“Bill Mac” is a frequent commenter here.
I asked my men’s bible study group the following question: “What is the greatest danger ISIS poses to Christians?” As you might expect, I received answers about possible attacks, forced conversions, the spread of Islam, the persecution of Christians, etc. They pointed out the systematic destruction of Christians, their churches, and their artifacts in the Middle East. I reminded them that in our long history, Christianity has only been strengthened by persecution. I asked them to think deeper. I wanted them to think, specifically, about what danger ISIS (and like groups) poses to American Christians. To them, specifically. To me. As William pointed out in a previous post, the likelihood of any of us (Christians in America) being physically harmed by ISIS is very low. But there are other kinds of harm. There are other kinds of danger, to Christians particularly. Perhaps no one but me has experienced this, but stay with me. When, in the last couple of weeks, I read about Christians being killed, churches being destroyed, artifacts smashed, I felt the stirring of something. When I saw a photo of an ISIS fighter raising a hammer over a cross, ready to smash it, I recognized the feeling. Hatred. In the same moment I also recognized that that hatred was destructive, to me. I recognized that I am not unaffected by ISIS, even though I am far away and physically safe. I realized that there are dangers that our troops cannot protect me from; dangers to my soul. That hatred, if allowed to take root, will destroy me from within. It will start with ISIS, but will it end there? Perhaps soon, it will be anyone from the Middle East. Perhaps it will be all Muslims. Perhaps I will start looking at my colleague from Iran, a close friend, differently. Perhaps I’ll start avoiding my other colleague from Pakistan. He might be plotting something. But in my more lucid moments I realize that this is exactly what the enemy wants. ISIS and like groups are fueled by hate. They want us to hate them. More importantly, they want us to hate all Muslims. They think that will drive them to their side. They might be right.
I’m sure many of you recall the days of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. As a good conservative, I despised Bill Clinton and I reveled in what I perceived to be his downfall. I was glued to the news. I watched the situation at every free moment. I wanted him to fall. I wanted him to fall hard. To be humiliated. I grew angry and frustrated as it became clear that he was going to get through the situation relatively unscathed. It was like a knot in the pit of my stomach. I finally realized that my ill-feelings toward the president were not affecting him in the slightest, but that they were destroying me from the inside out. And from that moment I was able to regain my bearings, spiritually speaking. I had to let it go.
I want ISIS to be defeated. I support the military action against them and I am thankful for the people who put themselves in harm’s way for my sake. I want radical Islam to be relegated to a footnote in history. But I can’t let myself hate them, because that hate will become a cancer that will spread to other people. I can’t hate them because I would be betraying the values that I purport to hold as a Christian.
I can’t hate them because by doing so I become less like Christ and more like them.