Please Stop Sharing ISIS

Stop Sharing ISIS

 

For months now, ISIS has been waging their self-proclaimed Jihad in the Middle East. And their brutality knows few limitations. At least once a week they share- via various social media outlets- horrific videos of them executing captives who have fallen into their hands. The latest video was a choreographed killing of numerous Coptic Christians, captives from Egypt.

These are horrific atrocities, of the most heinous kind. And the various news articles testify to the brutality and evil of ISIS.

But please, think twice before sharing related articles on your social media.

I can understand (and-at times- relate to) the good intentions that may accompany one’s decision to share these articles. We want to get the word out, sound the call for prayer, petition for international intervention. I also understand that it can be cathartic- a means to vent the unspeakable anger and grief- to post a brief status damning this evil and it’s perpetrators with cited accompanying evidence.

But we are not helping by sharing the story. We are not helping the fight against evil by spreading articles testifying to its gruesome victories. What we spread when we share these news articles is anger, hatred, grief, hurt, pain and terror. We do not spread love or hope. We spread ISIS.

Consider the victims themselves. Often times they appear in their rehearsed executions dressed as criminals. They are forced in front of cameras knowing their imminent fate. They are presented as powerless against their captors, helpless prey in their claws, pitied examples of what ISIS claims will happen to all “infidels.” They are executed publicly, horrifically.

And then the video of their tragic fate is posted to the internet and its news is spread all around the world. The victims become household figures, shown in a state of terror and horror. Their life is taken and then their dignity is caught up in a wave of social-media virality.

Think also of the victims families. They have suffered unspeakable trauma; from the moment news of their loved ones’ disappearance first reached their doorstep, to seeing that their death has been recorded and is now broadcasting across the globe, the terror has infiltrated and destroyed every semblance of peace they will ever know.

We do not aid their sorrow by sharing photos of their loved one’s final moments.

I want to affirm and further the call to prayer and awareness that sharing these news stories raise. But as Christians we can, and should, be mindful of the fact that the world is vast and there are many dark corners in which evils we cannot imagine are occurring every day. We should never forget this. Nor should we cease in praying for those desperately trying to get out from under the thumb of death.

So please, hear me: we must be praying. We must be aware of the issues at hand. But this doesn’t mean we have to share videos and photos and archived descriptions of these cruelties.

Psychological terrorism is a real thing. And the cruelty of ISIS is that their hatred and brutality spreads beyond the immediate victims and into the homes of people across the world. This is why they post videos to the internet. It is why they have social media accounts that circulate their deeds to the public. They want to inspire hate. They want to inspire anger, fear and terror. And our egotistic, elevated view of “awareness” creates a social media in which second-hand trauma is defined as “news.”

But this isn’t news. It is terror. And the only one’s who win by us sharing these stories, by spreading word of the terrorists’ atrocities, are the terrorists themselves.

Lastly, the we need to remember the following: the reposting of these articles often serves to dehumanize ISIS. Again, the reaction to wish damnation and hell fire on masked figures who delight in executing men, raping women and mowing down children is understandable, human even. But we should not forget that- if we are to call ourselves Christians- then ISIS is not our enemy. They are personification of our enemy, yes, but they are not the real enemy. Christ’s commanded us to love our earthly enemies, to pray for them. In doing so Christ called us to stand for the Kingdom of God, a kingdom that was not of this earth though it came to earth and was announced in the person of Christ. Christians live in testimony to that kingdom: a kingdom that defeats- not instigators of death- but death itself.

Our enemy is not a terrorist organization or any earthly power alone. Our enemy is evil and death itself. And we are called to testify to this reality by praying for our earthly foe.

Of course, it is easy for me to say this nestled into my apartment in America, sipping on tea and stealing glances out the window at fresh snow as I write. It is easy for me to babble on and on about following Christ’s command to love vicious enemies on the other side of the globe because they’re on the other side of the globe. They are not a threat nor are they a perpetrator of unspeakable evil against me, my family, my home, my life. And I acknowledge that.

