Magic Trixter FoX

Magic Trixter FoX

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

ISIS and the End of the Age

If You are considering the possibility that we may be living in 'the End Times' - whatever that means to You, then I, the FoX, have something to say.  There have always been at least two different major narratives about How the World Will End presented at any given time.  For the purposes of this essay, I will argue that one leads to hatred and warmongering, while another one seeks reconciliation.

Throughout the Age of the Church (the Day of Christ's Resurrection until Now), Believers have expected the End of the Age.  Usually, regardless of other doctrinal differences between the denominations, Christians have been unified in a hope for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  "What will be the Time of His Coming?" and "What are the Signs of His Coming?" are questions often debated amongst Christians.  Some teach that a 'Rapture' of believers from the Earth will happen, either before or during the worst of the Great Tribulation.  Others do not teach this.  But in that diversity, the hope of Christ's Return is universally shared among Christians.  I, the FoX, strongly share this Hope.

It should be noted that one other Religion also expects what Christians expect: Muslims are expecting the return of Jesus. Keeping this fact in mind when talking about Christian eschatology can be very interesting, because often times, Christians and Muslims deeply suspect each other as being on the side of Anti-Christ during the Seven Year Tribulation Period.  It is, however, highly unlikely that the Anti-Christ will be universally accepted by either religion and universally rejected by the other.  The Bible declares that "If it were possible, they [false Christs and false prophets] would deceive even the very elect." (Matthew 24:24).  Therefore, whoever the Anti-Christ is or will be, it is much more reasonable to expect that he will have supporters and detractors from both religions.  We must be far wiser than this tribal thinking if we are to discern the times we are living in. 

 A good resource is the site, which indexes many Islamic blogs specifically relating to the return of Jesus Christ.  Browsing through it can give unfamiliar Christians a glance at just how Muslims relate to Jesus Christ.  Despite a refusal to share the Christian conviction that Jesus Christ is One with God the Father, Muslims do place a great deal of respect upon the figure of Jesus.  They believe that he was a prophet of God, one of 124,000 throughout history beginning with Adam and ending with Muhammad.  Among the Islamic prophets, however, Muhammad is unique for being the final prophet, and Jesus is unique for being the Messiah.  Islam teaches that Jesus is the Messiah, meaning the rightful leader of the 'Ummah' or community of Israel.   Islam teaches that the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah, but promotes the idea that when Jesus returns, the Jews will embrace him.

Right now across the Middle East and in North Africa, Christians are being slaughtered by ISIS.  It is not the first or the only time, by a long shot, that Islamist groups have terrorized Christians, but it is certainly the most brutal contemporary example.  ISIS beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians on the beaches of Tripoli, Libya earlier this month and just a few days ago, the same group captured 90 Assyrian Christians whom they likely intend to execute.  The way that I view the eschaton, Jesus' return could happen at any time, and then again, it could happen in another thousand years.  It is important to remember that Jesus' original twelve disciples fully expected Jesus to return in their own lifetime, and every faithful Christian has thought the same ever since.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, the eschaton is suspended until God alone decides that the End has come.

Because the End could come at any time, there are always actors in the World who are legitimately on the side of an apocalyptic, demonic Evil.   I, the FoX, am betting that You agree with me, and that it is plain to see this spirit at work in ISIS.  On Facebook I have noted comments in which people doubt the humanity of ISIS militants.  The fact that they can smile as they kill is cited as demonic.  I have no doubt that when such extreme acts of violence are committed, they open up the hearts of the killers to a host of demonic influence and activity.  I have no doubt that ISIS militants have become dehumanized through their own activities and are now firmly in Satan's intense psychological and spiritual grip.  Islam has a teaching that at the End Times, there will be many false Muslims in the World, and that inexplicably they will all be one day turned into apes.  But I decry the response of some Americanized Christians, who become so indignant against the ISIS militants that they begin spewing murderous or jingoist rhetoric.  The idea that 'Obama should go in and stop them' or that it is shameful if he does not is the same kind of thinking which enabled a corrupt war for profit to be started under our noses during the Bush era.  "When all you've got is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail,"so the saying goes.  Americans tend to think every problem requires a military response.

Be mindful of that.  It was not so long ago (2013) that Obama himself tried to sell us on a war with Syria, not fighting ISIS, but fighting alongside them against the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  There's an anti-Christ for you, by the way: well at the very least, a war criminal.  Bashar al-Assad had imprisoned nearly 200,000 people for opposing his rule and by some accounts, was demanding to be worshiped as a god.  He responded to protest against his regime during the Arab Spring with strikes on civilians.  President Barack Obama tried to highlight his crimes and justify strikes against Syria in a message to the American people in 2013.  But the American people responded resoundingly that they did not want to get into another war.  Pope Francis called on Christians around the world to pray and fast for peace.  Millions did.  And we did not go to war with Assad.  But about a year later, we started really fighting alongside him against ISIS, an even worse threat.  I detect in the recurring temptations of America to war, something that is also demonic.  Because repeatedly, the Americanized Christian response to sensitive and ancient hostilities brewing in the lands of the Bible is to try and sort it out with bombs and guns.  Repeatedly, this response has proven to not be the right one.

My own falling out of line with Evangelical Christianity happened at around the time that Bush authorized U.S. troops to invade Iraq in 2003.  Because it was obvious to me that nothing linked the nation of Iraq to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 - if anything we should have been going to war with Saudi Arabia since most of the hijackers that day were Saudi - I protested the War.  Within my Evangelical circle of friends, I was repeatedly told that this War against Iraq had something to do with the End Times and that as a Christian I should support the President who was standing up to those evil Muslims.  Finer points about Middle Eastern politics were ignored, let alone finer points about Christian and Islamic eschatology.  Fast forward a few years, and it is now widely accepted that the Iraq War had nothing to do with the End Times or even with stopping terrorism.  The Iraq we "liberated" from Saddam is now a failed state and no weapons of destruction were ever found.  The Iraq War only fueled terrorism.  But now Americanized Christianity wants to charge off into the Middle East again.

If these are indeed the End Times, (and I believe that they are), I think we should start to long for the things Christ himself would long for. We should want there to be peace and justice in the Middle East, and we should respond with prayer for the nations of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Saudi Arabia.  I believe that if we are praying heartfully for these nations we will be less interested in taking the American War Machine to each and every one of them.  We should pray for the conversion of militants.  ISIS members are not so dehumanized that we cannot pray for their conversion.   The Apostle Paul started off as an anti-Christian militant.  He was converted by the death of a martyr.  "The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church," Tertullian said.  So although the number of the slain witnesses for Jesus continues to fill up under Heaven's altar each passing day, what this should mean to us in safe, comfortable America is not that it is time to go to War, but that it is time to watchfully and lovingly pray.   There can be no substitute for loving our enemies and praying for them daily.  So I the FoX am calling on You to turn from warmongering and turn to Love through Prayer.