ISIS, the Clash of Civilizations and Enemy Love (Part 1)

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I have been asked on several occasions, "What is a proper Christian response to the rise of terrorism, the development of ISIS, and the clash of civilizations?"

Here's part 1 of 3 of my response:

We live in interesting days. Not since the 1930's (the period of the Great Depression leading up to WW II) has there been this much national and global fear and anxiety. Global financial markets impact local markets; what happens across the globe affects us at home; global conflict and war has initiated yet another seismic migration of people fleeing violence and war. What happens in one part of the world effects other parts of the world — we are no longer isolated and insulated from this 'global effect.'

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And along with globalization has come the intersection of the clash of cultures, ideologies, and civilizations.

Not all civilizations are equal; some are better than others. Systems that allow for the greatest degree of lawful participation and freedom are best. With Eastern worldviews now challenging Western culture, with civility now facing the terror of anarchy, and with the rise of Eastern religions and radical Islam, Western civilization as the 'Christian West' is being confronted like never before by a "pagan East." Moral and spiritual ideologies have risen to challenge the Judeo-Christian worldview that has been dominant in Western civilization since the Reformation of the mid-16th century and, in America, especially since the late 1700's.

Additionally, the moral and spiritual center of America itself has finally and openly manifested the decay that has been eating away at her foundations for decades. The decay that was beneath the surface, and that many were unaware of, has now surfaced to show that the foundations of this nation have been slipping away — and many didn't even know it.

The post-WW II era of moral and spiritual stability has given way to moral and spiritual chaos, to the degree that the moral and spiritual center of Western civilization is in danger of collapsing and being completely eclipsed by a rampant secularism and strident anti-theism. The vandals are at the city gate and we are unprepared.

The ancient Gospel of Jesus Christ and the substantive faith that helped shape and greatly characterize the founding of America did not get translated to the children of the post-WW II era. Coming out of the victorious, yet devastating era of WW II, and with a desire to give our children a better way of life than the previous generations, the 1950's breezy, cultural Christianity gave way to the tumultuous 60's and the vacuous 70's.

In 1980, with the election of Ronald Reagan and the development of movements like the Moral Majority, an effort was made to hold the Judeo-Christian center of American culture; yet, it was too little too late. The foundations continued to crumble, partly because of the pressures from progressive secularists and partly from an ill-prepared church ill-equipped to deal with the ramifications of the social and sexual revolution sweeping the nation.

The Supreme Court decision of 1973, Roe v. Wade, should have been a harbinger to the church that more change was on the way; yet many thought this decision was an anomaly, an irregular and unholy decision, but one that was the exception rather than the rule. Yet, with the development of no-fault divorce, first adopted by the state of California in 1969 (signed into state law by then Governor Ronald Reagan) and then universally accepted by all fifty states, it became easier to walk away from a marriage, accelerating the disintegration of the family, institutionalizing the destruction of one of the most basic of all building blocks of a civil society.

This anti-culture, anti-family posture of American culture reached its zenith on June 26, 2015 when the Supreme Court changed the definition of marriage, forever altering the one, stabilizing force God gave to civilized cultures — a family as defined by one man and one woman, responsible to each other and the raising and nurturing of children. What many Christians hadn't accounted for was that an elite class of intellectuals — the radical hippies of the 60's now with Ph.D.s and wearing suits instead of tie-dye t-shirts — had taken up residence in the institutions of higher learning and in the halls of government, politics, and law, providing a way to actually radicalize and spoil another generation of students under the safe umbrella of academic freedom; they found benign ways to codify into law the radical reforms of the radicals. And the church was caught standing flatfooted.

And if all of this wasn't enough, what none of us expected was another flare-up of radical Islam. The recent development of the rise of radical Islam is not a new development. As famed journalist Malcolm Muggeridge once said, "All new news is actually old news happening to new people."

The rise of radical Islam was yet another version of Islam's true face manifested in a cycle of violence perpetuated on "the infidels" of the civilized world dating back to the days of Muhammed (570-632 AD).

What wasn't new seemed new to us because since the 1920's Islam had generally behaved itself, by being simply a regional challenge rather than a global challenge, since the Ottoman Empire was destroyed and dismantled in 1922. Since that time radical Islam has been trying figure out a way to defeat Western civilizations, expanding its reach to every part of the globe.

So, it wasn't enough that the Western world, characterized by a Judeo-Christian ethic, was struggling for its own soul — now it had to contend with the rise of radical Islam wrapped in terrorism and conflict.

So, here we are. With an American culture that seems to be imploding, with hapless leadership in the White House and Congress, and with radical Islam striking at Western civilization every chance it gets. What are we do to as Christians? What is our response?

In the next two parts of this extended essay, let me suggestions in three areas to think about. Part II will address what should be our personal response and the response of the church. In Part III I'll discuss what we should be looking for from our political rulers.

Dr. Kevin Shrum is pastor of Inglewood Baptist Church and Assistant Part-time Professor of Religious Studies at Union University, Hendersonville Campus

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