To some, my position may even be wildly offensive. But so was Christ’s command. Christ ordered his listeners to love their enemies as they stood surrounded by them. The Roman army was infamous for it’s domineering cruelty. At the time Jesus was born Herod ordered that every boy under the age of two be executed by the sword because he’d heard one of them was to be king. Another Roman ruler ordered a mass crucification of Jews outside Jerusalem, such that the Romans actually ran out of wood with which to build the crosses. Roman tactics were cruel, torturous and highly-calculated acts centered on conveying the message: “We are powerful. This is what we do to those who stand against us. Look and be terrified.”

By sharing videos and pictures of ISIS murdering their victims, we take the crosses of Rome and parade them through every corner of the wired world. We advance the message of ISIS’ Rome- “look at our power and might- look at our ability to humiliate and brutalize whomever we please”- and we carry it into our schools, our workplace, our churches, and our homes.

In doing so we forget that Jesus stood in the middle of a society where people travelled on roads lined with their crucified brothers, sisters, parents, children, leaders and hopes. And Jesus told them: “Love your enemies. Pray for those who kill you, mutilate you, terrorize you and exercise earthly authority over you.”

Please, pray for the victims of ISIS. Pray for the families who’s lives are ripped apart by their terror. Pray for the men, women and children who’ve fallen into their grasp. And call others to pray. Pray for peace in the Middle East and everywhere. There’s nothing wrong with posting a status that says “ISIS just killed more victims. Please pray for their families, pray for the captives, pray for peace.”

And as we pray, let our voices join the testimony of Christians past, martyrs who followed Christ’s command, who proclaimed with their words and their lives the story of Christianity. It is not a power story, but a love story. A love story capable of covering the sins, griefs, terrors and injustices- not just of ourselves but the perpetrators themselves.

If we must share something on social media- let’s share that story.

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Learning to Love Again

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A common misconception of love is that it is an action which only takes place once. Whether we admit it or not, our lives testify to a subconscious belief that love is something we commit to, sign, vow, proclaim “I do”, buy some flowers and wallah!, we’re in love and always will be. Yes, yes…we all like to acknowledge our mature and grown-up understanding that love takes  a lot of work, but what we fail to realize is that it:

work

Thus husbands are emotionally detached and wives distant or dejected. Instead of true love we all wander about finding solace in Oprah and Ellen DeGeneres, divorce rates are challenging our national debt “race you to the top?” and Ke$ha wrote “Your Love is My Drug” to top it all off.

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When it comes to love…we really must admit that we haven’t got a clue; we must admit that we are all desperately in need of learning to love all over again.

Of course, any hope of understanding true love begins in the form of Christ on the cross. Ironically, this is also where our misconceptions of love also take root. We seem to think of the Christ’s death and resurrection as a historical event, something that happened, took place, occurred and was a completed… all in the past. While all this is true (meaning the death and resurrection was an actual historical event, not some construed concept wrought at the hands of paranoid, terrified and simultaneously power-hungry disciples) we are cheating ourselves and devaluing God’s redemptive plan if we allow our theology to center on a mere historical occurrence.

proceedWhat I mean by this is that Christ’s death and resurrection is not something that happened, it’s something that is; it is an event that transcends all time and all history to encompass and cloak every single breathing moment of our existence. Rather than seeing His redemptive work on Calvary as a dot on a timeline (somewhere between dinosaurs and Darwin) we must learn to understand Christ’s sacrifice as a dome that encompasses all of time, a veil that was lifted on our entire history and an event that took place within our own story but also above and over it thus permeating everything that happened before and after.

Golgotha-Il_Pordenone-Cremona_Cathedral The greatest act of love was a transcendent occurrence, one that is re-lived and required every day of our lives. Christ’s sacrifice for us is one that is just as real, poignant and applicable today as it was for the weeping faithful at Golgotha 2,000 years ago. And thank God for that. Because we Christians cannot, without gross quantities of disillusionment, escape the reality that we need Christ’s love. When I wake up and curse my plumber because the there’s no hot water after I flush the toilet even though “Yerp, I fixed ur up nyce n gewd!”, I need Christ’s love. When I cut off a woman in traffic and rather than apologizing give her the finger even after I realize she’s a senior citizen with an uncanny resemblance to Mother Theresa, I need Christ’s love. When it’s 3 AM and I’m lying in bed plotting evil schemes against my roommate because he’s keeping me up with a terrible ruckus as he frantically searches for his pet python that “somehow” escaped in our room, I really really really need Christ’s love. I need Christ’s love so I can give Christ’s love.

