I used to wonder how the citizens of Israel functioned day to day. There was a time when bombings, terrorist attacks, and rockets aimed at residential areas were routine. One could be sitting at an outdoor cafe one minute and be maimed or dead the next. “What would it be like to continually live under this cloud of danger every day?” I thought.
In 1998, I travelled with a team to Kenya and Uganda for about three weeks. We arrived in the capital city of Kenya just a short time after terrorists had blown up the U.S. Embassy there. The State Department advised against travel to Kenya (a fact I did not know at the time) as there was no official American presence and the country was considered extremely hazardous for Western travelers. The FBI was there in force and, even in Uganda, the Embassy was closed.
For the first several days, I walked on pins and needles, anticipating that danger was everywhere. That was not an idle fear and the mission team hired body guards to provide a measure of protection. We had to secure our door at night, go nowhere alone or even in a small group, and the vehicles were checked each morning for explosive devices.
Then, after the first three days, all that just felt normal. It didn’t take as long as I would have thought to just accept what was and push on to do the work at hand. In retrospect, was it a dangerous place to be? Absolutely! But I began to understand, on a very small scale, how Israeli citizens coped with the threats.
Currently, the world, in my view, is as dangerous a place as it has been in the last 70 years. Some would say that the Cold War years were more dangerous, but I disagree. The possibility of assured mutual destruction in the event of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union kept the peace, for the most part.
“Yeah,” someone might say. “What about the Cuban missile crisis?” Actually that strengthens my argument. Neither the USA nor the USSR wanted war, so a back door compromised was reached. The missiles were removed from Cuba and we quietly agreed not to invade the island dictatorship and gave some concessions in Europe.
Today, the rogue nation of North Korea, led by an unpredictable megalomaniac, has nuclear weapons. They nearly have the capacity to deliver such weapons to our shores and they openly scoff at any attempts to reign then in. Iran, committed to the destruction of the West, particularly Israel and The Great Satan — that would be us — is nearing the acquisition of its own nuclear arms.
The FBI reported several months ago that investigations into terroristic activities are occurring in real time in all 50 states in the USA. And all that doesn’t include terrorist organizations who would love to launch more 9/11s on our soil.
So what do we do? We go to the mall, post on Facebook, read Twitter, work out at the gym, go shopping, go to work, to the ball game, to the movies, we go out to eat, travel on vacations … we just go about our business as though the world — our world — were safe.
Those who point out the dangers, whatever they may be, are thought to be fanatics, paranoid, or deranged. Like the man who sits in the cafe on the street in Jerusalem, we chose to be oblivious, think about other things, and go about our day.
My father, who served during World War II, used to warn me that the world was a dangerous place. He lived through Nazism, fascism, and imperialism. He saw the world erupt in flames and he knew it could happen again. But, like my Africa trip, we press on anyway. We do our jobs and live our lives and assume that, even if there is danger, we will be okay. And perhaps we will.
But history is a harsh teacher. Perhaps that is why we ignore its lessons so easily.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]