Sunday, March 1, 2015

Why Christians Might Should Join ISIS

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God.
If the powers that be have been instituted by God, does it behoove us to know who the powers that be will be in, say five years, and make sure we’re on their good side?
Let’s go back forty-three years to Vietnam and say you’re a nineteen-year-old Vietnamese Christian. The assumption I’ve always operated on has been that the Viet Cong were godless, bloodthirsty communists and Christians should have fought against them if they were to join the war effort at all. But you have to admit that anyone who knew or even guessed in 19721 that Uncle Sam would not win that war would necessarily have concluded that once the war was over, the powers that be according to Romans 13 would have been the communists.2 So if you know the communists will be in power in a few years, shouldn’t you help them come to power?
It didn’t take supernatural powers to predict the outcome of the Vietnam war. I can remember standing in the middle of Willamette Avenue, Adair Air Force Station, ten miles north of Corvallis, Oregon, in the late summer or fall of 1968 with a group of fellow high schoolaged Air Force brats, lamenting that it didn’t seem like our government was really interested in winning the war: if they were, wouldn’t they have won by now?3 Twelve years later, after the war was over, I heard the daughter of an Air Force fighter pilot quote her father as having said during the war that he knew how to win it single-handedly: “I should load my fighter up with bombs and rockets and drop them all on Washington, DC.” At no time between 1968 and the end of the war can I remember thinking Uncle Sam would win it.
We know that after Saigon fell, the communists made life miserable for Christians. (They still do, though non-government agents do also.) I for one have no trouble believing that an idealistic communist (or anyone who is zealous to see his version of justice realized), knowing that Christians in the US were fervently behind the war effort, would consider it his solemn duty to kill or imprison those who collaborated with the invaders who napalmed, bombed, shot, and otherwise killed and maimed his family and friends. If Christians had helped the communists come to power, might that have mitigated the backlash after the war? Could they not have been Daniel and his three friends, the mucky-mucks in a godless government that so many Christians aspire to be (or defend themselves as being)?
Let’s look at a situation in the Bible where the command is clear.
Let’s say you’re a nineteen-year-old male Jew in 586 or so BC and you hear Jeremiah say this:
Tell the people of Jerusalem that the Lord says, ‘I will give you a choice between two courses of action. One will result in life; the other will result in death. Those who stay in this city will die in battle or of starvation or disease. Those who leave the city and surrender to the Babylonians who are besieging it will live. They will escape with their lives. For I, the Lord, say that I am determined not to deliver this city but to bring disaster on it. It will be handed over to the king of Babylon and he will destroy it with fire. (21:8-11)
What do you do? If surrendering to the Babylonians is a good idea, wouldn’t joining their army be an even better idea?
After all, by that time many Judahites had been deported to Babylon. Maybe if you joined the army, you’d be allowed to stay in Judah. You might even have the chance to play Obadiah to Babylon’s Ahab and hide people in caves or otherwise protect them from the occupying army; you might keep some babies from being dashed on the rocks (Ps 137:8-9). If you become an officer, they’ll pay for your college and you can earn a pension. What could possibly go wrong? It might be your platoon that goes into the Holy of Holies and destroys the Ark of the Covenant and the cherubim, but the glory of the Lord has already departed from the temple (Ezek 11:23), so that would be no biggie.
So whether Vietnam or the Middle East, if it’s plain that Uncle Sam isn’t going to win, why not join his enemies? Or, more to the point for you, dear reader, why would a Christian fight for him?
Uncle Sam has no idea how to win the wars he is fighting today. He has no idea even what a win would look like, and hasn’t for years:
Even those who support McChrystal and his strategy of counterinsurgency know that whatever the general manages to accomplish in Afghanistan, it's going to look more like Vietnam than Desert Storm. "It's not going to look like a win, smell like a win or taste like a win," says Maj. Gen. Bill Mayville, who serves as chief of operations for McChrystal. "This is going to end in an argument."
The same could have been said of Iraq.
We have an economy that exports weapons, pornography, and not much else (oh, and software), with $200 trillion in unfunded liabilities, a shrinking economy, a growing proportion of the population not only net tax consumers but the least healthy we have ever seen, and we’re going to win what wars?
If ISIS ever comes over here, anyone with a long-range plan for his life will join them.
Unless the world runs on ethical dominion and not on power. Unless the voice we are to be guided by is not necessarily the voice of the person holding the most powerful weapons in the area. Unless “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor 5:10), and uniforms and badges and titles don’t change the standard by which we are judged.
The world certainly doesn’t need ISIS. It doesn’t need Uncle Sam either. What it needs is Jesus, Jesus’ body, the church, living for him only and not taking one godless side against another.
For [the church] my tears shall fall,
for her my prayers ascend,
to her my cares and toils be given,
till toils and cares shall end.

1I have chosen 1972 because it was the year I came to Christ, and it was the year my draft lottery number, somewhere in the 200s, was drawn. After coming to Christ, I spent hours at different times wondering what I would have done had I been drafted. I’m glad it didn’t happen, because I never came up with a good answer.
2Have you ever noticed that God always seems to ordain the winners of armed conflicts as the powers that be? Who says might doesn’t make right?

3There is a narrative going around to the effect that the Viet Cong’s 1968 Tet offensive was a disaster for the Viet Cong and a great victory for Uncle Sam’s forces, but the US media presented it to the home folks as the exact opposite. We may or may not have known or cared about the offensive.

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