This headline caught my eye over the weekend: “If Hamas is allowed to survive, their web of terror will threaten us all.” The subtitle warns: “It’s not just Jews who are in grave danger when terror groups like Hamas grow in strength and number.”
The writer is responding to reports that seven people were arrested in Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands last week on suspicion of planning attacks against Jewish institutions in Europe. Four of the seven were suspected Hamas members. The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded: “In recent years, and even more so after the murderous attack on October 7, Hamas strives to expand its operational capabilities around the world—and in Europe in particular—in order to realize its ambitions to hit Israeli, Jewish, and Western targets at any cost.”
A British columnist, citing the rise of antisemitism after the October 7 invasion, warns: “If recent protests are anything to go by, then we may be uniquely vulnerable to this terrorist threat. If calls for ‘jihad’ are taken literally, with young men believing they should fight a holy war on our streets, then we may face the worst terrorist threat since al-Qaeda or ISIS.”
Hamas is ramping up its propaganda war to inculcate antisemitism among young people in the larger Muslim world; for example, #freepalestine is now found on thirty-nine times more Facebook posts than #standwithisrael. If the terrorist group’s hatred of Jews spreads across the West, the October 7 atrocities may be the beginning of a larger genocidal movement against the Jewish people and everyone who supports them.
A terrorist tunnel beneath a baby’s crib
“War is hell,” as Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman said after the Civil War. His description is especially proving true in Gaza, where the Israeli army’s death toll is already almost twice as high as during a ground offensive in 2014, more than seventeen thousand Palestinians have died, and more than one hundred hostages are still being held by Hamas.
The IDF’s killing of three Israeli hostages they mistakenly identified as a threat sparked massive rallies over the weekend calling for a pause in the fighting to allow more hostages to be released. However, as Israel mourns the three young men and grieves for the rest of the hostages, Hamas continues to use them—and Palestinian civilians in Gaza—as human shields and leverage.
For example, IDF soldiers uncovered a Hamas tunnel hidden beneath a baby’s crib in Gaza yesterday.
The terrorists have made clear their intentions to eradicate all Jews, whom they consider to be the enemies of humankind. Such dehumanizing is always the first step toward the genocide of a people. For Islamic jihadists, it is born in a worldview that sees Jews as “enemies of Allah” and subhuman descendants of “apes” and “swine.”
But antisemitism also has roots in the Western world that are less obvious but no less dangerous to us all.
Did we come from “primitive slime”?
On this day in 1912, the “Piltdown Man” fossil was discovered. Originally claimed to be a “missing link” ancestor of humans, the remains were later found to be a hoax. However, the view that humans are the product of chance rather than creation persists across our culture. Forbes recently announced, for example, that scientists have a new theory for how life’s “building blocks” arrived on our planet, claiming that comets could have delivered amino acids and proteins to Earth and other planets as well.
One researcher writes in Smithsonian magazine: “Scientists agree on the basics of how life began, perhaps four billion years ago. Inorganic materials in the depths of the sea—subjected to favorable chemical conditions—most likely came to form a primitive slime over a long period of time. That slime eventually gave rise to bacteria, or perhaps blue-green algae” that led to life as we know it.
If humans are no different from anything else that evolved in this way, a utilitarian pragmatism that uses people as a means to larger ends is inevitable. If we commercialize and trade swine, why not hostages viewed as their descendants by their captors—or so Hamas might say.
Once we abandon the biblical truth that all people are created in God’s image and thus sacred from the moment of conception (Genesis 1:27), any human can be the subject of those strong enough to subjugate them in an evolutionary “survival of the fittest” contest for supremacy. We see such dehumanizing when preborn babies are aborted for financial reasons and the elderly infirm are euthanatized, girls and boys are sex trafficked and forced into prostitution, and racial prejudice fuels systemic injustice.
And we see it when Jews are villainized for their race and religion.
Decorating 22 homes and creating 400 snowmen
This is the Advent week of joy. Paradoxically, biblical joy is a consequence, not a goal. It is a “fruit” of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) that we experience when we seek the Lord with intimacy and can pray with David, “In your presence there is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). And it is a gift we experience most fully when we share it with others.
My first pastor used to say that JOY is an acronym for Jesus, Others, and Yourself. When we love others in response to God’s love for us, we want to pay forward the grace we have received and their joy enhances our own.
I’m thinking of an Oklahoma man who decorated twenty-two homes on his street for Christmas and the Wyoming woman who created nearly four hundred personalized snowmen for the people of her town. My guess is that they are experiencing a more joyful Christmas along with those whose holidays they enriched.
Henri Nouwen is right:
When you know yourself as fully loved, you will be able to give according to the other’s capacity to receive, and you will be able to receive according to the other’s capacity to give. You will be grateful for what is given to you without clinging to it, and joyful for what you can give without bragging about it. You will be a free person, free to love.
Will you be “free to love” today?