Tragedy and horror have stricken again.
An act of great evil has been repeated and proudly publicized.
The perpetrators of these vile acts are clearly operating from a place of great, demonic darkness. They are on a mission on behalf of their god, and they really, truly believe in their god and that mission.
Meanwhile, we in America don’t tend to believe in anything quite so passionately, which is part of why these Islamic State types frighten us. The dedication, seriousness, zeal, and commitment that they show for their god and religion is profoundly unsettling to us. We can’t relate to it at all. It’s as though they actually believe that their god is god and that what he says matters…really…
As for the grotesque murder and dismemberment aspect of this ongoing tragic story, we are beginning to get used to it…as we always do…
Numerous reports now indicate that the Islamic State has executed Peter Kassig, a soldier-turned-aid-worker. Kassig had converted to Islam and taken the name Abdul-Rahman. He is now the fifth Westerner to have been executed by video recorded decapitation.
President Obama issued a statement on Kassig’s beheading:
“ISIL’s actions represent no faith, least of all the Muslim faith which Abdul-Rahman adopted as his own,” Obama wrote. “Today we grieve together, yet we also recall that the indomitable spirit of goodness and perseverance that burned so brightly in Abdul-Rahman Kassig, and which binds humanity together, ultimately is the light that will prevail over the darkness of ISIL.”
Obama called the action “an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity.”
While there is much to wonder about in President Obama’s words, the one that stood out most to me in his critique of the Islamic State was the term “inhumanity”.
What does that mean? How does President Obama define humanity?
For that matter, what do words like “goodness” and “faith” – also used in President Obama’s statement – actually, objectively mean, if anything? What is the foundation upon which his definition, understanding and use of such terms is built? Is it solid, substantial, and coherent, or is it sandy, shifting, and malleable?
This is important.
Why, exactly, is what the Islamic State is doing over there in the Middle East objectively wrong, evil, and bad, while, at the same time, here in “the land of the free” and the home of the NSA, we celebrate and defend the “right” to feely, easily, and conveniently murder and dismember innocent children by the thousands each and every day?
This question is anything but a stretch. The comparison is begging to be made and considered, if things like consistency, coherence, and credibility matter even the slightest little bit to us anymore.
While Christians can coherently decry the brutal murder of men like Peter Kassig at the hands of the Islamic State, folks like President Obama have a much harder time of it.
Are our murders and dismemberments of thousands of innocent American children each and every day somehow less horrific because we (usually) don’t video record the assault?
Are our murders and dismemberments of thousands of innocent American children each and every day somehow less evil because they are done in the name of American freedom and liberty?
As for the zeal of Islamic State militants for their god, what is all of this telling us about the zeal that we have for ours?
More importantly, what does it tell us about the true identity of our god?
Are we worshipping the one true God with our everything – including our approaches to life, liberty, freedom, politics, family, and economics?
Or are we worshipping another god…a more “American” god…a god who is open to the worship of false gods all in the name of “freedom and liberty”?
While we are right to notice and react in horror at what Islamic State is doing, we would be very well served to resist our now-automatic American inclination to self-righteousness and arrogance, humble ourselves before the one true God and beg Him to show us what we have done to bring about horrors like Islamic State terror.
What have we done to inspire the judgment of God upon us?
Until and unless He graces us with that broken, humble Spirit of true repentance, there will be no restoration, and all of this will only continue to get worse and worse.
We will become more and more comfortable with more and more horror.
We will tolerate anything and we will get everything that we tolerate.
In our embrace of American- rather than Christ-centered understandings of life, liberty, and freedom, they will each lose their beauty and life as we are steadily marched from one horror and one lost liberty to the next. At the end of our self-centered, “America first” pursuit of freedom we will find a destination defined by the tyranny of anti-Christian totalitarianism.
The Star Spangled Banner may flutter in the breeze above us and we may go on and on singing about the “land of the free” in which we imagine ourselves to live, but we will be a people crushed under the judgment of God, having nothing left of true freedom, peace, prosperity, and joy…until and unless we finally repent and believe.
Lord willing, we will one day do what His people so often and automatically did when they witnessed such things as plagues or evildoers threatening the peace of the land: Ask how it is that we have brought these things upon ourselves through our disobedience.
So what have we done as professing Christians in America to inspire the wrath of God against us and the pain and suffering of men like Peter Kassig?
What example have we set through our cherished, systematic dismemberment of thousands of innocent American children on American soil for the sake of freedom, liberty, and convenience? (Oh, and for profit…can’t forget profit.)
What example have we set of obedience to the one true God by allowing the open worship of false gods in our land?
And how much do most professing Christians in America hate even the proposition of these most challenging questions?
The answers to these questions tell us much about where we are, how we got here, and where we are going…which is probably why most of us don’t even want to hear of, much less consider, such things.
We want to pretend.
We want to ignore.
We want to believe…not in God, but in America. (Or we want to believe that the two are basically the same thing anyway.)
May God grace His people with the thirst and opportunity to stand with boldness and clarity in this cowardly and evasive age. May He give them the strength to pursue, proclaim, and apply the Gospel-fueled Great Commission in every realm of His creation…right here and right now…while there is yet time and hope for real, supernatural Gospel-fueled repentance and restoration in the land, one salvation at a time.
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© 2014 Scott Alan Buss – All Rights Reserved.