Like a Fist

As Iraq continues to spiral toward chaos, and is doing so in the Facebook era, the one thing we should want to avoid is directionless or aimless outrage. Anger under such circumstances is certainly appropriate and necessary, but like a fist, it needs somewhere to land. I am writing primarily about the treatment of Christians there by ISIS, but of course that cannot be at all separated from a host of other issues and circumstances. Let me start with the more important, and finish with a few related observations.

1. There truly are evil men in the world, and this is what imprecatory psalms were made for. This is why we have them. There are men who will grin for the camera over the prospect of beheading Christian children, and our response to them should be to pray the words of God back to Him.

“Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth: Break out the great teeth of the young lions, O Lord” (Ps. 58:6).

“Break thou the arm of the wicked and the evil man: Seek out his wickedness till thou find none” (Ps. 10:15).

Our psalter has this second example rendered as “O God, come down and break their evil arms.” In the face of the kind of evil that is abroad in the world, evangelical Christians need to stop filling up their worship services with sentimentalist treacle, and worship biblically in a very dark world. We are confronted with a great and growing evil, and we are discovering that we do not have the liturgical vocabulary to respond appropriately at all. When we sing or pray the psalms, all of them, there are two consequences that should be mentioned. One, we are praying in the will of God, and He hears such prayers. Second, we discover that praying and singing biblically transforms us. This really is the need of the hour.

We need to become the kind of people capable of standing against this kind of thing. Read Chesterton’s great poem about the battle of Lepanto, written one year shy of a century ago, and plead with God to raise up a fitting leader for our day. “But Don John of Austria is riding to the sea.”

2. This is a grotesque evil, but it is not the only one. We are appalled at the open insolence of ISIS, and how they gloat over the killing of their enemy’s children. They are demented and cruel, but not as demented as we are. They at least do it to their enemy’s children. That’s not how we do it over here in our splendid democracy — here we chop our own children up into little pieces. But evil remains evil.

This particular form of evil is alien to us, and so we are shocked by it. We have gotten accustomed to our own forms of evil, even those who have stood faithfully against it — but at the end of the day, it always gets to the same place, which is the lap of Molech. The devil hates children, as do his servants everywhere. The only difference between the behavior of ISIS and the platform of the Democratic Party is the age of the victims and the presence of cameras. This means that the imprecatory psalms should be prayed with applications to more than one hellhole. Their black flag flies over black hearts, true enough. But our red, white, and blue flies over the black robes that consigned fifty million Americans to the gaping maw of the cruel cash registers of Planned Parenthood. This is why there will be no successful stand against the likes of ISIS without repentance and a broken appeal to Jesus. Until we turn back to His blood, we will continue to shed one another’s.

3. We see in all of this yet another instances of the impotence and ideological provincialism of secularism. The world is not what secularists say it is, the heart of man is not what secularists say it is, and the progressive march of time fixes nothing. The spectacle of our diplomats huffing and puffing over what certain people are willing to do “in the 21st century,” as though time had anything to do with it, is a gaudy display of impotent futility. Radical Muslims know what they want, and deracinated Whigs are trying to fix the world with the platitudes and bromides they learned years ago in some kindergarten in Massachusetts. It will not work, it cannot work. Blowing sunshine will not help in the Ukraine, or in Gaza, or in Syria, or in Iraq.

4. Bombing runs are not to be used as gestures. They are a tactic of war, and one of the principles of war is the objective. What is the objective? Can we tell if we have accomplished it? If Obama authorizes the dropping of bombs because this will be an instance of him “doing something,” and will be helpful in getting critics back here to lay off, that would be just one more instance of aimless killing. This is the difference between political bombing and military bombing. Political bombing just gives the natives more rubble to sort through after the geo-political stupidity has moved on. Military bombing would have an announced measurable objective, which would be something like “the establishment of a secure, independent Kurdistan.” That would make some kind of sense — but ad hoc bombing is the kind of thing that made this region of the world what it is today.

5. We mustn’t pretend, and shouldn’t kid ourselves. If you insist that the carnage there is none of our business, however tragic it might be, then you are a consistent non-interventionist, or isolationist. But if you want something effective done, then you are arguing for empire or resurgent colonialism, whatever you might want to call it. You can call it the “international community,” or the “coalition of the willing,” or a “humanitarian intervention,” but at the end of the day it is a rejection of self-determination. Self-determination is what we have there now.

