Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

As if ISIS had not already convinced us enough of its total depravity … the latest revelations by The New York Times —(be forewarned, they are disturbing to read) — remind me why I am not a pacifist. As if turning small boys into child soldiers is not enough to raise the ire of the international community, the article details how ISIS is now instituting a whole system of religiously justified, theologically rationalized sexual violence against non-Muslim girls, and is using this system to lure new recruits to its ranks with the promise of young girls whom they can rape at their convenience in the name of Allah.

“A theology of rape,” the article terms it, and if evil has a face, it looks like this. We’ve seen that face far too many times in recent history alone: in Rwanda; in Bosnia; in Nazi Germany. We human beings have a despair-inducing ability to let what John Calvin called “total depravity” rob us of the “kingdom of heaven on earth” that Jesus instructs His followers to pray for.

So much so that these latest revelations can feed our compassion fatigue…

…Or, sophisticated-sounding strategies of “containment,” as one commentator recently opined should be the U.S. approach toward ISIS. Recognizing the foreign policy considerations are breathtakingly complex, I still can’t help but wonder if “containment” in this case is more of a convenient euphemism for delaying our moral imperative as Christians in the West and as human beings to take a stand against such plain-faced evil.

Jesus Himself says there is a special place in hell — or at least at the very bottom of the sea — for those who undertake the kind of evil that ISIS now proclaims is the will of God Himself. “It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble,” Jesus says (Luke 17:2).

Does Praying for God’s Kingdom to Come and for God’s Deliverance From Evil Mean Standing Against Unadulterated Evil When We See It?

I suspect that when we Christians pray for God’s deliverance from evil, and ask that God’s kingdom come, “on earth as in heaven,” our prayers require something of us. After all, if C.S. Lewis is right — that prayer is as important because of what it does for those who pray — then the prayer that God’s will be done and God’s kingdom come must entail more than worries about our own job security or personal health or safety. To pray “deliver us from evil,” is to acknowledge at least implicitly that our own deliverance is inextricably linked to the deliverance of those around us, our “neighbors.”

Is it not possible, then, that when we pray that God deliver us from evil, in the context of asking for God’s kingdom to come, we are making a request that could very well demand more of us than our prayer? More action — and in some cases, where unadulterated evil threatens our neighbor(s), a call to take up arms? I think so.

What moral strength required a young German pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, to grapple with great fear and trembling about his role in that struggle against evil, in the form of a Nazi ideology that sought to eradicate a whole ethnic group? What reserves of courage did Bonhoeffer’s part in an assassination attempt that could very well fail (and did) call forth? What great faith, or assurance of God’s ultimate and final triumph over evil, did such bravery finally demand of Bonhoeffer? I can only begin to wonder.

We, most of us, will not be asked to undertake such feats of heroism. But we can do more than nothing in the face of evil. We can choose not to give in to compassion fatigue. We can question claims that containment is the very best we can do in the face of pure evil that seeks to destroy the most vulnerable members of our society. We can do something rather than nothing.

What Christians Can Do To Stand Against ISIS’ Evil

If you’re wondering what, in particular, we can do, here are some preliminary ideas…will you please send along yours, so I can add them to this list?

1. Pray. Pray daily and unceasingly on behalf of all victims of ISIS — that God would deliver them from evil. And read this New York Times article as you pray — for healing, restoration and protection for those most vulnerable to the threat of ISIS.

2. Reconsider our policy priorities, and re-evaluate what we should be standing for and against. How, for example, loud opposition to the now legal marriage of two gay men in the state of Kentucky deserves as much time, attention and priority as it is receiving from Christians in public service, when horrors like ISIS’ war on innocent children continue unabated, is beyond me.

3. Advocate for more aggressive intervention to take down ISIS. In particular, Christians can push for greater military intervention to stop ISIS (on the part of the U.S. and an international coalition of forces). And we can lobby for more proactive U.S. support of those on the ground actually fighting ISIS (namely, Iran and the Kurds). Support for these allies in a fight against evil can also mean speaking out in favor of the recent Iran deal, rather than letting a particularly loud and vociferous faction of religious conservatives in this country claim to speak for all Christians (in their denunciation of the recent Iran nuclear deal).

4. Find ways to support our brothers and sisters most physically vulnerable to ISIS’ evil rampage.
The Muslim and Christian families who live directly in ISIS’ line of fire, and who every day risk losing their sons and daughters to the kind of unfathomable evil most of us will never thankfully have to see, deserve any and all shows of support from Christians in the West.

Got more ideas about what Christians can do to stand up to these evils? Please send them my way. 





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