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Thursday, September 4, 2014

ISIS: Then They Came for Me

To American Christians hearing about ISIS,

First they came for the Shiites, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Shiite.

Then they came for the Yazidis, and I did not speak out -- 
Because I was not a Yazidi.

Then they came for the journalists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a journalist.

Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.

- A 21st Century Take on Holocaust survivor and German Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoller's famous quotation

What can you say as a Christian today?

Pundits preen and press about a so-called War on Christmas, being waged by school superintendents and bureaucratic officials. It seems overblown.

We're embarrassed when Terry Jones burns a Koran in Florida. When Westboro Baptist parades its stupidity and intolerance for the world to see. When corrupt, evil men like Warren Jeffs of the FLDS use the name of Jesus Christ to justify their abuse of children.

What can you say as a Christian today?

In high school social studies we learned the Five Pillars of Islam.
We had a Seder dinner during Sunday School; we learned the names of Hindu deities in college courses.
This education was necessary. Americans as a whole remain unschooled about much of the world at large.

My Christian education was delegated to church. We learned about a God who loved us and loved the world; a Savior who called us not to judge.

What can you say as a Christian today when ISIS beheads another journalist in the name of Islam?

Too many of us are afraid to confront it at all, especially on a religious level. We don't want to be like those ugly representatives of our faith. We don't consider what Jesus might have said about ISIS. We fall back on platitudes.

Don't judge.

Jesus loves you.

Yet as Niemoller learned in the shadow of the smokestacks at Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps, someone must speak up against evil.

Jesus has something more to say than: I love you. Don't judge; in the face of ISIS.

Jesus, who halted the stoning of a woman accused of adultery, would have words for the fighters who are lining up little girls to be "married" to rebel fighters.

As Martin Niemoller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer learned in a World War II Germany exhilarated with evil; Christians must speak in the face of deadly power.

ISIS must seem to most American Christians to be half a world away. Most of us don't even go to church on a regular basis. We certainly wouldn't die for our religion; mostly we choose football over it, especially this time of year. We don't get the fervor. We ignore the Christians in their midst who are dying for their religion.

So first they came for the Shiites. They besieged the town of Amerli and 20,000 people starved.

Then they came for the Yazidis. They stranded them without food on Mount Sinjar and waited for them all to die. When some escaped, they hunted the women and young girls; abducting them, forcing them to convert to Islam, and selling them into marriage.

Then they came for journalists. First the chilling video of James Foley. An icy threat at the end: "Our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people." A month later, another video. Another knife. Another neck. Another American journalist, Steven Sotloff, killed.

Turn, O LORD! How long?

We lament in silence, afraid to speak.

Someone asks us. What does your Jesus say about ISIS?

"You shall not kill; and whoever kills should be liable to judgment."

So Jesus judged?

He judged all the time. He judged the evil men who surrounded a woman and prepared to stone her to death. He judged the Pharisees who focused on pomp and ritual and ignored the Gospel. He judged those who would be angry with their brother, who would deny him in public, who would forget his teachings.

Jesus does not want us to forget that he stood, powerfully, for Good and against a very real Evil.

"Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in Heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I will also deny before my Father in heaven."
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the world; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." - Matthew 10:32-34

He did not promise a life of ease and "happiness," as the Osteens might desire.

Rather he fought for the dignity and life of all; he died on the cross to defeat death forever.
So that his followers might have the courage to speak, whatever the cost: for the Shiites, for the Yazidis, for the Journalists, for you and for me.

Speak against ISIS. Tell your congressman. Tell your Pastor. Advocate for action.
In Jesus' name.

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