I write a lot. I actually write an average of thee blog articles every week including for several online magazines. This means that I can occasionally lapse into carelessness when it comes to forming ideas, concepts and sentences; or rush and take the proverbial half-baked loaf out of the blog oven before a post is really ready to be read.
So, I am deliberately approaching this article with a heightened sense of care for fear of upsetting, offending or being misunderstood, and from a sincere desire to help us all in these dark days.
What Happened Yesterday
The terrorist attack in Manchester yesterday was shocking, sickening, saddening and, frankly, very deeply depressing. This is saying something given that I think most of us are generally quite numb to the all-too-common-terror of our days.
The cycle of atrocity>fear>condemnation>vigil>defiance>solidarity>prayer>Facebook update seems to happen every few months or so and, honestly, most of our lives just continue as normal. We feel a small part of the pain and the terror – we can imagine a little – but only inasmuch as we do for the tens of thousands of Syrians or Yemeni for whom ‘horror’ has been their normal daily life for years.
Consequently, we don’t know (or exercise) our rightful place as intercessors: prayer (and resulting practical service) that intentionally enters into the devastation of those whose lives have been torn apart by life-shattering events – mourning with those who mourn.
We Struggle to Comprehend
With that said, in watching some of the TV news broadcasts covering yesterday’s events, including Theresa May’s initial address outside 10DS yesterday morning, I felt that there was a different level of shock, anger and incredulity compared with other attacks recently. (This is exactly what the attackers intended you may well argue).
Mrs May said,
“We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not as a scene to cherish but as an opportunity for carnage…”
Similar comments circled overhead from countless reporters seemingly only able to grope for the words to convey what people were feeling in their state of shocked disbelief. In the immediate aftermath, even Ariana Grande herself tweeted,
There is a very real struggle to comprehend what we are seeing when we witness terrorism. Mrs May isn’t being lyrical or poetic when she says things like this or when the best she can do is to refer to the attacker’s “twisted ideologies”; she is literally struggling to comprehend what she is seeing.
She literally does not have the words.
What We Don’t See
There is a reason that, along with Theresa May and Ariana Grande, we all struggle to comprehend attacks like this. Our human comprehension buffers not just because terrorism assaults the very fabric of our humanity but because this deranged species of depravity is super-charged by demonic power. (Ephesians 6:12).
We just don’t have a natural point of reference.
The ultimate reality that transcended the brooding hatred of Salman Abedi was one of deception. Whether demonically possessed or oppressed is largely irrelevant, the point is that he was, without doubt, influenced and inspired and controlled by demonic deception. This is the demonic power that lies at the very heart of Islam or any other world religion claiming a ‘way to God’. (Jesus Christ was crucified because He announced to the world that He was the only way to the Father).
What We Do See
The Bible is explicitly clear about the spiritual realm. For example, you only have to read to the 23rd verse of the first chapter of the gospel of Mark to find a direct reference to demonic possession or read Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 6 and verse 12, before another non-physical and transcendent dimension of angels and demons – messengers – is explained. Indeed, if you stop and think about it, it’s obvious that there must be realities infinitely more ‘real’ and eternal than the iPhone in your hand, the chair supporting your weight, the food you’ve just eaten or even the sun shining in the sky? Substance more than the physical matter we see with our physical eyes.
Isn’t our society completely obsessed with the supernatural (though one that is warped and unbalanced in its portrayal)? All you’d need to do to verify this is browse through the blu-ray charts or rental lists in any supermarket or online streaming hub to see this cultural and historical obsession with horror after horror featuring demon after demon.
Planet Earth is obsessed with the spiritual realm. They just don’t know it.
Manchester’s 23rd Body
Based on this overarching, biblical world-view that includes a spiritual realm under which everything and everyone in our physical world lives, shouldn’t we also view the suicide bomber yesterday as a victim of this demonically-orchestrated evil? As sons and daughters of other Mums and Dads grieving the tragic loss of their child but also laced with a peculiar type of grief that’s also completely saturated in embarrassment and shame? As a man deceived by potent spiritual forces? As a young man groomed by other elder men likewise deceived as the leaders of man-made, religious dungeons?
As part of our global condemnation, shouldn’t we also remember with grief the 23rd body in Manchester? Didn’t Jesus deeply love the Satan-possessed Judas and call him friend?
Please hear me correctly, this is not to excuse for even a fraction of a millisecond the evil that lived in this man’s heart for he will surely one day give full account for his actions (Romans 14:12). It is not to make a comparison or construct a spectrum of pain; it is simply to highlight that a biblical, Christian perspective and response to this should first of all acknowledge that our profound struggle is not with flesh and blood – with Salman Abedi or people like him – but with a spiritual force that is infinitely more frightening that any 18-certificated horror movie.
So What Do We Do?
It is completely hopeless to think that any country on Earth can defend itself from people who are willing to blow themselves up. It’s impossible. Bringing the full-force of the British military onto our streets permanently…still wouldn’t work.
Because, along with Mrs May, we struggle to comprehend and, therefore, we don’t know what to do. Because as St Paul wrote, we are not dealing with flesh and blood. Because there is a spiritual war raging from which we see all the chaos unfolding in the world, some more overtly than others.
And so I come back to my Tweet of April 22nd 2017:
If we are to realise the power of intercession we must learn to mourn with those who mourn beyond a momentary unsettling or passing grief
In short, we must learn to pray like never before. We must learn to intercede in spiritual matters in which we have full authority to intercede. We must have our own versions of Mrs May’s cabinet office briefings (COBRA) and commit to praying against the deluge of Islamic thought and extreme terrorism that creates President Trump’s “Evil Losers”.
The Apostle Peter, the leader of the early Church and personal friend and eye witness to Jesus Christ the Messiah, says that God the Father
…is [extraordinarily] patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9)
The Father’s desire is that none should perish! He knows what we do not. We must pray for the families in Manchester whose lives have been devastated but we must also realise that every government of the earth is, ultimately, powerless against the forces of wickedness in the heavenlies. We must therefore prioritise concerted, consistent, faith-filled, power-filled prayer against the demonic deception of Islam that also claimed the sanity and life of Salman Abedi.
Mrs May should have Spirit-filled believers in her COBRA meetings, she would perhaps then struggle less to comprehend.
This is the only way that we will see an end to this snake slithering through the grass of humanity.
*For further reading, please see “The Invisible War” by Donald Grey Barnhouse