Brigitte Gabriel's first introduction to Islamic terrorism came when militants blew up her childhood home while she was inside it. They were motivated by the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War, a battle between a coalition of Christian groups and Muslim militants. The war would last 15 years, kill 120,000 people and displace another 76,000.
Gabriel, then 10, couldn't know all that. Lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to IVs in both arms, she asked her father, "Why did they do this to us?"
Her father replied, "Because we are Christians. The Muslims consider us infidels, and they want to kill us."
His words stuck with Gabriel, who spent her preteen years dodging falling bombs, avoiding sniper fire and hiding in a bomb shelter. She says, "The only thing that kept me alive was my faith in God—my prayer to Jesus every night, not knowing if I'm going to wake up the next morning."
After seven years of near-death encounters, Gabriel's family was rescued from the fighting when Israeli forces entered Lebanon and surrounded her town. She later moved to Israel, where she became a news anchor on World News, an Arabic-language show on Middle East Television, which was run by CBN. She eventually immigrated to the United States.
But she couldn't run from her past.
"September 11 was a defining moment for the United States, but September 11 was specifically a defining moment for me personally," Gabriel says. "On that day, my daughter came home from school, and I was watching television and the images of the World Trade Center coming down. My daughter, who was around my age when I was wounded in Lebanon, said, 'Mommy, why did they do this to us?'"
"I had to look into my daughter's eyes and say, 'They hate us because they consider us infidels and they want to kill us.' Here we were two generations apart. I was a 10-year-old little Lebanese girl; she's a 10-year-old little American girl. I spoke Arabic; she spoke English. Eight thousand miles apart. Thirty years apart. Continents apart. And I found myself repeating to her the same words my daddy said to me.
"That day was my defining moment. That day I vowed that I would do everything I can to make sure that my daughter would never ever have to look into her child's eyes and repeat to him or her what my daddy said to me and what I had to say to her. That day was my defining moment. That day I was reborn as an activist."
Gabriel's experiences, as both as a persecuted Christian and a legal immigrant, have taught her never to take freedom for granted. Through her grass-roots advocacy organization, ACT for America, and her new book, Rise, she seeks to motivate patriots to stand against tyranny and fight for Judeo-Christian values and freedoms. She spoke to Charisma about why this political moment matters so much, what happens when evil goes unchecked and how Americans can defend their liberties.
Politics and Religions
To hear Gabriel describe it, the clash between Western civilization and Islamic radicals is not just a battle between two cultures; it's a battle of starkly opposed ideologies. For example, Gabriel says, Christianity's influence on Western civilization has led to exalting the poor, the marginalized, women and children.
"As Christianity spread throughout the world, its teachings and influence elevated women and liberated them in many ways," Gabriel says. "Christianity declared men and women as equals in value and worth in the eyes of God."
In Rise, Brigitte details how Christians changed the culture of several misogynistic communities throughout history. These culture changes include banning suttee (the ritual burning of widows) in India, ending foot-binding of little girls in China and securing women the right to education in Japan.
"Over time, Christianity's respect for women and the upholding of female dignity within the faith led to the spread of Christian values all over the world," Gabriel says. "This included the changing educational opportunities women had historically been denied in many countries, just as they still are today in many non-Western nations."
By contrast, Gabriel says, Islam and the Quran advocate regressive and often harmful views of women. Yet she observes they often find unlikely allies in leftist media, which she says "possesses a particularly interesting ability to mock Christians about their faith yet remains strangely silent about Islam."
Gabriel adds: "We are witnessing the unholy alliance forming between the far left and radical Islamists who are coming together against everything we stand for. The radical left is more treasonous in nature due to its American roots. This American enemy, which gives aid to our foreign ones, does so in the name of politically correct terms such as diversity, tolerance and fairness."
Gabriel says that Islam is an inherently political worldview, one which seeks to control every facet of how people conduct their lives.
"Islam is a political ideology, not a religion," she says. "It's a political system cloaked in religion."
Thus, if Islam and the left are inherently political, then patriots must also get political—lest they risk losing their freedoms.
