How USA can help defeat ISIS

I am one of those people who sometimes opens my mouth just often enough to stick both feet in a bit further. Mine is the bad habit of, whenever I feel misunderstood, trying to say even more about whatever it was that didn’t go over well in the first place. So at the risk of writing something no one but me will even care to read, I’ll post this one last commentary on the subject of ISIS and how I think America actually can be as helpful in defeating this evil force in today’s world as we were in defeating the evil of Nazi Germany last century. I promise not to beat any more dead horses in this process, though I will go after this one that appears to me is still breathing a bit.

What strikes me of late on social media is how determined many folks are to associate ISIS with Islam. Some have even invoked the term “Holy War” in thinking we Americans must somehow defeat this world enemy. And it’s as if those who disagree with that premise are in denial that ISIS is a serious enemy at all.

With that in mind, I’ll offer my own very contrary beliefs for what they are worth to anyone else.
1. I believe ISIS / ISIL is a serious enemy of not only the USA but of all humanity and human rights, much in the mold of the Nazi threat of the 1930’s in Europe. There is absolutely no denying this.

2. I believe ISIS believes they are good Muslims acting on behalf of their Prophet to enforce their holy book of Koran.

3. I believe ISIS has already framed their movement as being a Holy War against western Christianity and middle eastern Judaism. They would like nothing more than to destroy Israel and finish Hitler’s genocidal master plan.

4. This is where my points get a bit stickier. For I also believe Hitler’s Nazi movement was framed as being a Holy War against Judaism. There is simply too much evidence out there that Hitler viewed himself at least initially as a Christian acting on behalf of the crucified Christ. To explain, please do consider these quotes from Hitler’s own book, “Mein Kampf,” per wikipedia research:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Adolf_Hitler
In Mein Kampf, Hitler saw Jesus as against the Jews, rather than of them: “And the founder of Christianity made no secret indeed of his estimation of the Jewish people. When He found it necessary, He drove those enemies of the human race out of the Temple of God.” Ralph Manheim, ed. (1998). Mein Kampf. New York: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-95105-4, p.174

“His [the Jewish person’s] life is only of this world, and his spirit is inwardly as alien to true Christianity as his nature two thousand years previous was to the great founder of the new doctrine. Of course, the latter made no secret of his attitude toward the Jewish people, and when humanity, who then as always saw in religion nothing but an instrument for his business existence. In return, Christ was nailed to the cross, while our present-day party Christians debase themselves to begging for Jewish votes at elections and later try to arrange political swindles with atheistic Jewish parties—and this against their own nation.” Ralph Manheim, ed. (1998). Mein Kampf. New York: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-95105-4, p.307

5. A few years after “Mein Kampf” was published, most of the world’s Christians refused to claim Hitler. They almost universally believed Hitler was not a Christian. This led to Hitler’s eventual antagonism toward Christianity for refusing to fight on his side of a Holy War he was waging on Christ’s own behalf. He became a rather strong atheist over time, though never withdrawing his membership in the Roman Catholic Church. Why he wasn’t ex-communicated is still a point of contention by many Jews even today.

6. I do not believe Hitler was a Christian.  Nor do I believe ISIS is Muslim.

7. Almost universally, Muslims today do not believe ISIS is Muslim. They refuse to believe this is any kind of Holy War against either Jews or Christians. And they resent the ISIS interpretation of the Koran as deeply as I resent Hitler’s interpretation of Jesus driving the Jewish merchants out of the Temple courtyard.

8. I believe America played a critically important role in the defeat of Hitler’s Nazism. We did so by first denying Hitler his own label of a Holy War against the Jews, even though atheist Russia was quite willing to fight their own Holy War against the Christian Nazis. (That’s an entire different blog post for another day!!!) America waited strategically until the Christianized nations of England and France were already engaged in battle against the Nazis. Then we came in and essentially finished their battle for them in many respects. This was one of America’s finest moments as collectively produced, in my opinion, by America’s “greatest generation.”

9. I believe America can ALSO play a critically important role in the defeat of ISIS / ISIL……… but only IF WE ARE WILLING TO LEARN FROM OUR OWN HISTORY what to repeat and what not to repeat. Sadly, I see very little interest among Americans these days in American history, including our history of military success in the world.

