Authored for United Liberty.
Some thoughts come to mind in the wake of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau’s shooting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, and the week’s earlier incident in which another alleged terrorist murdered a Canadian soldier using a vehicle. The incidents contradict ideas germinating in some spheres of Western thought that seem to cumulatively suggest that terrorists are fundamentally good people who are simply misunderstood.
For instance, one premise often suggested is that terrorists are libertarian in nature. They want nothing more than to be left alone to brutalize their neighbors in peace, the contention goes. Provided the Western world leaves them alone to kill and pillage the people of their own lands, they will reciprocate and leave the West in peace.
A second corollary premise arising from this argument is that terrorists are not evil. They are in fact sane, normal people. They can be reasoned with; they would not terrorize the Western world, murder diverse ethnic groups, or slaughter adherents of alternative religious groups if they did not have good reason.
Third and finally, some will argue that mainstream Christians are no better than Islamic terrorists. Jonathan Merritt, who made his name advocating that the church embrace homosexuality, made the argument in a Twitter exchange with Erick Erickson. In it, he wrote, “Christians let the drones do the killing for them.”
Needless to say, these arguments do not follow one another. Terrorists are not sane, nor are they reasonable individuals with sensible objectives. Michael Zehaf-Bibeau is a human illustration of this point; he has already been described by one acquaintance as mentally unstable.
Really, it is an insult to Islam to argue that terrorists are of sound mind. It is at best a non-sequitur and at worst insulting to argue that one could logically and reasonably arrive at the decision to murder innocents in the name of Islam. It is neither logical nor reasonable, and it really reveals the flippancy with which secularists treat and understand people of faith. Neither most Christians nor most Muslims would argue that terrorists are perfectly reasonable people who simply came to the decision to butcher their neighbors out of mere frustration.
Similarly, there need be no “Christian” argument for intervention in the Middle East, and President Obama does not make one. Except in response to moral relativists like Jonathan Merritt, who may not really believe that evil exists, there is no need to make a religious argument about whether psychotic individuals with weapons should be allowed to arbitrarily use them against others.
Terrorism consistently affirms the nature of evil. It does seek freedom for itself, but it does not seek it for others. It seeks complete tolerance for itself, but it will not reciprocate an inch of that tolerance to virtue. It seeks the destruction of what is good. Evil and its misguided apologists will complain that we simply are not tolerating evil enough, and if we were simply to tolerate it a little more, it would do the same for us.
The terrorism in Ottawa reminds us that terrorists are not rational. They are evil. It also reminds us that evil is not libertarian. It does not seek to peacefully coexist. Finally, it reminds us that, yes, we are morally superior to terrorists who kill without cause. To argue that there is any moral equivalency is unfeasible.
Some will continue to philosophize about whether evil really exists, and about whether it would really be so bad if we just tried to understand it a little more. We should be grateful that we do not have to live in their world, as incidents like those in Ottawa continue reminding us of what it would look like.