Monday, August 11, 2014

Icing ISIS: Different Solutions for Church and State

When northwest Oklahoma was settled overnight in 1893 by the largest Land Run in world history, beautifully portrayed in Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman's 1992 movie Far and Away, a large number of German Mennonites, refugees to the United States from Russia, settled various cities. Thus, there are town names in northwest Oklahoma like Kremlin and Meno, and there is a large pacifist population, for Mennonites oppose all war on the basis that any violence is contrary to the Christian faith.  

Ironically, here in Enid, Oklahoma we have Vance Air Force Base. Many of the members of Emmanuel Enid are pilots with the United States Air Force. Several have left our church and are now in the theater of war in the Middle East. One of them is now directing all air missions in Iraq as the United States government is attempting to stop the brutal and inhumane terrorist activities (warning: graphic content) of the  Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS).

There are no easy answers on how to stop ISIS.

Yesterday, my wife and I read an incredible article by the founder and president of Preemptive Love, an organization devoted to helping all of humanity in Iraq. Jeremy Courtney makes the argument that the way ISIS can be stopped is for Christians to do everything they can to love the people of Iraq, including the radical Muslims. The essence of being a Jesus follower, according to Jeremy, is "loving one's enemies." He writes:
"It’s not violence or pre-emptive strikes that terrify the terrorists. They need violence to be done against them to justify their cause. But pre-emptive love — shown through heart surgeries or simple hospitality — upends our simplistic stories and threatens hatred everywhere. Or, in the words of the fatwa issued against our work: 'We must stop [these heart surgeries] lest it lead our children and their parents to love their enemies!'" 

I agree with Jeremy.

However, as I read his article, I couldn't help think about the men in northern Iraq and Syria who've been crucified by ISIS for being Christian. I couldn't help but think about the non-Muslim women and children who've been raped and beheaded or in some cases, buried alive. I couldn't help but think about the men, women and children who have fled for their lives and are starving and dying of thirst on Mount Sinjar

I'm not sure a heart surgery performed Preemptive Love on a child of a caliphate cleric helps those people in immediate danger of rape, murder, beheading, and other horrific and inhumane acts perpetrated by ISIS.

But an FA-18 airstrike can ice ISIS in their tracks.

I must admit I struggle in this area. I want so badly for everyone to live and act like Jeremy Courtney. I follow him on Twitter. I'm donating to his ministry. I believe in what he is doing. But I don't feel badly for paying taxes in order that the United States can have a military that is able to stop murderers and terrorists bent on holocaust.  Am I less a follower of Jesus Christ because I believe in living my life like Christ lived His, but supporting a government that will intervene in a humanitarian crisis and bomb the ISIS terrorists?

I don't think so. Listen to Scripture:
"For government rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of government authorities? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for the state is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for the state does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection to government, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake.…" (Romans 13:3-5)
Most Christians miss that last phrase of Romans  13:5.

"...for conscience' sake..." My conscience will not allow the thought of men, women and children being tortured and murdered by ISIS. I support Israel, the United States, and any other government in any effort to stop brutal terrorism.

It's why the church and the state shall remain separate till Christ comes. The church brings mercy; the state brings wrath. Those who call for the state to show mercy on evil doers have made the mistake of mixing the mission of church and the state. Christ's Kingdom now only resides within individual hearts. What a beautiful thing to see a heart transformed by God's grace to be able to love one's enemies. There is, however, no biblical or logical inconsistency with a Jesus follower turning his cheek privately toward his enemy, but at the same time supporting a government that strikes the cheek of the evil doer.


Victorious said...

I agree wholeheartedly, Wade! The U.S. military would be extending love to the victims of this horrid treatment by efforts to stop the violence to them.

In Christ, we can love and forgive but still respect and support the governments humanitarian efforts in stopping the senseless slaughtering of innocent men, women, and children.

Ignoring the suffering of others seems to me to be the lesson Jesus expressed in the Good Samaritan.

Unknown said...