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Great news for ISIS from America

Replicating our nation’s success in WW II against the evil forces of Nazi Germany is probably impossible. It’s not possible, for one thing, to undo our mistakes already made by invading Afghanistan and Iraq. Can’t take back that damage already done to our image in Arab lands where we’ve become the billboards (metaphor) for recruiting more Islamist extremists. Right now it’s not our ground troops that are pictured for such recruiting, but rather our drone aircraft that drop bombs with “collateral damages” on display. Like I say, the water’s already poisoned that we must now drink from.

Perhaps a far larger reason we may never again win a war against an evil power such as ISIS / ISIL is this: corporate America will never tolerate a return to the American society of the 1940’s and 1950’s. In the 40’s under Roosevelt, the Federal government came very close to controlling our means of production. It’s called socialism, but then the words were simply things like government rationing, bond buying, price fixing, tax hiking, forced sacrificing, pulling together, non-partisan life as required to win the war. Everybody essentially went to war against Germany and Japan because, well, the government told them to. Corporate America had no voice except to support the war effort, whether by retooling for military equipment or paying higher taxes. By the way, their sons were also drafted into war along with those of the poor and middle classes.

Of course, in the 1950’s under Republican Dwight Eisenhower, our progressive income taxes soared to a height of 91% for the wealthiest Americans and yet we funded a state of the art interstate highway infrastructure and enforced school desegregation against the old Jim Crow laws in place since Civil War reconstruction in the south.

Together Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower would make President Obama today look like a Capitalist fanatic. But, hey, they did things for this country no President today could even begin to accomplish. And if our States allow actual history to be taught in our schools, these leaders can teach us how to do things as a nation even now such as fighting to defeat ISIS through strong allied ground actions and unified intelligence, how to build a much needed power grid and transportation infrastructure, and how to build a nation once again through increased cooperation instead of cut-throat competition. It’s what I would prefer to conserve in my most conservative heart.

I have my doubts it will ever happen again, which is great news for ISIS.

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….so is there a non-violent Christian response to ISIS?

In listening to some thoughts posted in response to yesterday’s blog about reactions and responses, I sense some further interest in exploring how a non-violent Christian response might look if one could be found whether in or outside the Bible. I may not be at all suited for this task, because I’m already on record as advocating a violent response, if all too nuanced, in yesterday’s post. But I’ll at least try.

Starting back from scratch, I’m advocating the US approach ISIS / ISIL as we did the German aggression of last century’s two world wars — those being wars we actually did win. My point in yesterday’s post is that we won them by slowly responding instead of quickly reacting. In my mind these were both “just wars” and their history is worth learning from and thus repeating with all due intention.

I’ve heard a mix of views regarding what Jesus would do in either reaction or response to ISIS. Certainly he, and his followers well into the 3rd century, endured torture at the hands of evil men, no less than did the 21 coptic Christians from Egypt last week. I’m not sure he, or his followers, would do anything differently if they could do it all over again. After all, they won (how big is Christianity today?) and their enemy (how big is the Roman Empire today?) lost. It’s pretty hard to argue against their success. But neither would I argue against the success of Old Testament warriors like King David who basically saved the Hebrew people, from which Jesus came, from total annihilation some thousand years B.C. And when Jesus came to Jerusalem and saw the commercialism that surrounded the Holy Temple, he did grab a whip and did use it and did destroy some property in the doing. I’m not arguing against that one either!

To me it seems that all violence is best made an exception and not the rule. And it is most effective when used as a delayed response than as a sudden reaction. Even God is slow to anger (the Old Testament repeats multiple times) for probably some effective reason. Effective as slow violence is, I would strongly argue that fast violence is even more ineffective! It has, I would argue, the knee-jerk effect of poisoning the very well we ourselves must later drink from. Not sure how best to explain that, but I’m thinking that in our early US reaction against organized Islamist terrorism (not to be confused with Islamic religion!!), we became THE PROBLEM that overshadowed the real problem. Don’t even get me started on how I think the Iraq war was $1.7 trillion of our borrowed money spent on recruiting fliers aimed at turning IslamIC youth into IslamIST terrorists. That’s another blog or another book. It’s hard to walk ourselves back from such a foolish exercise of power that backfired so horribly as to have even Al-Qaeda renouncing the ISIS atrocities. Creating power vacuums and serving as recruiting posters is impossible to undo. The water’s already poisoned that we now must drink from.

I’m not even sure we could have won either WWI or WWII if we had jumped into combat at the earliest opportunity. By treating those as wars “over there” and waiting for the traditional enemies of France and England to first ally themselves against THE PROBLEM of Germany, we could then use our military violence as part of THE SOLUTION. I think it’s much harder to become a solution if you’re already identified as the problem to begin with. That’s why I’m rather pessimistic except to say I think it’s now only a matter of time until the evil ISIS forces become a Germany-like problem so big as to unite even Shia AND Sunni led nations into common military alliance. THEN is when we get to become the solution once again instead of having to continue being the Germany-like problem ourselves a la our Iraq fiasco.

