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Our Brothers and Sisters Need Our Help

When Jesus said, “In this world you’ll have tribulation,” He might have had Africa in mind.

Imagine, if you can, that you hear rumors of Muslim terrorists coming to take over your hometown. You can’t sleep. You can’t eat. You don’t even know whether to stay or flee. Finally, someone you trust tells you they have started burning down churches. Frantically, you gather up your family and a few meager possessions and run as fast as you can in the other direction—praying they won’t catch you.

After days of exhausting, harrowing effort, you and your children finally arrive at a relief camp for the displaced and you get in a food line. But when you come to the front, the man in charge says coldly, “This relief is not for Christians.” To the Muslims running this camp, you’re a mere pagan. To add insult to injury, you find out that Christians here are not even allowed to gather for worship.

Christians in Nigeria’s Borno state have been living this scenario since 2009, when Boko Haram began wreaking havoc.

Africa’s tribulation seems never-ending. From the Ethiopian famine decades ago to the more recent chaos in Sudan, the headlines we receive here in the West are nearly always grim. In fact, Africa is facing yet another seemingly unprecedented crisis—a famine stretching from Somalia, to South Sudan, to Nigeria, in which 20 million people are at risk of starvation. That’s right, 20 million.

According to our friends over at Open Doors USA, an average of 184 children die each day in Nigeria from malnutrition. The saddest fact of all is that this famine is caused by people, not the weather. It’s caused by instability, war, economic collapse, and discrimination.

Here’s another fact—Africa is heavily Christian. Its share of Christians has exploded from about 9 percent in 1900 to almost 50 percent today, including two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africa. These are our brothers and sisters facing this tribulation, and we owe them more than a quick shake of the head before moving on to the next news story. Whatever our differences, those who follow Jesus Christ are members of the same body. When one hurts, we all hurt—and compassion fatigue is no excuse for looking away. As Jesus said, when we serve the “least of these,” we serve Him.

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The Media Hits Rock Bottom

Eric Metaxas

Two Sundays ago, an ISIS-inspired terrorist killed forty-nine people at a gay night club in Orlando. Yet just three days after the attack, the New York Times editorial board laid the blame for Omar Mateen’s self-professed act of Islamic terrorism squarely at the feet of…believers in traditional marriage. I’m not kidding.

For those confused about how Christians and social conservatives are responsible for a radical jihadist’s actions, the Times helpfully explains: Our “corrosive politics,” they write, paved the way for this monstrosity. And by “corrosive politics,” they make it clear they mean defense of the natural family and created differences between the sexes. The Daily Beast followed up, accusing conservatives who are mourning the tragedy of “exploiting the LGBT community.” Evidently if your politics don’t line up with the goals of the sexual left, you’re not allowed to shed tears for the victims of terrorism.

But by far the most disturbing response, at least to me, came from CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who decided to publicly shame Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi during a live interview. While Bondi tried to explain what Florida is doing to help the victims and their families, Cooper raked her over the coals about her opposition to same-sex “marriage.”

In fact, he all but called her a hypocrite for defending the Florida constitution which—at the time—defined marriage as the union of man and woman. An attorney general’s job, of course, is to uphold and defend her state’s constitution. But Anderson Cooper did not seem to care.

As Mollie Hemingway remarked at The Federalist, apparently Cooper and CNN cannot fathom how anyone could oppose gay “marriage” and also grieve the murder of fifty fellow human beings. The implication by the media is clear: If you haven’t been on board with the LGBT political program, you’re partially responsible for what happened in Orlando.

daily_commentary_06_23_16Let me just tell you my first reaction to this: I was angry—very angry. I wanted to get on the air and scream from the rooftops how absurd, immoral, and unfair this kind of equivalence is. A self-proclaimed ISIS devotee committed the worst mass murder in this country since 9/11, and the media can think of no one to blame but conservatives and Christians!

Now that I’ve had some time to compose myself, I think it’s important we don’t respond with anger. In fact, my BreakPoint colleagues and I debated whether we even should dignify this foolishness with a response. And we decided to do so for a couple of reasons.

First, although we can expect to see more abuse of Christians in the news, we cannot let this become the new normal. Not in America. And we should respond by defying the caricatures—just like the Orlando Chick-fil-A managers did when they opened their stores on a Sunday to feed blood donors. And then there’s Lutheran Church Charities, which sent comfort dogs to help mourners in Orlando.

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BP_blog
One Follows the Other
We’ve already witnessed the spiritual demise of Europe. Can its physical demise be far behind?

John Stonestreet

In early May, Brussels Airport finally re-opened after being closed for nearly six weeks, following the March terrorist attack that killed sixteen people.

While it will not be back at full capacity until mid-June, the Belgian government sees the re-opening as part of their effort to regain some sense of normalcy after the attacks.

Another part of their efforts is figuring out how to deal with its restive and disgruntled Muslim minority, especially in places like the now-infamous Brussels suburb of Molenbeek. This tiny municipality, measuring less than 2.5 square miles, not only produced the March 22nd attackers, it’s also the reason Belgium produces proportionately more ISIS fighters than any other European country.

