  Dr. Allison is a professor of government and international affairs at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.  He recaps the Cuban Missile Crisis, perhaps the greatest military threat our nation has ever faced, and explores three lessons for U.S. foreign policy today.  As we celebrate our nation's birthday while thinking about the future of our relations with global adversaries, Allison's principles bear reflection.  As Christians seek to influence their culture, his lessons are relevant as well.

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Are we at economic war with Iran?

An Iranian woman shouts slogans during a protest in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement outside the Swiss embassy which handles US interests in Tehran on October 22, 2011 (Credit: Atta Kenare/AFP)Iran's currency has lost half its value; its oil income is down $4.5 billion per month; and its inflation is over 25%.  These are the effects of Western economic sanctions intended to persuade Iranian leaders to curtail their nuclear development program.

In addition, Iranian banks have been blocked from relations with the international banking world.  Foreign companies doing business with Iran are now subject to significant penalties.  Such economic privation may make it harder for Iran to purchase the resources needed to continue its nuclear escalation.  And sanctions may cause Iranian citizens to pressure their leaders to scale back nuclear ambitions.

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Should nations forgive each other?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center) shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (right) as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (left) looks on at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, Israel, on September 15, 2010 (Credit: United States State Department)Bishop T. D. Jakes recently wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post in which he stated, "Withholding forgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for your perpetrator to die."  He wisely noted that "unforgiveness incarcerates the victim with absolutely no impact on the injuring party."  Refusing to forgive only hurts the one who has been hurt.

How does forgiveness apply to nations?

Regional and international conflicts continue to make global headlines.  After Syria shot down a Turkish jet on June 22, NATO has been in emergency meetings to craft a response.  Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on June 25; Putin said that the two will continue work to resolve the nuclear standoff with Iran through peaceful means.

How are nations to forgive each other?

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