I’ll quit for now but want to write tomorrow about what would need to change for us to become a winning nation like we were in WW II. Stay tuned if you’re at all interested.

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Reaction and Response to the killing of 21 Egyptian Christians

I’m trying to work on my book these days to which I’ve given the preliminary title of “Love’s Resurrection: it’s power to roll away fear’s heaviest stone,” which is my attempt to speak love’s truth and good news to the powers that spread fear about our own land. I might as well take a break from that this morning to address the most acute fear I am now sensing from my fellow Christians on social media. That has to do with the most recent beheadings of the 21 Egyptian Christians by the agents of ISIL working in Libya.

In roughly 65 A.D. Christ’s apostle Paul was beheaded in Rome. It is unlikely he was the first Christian to be beheaded and most obviously he wasn’t the last. But how should we as Christians react to such a terrorist act against one or more of our own? How should we best respond?

My own first reaction is to bomb the hell out of the ISIS and ISIL camps, wherever they might be. Though not today’s news, USA Today’s Feb. 3rd edition gives at least a somewhat recent account of where our own country’s reaction has taken us to date: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/02/03/pentagon-isis-air-war/22814039/ In short, we’ve already dumped tons of bombs from August 2014 through February 2015 killing thousands most likely. We’ve already bombed the hell out of them as best we can with actionable intelligence and pinpoint accuracy; yet ISIS continues to recruit by the tens of thousands.

And now in this past week we find both in social and other media even greater sentiment for our sending ground troops to places like Iraq in particular to do combat service against ISIS strongholds. This Sunday’s “Meet the Press” program aired a number of Republican views of why we should have already entered this war “on the ground” instead of waiting so long as our President has.

This has gotten me thinking further about the difference between a reaction and a response. It has also led me to do some further research on matters of military history. My first research has involved America’s responses in World Wars I and II. Now, granted, life was slower in those days. People were probably more “thoughtful” all the way around. Less impulsive, or hot tempered. Road rage was not yet even invented. We’d not yet entered the “instant gratification” age in our society. To merely skim the timeline for US intervention into World War I, take a quick look at one of these links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_World_War_I and . http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/world-war-i-history. Notice how slowly but effectively we became a winning force in that war? France and England were historically ill-suited allies but became committed to sending troops on the ground into that war over 2 years prior to the US doing so. Happened again in World War II. See http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/britain-and-france-declare-war-on-germany and also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_declaration_of_war_upon_Germany_(1941) for a quick peek at how we waited those 2+ years before following England and France into any ground combat.

I’m no military expert to say the least. I’m the last person anyone should consult for military advice. But I did have an undergraduate major in History and have some sense of how it was we managed to win the two World Wars of the last century. And neither happened because we led the charge sending in combat “troops on the ground.” Rather, in both cases, we waited until England and France, enemies of each other by history, joined their own coalition to fight against the Germans. We sometimes say that not learning from history dooms us to repeat the same mistakes. True, but in the same way learning from history can empower us to repeat the same successes.

So where am I going with this blog?

Well, suppose we learn from even our own history the benefit of waiting for ISIS / ISIL to make the same mistakes Germany did during both WW I and WW II? That is, waiting for them to make enemies of multiple nations to the point that unnatural allies, or in this case Arab nations led by both Shia AND Sunni Muslims place troops on the ground in this fight to defeat their/our common enemy. Frankly, my friends, I doubt we’ll need to wait 2+ years as we did before entering our victorious wars against Germany last century. Bottom line in any case, to react quickly is to lose yet another American war. To respond, slowly, deliberately, and waiting for unnatural allies to join in taking the lead, is perhaps our best opportunity to defeat ISIS/ISIL.  And that, my friends, is one difference between a reaction and response to the killing of 21 Egyptian Christians.  Please comment if you can think of other differences.