To say that intervention is some form of “empire” does not mean that all imperial interventions are wise and judicious. Most of them are not. We are still paying for how imperialists drew up the borders in the Middle East after the First World War. If we blunder around enough this time, we might be able to wreck things for another century to two.

So while I believe a case for intervention could be made, I believe that the chances are better than two to one that with our current leaders, our current faithlessness, our current compromises, our current wooly-mindedness, and our current political correctness, we are not qualified and would only make things far worse. Making the rubble bounce is not nation-building. What good are smart bombs when our seers and prophets all have NPR book bags over their heads?

I know. The argument comes back — we have to do something. I know we do. So start with repentance. Start with Jesus. End the slaughter inside our own borders so that our horror at what they are doing is not the horror of high hypocrisy. Pray that American preachers would repent of their cowardice and start preaching the gospel high and inside, and pray that we would elect national leaders who actually could do some international good.

What we have now is a giant on the ground in the midst of an epileptic fit, doing a lot of damage by his thrashing around. It is not a serious proposal to suggest that he thrash “some more in Iraq for a bit.”

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Doug Shuffield
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Doug Shuffield

Clear and Biblical thinking as always. Best line…”Pray that American preachers would repent of their cowardice and start preaching the gospel high and inside”

– Doug

Robert
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Robert

In a time before dentistry, the breaking of teeth assured a slow, painful death.

Tanner
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Tanner

I agree with everything you said, but I would add that alongside our prayer from the Psalms for justice and the breaking of arms and teeth, we should also pray desperately that our enemies become our brothers. Hard as it is, I pray that they come to Christ instead of remain broken and die in their sin.

jack
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jack

Whats on display is not ‘self-determination’ and a response is not “american empire”…whats on display is Islamic Imperialism which has been on display since Muhammed himself started the Genocides in the Middle East against non-muslims, especially Christians. It has nothing to do with WW1 and WW2 map drawing and everything to do with true Islam and its very long Islamic Imperialistic objectives. But keep twiddling the thumbs, ignore how Charles martel and company defeated these goons and made Western Civ possible, keep advocating against supposed “empire” when the real issue is Justice. The reality is the only force that can… Read more »

timothy
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timothy

The only difference between the behavior of ISIS and the platform of the Democratic Party (and the hearts of the GOPe and Codevilla’s Ruling Class) is the age of the victims and the presence of cameras.

I added the italicized out of fairness. This evil is not a political thing, although politics practiced is a fruit of man’s heart. I added it because the subject matter you address is too important to risk being side-tracked by superficial partisanship; call it bi-partisan evil.

Grace and Peace.

t

Banabas
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Banabas

“The reality is the only force that can stop these goons from further genocide and power, is the American Military and the will of its people.”

These guys were our allies against Assad last year. They are filling a power vacuum in Iraq that we created. When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

This is really insightful. However, something about the world’s most powerful military standing idly by while Christian children are beheaded still doesn’t sit well with me. I’ll admit that I wrote my state representatives with appeals for military ground intervention. I see in other immediate way to stop these atrocities.

Steve Perry
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Steve Perry

“When we move backwards and abolish a thing which is good and proper for the common benefit of the Church, where does that lead except to this; we show that the Church of God is just a game to us, rather than showing the decency with which it should be treated.” John Calvin, homily on 1 Cor 11. The Church creates the culture. American preachers abandoned the very first and simple commandment of worship, stripping the liturgy of this priestly vestment, parading their own glory before the heavenly hosts and King of King’s. And He the King, has given our… Read more »

J
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J

These “atrocities” pale in comparison to what we have done as a nation. And there is very little reason to think that forces on the ground in Iraq would produce anything better than what is going on now. Has everyone forgotten that we tore this nation to the ground and built it back up in our own image? If there is anything to learn it is that Iraq is currently demonstrating exactly what we primed it to demonstrate. Everyone that is in an outrage needs to understand that Iraq is basically an unadulterated petri dish growing the same kind of… Read more »

Job
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Job

The reality is the only force that can stop these goons from further genocide and power, is the American Military and the will of its people.

Jack,

Do you support the US Army Europe forcibly repatriating immigrants from Turkey, Algeria, Pakistan, etc.? A fair number of Christian Europeans are killed or raped each year by Muslim colonists. Lee Rigby was even decapitated.

Marcus Orr
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Marcus Orr

I think that as concerns Iraq and the state of that country, a lot of us, and myself included, have to own up & accept that our support for the invasion by Pres. Bush in 2003 of Iraq was a terrible mistake which that country is still paying for.

