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.