The slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On” was developed during World War II during the Nazi terror (Blitz) attacks on London, when Germany was radicalized by an ideology. When it comes to national tragedy, this truly does describe the British resolve to keep on. I remember being here in London when the 7/7 attacks happened. Yesterday I was in Westminster with my wife and four kids one mile away from the attack! The police presence was heightened, Westminster’s tube station was closed, but London was going to keep calm and carry on. I have a deep admiration for Britain’s ability to keep moving forward in the wake of such tragedy.
The Dangers of Radicalism
The police are working under the assumption that the assailant was a radicalized Muslim, an extremist. There will be much conversation and discussion over the next few days about radicalization. In conversations in the work place or in the pubs, people will be talking about how important it is to not believe something too strongly.
A few years ago, while I was a police chaplain, I went through counter-terrorism training (not as "Jack Bauer" as it sounds), and we were told how people are radicalized; and how the country needs to be protected against radicalization. Anti-radicalism is considered a virtue. Who can blame people for holding such a view when they see and experience the things that such extremism produces? My heart aches for the loss of lives and the injured in yesterday’s attack.
The Roots of Radicalism
The word radical comes from the Latin word for root (radix). It means to get closer to the root/source of something. We are told today that we shouldn’t be radical about our beliefs. But the real question shouldn’t be whether we should be radical. The real question is: What is the root of belief that we are getting closer to? The narrative will say that people should be less radical about their faith. I want to challenge that narrative. Jesus said that if the root is bad, the fruit will be bad (Matthew 7:18).
I suggest a different radix (root). Jesus taught us things like love your enemies and to pray for your persecutors (Matthew 5:44). He taught us to serve others and lay our lives down for others (Mark 10:43-45). I would humbly suggest that we do not need less radicalism, rather more of a Jesus radicalism, a subversive radicalism! This is a radicalism that the world is not anticipating. It’s a radicalism that says, to believe in something strongly can be the best type of belief. Those who are radicalized for Jesus, throughout the centuries have served others, offering their own lives. Radical Christians do not take lives, but give their own lives for others. They give up worldly comforts and use their time, talent and treasure selflessly and seek to share with the world about a radical love that is not life taking, but life imparting. The question isn’t whether we should be radical, the question is: What should we be radical about? I pray that people radicalized by Jesus would offer their lives up in loving service of their enemies. They would bring that love to those who are hurting. That their radical message of Good News that redeems humans from their sin and restores their relationship with God would bring extreme healing to this great city of London as well as the rest of the world suffering from extreme terror.