The idea of “Islamic State” or ISIS is something that strikes dread in most hearts that I know. It defies our sensibilities to think that, for ISIS to exist, some people around the world must be drawn to their rallying cries.
To explain the appeal of ISL is difficult. I don’t know that I have a clear picture of what the ISIS rally cry is, much less any resonation with it.
But lots of people have been drawn into it, to the point where they are willing to give their lives as ‘martyrs’ for their cause. We simply think of them as malicious suicide bombers; but in their minds they die as heroes.
The key to the success of the “Islamic State” recruitment narrative is not that it is coherent, real or virtuous. Rather that it has successfully deceived hearts and minds to believe that it is more coherent, real and virtuous than the alternatives.
How could something so barbaric as to slaughter 129 (and counting) innocent Parisians be more appealing than its alternatives? The answer speaks volumes to the incoherence, unreality and lack of virtue of the predominant narratives in our world today.
Contemporary narratives are all about “what’s in it for me?” They can be summarized by one word, “get”. That’s true for consumer capitalism of the West, communist China, also the corrupt and/or rapidly developing countries of Asia, South America and Africa. And it’s true for the Middle East – including ISIS.
Even most religious movements have been co-opted by this narrative of greed and selfishness. Unfortunately that’s definitely true for most professed adherents of my religion: Christianity.
That doesn’t sit well with me. Nor do I believe Christianity to be selfish at its heart. The Christianity that I know and hold dear is all about others. It’s about loving. It’s about giving. Love that gives everything for the sake of others. In one word, “give” – the opposite of “get”.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life.”
If that powerful idea of self-giving love was believed and lived throughout even just the Western, so-called Christian world, I don’t think there’d even be a so-called “Islamic State” based in Syria right now. It doesn’t gain traction and followers because it is coherent, real or virtuous, but because there is a worldwide vacuum of coherence, reality and virtue.
There’s nothing good about the widespread self-focused, materialistic worldview. Many of us intuitively know that money can’t buy the things that the human soul most deeply desires: love, happiness and peace. And we also know these core human desires can’t be acquired by grabs for power. Nor by forceful dispossession of territory, belongings or life itself.
But we’ve all been deceived by the idea that selfish desires for power and material things need to be gratified for the pursuit of happiness. How else can we explain rampant materialism juxtaposed by skyrocketing rates of crime, depression, anxiety and suicide? Our beliefs and values may not really be much different to a suicide bomber claiming to be acting in the name of their God.
So we’ve all been infected with the same ideology as ISIS. We all operate out of rampant self-preservation and self-exaltation.
The solution to the problem of ISIS is actually the solution to a problem we all share in common. We need a switch from a worldview infected by selfishness to a worldview where love and giving are the actuating principles of our behavior.
The results of this switch will be love, joy and peace like we’ve rarely seen.
The method to achieve it: authentic biblical Christianity. Not the corrupted religion of the West. And not the discarding of all religion. To follow Lennon’s “Imagine”, where there is no religion, still leaves us with not much more than a ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality: fundamentally selfish. That’s the problem, not the solution.
Not sure? Try Christianity for yourself. Read the gospels. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” This is the one narrative that I’ve found that truly is coherent, real and virtuous.