Monthly Archives: March 2015
So how is it that those ISIS dudes manage to recruit thousands of willful followers into their depraved lifestyle? ISIS has a reputation for being astute at wielding technology effectively in the recruitment of their minions (no offense meant to those loveable minions in Despicable Me). But technology and slick marketing doesn’t completely explain why young adults rush to enlist in a crusade of killing and being killed on the basis of religious belief. How do we understand the motives of people who sign up for membership in such a vile gang of terrorists as ISIS? Some of our leaders in government would have us believe that ISIS followers are mostly disenfranchised young men who don’t have jobs and whose prospects in the world are bleak. There might be a shred of truth in the disenfranchisement argument, but I suspect something more is going on inside the noggins of ISIS recruits. I stumbled upon it in a paragraph written by George Orwell during a time when America found itself locked in bitter war with Nazi Germany. Orwell proposed some uncomfortable motives for why the Nazis embraced struggle, extreme hardship, and death. One could draw parallels with ISIS today. Here is what Orwell said:
“Also he (Adolf Hitler) has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life. Nearly all western thought since the last war, certainly all ‘progressive’ thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues. The Socialist who finds his children playing with soldiers is usually upset, but he is never able to think of a substitute for the tin soldiers; tin pacifists somehow won’t do. Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags and loyalty-parades. However they may be as economic theories, Fascism and Nazism are psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life. The same is probably true of Stalin’s militarized version of Socialism. All three of the great dictators have enhanced their power by imposing intolerable burdens on their peoples. Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people ‘I offer you struggle, danger and death,’ and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet. Perhaps later on they will get sick of it and change their minds, as at the end of the last war. After a few years of slaughter and starvation ‘Greatest happiness of the greatest number’ is a good slogan, but at this moment ‘Better an end with horror than a horror without end’ is a winner. Now that we are fighting against the man who coined it, we ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.”
George Orwell, 1940
Orwell grasped that not all human beings just want a comfortable life in perpetuity. People will periodically embrace struggle, pain, and death if they have been convinced it will accomplish some greater cause or purpose. But here’s the thing: It has to be the RIGHT cause or it has no virtue. In fact, if not the right cause it is likely an evil cause that envelops all who go down its path so that they experience ever more spiritual darkness. Jesus alluded to this darkness in Matthew 6:22-23 where he said “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
In other words, if your eye (your mind) confuses darkness as light, you will be in extreme darkness indeed. ISIS followers have come to believe that darkness is light. Many of them, I’m sure, believe what they are doing is the will of God and therefore it is what’s best for humanity. Their darkness is deep.
Some of the ISIS leaders, no doubt, are in it for the power; they want to be the ones wielding great dominion when their caliphate is established. But power is a dangerous desire. Ragnar Lodbrok (the main character in the History Channel’s TV series Vikings) recently said “Power attracts the worst and corrupts the best.” Many who gather under the ISIS banner do so with aspirations of gaining power over others. Some think they will use that power to help people live better lives. Others plan to use that power to enrich their own lives at the expense of others. Either way, power will ruin them because their cause it evil. Even when the cause is just, power is a dangerous tool. Remember that Jesus was also tempted by the allure of power when he was in the wilderness with Satan. Jesus did not permit Satan to distract him with the seduction of power. Jesus stuck to the right cause and finished his ministry well. Human beings often do not do well with unbridled power. We abuse it.
So, should we pray for the deliverance of ISIS followers into the light and truth of Christ, or should we pray for their physical destruction so that they do no more harm to innocent people? Pray that they embrace Christ and the Golden Rule and that God gets the credit for their life-affirming conversion. Pray that ISIS comes to the realization that they are fighting on the wrong side in the great struggle of good against evil. On the other hand, I see nothing wrong with praying that ISIS is stopped in their tracks, even if it is accomplished by military force.
If followers of ISIS can’t be prayed out of darkness, the Middle East will likely be in for a bitter and protracted conflict. I’m no prophet, so I do not know if the evil embraced by ISIS will blossom into the Armageddon mentioned in the Bible or whether it will affect us in a substantial way here at home … but I suppose it could happen in our lifetime. Yes, pray for ISIS to be stopped in their tracks AND for their hearts to turn to the light and truth of Christ. But it is even more important that we pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are on the front line in the fight against ISIS. When I say “pray” I don’t mean it in an abstract sense. I mean intentionally pray in church, in Bible studies, in home groups, and in private. Don’t forget our relatives in Christ who are under the shadow of ISIS.