"Freedom of speech is the most fundamental pillar of Western, Judeo-Christian society," Gabriel says. "Increasingly, this fundamental civil right afforded to all Americans through the First Amendment to our Constitution is being eroded by the Islamist-leftist coalition in an effort to assert control over 'we the people.'"
Mounting a Defense
Gabriel views the world as an increasingly dangerous, dark place.
"When you look at the Islamic world, or even the Islamists that are now coming to our Western nation, we are seeing a rise in child marriages," Gabriel says. "We are seeing a rise in child rape. We are seeing a rise in honor killings. We are seeing a rise in female genital mutilation."
She thinks Christians should rise accordingly.
"I titled this book Rise because I not only want to rise the emotions of Christians in the United States, but I want to rise the conscience of Christians around the United States to stand up and be counted," Gabriel says.
Gabriel's personal philosophy could be summed up as "Good people should never leave evil unchecked." That worldview was shaped by her childhood experiences, where she witnessed Lebanon, a formerly Christian-ruled country, transform into a corrupt Islamic majority nation. She believes increasing immigration makes that same transformation possible in the United States.
"According to Pew Research, immigrants and their descendants accounted for 72 million in population growth between 1965 and 2015," she says. "If this trend continues, immigrants and their descendants are projected to account for 88 percent of the U.S. population growth by 2065. America is actively being transformed before our very eyes."
In response, Gabriel says Americans need to redefine religious persecution.
"As a Christian who comes from the Middle East, I know what real persecution is," Gabriel says. "In America, people think persecution is, 'Oh, I took my Bible with me to work and people looked at me funny because I'm a Christian.' My experience in persecution—look, I had to dress in my burial clothes at the age of 13, waiting to be slaughtered. ... When Christians around the world brace for massacres and crime and tragedies around the holiday, of watching their children blow up, of watching their sons slaughtered, that's persecution."
But it's not merely enough to be aware of persecution. Rather, patriots must take action and use their considerable freedom granted by the Constitution to lobby on behalf of those who lack freedom.
"In America, Christians need to understand the suffering and persecution of Christians around the world," Gabriel says. "That's why we must rise in the United States in defense of our Judeo-Christian values and why it is important to speak up. We live in a country where we have the freedom to do something. We have the protection of our Constitution to stand up, be counted and make a difference in the world, because we are the voice of the Christians who aren't enabled to speak."
That's because the United States is not an island, undisturbed by the rest of the world. What's happening to other countries will spread to the United States if its citizens do not remain vigilant and alert. Gabriel has already seen her home country fall to extremists; she believes the United States could be at risk next.
Gabriel grants that not every Muslim is a radical or an extremist. In fact, she says the vast majority are peaceful. But they don't matter, according to Gabriel.
"There are people who follow Islam [who] want to mind their own business," Gabriel says. "These Muslims are out there. But those are what I call 'the irrelevant Muslims,' because by their lack of action terrorists advance their agenda unchecked. It's just like Christians. ... Twenty-six million born-again Christians stayed home [in 2012] and did not vote. By default, they advanced a leader who didn't share their values. What we need to worry about is the radicals who are driving the agenda. Why? Because 2 percent of the passionate will always rule the 98 percent of the indifferent."
Gabriel applies that same axiom to her own life. She started ACT for America out of her guest bedroom with just a desk she bought for $125 from the Home Depot. Now ACT for America is approaching 1 million members nationwide. She says the reason she experienced such success was her passion. Properly honed, this passion—a crude version of which launched Muslim extremists and radical leftists to power—could be the very force which defeats them. Americans just have to translate it into action.
Faith Without Works
After her conversation with her daughter on Sept. 11, Gabriel knew she had to do something to change the cycle. She laid on her couch and prayed for guidance.
"I thought, 'What can I do to make a difference for my country?'" Gabriel says. "After days of praying and fasting and praying to God, I realized at that moment why I was prepared through everything I had gone through to do what I do. Why I lived in a bomb shelter. Why I became a news anchor. Everything I learned growing up was going to be put to use in me talking to the media, in me writing, in me being able to articulate a thought in a way many people are unable to."
