Two-and-a-half years ago, Islamic terrorists took 1,200 people hostage at a school in the Russian city of Beslan. They ultimately slaughtered 344 people, including 186 children. The attack brought back memories of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, in which two disaffected students shot to death twelve classmates and a teacher.
It is no surprise, then—especially after September 11—that a New Jersey school district felt the need to practice anti-terrorism drills. What shocked students was who the mock terrorists were supposed to be: homeschooling Christian fundamentalists.
It's another example of how openly those hostile to any forms of Christianity express their contempt.
The anti-terrorism drill was organized by the Burlington Township Police Department. According to the Burlington County Times, the drill scenario described intruders as "members of a right-wing fundamentalist group called the 'New Crusaders' who do not believe in separation of church and state." The storyline also says the mock terrorists were angry because the daughter of one gunman was expelled from school for praying in class. The drill "specified that two armed men invade the high school . . . shoot several students in the hallways, then barricade themselves in the media center with 10 student hostages."
Not surprisingly, Christian students, parents, and local pastors were upset about Christians being portrayed this way, and conservative media outlets expressed outrage. In response, Burlington township and school officials claimed the scenario was "generic" and did not specify any particular religion.
Oh, please. This is like garbing the police in Arab headdresses, naming them the "New Jihadists," and then claiming the scenario had nothing to do with Islam.
Nor is this the first time schools have run drills featuring Christian terrorists. Three years ago, a school district in Muskegon County, Michigan, had a similar drill. The terrorists in that case were called "Wackos Against Schools and Education"—homeschooling nuts who detonate a bomb on a school bus.
These drills are more than troubling. They deliberately ignore reality: The killers who have struck at schools—or who attempt to—are either Islamic radicals or disturbed students who are angry at other students or teachers.
Ironically, school districts probably stick the terrorism label on Christians in part because they are too afraid of what Islamic radicals may do if they dare suggest that Muslims might actually be the ones they have to worry about.
These drills are also disturbing in that they are giving impressionable kids an ugly and distorted picture of Christian believers: that we are crazed killers who go after anyone who crosses us. While I suspect older kids will roll their eyes at this depiction, younger children may well absorb the message that Christians really are dangerous.
We ought to protest that message wherever we see it—especially when the mainstream media ignores it, as they have in this case. But we should also be proactive in terms of what message kids do absorb about our faith. We should reach out to local, unchurched kids, offering after-school tutoring, game and movie nights, and camping trips.
There is nothing like knowing a few real followers of Jesus for kids to realize that neighborhood Christians are not murderous wackos, but indeed are followers of the Prince of Peace.
From BreakPoint®, April 13, 2007, Copyright 2007, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint®" and "Prison Fellowship Ministries®" are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship Ministries