Here we are again. The carousel goes round and round. It’s starting to get boring. The right start chanting, “This is your religion of peace?!” The left’s reply, “They want you to be afraid of Muslims. And intermingled there is a chorus of, in no particular order: It’s part of their agenda. They want terror. They want a caliphate. They want to kill infidels. They are poor, disenfranchised, radicalized by individuals with their own agenda. It’s the oil sheikh in Saudi Arabia, desperate to hold onto their fragile claim to power. They hate our freedoms. They are avenging civilian casualties of the bombs of the West. They are protesting Israel. They want to establish an Islamic State. They want the West out of the Mideast.

And the list goes on, but I’m not convinced any of it is correct. In fact, I think it’s personal, deeply individually personal.

Is it any coincidence that more than a fair share of these nutjobs are reformed libertines? Osama Bin Laden was himself a hard partying, drinking, girl crazy young man. I don’t know whether his stash of porn in his compound in Pakistan is propaganda or not, but it fits the narrative of a self-hating, self professed sinner whose turn to Allah, “saved him.”

We’ve heard these stories from friends and relatives too, haven’t we? They went down the wrong path, drugs, sex, booze only to “find” Jesus and become born again. Now they want to push their particular theology down everyone’s throat. I was an evil sinner, corrupted by a world bent on my destruction, and slide toward the eternal abyss.

I have had these people around me my whole life. To them I am an infidel, unsaved, on my way to an eternal damnation, just because I can’t utter the same platitudes they do. Logic does not function with these people, nor does just the faintest of ideas that perhaps possibly there is just a smidgen of room for difference of interpretation of what “following Jesus” means. The Bible is inerrant. It is factual. Written by GOD himself. If you disagree, you have been tainted by evil.

They have similar stories, many of them. They slipped down a path that grew dark. They blamed the society around them. Easy access to drugs, alcohol, girls dressed suggestively, or boys looking so good, giving in to the temptations of the flesh. Shamed, their weaknesses exposed and raw, they sought to cover up in the trappings of religious fundamentalism.

It is also telling how many withdraw from society, homeschooling their children, turning off mass media, limiting contact with those that would corrupt them. Their worldview is limited to the fiery rhetoric from within their Christian 99% white church communities. They don’t want anything to do with society at large, because to them, it is a corrupting influence.

So let’s walk it back a bit. What does a self-hating weak-fleshed young person do when he is confronted with “sin” all around him, an aberrant society that seems to take a special interest in him personally? This society seems, from his point of view, to delight in pushing a “gay agenda” upon him, of rubbing his nose in sexual images, easy booze, legal pot, gender perspectives, political correctness, abortion, war on Christmas, and the continued secularization of America. He falls a couple of times, but his cultural baggage catches up with him and weighs heavily upon his unworthy flesh.

What does this person’s path to redemption look like? Leave society, turn off TV, join a Christian church. If you are a man, you will provide. If you are a woman you will be subservient in all things. This is how you straighten yourself out. It works for some people, I guess.

So here is the final question: What happens when these routes to redemption seem to be blocked, when desperation for one’s eternal soul overwhelms all other concerns?

I am convinced that modern terrorists are each on very personal journeys of redemption made available to them by their faith, lubricated by their self-imposed distance and alienation from the mainstream, and culminating in one final horrific act. The fact that they don’t believe they can knee and pray, seeking peaceful strength in submission to Allah, or say an Our Father, and a couple of Hail Marys to redouble their efforts is a terrible shame.