Part 1

As a man in uniform I have a duty to obey my masters as I’ve sworn an oath, hold authority and am limited in my freedom of dissent towards them. Unless the order is illegal I am in no place to do anything but obey. However, that is not blind. Many a Nazi used "obedience to orders" as their excuse at Nuremberg...all the way to a noose.
While I consider myself established enough on what would constitute or otherwise be an illegal order I’ve never seen defense of the innocent with use of force as contrary to demonstrating the Love of Christ as they are, in fact, two very separate things.
God the Father ordained the destruction of many by Israel in the Old Testament...using Israel He both visited justice and judgment upon nations. Some of that was pre-emptive as well. He is the same now as He was then.
The United States was founded as a Christian Nation. Not using that term to say a specifically Christian ONLY nation, but one most assuredly founded upon principles taught by the Christian faith where those principles worked in harmony with our government and held its greatest strength and support from the teachings of Christianity. I could go on for hours with amazing amounts of documents, letters, court cases and more to prove this. Even our rights in our founding document were stipulated to come from God, not man, not government, not anything else, and the associated by-laws, the US Constitution, set forth limits on government for the express purpose of affirming to the people said rights from God.
What does all this mean especially in light of a group, government, enemy sworn to our annihilation? It means that in this fallen world (keep that in mind now) we must, on those occasions, stand ready when the wolf growls at our door. While the attribute of turning to the other cheek is on the personal level, I can say it can extend to an enemy when that enemy has come to the point of admission that their offense was wrong. It took the United States decades of time as we, alone, governed and helped rebuild Japan post WWII. Think about that in light of what had happened. They started it, they raped, pillaged and murdered all over the Pacific and in Asia yet when the conflict was settled they laid down their arms, took upon themselves an obedient and submissive attitude to a nation that is now their greatest friend in the world. Japanese soldiers are on record as to asking why we did not rape, pillage and murder afterwards…well, I would say that our Christian principles, more prevalent then than they are now, prevailed in every sense to bring post war Japan back into the fold of nations.

Unknown said...

Part 2

What about ISIS? For me, not a tough call…I MUST compartmentalize were I to face them but even if I did not have to I could justify the fight against them to put a stop to it. In his book “Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present a history of American involvement in the Middle East” by Michael Oren one can see that the greatest amount of love ever returned to us by Muslims came in the form of our medical missions. This book summarizes that they have been doing what you see today for hundreds of years and it will not be changing anytime soon. Is it then our place to say they are hopelessly lost? After all, the ideology is so overpowering that even those Muslims against them do not speak out as the religion of the sword is that intimidating.
I am much like Peter…many times my Christian brothers (and many more times my dear and Godly wife) have to hold me back from “action”…because, like Peter I am a hot-headed ear-cutting sword-swinger. Jesus rightly rebuked Peter for that PERSONAL failure. His sense of justice was not wrong, his desire for good was not wrong…not one bit. However, how he thought the battle had to be fought was very wrong. I often see myself frustrating God as He sits over in the corner saying “When you’re done flailing about with your wild approach I’m over here with a ready victory!” God has this…He really does. As bleak and as dark as this is He has this if we would but join him in that victory. Pie in the sky? Wishful thinking? How is this any different than a mountain that needs to be told to jump into the sea? Either our Almighty, Powerful, Omnipotent Creator God can win against this evil or he can’t. In that we can have great faith to be sure. Keep it balanced by the perspective that “Yea though He slay me, still will I serve Him!” We MUST maintain that even if our enemy wins victory after victory and we even perish in the fight God still reigns supreme and His way WILL prevail.
The United States is the most amazing nation in history for so many reasons…and while I place her first among nations I have grown wiser to be careful not to worship her in place of God. I pray that we return to our more Christian centered principles for our people as that is what has blessed the world most, but I pray too, that if the time comes, if the need arises, that we act with surety and swiftness for Godly and just causes that when over see us doing with those adversaries just like what we did with Japan or Germany. At that point there we can return to turning the other cheek and sharing water together from a well with those “we have no associations” with as our Lord taught us.

Ramesh said...

A contrarian view:

The origins of ISIS are all due to US/UK intervention in the middle east. It appears the US Govt is no saint here. Therere are LOTS of demons that are self created by the west.

Informed Comment [Juan Cole] > Who are Iraq’s Sunni Arabs and What did we Do to them?

Christiane said...

relieving oppressed people is an act of great love, especially when there is risk to self involved

whether it's mistreated women, or children who are in danger of being abused by predators, or as in the case in Iraq, and entire group of people in danger of genocide from a band of terrorists who have no conscience . . .

there are some acts in this life that are taken on because they are the right thing to do, and I don't think they can be 'classified' or 'labeled' other than that they WERE the right thing . . .

the confluence of actions that relieve the oppressed is not meant to 'confuse' so much as to see past the structures we erect that seem separate from one another . . . and it must be acknowledged that for all of the military destructive might of the United States, we STILL are people who try to do what is honorable and good, given the opportunity . . . I know this because of my family's service: a nephew who is a Navy doctor, and a niece who is a Navy nurse . . . their primary mission is to serve our troops, but when disasters happen, they contribute their skills to help relieve suffering when possible, and most Americans don't hear about this truth.

