I have mixed feelings about the ISIS videos that keep coming out. While I think we need to know what ISIS is up to doing in their neck of the woods; I have no desire to watch or participate in a lengthy discussion of it. Why? Here’s my reasoning:
1. I do not need to see the video or exchange in any dialogue to know what ISIS is doing is evil.
Sometimes you don’t need to see something to understand it. And sometimes you do. But telling me “Hey this group just killed 21 innocent and unarmed people” is enough for me to answer “Yeah, that some B.S. there. That evil.”
2. I need to not watch it in order to protect my heart.
I’m a Chaplain (and pastor). I have been called by God to reach out to any and every single person that comes across my path. Sometimes that means smiling and nodding at them (in a friendly, non-leering manner). Sometimes that means engaging in dialogue ranging from “how u doin’ ” to “man that’s rough, tell me how that makes you feel.”. And sometimes that means taking an action to help them or show them love.
But here’s the problem. I can’t do this if I am harboring hate or disgust for a person. I was told growing up to not hate the person but hate the sin; yet, I have trouble distinguishing where persons end and action begin. I am horrible at it. I have to put aside my feelings about how the person conducts themselves to truly be loving. I might can fake it for a few seconds; but people can figure me quickly; so in order to follow my calling I just have to set aside their words and actions in order to show love.
As a Chaplain coming across Muslims is not a rare occurrence. True I probably meet more unbelievers than Muslims in the course of a day; but they are there in my community. So if I am harboring fear, anger, or anxiety about Islam; I either must let it go or not spend too much time with any one Muslim. Why? Because any actions on my own lose their value quickly after a person realizes I have anxiety around them or that I may have undealt with feelings of anger to “people like them.”
So my solution is to release the anger. Now in small doses anger, fear, and anxiety are easier to vent. But the more time I spend dwelling on something or the worse material I learn, the longer the time to vent and the more likely I am to lie to myself that I am clean of unhealthy feeling to a group.
So I can’t watch the video. It does something to me that I have trouble releasing. So unless I want to take several hours for the forgiveness portion of compline (the liturgical set of evening prayers to be said before going to sleep), I have to be careful of my heart and what is getting stowed there.
3. The purpose of the video is to make me mad; so if I watch and get mad, the video editor has won.
Based on my statements in 1 and 2, I have come to a formula for dealing with the ever encroaching nature of these video. I here about them and pray:
“Father that’s awful. That’s horrible. Please welcome these ones into your presence. And Father please forgive the doers of these actions, for like the ones who crucified you, they do not know what they do.”
I choose to a) stand with the justice if God against the loss of life, b) prayerfully hope that God will take care of those against whom evil is being fostered, and c) forgive.
In a sense this is a horrible, evil version of what my sister used to do to me as a kid. She would pester the dickens out of me and for an hour I might ignore her; but like any big brother, my patience was limited and eventually I would react (often times completely out of proportion). When this happened my sister would go to my Mom or Dad complaining; and suddenly I was in trouble. My sister had won the day.
Think about it. The people creating these videos want us to hate them. They want us to be mad. This is being done to provoke a reaction. They want us to hit back. Our hitting back is good for their cause. It helps with recruitment. It makes them look right about us.
“This doesn’t make sense,” you are saying. And you would be right. This is utterly nonsensical (just as my sister’s game was). Yet hate (or boredom in my sister’s case) is a nonsensical thing. Anger is too. It makes you act in weird ways. And so any response on our part that is in anger is a self-defeating prospect. It just provokes more videos. More terrorists. More hate. More anger. The cycle getting going and getting bigger as it does.
But what happens is we stop airing the videos. What if we stop sharing them on Facebook and Twitter. What if I response was to go on air and publicly ask God to forgive them; rather than spewing more anger into the air. First, the terrorists stop producing the videos. Second, the narrative of the terrorists would be disproved. Third, less reaction on our part means less people being offended by our reactions. Fourth, I believe God will hear our prayers, change our hearts, and take the reigns of vindication from us. Last, I believe that as God changes our hearts, others will see it and be changed as well. Peace will become a possibility that could never exist as long as we continued to hit one another (progressively harder).
This is how we win. (I know that sounds awful to say- this is far from a game, this is real- but at the same time is kinda is a game to these people).
And so this is why I hope that we will wise up, guard our hearts, and stop it with the watching and posting.
I hope we will be who we are; not what we hate.