No, ISIS has nothing to do with the end of the world. Please stop saying that.


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It’s been a long time since I’ve been immersed in Southern Evangelicalism where a certain brand of interpreting world events looms large. I grew up in the Bible Belt, where Saddam Hussein, Desert Storm, the fall of the USSR, the growing rise of Israeli nationalism, and “slipping societal morals” were all “signs” of the “end times” or “the last days”. I sat through youth group meetings where our senior pastor would talk about how the book of Daniel had coded prophecies about nuclear weapons in space.

(Being in high school, I saw no problem with him making that argument by saying that the book’s “original language” uses the Greek word dynamos from which we get the word “dynamite”; it was only later that it clicked for me that Daniel is written in Hebrew and Aramaic, not Greek.)

Moving to the Northeast, the bastion of mainline Christianity; and attending two different seminaries from traditions very different from this prophecy-interpreting one, I was under the false impression that this whole game of interpreting current events in apocalyptic ways was rightly losing steam.

But then, this past week, the tragedy of ISIS (or the so-called “Islamic State”) beheading 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians happened. I first found out on Facebook, when I saw a procession of ancient Christian articulations of mourning filling my news feed. “Come, Lord, Jesus.” “Lord, have mercy.” “Kyrie Eleison.” I, myself speechless, decided also to lean heavily on old words from our Christian family to find comfort and express lament.

Not everyone went this way, though. After these initial responses, my Facebook and Twitter feeds began to fill with phrases and out-of-context Bible verses that I hadn’t seen in years. People were posting blog posts and verses all of which were trying to say that these deaths amounted to some unique act of “global Christian persecution” that was somehow emblematic of the world’s “last days” or “end times”.

Today I’d like to offer a seven reasons why this is wrong-headed and unhelpful:
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For the Dead & Living: Prayers for the Martyrs of ISIS


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For the Dead

Eternal Lord God, we remember before you today your faithful servants,
the 20 Libyan martyrs; we pray that, having opened to them the gates of larger life,
you will receive them more and more into your joyful service, that, with all
who have faithfully served you in the past, they may share in your eternal victory.

Almighty God, who, in joy and felicity, lives with the spirits who die in the Lord,
and with the souls of the faithful: We give you heartfelt thanks
for the good examples of your servants, who, even in the fear of their final moments
finished their course in faith, and now find rest and refreshment.

Father of all, we pray for those we love, but see no longer:
Grant them your peace; let perpetual light shine upon them;
in your loving wisdom and almighty power, work through their deaths
the good purpose of your perfect will.
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A Christian Pacifist’s Lament for Syria, with help from Quakers


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{summary: Though I consider myself a pacifist and consider force as something that goes against the Kingdom of God, I feel that governments, because they are not the Kingdom of God will always fall short of that and have a necessary level of sin in them. And so, for the sake of a greater good, I would not speak against my government using military action in Syria (though I wouldn’t say I’d explicitly “endorse” it).}

As many people have been doing, I have been snarkily criticizing President Obama’s pursuit of making an attack on Syria. It seems too pointless, too risky, too naivetoo counter-productive, and too lonely. I had felt sadness over the plight of Syrians, but while the rebel forces are over-run by Islamic radicals and terrorist groups, I haven’t thought that empowering, arming, or making their victory certain was better in the long-run. (If you need a refresher on the details of the Syria situation, this is a great one.)
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