Scott Cottrill
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Scott Cottrill

Love the wisdom of your analysis. I have been fuming inside wondering why some ex-special forces type operatives don’t go over there and assassinate ISIS leaders, but then remember, Oh Yeah, like that what the nut jobs who take the law into their own hands and shoot abortionists do. Thanks for bringing me back to reason and imprecatory prayers…

Kelle Swanson
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Kelle Swanson

This is so helpful. Thank you, Mr. Wilson.

David Smith
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David Smith

I have had to repent of my own enthusiastic support for the Global War On Terror. My views have become grounded in the traditional conservatism of thinkers who advocated for foreign and military policies like that of Switzerland’s: minding our own business, but assuring any would-be aggressors that we will mess them up . . . bad! However, the one appeal that resonates from the interventionist crowd is the whole you-break-it-you-fix-it one. Who can argue with being responsible for cleaning up one’s own messes? The problem is, our Iraqi brothers and sisters are already suffering for all that arrogant, utopian,… Read more »

J
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J

david Smith, I understand the sentiment behind the “you broke it you fix it” mantra. But a counter point I would throw out there is that perhaps the best way to “fix” it would be to keep our greasy fingers off of it from now on as a nation and pour missionary effort into it as the Church. There truly is no fixing “hearts and minds” without the gospel. Anyone can break it, but only one person can fix it. And that person is not “America the Beautiful” or any amount of her god “Mammon”.

Mike Fenimore
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Mike Fenimore

Another great reason to sing the psalms is to keep us grounded on where we place our hope. I read somewhere that some trust in chariots (like F-22’s) and some in horses (like drones) but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

WSJ is reporting that our government is considering a rescue operation that could put American ground forces in direct conflict with IS. This is the type of thing I would advocate. Military intervention of any kind is not synonymous with full blown “nation building”. Just hold the rope to enable people to flee for three weeks. I am unaware if any other form of realistic, immediate relief that exists for our brothers and sisters over there. Thoughts?

David Smith
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David Smith

@J, I agree with you! This is the only interventionist appeal that comes close to moving me! I said close; it doesn’t get me over the line! Ultimately, we need to indeed repent of our own egregious evil (e.g. abortion) and quit thinking of ourselves as Masters of the Universe!

Jeremy
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Jeremy

david Doug’s post has certainly moved me to repent of not being as outspoken and active against abortion as I should be. I also don’t think crea

Jeremy
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Jeremy

david Doug’s post has certainly moved me to repent of not being as outspoken and active against abortion as I should be. But having done so, realistically, what is next?

I don’t think creating an environment to allow our brethren to escape is synonymous with thinking we are masters of the universe. (Seriously). If we have the worlds goods and see our brothers in distress, should we withhold the goods?

David Kern
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David Kern

Best current events analysis I’ve read in a very long time.

Scott Alan Buss
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This perspective is much needed and much appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to craft and share it, Mr. Wilson.

I’ve been aiming at some similar targets in Note to Allen West: American “Christians” have dismembered FAR more children than ISIS this year and If only ISIS would murder and dismember children in nice little downtown clinics….

Ultimately, the opportunity here is to proclaim and apply the Gospel. Thank you for doing such a fine job of making that plain and inspiring us all to do the same.

In His grip,

SAB

J
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J

david Smith, I thought you did agree, I mainly was positing a reply to anyone who would give a rejection of nonintervention to the Iraq (or most other) situation. @Jeremy, I would like to think that we are capable of swooping down out of nowhere and providing a “rope” for the christians there to grab a hold of but we are not. That would require more finesse than our military currently possesses. We could certainly do this on a small scale with special operations, but you don’t just pick up and “save” thousands of people at a time. Where do… Read more »

J
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J

One more thing….On top of all this talk of rescuing people is the overwhelming hypocrisy of pretending like these are the only christians that are being persecuted in the world. How convenient it is to discuss doing something about christians being killed by a bunch of people who aren’t really that good at fighting and don’t have any semblance of an air force or navy. What about the countries that aren’t so easily conquered? How many christians have died in russia? How about China? Where is all the talk of military intervention in those places?

Ken Miller
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Ken Miller

As a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, I think I can offer a bit of perspective here. The problem that the US is having in both Iraq and Afghanistan is linked to the fact that our country no longer has the stomach for war. There were times in both countries that my platoon was attacked and we could not defend ourselves. We sat in Ar-Ramadi and watched mortars come in day after day. We knew where they were coming from, and our platoon sergeant even requested a mission to stop the bad guys that were shooting at us. He… Read more »