The inspiring religionists of ISIS beheaded poor hostage Jim Foley, as you’ve no doubt heard. Here’s Time’s report, one that doesn’t link to the video. These ISIS people need to be killed, straight up. Not saying that the US should do it, but if there are no bloodless means to stop them menacing and murdering innocents, then lethal force is justified. Even peaceable Pope Francis thinks military action is licit in this case. 

Foley’s mother posted this on Facebook tonight:

A message from Jim’s mom, Diane Foley:

We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.

We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.

We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person. Please respect our privacy in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim.

Why are so many Muslims from the West going to join these berserkers in their fight? Michael Brendan Dougherty says the appeal is the same appeal that extremist politics — fascism, communism — had for young men in the West in an earlier era. Excerpt:

This phenomena shouldn’t surprise us, and not because of the depredations of the French banlieues, vicious poverty in Western nations, or misspent youth in America. No, as long as Western liberalism has existed, it has been found charmless or contemptible by some men. Western liberalism asks men to be governed by laws made by mere men and their politicking. It’s demands of most men that they be mere citizens. It urges thrift, prudence, and industry. This is not for everyone.

Fascism and communism promise more to men dissatisfied with liberalism. First of all, power. To succeed in a revolution is to step over the grubby merit system in the old regime, on which you would have been last and least in line if you were counted at all. Revolutionary movements also offer visions of justice that are larger and deeper than some dirty court system. And the struggle in establishing them holds out prizes that are extremely rare for men of the West: glory, martyrdom, and heroism. Revolution beats a life of traffic tickets, creditors, bosses, and — if you’re especially lucky — angst about real-estate.

And the West’s appeal, such as it was, may be diminishing even further. Roger Scruton writes:

[T]he citizens of Western states have lost their appetite for foreign wars; they have lost the hope of scoring any but temporary victories; and they have lost confidence in their way of life. Indeed, they are no longer sure what that way of life requires of them. [Brussels Journal]

For a disaffected Sunni Muslim in the West, you can see how the Islamic State has some of the right enemies, and thus holds a certain appeal.

But here is something interesting to consider: the possibility that the illiberal Vladimir Putin may emerge as the defender of the Middle East’s Christians. Melik Keylan raised the prospect earlier this year. Keylan said that the US media has not given adequate coverage to the religious dimension of the geopolitical upheaval in the Mideast, because the American press “tends to look away from painful truths which might confuse the allegiance of its readers.” Excerpt:

The recent plight of other Mideast Christian communities largely echo the Armenian experience. Greek Orthodox, Syriac, Chaldean, Copt and others are suffering unprecedented adversity – maybe the worst since the Crusades. Considering the West’s irruption into the Mideast in the new millennium you’d think the area’s Christians would be having a golden age. But the fact is, the two poles of Christianity, east and west, never much liked each other doctrinally, never trusted each other or co-ordinated to any great effect. It seems preposterous to say, but the repercussions of the notorious Fourth Crusade by Western Christians almost a millennium ago are more than ever with us. Western crusaders occupied Greek Byzantium, destroyed its power, and helped usher in the Ottomans, ultimately giving Russia the role of protector of Eastern Christians. As Ottoman power waned from, say, 1800 to WW1, Moscow acted as surety to Eastern Orthodoxy while Europe and America spent their civil society resources on missionary activity aimed at their regional coreligionists. That too did not endear them to local church fathers.

If you think it’s all forgotten history, think again. The 1990s Bosnia war essentially featured the three post-Byzantine forces in the Balkans – Serbia (Russia) vs Balkan Muslims (Ottomans) vs Croatia (Western European Christianity). The equation there has changed little since medieval times. East-West Christian enmity never went away. President Bush’s ill-conceived invasion of Iraq quickly led to severe Muslim reprisals against Iraqi Christians. He had apparently neglected to prioritize their security in his calculations, which didn’t seem to irk his host of evangelist [sic] supporters back home. You can imagine how much alienation all that led to once again between the two tributaries of the faith. Almost half the population of Iraqi churches emigrated from lands they’d occupied since biblical times. America’s push for freedom in Arab countries ended up leaving Christians lethally exposed. In Egypt, the overthrow of long-time ally Mubarak – with the consent of the Obama administration – led swiftly to the torching of Coptic churches. The Copts are not especially grateful to America.

Read the whole thing. I hope Keylan does an updated version of this. Last week, he wrote that the US should not be manipulated by freaking out over ISIS:

There is a lot more going on than meets the eye that beholds pictures of beheadings. If you believe such things have occurred due to US weakness, consider how that came about – ten years of war, three trillion in expense, Russia and China resurgent. More of the same will not lead to strength.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker speculates about an added twist:

Would Russia intervene to rout the ISIS terrorists and protect the areas Christians?

Not only would the rest of the world not stop Russia from doing so, they would probably hail the Russians as righteous Christian Crusaders.

Or would they?

With the prospect of Russia controlling the vital oil fields of Iraq would America and the West stand idly by?

Realistically, I can’t see Putin getting Russia involved in another war in the Muslim world, especially because he’s preoccupied with Ukraine, which is a much, much bigger deal to Moscow. But assuming for the sake of argument that Putin did intervene under the guise of protecting Christians, I would be beyond appalled if the US government lifted a finger to stop him — even if it meant grabbing Iraq’s northern oil fields. We have seen quite enough of the United States fighting militarily against the interests of the ancient Christian communities in that part of the world.

Here’s what I’d like to know: at what point do American Christians — in particular Evangelicals — get sick and tired of our own government doing so much to make life miserable for fellow Christians in the Muslim world? The other day an Evangelical friend of mine expressed deep frustration, even anger, over the fact that her pastor and her congregation seem blissfully unaware of the terrible persecutions waged against Arab Christians by Muslims, and America’s role in helping bring these things about. It’s time for Christians in America to have a come to Jesus moment with themselves about what our government’s policies have to do with the suffering our brothers and sisters in the Middle East.

Finally, I see that Pope Francis is considering traveling to northern Iraq to show solidarity with the persecuted Christians and others. Tears came to my eyes when I saw that. God bless him! I hope he can go soon, and that he travels with the Ecumenical Patriarch, and the Moscow Patriarch too.

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