Slaying the Hydra of Jihadism- The search for a Better God.

by | Feb 6, 2015

It is impossible these days to open a newspaper, turn on TV news or browse the internet without being confronted with the phenomenon of globalised Islamist terrorism. Gone is the blissful illusion that these events only happen in Middle Eastern cities that resound with the sound of the call to prayer from ancient minarets. No we see all too clearly that in New York, London, Boston, Nairobi, Amsterdam, Ottawa, Sydney, Paris and Brussels we have people in our midst who are so convinced of the rightness of their cause, so indifferent to their own and others lives that they are willing to kill to advance their view of the world and impose it on every society in the world.

Every nation in the world, especially free democratic nations find themselves forced into an unsought confrontation. The problem is a difficult one because if the history of militant Islam and especially the last decade of the so called “War on Terror” has taught us anything the more you respond militarily to this brand of fundamentalism, the more you create the conditions that give rise to hundreds if not thousands of volunteers to swell the ranks of terror. Some have retreated to a falsely simplistic “us vs them” mentality leading to fear and suspicion of any muslim person and even racism against anyone who appears to be from a non western background reinforcing the alienation of those people most vulnerable to recruitment by these groups thereby playing into the hands of the extremists.
Overcoming the threat of Islamist terrorism is literally a herculean task. In the story of Hercules’ battle with the Hydra initially he had no success in overcoming the serpent-like creature because every time he cut off a head of the multi-headed creature two heads would grow up to replace the one severed. It was not until he applied a two pronged approach of cutting off the heads with his sword and burning the necks with fire that he was victorious. In the same way today it would seem that when freedom loving nations attack Islamism the more heads we cut off, the more grow up to take their place. The sword alone can never defeat the Hydra of Islamic terror. We need fire too. There is only one fire that can prevent these heads from growing back, the fire of the Presence of God.
I began thinking about this when I was talking with a friend of mine recently. He relayed to me the substance of an interview supposedly conducted with an ISIS fighter after ISIS had captured a city in the north of Iraq with only a few hundred fighters. They had routed a force of regular Iraqi troops who seemed to have every tactical advantage. The Iraqi army had a force of thousands, they were better armed and had been trained by the US for more than a decade. It shouldn’t have been a contest. However when the Isis fighters approached the Iraqi’s shed their uniforms, abandoned their equipment and fled. When the ISIS fighter was asked how this was possible he apparently replied, they fight for money, we fight for God. Freedom for the the people of the world does not lie in superior weapons, larger armies, better tactics, more money or even better ideas or ideals but in a better God. Some may think that what I am advocating is one set of ideas for another set of ideas and beliefs, one set of doctrines for another, one fundamentalist tyranny for another but I am not. For God is not an idea God is a person whose presence changes the way we live. The Christian religion is not the answer to Islamist violence. God is. The people who are fighting in the name of Allah need to meet God himself.
It is not enough to oppose one set of ideas with another set of ideas, however good, true or powerful those ideas are. We can no more impose freedom and democracy on the middle east than we can impose christian beliefs. Ideas aren’t enough. The presence of God is required.
The fire that is needed today once fell in Solomon’s day in the temple that Solomon had built for Israel. We read of this encounter in 2 Chronicles 7

1 As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house. 3 When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” (ESV Strong’s Bible) ​

The fire that fell and the glory which filled the temple was not a well preached sermon, nor was it well illustrated bullet points or great doctrines. The Glory of God which filled the temple wasn’t the result of human obedience but it resulted in obedience-it was the presence of God himself. As a result of God’s presence those who were there worshipped, gave thanks and made declarations concerning the love and goodness of God. It is this kind of God encounter that will ultimately transform the world. What is needed is not better weapons, nor even better ideas but a better God.

Some may be offended by me saying that it is not just the idea of God that is needed but God himself, others will be offended by my saying that the Jihadists need to meet Allah himself. Centuries before Mohammed began to proclaim his revelations in the desert, Arab Christians used the word Allah as a word for God. Islam neither invented nor owns the term Allah. Allah was and is an Arabic term for God and it is God himself that we all need easterners, westerners, Muslims, Hindus, Atheists, Christians and people of no religion at all.

In Solomon’s day God came, fell like fire and filled the temple with his glory. The corporate response was that the worshippers cried out exclamations of god’s everlasting Love and goodness. They encountered a God who was extraordinarily good and filled with love. When Jesus, known in the Koran as Isa came he came to show what God was like. Jesus is the presence of God in history. If you want to know what God is like you just need to see what Jesus is like. For the legions who think to honour God by killing the unrighteous in his name, remember he came to give his life for them, that they may have life that is truly life.

There is a new temple being built today, that is destined to be filled with the same fire and presence of God as Solomon’s temple. This temple however is built not of stones but living stones Each person yielded to the active presence of God, is a part of this Global temple. In it new and better sacrifices are being made. No longer is the blood of goats and sheep called for, nor the blood of the martyrs, nor the blood of the wicked, for Jesus’ blood has once for all paid for the sins of the world. The daily sacrifices that are offered are not sacrifices of death but living sacrifices. This is the temple God is building. A living temple, from living stones, with living sacrifices calling all nations to life in the glory and the presence of God.

The prophet Isaiah spoke of this time in Is 60 ​
1 Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
2 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
3 And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.

I just finished reading the book “A Wind in the House of Islam” by David Garrison. It is a well researched, balanced and culturally relevant work which illuminates and catalogues the extraordinary work that God is doing amongst people from a muslim background. Literally thousands of people are finding Isa (The name of Jesus in the Koran) and finding in him the security, love and power that they were seeking. In it were a number of testimonies of radical Jihadists who today risk their own lives to make known the love of God and the life they have found in the way of Isa. One story stuck with me of a young man raised to be an imam since birth, who later joined the ranks of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Finally weary of the killing in the name Allah he turned to Isa and a Jihadi died that day, his old life ended at the cross and fire fell on the sacrifice and a new life began, a new man rose and today this same man leads hundreds of other followers of Isa who come from a Muslim background. Light is dawning and glory is filling the house of Islam.
Arise! Shine for our light has come!

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