Ask Anything: What About ISIS?

This thoughtful blog response is written by Scott and Heidi Henkel.  You’ll see in their article below that they are ideally suited to address this challenging question.  Also, who else is able to reach out to their Afghan translator and friends as part of their research?  Finally, you’ll note that they first list the questions submitted before tackling their answer.  I greatly appreciate Scott and Heidi’s thoughts here.  

Questions:  

1.Should Christians protect other Christians in Iraq from Islamic radicals like ISIS?

2. With the recent slayings of innocent people with ISIS as the example:  What would/does the Bible actually say or delegate as our role and appropriate response to these more evil than normal people committing these heinous acts?  For example people involved in sex trafficking  and abusing other helpless people.  What should we, as able bodied Christian men, what action should we take?  What action is our duty to do?

3. Why don’t our Christian churches throughout the US address the grievous injustices that are being perpetrated against Christians around the world?  Persecution, violence, beheadings are becoming more prevalent (for that matter, Jews are being attacked relentlessly too.)  I believe it is of vital importance for US church congregations to be informed about this and led by church leaders in helping & supporting the persecuted.  Why do churches bury their heads in the sand?  I am not suggesting churches need to get political.  I am saying churches need to be our cultural.

Answer:  

Scott’s Rant Starts Here:  I combined these questions into:  What should be the Christian response to terrorism?

I had coffee with a close friend of mine not too long ago and as we discussed a multitude of topics the question came up about my thoughts and more importantly my feelings about Islamic State (ISIS).  In the interest of full disclosure I spent 362 days in Zabul, Afghanistan as an Army officer.  In that time I led hundreds of ground operations to every corner of that province and by pure statistical probability I’ve experienced evil up front, first hand.  So the question of what does a Christian veteran of war think about evil acts committed “in the name of God” makes sense.

I’ll give you my “non-Churchy” answer first; I was pissed off.  My most natural tendency is to react as a fighter to violence so hearing of the horrors in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other parts of the globe make me angry.  My suspicion is that’s how most people feel when they are exposed to violence. Compounding those feelings are no doubt feelings of helplessness as the violence is happening half way around the world and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.  While those are perfectly human reactions that’s also the problem.  Turns out Jesus is teaching us to react in a wholly different manner.  After searching scripture and talking with my Afghan brothers I’ve arrived at a few points.

1.      Pray for Islamic State: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” – Matthew 5:43-48:  I know, I know, this is the “Churchy” answer you were probably waiting for when you first read this blog.  And while rest assured, I want to punch myself in the face for writing it scripture truly does back it up. A quick scan finds the word “salvation” comes up 114 times in the Bible.  If word count matters this is a pretty important thing to God.  So our call is to believe in the power of God’s salvation. Saul was a terrorist before becoming Paul.  Through our concerted prayer there is hope.  We have to trust in God’s power.

2.      Overcome the community with good: Jesus makes it pretty clear by calling us out, “To love the Lord with all our heart, mind, and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves.”  That’s the key idea.  The Church is not and should never be looked to for military or political validation.  Jesus didn’t suffer and die for an idea.  He gift on the cross was so each of us could form a relationship with The Father.  I believe if we truly commit to this commandment the world will become a better place and groups like Islamic State will cease to exist.

3.      Islam is not the problem“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”: Romans 12:21  After doing some research and talking with my interpreters from Afghanistan I have concluded that Islamic State are misled sociopaths using pieces of the Koran (largely out of context) to validate their activity.  Man giving wholly into sin is the problem.  The key takeaway from my research and conversations is the any violence endorsed through the Koran is for defensive purposes.  Similar to how we view defending our homes or families from people who would do them harm.  What is happening overseas is an abomination.

4.      Pray and do:  We see violence on the screen and then see the actors on the red carpet for awards shows without a blemish, all smiles.  Hollywood makes war look temporary.  The truth is war is a lifetime.  As Christians we can pray for current and past soldiers, sailors, and marines and the families they touch. We can volunteer and help fund programs designed to intercede in the mind boggling high suicide and homeless rates of veterans.  We can pray for our leaders to seek God’s counsel in their daily decisions.  We can support organizations like Samaritan’s Purse that is shipping aid directly to the people affected by the violence.

This isn’t a comprehensive essay on what our response should be to the Islamic State threat.  Just a few thoughts from someone who is struggling with the same mix of emotions most feel when they hear of the barbarism overseas.  So to me the bottom line response to the question. “What can we do as Christians?”  Be in prayer.  Be bold in acts of good.

To add, from his wife, Heidi Henkel-

  1. Some history– As a veteran’s wife, I still did not fully understand ISIS and how they came to be. They’re so violent that not even Al Queda would be associated with them and I wanted to dive in more to fully understand them. Here’s an easy look into the ISIS group so you can have some background and understanding about where they started and how they are moving. The link is often updated and well put together.

17 Things You Need to Know about ISIS and IRAQ

  1. Visit the question- Is it really US vs. THEM? The more violent ISIS (and other evil) becomes, the more Christianity’s truth is revealed. We have to be very cognizant of how we, as Christians, keep to our truth and, if we are only getting angry at the injustice caused to Christians, we have to revisit how Christ would like us to respond. Christians aren’t the only ones in jeopardy as it seems they are simply using the Koran to bully the minorities, no matter who they might be. They instigate crimes against all of humanity, including their own. So, we must align ourselves in the teachings of Jesus and take part in His truth that takes non-Christian lives in account because they are His children as well…and yes, that includes ISIS.
  1. Pray for them and for us: When we pray, we ought to pray for our own response, in particular, if it’s causing anxiety or depression by getting sucked into the news on a saturated level. Honestly, it’s taken me weeks to respond to this question because the research drained this empathetic soul and I had to keep myself in check. I was balling my eyes out when they spoke of their own children as young as 8 and teaching them daily violence, but if we are caught up in the Daily News vs. the Eternal News, we must realign with what is good and get consumed by it. That’s our best fight we can give and it’s more relevant than we think.
  1. Islam not the problem (we repeat)- In as much as we seem helpless, there is power in prayer and fighting the good fight as mentioned above in Scott’s statements with those who are providing help and aid on the ground. (That also made me cry, only tears of joy!)  I also want to reiterate that Islam is not the problem, evil is. If left alone on an island, it would consume itself. As humans however, we have traces of it left behind in our hearts, leading us the question the peace we strive to share with our families, neighbors, and strangers. In our world, largely led by fear, the sensational always trumps the important and what’s important is peace.

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