In 2002, Gabriel launched ACT, an educational organization, to inform Americans about the threat of radical Islam to world peace and national security. In 2007, ACT for America launched its grass-roots advocacy arm, "dedicated to protecting the United States of America and the Western values upon which our nation was built," according to its website. Since then, ACT for America has helped pass 100 bills on the state and federal level regarding national security. Gabriel herself has become one of the world's leading terrorism experts, speaking in front of the United Nations, U.S. Congress, U.K. Parliament and Australia's prime minister. She was also knighted in Europe in 2016.
In describing her work, Gabriel fuses her worldview with terminology from Jesus, who said, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).
"You don't have to talk about the Bible," Gabriel says. "Let people judge you by the fruit of your labor. Stand up and let your light shine through the nations. What we're talking about is, you can be a Christian and you can pray for enemies every night before you go to bed and you can forgive those who trespass against you—but you have got to stand up, put your pants or skirt on in the morning, and go out and become involved in your community to protect your community and make the world a better place. It is a commandment."
Gabriel says it is not possible to believe in the Bible, to hold and practice strong Judeo-Christian values, and not be involved in politics.
"You must be involved in politics," she says. "God changes the world using His people. God doesn't change the world through lightning in the sky. The Christians fled from the Middle East and took Jesus' gospel worldwide. People were saved. The world became a better place. It is Christianity that improved the lives of millions across the globe."
Later, Gabriel affirmed the truth of James 2:14: "What does it profit, my brothers, if a man says he has faith but has no works? Can faith save him?"
She says plenty of Americans pray, and that's incredibly important. But she doesn't think prayer alone is sufficient to handle the political battle ahead.
"It's important to pray about issues," Gabriel says. "We're supposed to pray for our nation. We're supposed to pray for our leaders. We're supposed to pray for our enemies. We're supposed to forgive our enemies and those who trespass against us. It is a duty upon us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But it is also incumbent upon us to take action against evil, to stand up and be counted, to be active in our own communities, to not only pray, but go out, vote and participate in our political process.
"I named my organization ACT for America, not think about America, hope for America, wish for America or pray for America, but ACT for America. Because you can do all the above, and you should, but without action, nothing happens."
Likewise, she says plenty of churches train up their teenagers and youth to go into the mission field and spread the gospel. But she laments that churches don't invest the same time and energy into training teens to be politically active. As a result, she believes young people are "being used as tools" by the left. For that reason, she recommends training Christian teens to become political activists in the same way they're already trained to become evangelists.
"It's no secret that America's younger generations lack the fundamental patriotism and appreciation for the freedoms they enjoy that previous generations largely held," Gabriel says. "They're starved of even a very basic knowledge of the Constitution, Founding Fathers and American heritage. If children grow up learning that their country was founded on racism, bigotry, oppression and genocide, we cannot expect them to fight for the freedoms it gave to them."
Gabriel says there are plenty of other ways for committed patriots to stand up for their Judeo-Christian values. The ACT for America website (actforamerica.org) provides plenty of resources, petitions, action alerts regarding bills coming down for a vote, and instructions for setting up a new chapter. The organization's 10th annual conference, titled "Rise," will take place in Arlington, Virginia, Sept. 4-5. Attendees will hear from experts in the nation about America's security, hear and speak with elected officials, and get training in what they can do in their communities.
"Every single one of us is entrusted with a responsibility to make a difference," Gabriel says. "We can no longer say, 'I do not know.' We can no longer say, 'I don't know how to make a difference.' Now you know."
Gabriel says she believes God gives all people a purpose and a mission in life "so we can be used as His instrument to change the world." That mission may look different for each person, but she hopes her own journey can be an inspiration to readers seeking their own divine purpose. And she invites every reader to join her on her mission to revitalize the United States and save it from decay.
"I am calling on all Americans who love this country, who remember America for what it is—the way it used to be in its glory—to stand up and fight for the Judeo-Christian values that made this country, to fight for our freedom of speech and for what is great in America," Gabriel says. "We as Christians have an extra responsibility, because we are called by our Creator to stand up for what is right, speak up against evil [and] not only pray for our enemies, but also fight those who are trying to destroy us."
Taylor Berglund is the associate editor of Charisma and host of several podcasts on the Charisma Podcast Network.
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