In the last few months, a terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State (IS), or as the US government refers to it by its most recent former name, ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), commonly known by their less recent former name, ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has emerged as a dangerous threat in the Middle East. This might be the most dangerous Islamic terrorist group the world has ever seen. A United States Special Forces official has been quoted as saying, “They’re incredible fighters. ISIS teams in many places use special operations [tactics, techniques, and procedures].” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has said, “They’re beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded…This is beyond anything we’ve seen.” The organization has assets worth $2 billion. They use social media to recruit members and get their message out and are very resourceful. Not only do they have membership from the countries that they reside in, but a significant portion of ISIS members are people who come from European countries, especially Britain and France, who leave their lives in those countries to fight with ISIS. It even has a notable number of Americans in the group. This is a group that was disowned by al-Qaeda for being too extreme. They are a Sunni group that forces people to convert to their faith by any means (or if you are Christian you have the option to pay a “religious levy”). Some theorize, however, that they are not really Sunnis but actually Kharijites. They may adhere to Islamist or jihadist or Wahhabist principles. No one is safe from them. Men, women, children, nuns, everyone is in danger. They especially have harmed non-Arabs, Shia Muslims, Christians (especially indigenous Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac, and Armenian Christians), Druzes, Shabaks, Mandeans, and especially Yazidis. They have also been accused of ethnic cleansing of minority groups in northern Iraq by Amnesty International. The Islamic State has even recruited child soldiers. Some of the horrible acts they commit are the kidnapping and raping of women as well as other forms of sexual violence, the torture, mutilation, and killing of people who refuse to declare Islamic creed, crucifixions, the beheading of journalists, etc. The current goal of ISIS is to create an Islamic state or caliphate based on Islamist or sharia law all throughout the Middle East. They want to conquer all lands in the Levant. And why do they want to do these things? They claim it’s because it’s what God wants them to do.
And therein lies the problem. There is a huge problem in the Abrahamic faiths in that we cannot seem to stop breaking the third Commandment. Here are a few different translations of this Commandment: “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses His name,” or “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain,” or “Do not use My name for evil purposes, for I, the LORD your God, will punish anyone who misuses My name.” Misusing God’s Name is an act known as blasphemy. Essentially what this means is that when we invoke the Name of God we need to make sure that we are very careful with how we are using it and not to disgrace it with our actions that we plan to commit in His Name. So let’s take a look at some things that people have done in God’s Name and why these actions have disgraced His Name. And let’s also come up with some rules to figure out what kinds of things we should avoid doing in God’s Name.
I think one general rule should be this: if what you are about to do involves intentionally harming someone else, you should probably not invoke the Name of God. For example, if you decide to go on a violent jihad that involves harming civilians, maybe you should double check what your Quran says about that. Muhammad instructed Muslims to never harm “People of the Book” (people of the Abrahamic faiths such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc.). Members of ISIS are killing and torturing scores of Christians and Shia Muslims. If you believe Muhammad was the last prophet of God and the most important prophet and the last person to deliver God’s Word, why wouldn’t you listen to it? Also, another verse in the Quran states, “…fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors.” When ISIS members kill civilians, people who have done nothing to them, they are going against this teaching. In fact, not only are they disgracing God’s Name, but according to their own faith they have lost God’s love by doing so. There are a few reasons that I think people fight for ISIS. One is that they are uneducated in the ways of Islam and simply listen to what others say and perhaps have hate and anger in their hearts. Another is that they know the teachings and just ignore it and use their faith as an excuse and vessel for their hatred and violence. A third is that they are just plain stupid. By their actions they are disgracing their faith and giving Muslims a bad name. They are also giving God a bad name.
A second rule about invoking God’s Name should be that if what you are doing in God’s Name involves judgment, you should in most cases avoid it. Westboro Baptist Church is the prime culprit of this crime. They are a church that goes around protesting people’s funerals or really anything they can think of that in some way they can link to homosexuality, which they believe is pretty much the single greatest evil and scourge that humanity faces. They picket military funerals because soldiers fight for a country that repealed “don’t ask; don’t tell,” holding signs up that say things like “Thank God for dead soldiers.” They picketed the funerals of the Newtown shooting victims because they believed the Newtown shooting was God’s retribution for America’s increasing acceptance of homosexuals. They also believe 9/11 was God’s retribution for the same thing. They picketed Nelson Mandela’s funeral because they claimed he was an adulterer. But perhaps the most horrible display of judgment and hate they ever committed was their reaction to the death of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. They picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard as well as the trial of Shepard’s assailants, holding up signs that said things like “AIDS kills fags dead,” “Matt Shepard rots in Hell,” “God hates fags,” etc. But worst of all, they had so much hate in their heart towards Shepard that the leader of the church, Fred Phelps, attempted to get city permits in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Casper, Wyoming to build a monument between five and six feet tall that had a bronze plaque with a picture of Shepard on it and these words: MATTHEW SHEPARD, Entered Hell October 12, 1998, in Defiance of God’s Warning: ‘Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is an abomination.’ Leviticus 18:22.” This amount of hatred is clearly not Christian. In the Bible Jesus says that the two greatest commandments that sum up the teachings of the 10 Commandments are these: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself. On these commandments hang all the law and the prophets.'” The way that the members of this church hate gay people is horrifyingly unbiblical and goes against the Bible’s greatest teachings. The members of this church have also broken the biblical teaching known as the Golden Rule: “‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.'” Would you want someone to picket your funeral or the funeral of someone you loved? They also broke this teaching of Jesus: “‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?…You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” By acting like it is fact that Matthew Shepard entered Hell, Fred Phelps is making a judgment that only God can make. These people are judging what kind of person Shepard was when they never even knew him and judge all gay people. I’m a Christian, and I know that there is a lot of debate over the morality of homosexuality within my faith. My view is I don’t know how God feels about it, but it’s not my job to judge people. Judgment is God’s job. God will judge whether someone should enter His Kingdom or not. So let’s leave the judgment up to God and just love our neighbor and treat all people with respect and kindness.
The third and final rule about doing things in God’s Name, and perhaps this rule sums up the other two rules: make sure if you do something in God’s Name, it’s an act of love. God is Love. Therefore, why would he want us to commit acts of hatred in His Name? Let’s use what our religions teach us for good. God made us in His Image, so it is our job to make sure we make His Image look good and not disgrace it or make Him look bad. Let’s end all this blasphemy so we can stop all this evil and make our religions blessings, not curses. Then and only then will we stop seeing groups like ISIS.