It seemed that every time one turned on the news it was the same story. Two members of an online terrorist group had been arrested for planning an armed attack on a local synagogue.
Photos of the two men were flashed on TV along with film footage of bomb squad officers bringing materials out of their homes. Friends and family members expressed disbelief while police spokespersons continued to assure the public that everything possible was being done to prevent any further threat. At the same time, synagogue officials maintained constant communication with members of their congregation to alleviate any lingering fear they may have had about their safety.
Everyone, it seems, had something to say. Everyone, that is, except the individual who reported what was going on.
That person who was the one who contacted the police to tell them of their suspicion that something terrible was being planned was not being interviewed, nor were the person’s family members talking with reporters.. Why? Because they were afraid.
“Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us” (Wis 2:12,17-20). While the police seemed satisfied that there were no other individuals involved in the plot, the informant was still afraid that friends of the men who threatened the synagogue might choose to harm her or him.
I can only imagine the kind of courage it must have taken for that person to come forward. It’s not easy for someone to report a stranger; how much more difficult for a member of the threatened community who, by their actions, knows they might be putting their own life in jeopardy.
“Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice” (Jas 3:16-4:3). The press reported that the accused individuals were depressed, that they had trouble fitting in. Jealousy and selfish ambition seem to have played a large part in what almost happened. How different might things have been if they had never joined that online terrorist group? Or if one brave person had not had the courage to alert the authorities?
Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the Diocese of Green Bay.