I sometimes wonder if Christian people are fully aware of the many folks who don't wear the 'right' label who behave towards suffering people with the kindness of Our God, and do this because they know in their consciences that they are obeying a primary law that makes them 'human' . . . some not realizing that in this behavior they are living as beings made in the image of the Creator, the God of all mercy. ?

Our 'labels' don't stick when it comes to caring for suffering, so those 'goats' out there you think might be among 'the lost'? Take another look: are they visiting the imprisoned? are they feeding the hungry? are they clothing the naked? are they helping the oppressed?

if they are living according to their consciences, and following an ancient call implanted therein to do the right,
maybe they might belong more in the 'sheep' category in Christ's judgment . . . only He knows the truth of their hearts. And only He can judge them accordingly.

some thoughts

Wade Burleson said...

Thy Peace,

I'm not sure your view is contrarian.

I could argue that we never should have been in Iraq too.

The question before us now, however, is "Do we rescue those who are in danger of being mutilated and tortured by ISIS?"

Anonymous said...

Dear Brothers & sisters in the body of Christ,
Greetings to you in the most precious name from our Lord Jesus Christ!
I would like to draw your kind attention to the next few lines. I am along with my wife specifically reaching to the Muslims with The Gospel of Christ and planting Churches inside the Muslim community. I am facing lots of challenges and oppositions by the Militant Muslims but God has protected us and the believers for His own glory. The believers from Muslim background are constantly facing opposition from their own family members, relatives and neighbors.
However, I humbly request you kindly pray for God’s protection in our lives from the hands of militant Muslims. Pray also for His wisdom and guidance in all our lives and ministry.

Wade Burleson said...


You have our prayers, as well as do the people to whom you minister.

Thank you.

Curious Thinker said...

Your post sums up it for me too. I understand turning the other cheek and not solving evil with evil. However, that is different than doing what is necessary to protect the lives and well beings of innocent people even if it means killing. Wars shouldn't happen but an unfortunately reality it does and fighting to protect and defend becomes part of the reality too.

Unknown said...

Psalm 82:3 Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy

Isiahah 1:16-17 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

Jeremiah 22:3 Thus saith the Lord; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place.

Proverbs 24: 11-12 If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it?
and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?

Mr. Inflation said...


"Should we rescue those being mutilated by ISIS?"

It's tough to ignore the persecuted. The Hebrews were in bondage for 400 years. So what do we do today?

Social-Liberal politicians and Keynesian Economic Federal Reserve Policy Makers have weaken our economy while rewarding bad behavior through our out of control public assistance program putting our Gov't into out of control debt and military vulnerable to foreign enemies taking advantage of our weak dollar and of course the weak dollar also increase the cost of running Gov't even further. And stimulated Industrial Consolidation killing jobs

My impression is we no longer care to take of our boundaries, leaving us vulnerable to our enemies. So we have no business worrying about other boundaries in the globe as it would be suicidal. A rescue under this administration would be a failure because ISIS doesn't have reason to fear us with the crumbling moral decay of our nation which is destroying our economy.

Now maybe if Reagan was President who believed in a strong dollar which constituted consumer value and purchasing power which stimulates a strong economy and military we would succeed in taking out ISIS.

Until we clean up our own back yard how would it be possible to lead by example tending to other nations back-yards?

We need a serious revival in America and in D.C.

rixshep said...

Bravo, Officer Panzera, bravo! Well articulated.

To you, Wade and the rest, I offer this observation from scripture:

Members of the Roman military approached John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul, Peter and Jesus Himself, essentially asking " What should I do?"

NOT ONE OF THEM said to quit being in the military, stop obeying orders or quit their jobs or duties! For those who want to trot out one verse or another to deny this, sorry, scripture is a whole. To have an interpretation of one verse to discount another is to do violence to scripture, and demonstrates the need for a more robust interpretation (not to mention putting our preconceived notions ahead of scripture itself as the authority on meaning of scripture).

Scriptural pacifism is not universal, but applies primarily on a personal level, to attacks on our faith, in my opinion of course, which is still open to reasoned debate based on proper use of scripture.