8. Terror and its Interpretation

It is not difficult to find direct links between many of the themes covered in this course, 911, the subsequent “war on terror,” and recent political events. Many of the themes (migration, racism) remain constants in history. But the backdrop of terrorism has both excited and directed these constants. Terrorism, yes, but there is also the reading of terrorism, its interpretation and so the meaning these acts have for policy, law, social cohesion, culture and religion. We also need to consider how acts of terror fit within and reinforce existing narratives.

Vidmar Ksenija looks at the reading of popular events in a post 911 world, the dominant interpretive motifs, and the way Islam fits within this picture. He raises as a particular concern the notion of “visibility” and social belonging.

  • Vidmar Horvat, Ksenija. “Multiculturalism in Time of Terrorism.” Cultural Studies 24, no. 5 (2010): 747–66.

Anthony Cook surveys how conservative, moderate, and progressive evangelicalism, and the respective interpretations of 911. He also points to the importance of the pastor in reading these events for the congregation.

  • Cook, Anthony E. “Encountering the Other: Evangelicalism and Terrorism in a Post 911 World.” Journal of Law and Religion 20, no. 1 (2004): 1–30.

Samuel Huntington’s thesis, first published in a 1993 article “The Clash of Civilisations” established a framework within which the events of 911 appear to interpreted. Gene Lankford looks not at terrorism, but at the drivers underlying Huntington’s thesis, including his approach to culture. A narrative emerges as to how terrorism fits within the story.

  • Lankford, Gene. “Immigration, Multiculturalism, and American Identity: A Critique of Samuel Huntington.” Ciências da Religião: História e Sociedade 12, no. 1 (2014): 268–87.

For many, to speak of terrorism today is to speak of Islam. No matter the intellectual rejection of an easy conflation of the challenges of pluralism with religious violence, and of the simple identification of terrorism with Islam, it remains a fixed narrative and one with political capital.

  • Kearney, Richard. “Thinking After Terror: An Interreligious Challenge,” in Religion in a Secular World: Violence, Politics, Terror, edited by Clayton Crockett, 206–28. University of Virginia Press, 2006.

The final reading comes from Jürgen Moltman, who examines the notion of the “end of history” and the directing significance of Christian hope. He also forwards the need for religion to be public.

  • Moltmann, Jürgen. “Hope in a Time of Arrogance and Terror.” International Congregational Journal 3, no. 2 (2003): 157–67.

Further Reading:

  • Clague, Julie. “Political Theology Ten Years After 9/11.” Political Theology 12, no. 5 (2011): 645–59.
  • Durham, Martin. “Evangelical Protestantism and Foreign Policy in the United States after September 11.” Patterns of Prejudice 38, no. 2 (2004): 145–58.
  • Frankenberry, Nancy. “Sleepwalking Through History”: Reflections on Democracy, Religion, and Pragmatism in a Time of Terror.” American Journal of Theology & Philosophy 26, no. 1/2 (2005): 45–59.
  • Clague, Julie. “Political Theology Ten Years After 9/11.” Political Theology 12, no. 5 (2011): 645–59.