I respect ISIL.
No, I certainly do not agree with or condone the reckless beheading of innocents (even of their own faith) nor their open aggression against their neighbors,but I do respect them.
They believe in something.
That is their appeal; that is what makes them so attractive with disaffected youth.
They absolutely, fundamentally believe in their extreme, fragmented view of Islam.
And they are not just sending suicide bombers, they are going out on the front lines risking their lives.
They are not a band of terrorists, though they do participate in terror, they are an army of people who are seeking to re-establish a fundamentalist Muslim caliphate in Syria and Iraq.
They have a leader.
They have a loose government.
In the places they have conquered, once the beheadings are finished, they have established social order.
As much as we would like to rebrand this, the United States and our “coalition” are fighting against more than a organized terror cell.
We are fighting a nation.
That is why the strategy the U.S. is employing will fail, again…we are still not talking about the root of the problem.
Whether against terrorists or a full-fledged nation-state, the answer to combating an ideology is not military force.
War machines, soldiers, and bombs can only do some much against ideas; have we not learned from history, ideas unchallenged are far more powerful than any government or army?
This is especially true of ideas of belief; beliefs that are held with almost fanaticism are the hardest to destroy.
They are also the most dangerous kind of belief.
It is for this reason that the suicide bomber has blown himself and others up in the name of Allah.
It is the reason that Marxists in many Latin American nations have taken up violent revolutions.
It is the reason that Nazis set about to systematically and relentlessly kill Jews.
It is the reason that the South fought to keep their slave-dependent economy.
Fanatical belief leads to the kind of confidence that is both arrogant and intolerant; these often become ideas that are forced on everyone who holds different viewpoints.
Sometimes this comes in the form of shame.
Sometimes this comes in the form of pain.
But every time, the views of the fanatic come at the price of the view of others.
And as a history shows, a defeat does not make radical ideas die…in fact, such martyrdom can give ideas power.
I am peacemaker; I am not quite comfortable being a complete pacifist, but I do believe that violence is a last resort, and should not be glorified.
C.S. Lewis and I would be at serious odds here.
A lot of global conflicts are the result of a 1lack of imagination and sheer will for peace; we jump up and grab our guns (or drones) far too quickly.
Many times, these conflicts are the results of unresolved issues between the two parties; it sounds corny, but maybe negotiations should start off with clearing the air on “old business.”
I am aware that some things take a long time to work through, just look at racism in the U.S. as an example.
We have to be committed to the process, however long it takes, if we want to have lasting peace, understanding, and reconciliation.
Sometimes that means making tough concessions; sometimes that means making significant sacrifices (not to human life), but this is the price that must be paid for peace.
One of the U.S.’s biggest issues in diplomacy is the maxim, “We do not negotiate with terrorists.”
What is even more frustrating is terrorism is a nebulous term that changes all of the time, so any country or any person could be conceivably labeled a “terrorist.”
It is the terrorists that we need to have a dialogue with more than anyone else!
What fuels fanaticism is ideas that breed in isolation; if we refuse to even talk with these groups we lose any influence over the thinking of their leaders.
You know the saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care?”
We need to apply the quote to how we deal with groups that practice terrorism.
Maybe, just maybe, some of these groups have not been fully exposed to ideas of civil disobedience and non-violent protests?
Maybe they have not been exposed to a society where people can be very different and yet live side-by-side?
The great triumph of America is not democracy or individual rights; the great triumph of America is the mutual care and protection of the views of others, the ability to be citizen with a neighbor who is very different from you.
But perhaps the reason we are not able to communicate this great truth is because we are starting to question it ourselves.
My neighbor has a pickup truck that says, “OBAMA SUCKS” in big bold letters on the back.
This scares me a little.
Not because I am a Democrat (though recently I have leaned that way)
Not because I like President Obama (I am not huge fan myself).
There is something about the presentation of those views that seem to say, “OBAMA SUCKS! And you are retarded if you think otherwise.”
And even though that makes me uncomfortable, I have to be for his right to put it on his truck.
The political rhetorical in this country has been so amped up by partisan bickering and intolerance that the conflict is beginning to look like the U.S. right before the Civil War.
So, how can we export a value that we ourselves no longer believe in?
Individual rights? Yes. Especially in the “Red” States.
Income equality? Yes. Especially in the “Blue” States,
But the idea that we should live tolerantly, peacefully next to each other and not resort to character assassination and violence?
Not so much.
The answer could be found in what we have lost: our Judeo-Christian moral compass.
I am not just talking about recent U.S. history, I am talking about the West since the Church was merged with the State under the Roman Emperor Constantine.
We’re talking way back.
There were certainly divergent exceptions, but for the most part the early Church was the biggest promoter of peace and the liberating power of the Gospel over all spiritual and societal oppression.
Most Christians would not fight in the Empire’s wars, some because of their refusal to pledge allegiance to Caesar and others because they believed that Jesus was the end of all justification for non-divine violence.
Christianity changed dramatically when it became the benefactor of the State; all of sudden the Church and the world were inseparable.
And though there have been glimmers of hope, we have never really recovered that understanding of the message of the Gospel.
That we should be for reconciliation and not violence.
That we should be about forgiveness and not revenge.
The U.S.’s perception outside of the Western world is that it is a “Christian nation.”
Mostly because of the Right-wing zealots that yell it ad nauseum.
So, the name of Christ and the Church gets all wrapped up in the U.S.’s biggest vices:
The Human Rights Violations Against Non-U.S. Citizens
The Presence of U.S. Soldier in Saudi Arabia (seen by many as an invasion of the Muslim holy land)
The Unwavering Support of Zionism and its Heartless Subjugation of Palestinian Peoples.
All of this is seen as the result of the U.S. being Christian.
God help us.
These people have no concept of a secular/sacred separation; all of life is dominated by Allah’s voice as spoken in the Quran.
They see Christians, all Christians, as manifestations of the West; the “Great Satan.”
The U.S. and the West cannot solve this problem.
The Gospel however, can bring hope to these Muslims; the Gospel that is not linked to our Western trappings.
Christ offers a peace and reconciliation with God that is the only way to bring the kind of reconciliation that is needed in these conflicts.
We need more Christians who are willing to die for Muslims, not in spite of them.
I am ashamed when I hear of so many bloodthirsty Christians supporting the circular violence that continues to escalate in the Middle East.
The Gospel does not allow for fanatics, because the Gospel gives men and women the choice to love or walk away from God.
The Gospel brings an assurance that is confident but not arrogantly certain.
Jesus offers the kind of holiness and purity that many of these Muslims are desperately seeking.
We cannot control the violence done against us, nor can we control the actions of the U.S. government.
But what we can do is change the perception in the Muslim world; we can stand with them when our traditional allies (e.g. Israel) are wrong.
We can begin to pray and mobilize to help combat rampant poverty, illness, and ignorance (lack of education) that pervades these cultures.
Not because we want to make them more like us, but we want God to free them to be the people he has made them to be.
It’s time to start raising our voices against the oil exploitation.
It’s time to start peacefully, but deliberately protesting actions are government takes that worsens the quality of life in those countries.
It’s time we lead the way in opening a dialogue with these radical fundamentalists, because this is what Jesus would do.
And then he would be willing to take their curses and die for them all over again.
It won’t make us popular.
It will be pretty scary.
But it may have a chance to bring results rather than the status quo.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
Grace and Peace