The Truth About Radicalization

Within hours of when the Boston bombing suspects were identified, terrorism experts were barraged with an intriguing but misguided question: How did these young men become “radicalized”? After spending several years in the United States, why would they hate us—to such a degree that they would carry out horrific acts against innocent bystanders?

Well, I’m sorry, but this question totally misunderstands what it means to be radicalized. There’s nothing “radical” about hatred or violence. Those are easy  traits, certainly not radical ones.

Nor is there anything radical about envy—a prominent feature of humankind ever since the sad tale of Cain and Abel.

You see, radical means “going to the root or origin” of a problem. Hatred, violence, and class warfare certainly aren’t radical by this definition. Why? Because such things only deal with symptoms and external issues, not the root causes.

The Boston bombers weren’t true radicals. They were simply angry, envious, and perhaps demonic young men. Their radicalization was counterfeit, for it failed to address the heart of the matter—which is always a matter of the heart.

Jesus was a true radical, for He warned people they would never enter into His kingdom as long as they held on to hatred, jealously, or unforgiveness. He rejected the Zealots’ call for violence, but He said the answer wasn’t in being religious  either—you must be spiritually reborn. Your proud, hard, self-centered heart must be replaced!

What does it look like to be a true radical? Jesus said you must love your enemies and those who persecute you. Instead of killing people who disagree with you, you must lay down your life in serving them and showing them the truth.

We need some true followers of Jesus today—people radicalized through and through by a gospel message that transforms lives and brings a touch of heaven to earth. We need genuine disciples of a Savior who offers the world healing balm  instead of bombs of destruction.

We need leaders who understand what it means to go from comfortable Christianity to radicalization for Christ. May God raise up a new generation of radicals like William and Catherine Booth, who mobilized an army of love and salvation that brought transformation to hell-holes around the world.

May we have more leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., who preached that people should be judged by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin. That message was far more radical than those who prescribed violence as a solution to radical prejudice.

So, are you willing to be radicalized by the lordship of Jesus Christ? Or will you be swayed by counterfeits or an easy-believe-ism that requires nothing but verbal assent to the claims of the gospel?

Lukewarm Christians will neither change the world, nor persuade misguided souls like the Boston bombers to abandon their foolish thinking. The only way to defeat counterfeit radicals like the Boston bombers is to become true radicals for Jesus, the Lamb of God and friend of sinners.