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Boston bombing: dancer is a ‘survivor ‘ not a ‘victim’

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Adrianne Haslet-Davis, center, wipes away a tear while standing on stage with MIT professor Hugh Herr, left, and dancer Christian Lightner, at the 2014 TED Conference, Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Vancouver, British Columbia. Haslet-Davis took to the stage to perform for the first time since losing part of her left leg in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Herr designed the bionic leg specifically for dancing after visiting Haslet-Davis in the hospital (AP Photo/TED 2014 Conference, James Duncan Davidson via Flickr)

Adrianne Haslet-Davis lost her left foot in the bombings that devastated Boston a year ago.  The dancer has continued with her career, and plans to appear on ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars.”  She will run the last mile of next week’s marathon, flanked by her twin brothers.

Since last year’s attacks, Haslet-Davis has become a public advocate for those affected by the attacks, asking that people refer to them as “survivors” rather than “victims.”  She is right: “victims” connotes a sense of powerlessness, while “survivors” withstand their ordeal and often become stronger as a result.

We will all need to be “survivors” as the clash with jihadist terrorism continues.  This fact was made clear to me today as I read Joseph Warrick’s frightening “Radical Islamic Terrorism.”  Warrick has spent nearly 30 years serving America in special operations forces and counterintelligence.  His latest essay surveys the most recent research on jihadist threats to the West and the world.

Warrick cites Marc Sageman, M.D., Ph.D., a former CIA Operations Officer who warns that al-Qaeda has inspired countless like-minded individuals such as the Boston Marathon bombers—men and women who are not part of any specific organization, but desire to commit acts of violence against us in the name of their radical ideology.  More jihadist organizations are recruiting “clean skins” such as the Tsarnaev brothers—people who are not from a country known for producing terrorists, have no ties to terrorist groups, and have unfettered access to targets in their home countries.

Since the bombing a year ago, Hezbollah has made significant inroads in Latin America, and is now working with Mexican drug cartels to infiltrate American borders.  And Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistani organization, aspires to plant the flag of Islam in Washington, D.C.  Analysts consider it the greatest terrorist threat to America today.

Clearly, the Boston bombings are not likely to be the last attack of their kind against Americans.  But Adrianne Haslet-Davis is right: we must not see ourselves as the powerless victims of Islamic jihadists.  Jesus commissioned his church to attack the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18)—we are to “take the fight to the enemy,” spiritually.  We must match their zeal with our own, their sacrifice with our commitment.  As they plot attacks against us, we must pray fervently for the Spirit to transform them with the gospel.

Such spiritual initiative is working.  Believers in the Middle East say their region is experiencing an unprecedented number of Muslims converting to Christ.  Entire mosques in Africa are coming to Jesus.  Former sheikhs, imams and militant Islamists now make up 20 percent or more of new Christian leaders in Muslim regions.  Church growth in the Muslim world is accelerating much faster than in most of North America.  One missionary has learned to “expect the hardest places to yield the greatest results.”

On this Tuesday of Holy Week, Jesus spoke God’s word to the religious authorities who sought his death.  Now he calls us to take the gospel to those who seek ours.  The best way I know to remember the Boston bombing is to pray for God’s Spirit to transform terrorists into missionaries.  Will you join me today?