When It’s Okay to Call Your Enemy an Idiot

The July/August issue of “The Atlantic” has an article that blew me away. “Why We Should Mock Terrorists” has as its alternate title “The Case for Calling Them Nitwits.”

I do like this. Finally (I felt when seeing it), someone has struck the right note about these terrorists. They are truly fools.

Underneath the graphics on the lead page of the article we read: They blow each other up by mistake. They bungle even simple schemes. They get intimate with cows and donkeys. Our terrorist enemies trade on the perception that they’re well trained and religiously devout, but in fact, many are fools and perverts who are far less organized and sophisticated than we imagine. Can being more realistic about who our foes actually are help us stop the truly dangerous ones?

We want to think these jihadists are purists in their faith and disciplined in their devotion to their God. Hardly, it turns out. In fact, we learn that a great many of these terrorists can’t even read and write. All they know is what their wrong-headed leaders tell them. And like dunces, they believe all they hear and never turn a critical eye to anything.

Such people are not only our foes; they are their own worst enemies.

Hence my question: When is it all right to call your enemy an idiot and a nitwit?

Wrong answer: when it’s true.

Right answer: When your goal is not to win him over, but to destroy him.

If your goal is to win him, then gentler methods are called for. You will want to understand his position, sympathize with where he is coming from, answer his objections, and reason with him. You’ll need to build a relationship with him.

But if the enemy needs to be sent into the nether-regions, all bets are off. Forget the nicer stuff and take the gloves off. Tell him the truth about himself.

Believe it or not, there is some Scriptural grounds for doing that.

First, we have to identify our enemies.

The temptation here is to adopt some of the Psalms that lower the boom on the enemies of God’s people. However, the New Testament allows no such judgmentalism, outright hatred, and animosity. Love your enemies, Jesus said in Luke 6:27.

The two huge enemies that the New Testament allows us to hate–the kind we want to abolish forever–are death and the devil.

Take the matter of death. We can hate it. Jesus did.

It helps to remember that Jesus hated death even more than we do. He broke up every funeral procession He came to by raising the corpse. Scripture calls death an enemy and promises, The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.(I Corinthians 15:26). When John sees the glorified Jesus in Revelation 1, the Lord is holding the keys to death, hell, and the grave.

I love the image in Matthew 28:2 of the angel sitting on the stone which he has just rolled back from the door of Jesus’ tomb. I’m not sure why, but it just seems to me there’s something like gloating going on here. Like the football player who spikes the ball in the end zone and does a little dance or the basketball player who dunks the ball, then swings on the backboard.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (I Corinthians 15:55,57)

God does not want His children to fear death, but to spit in its face.

We hold Easter sunrise services in graveyards as our “in your face” statement to death, that ancient foe of mankind. We invade its territory to announce its fate as a result of the resurrection of Jesus. For good reason, Scripture calls Him “the firstfruits of them that sleep” (I Corinthians 15:20).

There is an expiration date on death.

Or take Satan himself. It’s fine to hate him. He deserves our scorn.

Our Lord had little respect for the devil. He calls him Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24), an unclean spirit (Matthew 12:43), the evil one (Matthew 13:19), as well as a murderer, a liar, and the father of liars (John 8:44).

In the last book of the Bible, when John writes about this hated enemy, he ransacks language in search for fitting names. In the 12th chapter of Revelation alone, he calls him the dragon, that serpent of old, called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before God day and night, and he adds, Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.

The more of the Lord Jesus Christ one knows, the more he learns about the devil. The closer we get to Jesus, the greater a target we become for his infernal majesty. Martin Luther knew.

And though this world with devils filled,

Should threaten to undo us,

We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph through us;

The Prince of Darkness grim,

We tremble not for him;

His rage we can endure,

For lo, his doom is sure,

One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers,

No thanks to them, abideth;

The Spirit and the gifts are ours

Through him who with us sideth;

Let goods and kindred go,

This mortal life also;

The body they may kill;

God’s truth abideth still,

His kingdom is forever.

Thank you, Dr. Luther. As usual, you got it right.

Finally, I have a story for you. It has lain here to the left of my computer for weeks, waiting for me to find a suitable place for it. This is as good as any.

In 1940/41, Presbyterian Pastor John Sutherland Bonnell traveled to Scotland as a representative of his denomination in order to see how the churches of that region were holding up under Hitler’s onslaught and to bring encouragement from America. On his return, he wrote a thin volume, “Britons Under Fire” (1941).

In the town of Clydeside, Scotland, Bonnell observes the terrifying work of Nazi bombs. Occasionally one could see one side of a house still standing, the other half having been demolished. Furniture still sat in place and pictures were still on the walls. It was almost eerie.

In the wreckage of one such house was hanging a photo of a British warship, the Ark Royal. Germans had been claiming to have destroyed that ship, and for weeks, no one heard from her. Even the British radio would occasionally ask, “Where is the Ark Royal? Where is the Ark Royal?”

They found out.

When news came to embattled Britain of the destruction of the Bismarck, Hitler’s pride and joy, it was announced that the Ark Royal was heavily involved in the pursuit and killing of that massive ship.

The next day, a Glasgow newspaper ran a photo of the ruins of this house, showing that picture hanging on the one wall still standing. The caption read:


There is a time to gloat. To rub it in.

There is a time to rejoice and celebrate. For the child of God, that celebration is best when done prior to the final gun announcing the end of the contest. To rejoice by faith is most God-honoring.

Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies. (Psalm 23:5)

4 thoughts on “When It’s Okay to Call Your Enemy an Idiot

  1. Not only some of the terrorists cannot read or write but the book,”Muhammed” says Islam’s great prophet could neither read nor write. He claimed God spoke to him directly.

    I liked your writing on God’s use of small things. I was the youngest in my family of 14 but God reached down through my older brother and two sisters-in-law and saved me.

    Thank you for sharing your writing with us.

  2. Not exactly on topic, but I never understood our propaganda with respect to terrorists.

    They claim to be martyrs when they blow themselves up, to go to heaven with 72 virgins. And I’m okay with that, just so long as they know that we’ll scrape up every last tidbit of their remains, feed them to pigs, and feed the pigs to our soldiers.

    Or, I suppose, we could bend over backwards not to “insult” them.

  3. Half of the solution to the problem is identifying the enemy yet people deceive themselves by saying the enemy is for peace.

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