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why it’s hard for me to follow Jesus

In my choice to be a follower of Jesus, I’ve noticed over these 68 years that one of my consequences is having to thus address those nearby who are self-righteous in their religious faith. Jesus addressed those nearby him and we read in the gospels that these were mostly Jewish Pharisees. They didn’t appreciate the way he addressed them. They, after all, saw themselves as being right and others wrong. They were “holier than thou,” to borrow a religious colloquialism. And Jesus confronted them on this.
It could not have been easy for Jesus to do this. These were his own people, the Jews! Not the pathetic Gentiles. Not the evil Romans. Why did he not pick on those obvious enemies of the Jews? They were the real “bad guys” in their land. Why go after the “good guys” who were trying to protect the land from the worthless Samaritans, the evil government soldiers and tax collectors, the loose women, the filthy lepers, the violent murderers? For every mistake the Pharisees made, the sins of others were ten times worse! Or so they thought.
Jesus didn’t see it that way. He confronted them. They pretty much hated him. They wanted to, well, “crucify him!” And so that couldn’t have been an easy thing for Jesus to do. I know, because it’s extremely hard for me to do now as his follower. I hate having to confront any self-righteous Christians in my day. In choosing to follow Jesus, this is one of the consequences that comes with the territory. It means following him to the cross. Luke 14:27 comes to mind, “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Oh, and then there was Luke 9:23, “Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” Well, and Matthew 10:38, Mark 8:34, John 12:25-26, Hebrews 13:13. Need I go on?
In my most rational mind, I know that Jesus cannot lead me to the resurrection except through the crucifixion. But in my most emotional heart, I hate having to follow him in confronting my fellow Christians for their holier than thou bigotry, their Pharisaical hypocrisy. Look what then happened to Jesus. And for that matter, look what happened to President Obama the other day when he confronted his fellow Christians at that Prayer Breakfast concerning our self-righteous attitude toward Islamic violence. TV media and then social media lit up soon afterward with cries quite similar to “crucify him!!!” Following Jesus in this way means our own people want to get rid of us.
Do you suppose it is hard for people of other faiths to confront their own self-righteous peers? Suppose it was hard for the German Christians to confront Hitler’s self-righteous Christian Arianism? Suppose it’s hard for the Muslims to confront ISIS? Do you suppose other followers of Jesus are having a hard time like me in confronting my fellow bigots and hypocrites?

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immigration and amnesty

One of the great controversies in our nation rolling over into 2015 has had to do with illegal immigrants, particularly involving children. Last year saw countless children smuggled into our nation illegally through no choice or fault of their own, arriving in a strange land with strange language, foods, and unfamiliar customs. It also saw the deportation of many families where the children were born here, are familiar with our customs, yet as US citizens have either lost their homeland or else lost their parents to deportation and found themselves living in foster homes. What a lose-lose proposition for those kids! The latter policy and practice was ended due to the President’s executive order, but it has caused particular controversy even among Christians, of all people. See http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/11/20/fact-sheet-immigration-accountability-executive-action and then, noting the disparity between self-identified Christians and our overall populace, see http://publicreligion.org/research/2014/12/religion-politics-tracking-survey-december-2014/to get at what I’m referring to.
Perhaps the most emotionally loaded word associated with this controversy is “amnesty.” What this word suggests is that we should violate the laws of our land in order to allow illegal immigrants to remain here under certain conditions. A common response I hear as a pastor listening to my fellow Christians is, “let them get in line to come here legally like our ancestors had to do.” Makes good sense to a degree, not counting our Euro-ancestors who came ashore without application or permission and found welcome from the legendary Squanto of our Thanksgiving lore. And from other pagans born here first.
Yet, as a Pastor I cannot help but wondering about this: what is the difference between amnesty and forgiveness? Or what do we mean when we say in church, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?” Do we really mean that at all?
If I hear my fellow Christians correctly, the fear is that if we offer amnesty we will be inviting more and more illegals to cross our border. And that we must prove we are a nation of laws, or else lawlessness will prevail. This is basically the same argument as the Jewish Christians used to stop us Gentiles from becoming Christians back in the 1st Century. We were considered outside the law as regards diet, circumcision, etc. Despite their argument, God offered us His executive order, even in violation of His Old Testament Laws, granting us forgiveness, i.e., amnesty, and a pathway to citizenship in heaven. And I read in the Bible these words straight from the mouth of Christ himself: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”Matthew 6:14-15. Well, okay, maybe Jesus was kidding around with us on that one, but I seriously doubt it. And I quite seriously wonder what it means when surveys of any kind seem to suggest that 40% of my fellow white evangelicals would refuse amnesty to the families affected by our President’s executive order? We Gentile Christians may want to rethink our position in view of God’s grace in our own lives, otherwise we look way too much like the debtor in Christ’s parable who accepts forgiveness of his own debt only to send his own debtor to prison. And we all should remember what happened to that debtor afterwards.

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