We Are Robert Lewis Dear: How This Terrorist Exposes Who We Are


Violence may select her targets surgically, but she is far less precise in the way she inflicts casualties. In the case of the Planned Parenthood shootings in Colorado last Friday, she took aim at abortion but ended up taking the life of University of Colorado campus police officer Garrett Swasey, who was a pro-life, part-time pastor. [1,2] Other unintended casualties include Swasey’s wife and young children, all who benefited from his presence, and perhaps even all citizens who advocate for the unborn, whose pro-life cause has now been stained by violence toward the living.

Right after the news broke, several of my Christian friends announced on Facebook that the actions of Robert Lewis Dear did not reflect the values of Christianity. It represented a visceral need we feel to distance ourselves from these horrible actions and say, “I’m against abortion, but I’m against that too.” 

For the health of our souls, however, we cannot distance ourselves from Robert Lewis Dear as if what he did had nothing to do with us.

We can condemn his use of violence, citing our Christian convictions; but if we are honest, his actions hold a mirror up to unaccounted for bloodthirstiness in our own hearts and challenge the foundations upon which it is built. For example, on the same day that Dear killed 3 people and wounded 9, one of my pro-life friends shared an article that celebrated the slaughter of at least 125 Christian-killing Islamic jihadists by the Kenyan government. [3] While this mindset represents a form of Christianized tribalism, it bears no resemblance to the biblical narrative about the slaughtered men bearing the image of God. It leaves no room to lament the death of human beings who once possessed the potential for redemption and the possibility of becoming more than murderous jihadists.

I have heard accounts of radical jihadists coming to Christ through a combination of visions, dreams, and the direct witness of Christian martyrs. If there was any doubt about God’s desire to save even the most brutal among them, it was put to rest when I read a story about an ISIS fighter who requested a meeting with a YWAM missionary. [4] He had murdered many Christians, but he started having a recurring dream about a man in white who said, “You are killing my people.”  Feelings of dis-ease were starting to replace the pleasure he once derived from taking life.  The last Christian whose life he ended said to him beforehand, “I know you will kill me, but I give you my Bible.” The ISIS fighter took the Bible and started reading it. Soon after, the man in white appeared to him again in a dream, inviting him to follow him.

A missionary friend who recently returned from 9 years of service in the Middle East confirms that God frequently sends dreams like these to Muslims in that part of the world. If that is the case, how can those of us in America who claim to be God’s people endorse and celebrate the deaths of those whom He is wooing? We fight against our Lord and walk in the spirit of the anti-Christ when we do this.

Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” [a] Why? Because fear of physical danger and of losing a way of life lead us to exchange the priorities of the gospel for the priorities of our temporal safety and comfort. They bait us to embrace the same murderous mentality that we abhor in our enemies, thereby derailing our Christian witness.

We seldom have to see the devastating impact of the violence we champion because we are so distant from the theater of war. We can continue going to work and raising our children without our consciences being bothered. Unless we are willing to see.

While living in Paris, the daughter of American poet and rapper Saul Williams got a close-up view of the ripple effects of American military violence when her Afghani classmate’s cell phone rang in the middle of their eighth-grade math class. After a brief conversation, the 13-year-old boy burst into tears and ran out of the room. Another Afghani boy in the class whispered an explanation to the teacher before running after his friend. The teacher said to Saul’s daughter, “Your country killed his mother.” [5] 

Violence begets violence because by her wounds, she sows and waters the seeds of bitterness and unforgiveness. She is a wildfire that consumes but can never heal, no matter which human faction adopts her. The only thing that can quench the fiery violence ablaze in our own hearts is the prayer, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” When a mob comes to arrest Jesus on trumped up charges and Simon Peter cuts off Malchus’s ear, Jesus rebukes him: “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” [b] Jesus then shows the way of his kingdom by surrendering himself to the unjust violence born out of the unholy alliance between the Roman Empire and religious fanaticism – to be humiliated, crushed, pierced, and broken by his enemies. He overcomes the violence through the power of death, burial, forgiveness, and resurrection.  By doing so, Jesus makes it possible for ALL to be healed, both friend and foe. [c]

The problem with Robert Lewis Dear is the problem with us. He may be anti-abortion, but he isn’t pro-life.  He’s pro-cause.  “No more baby parts,” he said to the arresting officers. [6] Many of us are stuck in “pro-cause” mode as well – no more terrorism – because we aren’t yet willing to assume the cost of what it would take to be unflinchingly pro-life.  We first have to be willing to hear Jesus saying to us, “Put the sword away! Will you not drink the cup the Father has given you?”



[1] “Planned Parenthood Shooting: Three Die in Shooting at Colorado Clinic.” BBC.com, November 28, 2015. Accessed at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-34950261

[2] Victor, Daniel. Healy, Jack. “Garrett Swasey, Officer in Colorado, is Recalled for Courage and Faith.” New York Times, November 28, 2015. Accessed at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/28/us/garrett-swasey-officer-killed-in-colorado-is-recalled-for-courage-and-faith.html

[3] Burnside, Ryan. “Kenya Just Showed 100+ Radical Muslims What Happens When You Kill Christians.” Conservative Tribune, November 26, 2015. Accessed at http://conservativetribune.com/kenyan-muslims/

[4] Menzie, Nicola. “Report: ISIS Fighter Who ‘Enjoyed’ Killing Christians Wants to Follow Jesus After Dreaming of Man in White Who Told Him ‘You Are Killing My People’” The Christian Post, June 3, 2015. Accessed at http://www.christianpost.com/news/report-isis-fighter-who-enjoyed-killing-christians-wants-to-follow-jesus-after-dreaming-of-man-in-white-who-told-him-you-are-killing-my-people-139880/

[5] MacDonald, Soraya Nadia. “American in Paris: Saul Williams Critiques His Home Country From the Outside Looking In.” The Washington Post, September 23, 2015. Accessed at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2015/09/23/american-in-paris-saul-williams-critiques-his-home-country-from-the-outside-looking-in/

[6] Holley, Peter. Somashekhar, Sandhya. Bever, Lindsey. Lowery, Wesley.  “Source: Colorado shooter politically motivated, said ‘no more baby parts’ after attacking Planned Parenthood.”  The Washington Post, November 28, 2015.  Accessed at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/11/28/investigators-search-for-motive-in-planned-parenthood-shooting-that-left-three-dead/?postshare=1861448755665351&tid=ss_tw

Bible citations:

[a] Matthew 10:28

[b] John 18:10

[c] Isaiah 53:5

Categories: Culture/Social issues, Race/Ethnicity, Spiritual Formation

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