On the fourth Sunday of Advent, we light the candle of love. In the glow of that candle shines the suspension of a faculty member at Wheaton for wearing a hijab, the president of Liberty University calling Christian students to take up arms against “those Muslims,” potential candidates for President competing to see who can keep the most people out and threaten to bomb or punch or sanction the most countries, people throwing around the phrase “carpet bombing” like they’re talking about killing beetles not people.
Instead of goodness, instead of peace, instead of love, there are people this holiday season foaming at the mouth for blood and world domination, ready to support candidates who are threatening to annihilate entire people groups. We’re going to put those people in their places. This land is our land. America, and no one else.
How is this any different than the rhetoric of terrorists who hate materialism, consumerism, godlessness, and lack of obedience to their higher law, who are ready, literally, to bring on the apocalypse?
Fear mixed with testosterone plus power and might does not equal love. How do you kill an ideology? Prove the ideology wrong.
But pretending that it (ISIS) isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.
I don’t pretend to be an expert in this war of terror. I can’t comprehend even to the slightest what is happening in Syria and Iraq or what our government should do or not do to intervene.
I only know what I am capable of here in my suburban home and urban workplace, and neither is a war zone. I only know what the God I follow commands us to do when faced with trials and tribulations beyond my comprehension.
When Christ entered the scene, people were looking for the magnificent warrior messiah. Instead he preached peace by grace and love. He turned the old way on its head, turned over the tables in the temple to teach the religious leaders who were corrupting God’s message a lesson, turned the other cheek and received a beating without condemning those who whipped him. He said again and again, Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. I am with you. Do you still have no faith?
They will know we are Christians by our love, right? Except these days we aren’t real good at that love thing. These days we seem to be known for our fear and our hate of the “other.”
The advent season anticipates the coming of the Prince of Peace and yet he is already here.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
As followers of Christ, we need to combat the radical violence and radical hate that festers in our communities and in our world with radical love.
There are many who are fleeing ISIS. They fear ISIS, and now they fear us. On all sides, they feel danger pressing in. How do we kill an ideology? By showing a radical alternative to hate, to fear, and to death. Love. Peace. Life.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Radical love pierces the hearts of enemies without using a weapon. Let’s perpetuate that message in our communities.
In the celebration of God with us, we should be a people of light emanating the God we believe in. Maybe by some great miracle, that light will snuff out the darkness of that darkest enemy.