As much as we need this love, we need to admit what that love costs. We live in a manner that betrays our belief that love is easy. Ergo our Christian walk, marriages and entire lives ought to also be easy… yet we claim to follow a Savior who died the brutal and humiliating death of a petty criminal.

contradictionOur response to Christ needs to be one of imitation. We must constantly be filling from our Source and immediately pouring out to our world with Christ’s humble and transcendent love.

Now, these are all glorious theories (if I do say so myself), but when rubber hits the road they mean nothing. Thus, this all begs the question: what does this look like in the context of a marriage?

i dunno
Cause I’m not married….HOLLA!

But nonetheless, that doesn’t mean I can’t be practicing aspects of matrimonial love now. Because the more I can practice loving those close to me today, the better I’ll be at it if I am one day married (stop laughing, miracles still happen). Point being: I need to learn to love my roommates.

roomates
#nowtheresanidea

 Throughout various roommate experiences (like the time my housing buddy lost a reptile of the snake assortment in our room…now that’s a story) I’ve learned a very important lesson about living with someone: it either sucks less, sucks moderately, or really sucks. This is because people are people, we are prideful, sinful and bound to step on each other’s toes if not go out of our way to intentionally stomp on them. When you put any two (or more, God help us) pride conjuring machines in a confined space for an elongated amount of time, it’s just a matter of milliseconds before multiple conflicts erupt.

“Oh please,” says everyone ever, “I get that love is difficult and takes work…but my spouse will be so much easier to love than…than…my rooommmmateee.” (insert look of disgust)

“Oh, and why’s that?”

oh i know

excited dog

Ah yes, the sex card, well played.

It is true you’ll be able to have sex…. but what’s also true (so I’m told) is that sex realllllyyyyy doesn’t solve arguments.

 

I know, I was surprised too.
I know, I was surprised too.

But think about it: if I don’t learn how to show love to my roommates now, when every night I can retreat to my room and sleep alone, chances are it’s not going to be much easier when I’m married and, instead of retreat and solitude, each night ends with: “Oh! That’s right…we sleep together! And oh! Lookit that! You’re stealing the covers again! Oh, joy! I do love thee!”

“But,” screams my inner everything,  “I don’t want to love my roommates. I don’t want to address conflict. I don’t want to go out of my way to build a relationship with them.  I don’t want to invest the time in hanging out with them and getting to know them. I don’t want to clean my dishes right now, no matter how much that annoys them…they’re a hypochondriatic clean freak anyways!”

And this is when my theology becomes uncomfortably practical. It’s when my allegiance to Christ and His ethic of love takes more than a prayer at meal times and a dusty Bible on my bedside table.  It’s when I have to wake up each day and cry out for Christ’s love, knowing that’s the only way I’m going to be able to love anyone.

Because it’s absolutely true that I don’t want to turn off the lights every time I leave the room; I don’t care what article in what hipster magazine my progressive-LL Bean model of a roommate read that says we’re consuming the global electricity disproportionately; their pretentious attitude is consuming my patience disproportionately. I don’t want to have self-control when they’re being obnoxious and I’m holding a frying pan that would look great smacking them upside the head. I don’t want to pray anything but the curses of Sodom and Gomorrah upon them when it’s 3AM and “Hey bro…I dunno know how…uh… but…remember Snickers my cute, adorable and utterly heinous boa constrictor? Well…he escaped in the room…”. And what’s absolutely certain is that I don’t want to look in our bathroom mirror (after 15 minutes of waiting for them to finishing showering, thanks for making me late for work) and admit that I might actually be the problem. In short: I don’t want to have to love them again and again.

But that’s my calling. And the more I learn what love is, the more I learn that I can’t fulfill its demands without some (read: a crapload of) help. The beauty of recognizing my need is fulfilled in the realization that Christ’s love is present; it exists on a daily, moment-to-moment basis and it permeates and overcomes even the most obnoxious, prideful and wicked corners of my soul. If I have any hope of being a good roommate, let alone a God-fearing husband down the road, it is only possible with Christ’s love soaking into every iota of my existence. Only then can I face each day and, slowly but surely, learn to love again and again and again.