By Jim Denison
Tom Clancy first introduced us to Jack Ryan nearly 30 years ago. Fans have watched as Ryan saved the world from nuclear war, single-handedly defeated Irish terrorists, took down a Colombian drug cartel and eventually became president.
Now we have a new Clancy hero — a Navy SEAL turned CIA operative named Max Moore. Moore is the star of Clancy’s latest novel, Against All Enemies.
Guilt-plagued over the death of his best friend during an earlier operation, Moore compensates by risking his life on seemingly every one of the novel’s 768 pages. The plot is fast-paced and brings the usual Clancy techno-warfare to bear on the latest headlines.
The plot is frightening: Islamic terrorists use Mexican cartel drug-smuggling tunnels to bring surface-to-air missiles into our country, which they fire on commercial jets as they take off from indefensible airport runways.
The strategy is frighteningly plausible. And it highlights the fact that “homeland security” can never be guaranteed, no matter how hard we try.
Israel recently learned that fact in a frightening way, when six Israeli tourists and one soldier were killed by Islamic militants. The tourists were traveling on a rural road to an Israeli resort town on the northern edge of the Red Sea. The attacks were apparently organized by the Popular Resistance Committees, a militant group in Gaza.
Hamas has denied responsibility for these attacks; if that claim is true, it shows that they cannot control the PRC. The attacks took place more than 100 miles from Gaza, demonstrating the ability of these jihadists to travel into Israel with impunity.
It has long been easy for militants to travel through smuggling tunnels from Gaza into Egypt. Before the fall of the Mubarak regime, however, they could not easily pass from Egypt into Israel. That fact has changed, so that Israel will now be forced to secure this border in order to prevent future attacks such as occurred today.
The security we all seek is unavailable on this side of paradise. I used to quote the proverb, “The safest place in all the world to be is the center of God’s will,” but I’m not sure I believe that any more. At least, not in the way I once did.
It’s hard to name a single biblical character used greatly by God who experienced a life of earthly security. Think of Moses, facing down Pharaoh and crossing the Red Sea; Joshua stepping into the flooded Jordan River; David fighting Goliath with only a slingshot; Daniel in the lions’ den; Peter walking on the stormy Sea of Galilee and preaching to the Sanhedrin; Paul shipwrecked on Malta and imprisoned in Caesarea and Rome. Each chose significance over security.
John, Jesus’ best friend, was persecuted and exiled on Patmos. James was beheaded (Acts 12:2). Tradition states that Peter, Andrew, Bartholomew, Philip, and Simon the Zealot were crucified; Matthew and Thomas were speared to death; James and Thaddeus were stoned to death. Paul was flogged, imprisoned, shipwrecked, and eventually beheaded (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23-29).
God does not promise us security, but significance. Our lives may be short or long, but if we live them for our King he transfuses them with purpose and direction. We can run from conflict and choose safety over courage, but our story on earth will end with a cemetery plot and a gravestone just like everyone else. What matters is not how long we live but how well.
Clancy’s hero occasionally cites the SEAL credo, “The only easy day was yesterday.” He would appreciate Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s claim, “There is no security on this planet; there is only opportunity.” Shakespeare went even further: “Security is the chief enemy of mortals.” And Helen Keller believed that “life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
Jim Elliot was martyred by Waodani warriors at the age of 28. He left behind a statement in his journal which challenges me every time I read it: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Do you agree?