In recent remarks before the European Parliament, Koen Geens, Belgium’s Minister of Justice, told parliamentarians that “In Europe, very shortly we’re going to have more practicing Muslims than practicing Christians . . . That is not because there are too many Muslims, it is because Christians are generally less practicing.”

Not surprisingly, people, and not just Muslims, took offense at his comments. Belgium’s Interior Minister said that Geens was “making an enemy of Islam” and insisted that “the overwhelming majority of [Belgian Muslims] share our values.”

Lost in the furor over Geen’s comments was the fact that he was talking primarily about secularism and the decline of Christian practice, and values.

Also lost in this conversation over Belgium’s future, Islam and its jettisoned Christian heritage, is that the nation has turned euthanasia into a fundamental right. As PBS put it, and everyone already knows, Belgium has “the world’s most liberal euthanasia laws.” Physician-assisted suicide there isn’t limited to the terminally-ill – people with psychiatric illnesses or even children can also be euthanized.

As a member of Belgium’s Euthanasia Control and Evaluation Commission told PBS, at the heart of the law is “a respect to individual autonomy.” Thus rather than being limited to the terminally ill, the dark practice is available to anyone who sees his or her condition as “hopeless.”

And that includes, as we’ve previously told BreakPoint listeners, children as young as twelve. All that’s needed is the approval of two doctors, three in the case of psychiatric patients.

By all accounts, Belgium’s law, which goes against everything Christianity teaches about the sanctity and dignity of human life, enjoys wide support. While Geens’ party, the Christian Democrats, has opposed Belgium’s euthanasia regime, their view is a minority one.

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Woodman Paris

Nov 13, 2015

How can we respond in a uniquely Christian way to the horror in Paris? |

We Are All Parisians: A Christian Response to Global Terror and Radical Islam
We are, it is hard to disagree, in what will be a decades long struggle with radical Islamists. Tonight, that stark reality is made clear again as the death toll continues to rise in Paris in what has been, if early reports are accurate, a series of multiple terror attacks. While no group has claimed responsibility thus far, this scenario is all too familiar, and France has previously experienced smaller attacks from radical groups. So while we wait for more details, we are beginning to process what we do know.

Others can opine on geopolitical realities, military strategies, and more. But I’m burdened to ask, how do we respond as Christians?

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can and will share some suggestions in this painful time. I believe there are things Christians can and must do to respond to this, and so many other, terrorist attacks.

Pray for France, Pray for Muslims. And pray for those who are our enemies.

First, pray. #PrayforParis. Pray for France, Pray for Muslims. And pray for those who are our enemies. That’s a uniquely Christian thing to do– to pray for all, including our enemies. It’s not easy, but it is our calling.

Second, love the hurting. Though most of us are not in Paris tonight, we know that Christians are there, along with others, loving those who have lost so many. And,even from where we sit, we can love the French and “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). It was the French newspaper LeMonde that said in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, “We are all Americans now.” Well, today, we are all Parisians.

Third, love our enemies. Again, that is what makes our faith unique. Most of us are watching this unfold from outside of France, but as the President of the United States said in his remarks, “this is an attack on all of humanity.” When we let that sink in, love isn’t our first natural feeling. But love is what we are called to anyway.

You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. –Matthew 5:43-45

But in moments like this, that response can be hard to come by. We have to consider our own tendencies, and be ready to flee from temptation. Fresh memories from 14 years ago come back for Americans tonight, and strong feelings rise to the surface.

Sometimes it’s not enough to just give lip service to what we should be doing. We also have to commit to what we should be resisting. And on a night like this, there are at least three things we should NOT do as Christians.

First, we should not hate. That’s what our human nature wants to do. We feel pain for those on the other side of the ocean. We feel anger toward an evil that we cannot control. We remember what it feels like to live in a nation under attack. And some of us may even worry about people we know who live in France. All these emotions, especially together, can lead our souls to some troubling places. But the truth is, we are people who live with hope and who live with a mission. We cannot hate a people and reach a people at the same time. As we pray, we must pray for our own hearts to be protected from hate.

Second, we should not take out anger on refugees.

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Veil

As the rise of the Islamic State continues, Africa finds itself increasingly in the crosshairs. Nigeria, Niger, Kenya, the Central African Republic, Mali, Chad, Libya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Tanzania … are all under siege in varying degrees as the Muslim armies of the Islamic State, al Shabaab, Boko Haram et al bring their savage, supremacist war to every country on the continent.

Chadian police on Sunday warned that anyone found wearing the Muslim full-face veil would be arrested, after a Boko Haram suicide bombing in the capital left 15 dead.

Saturday’s attack in a bustling N’Djamena market by a man disguised as a woman in a full-face veil also injured 80 and spread panic across the city. (source)

“This attack just confirms that a ban” on the full-face veil was justified, national police spokesman Paul Manga said, adding that “it now must be respected more than ever by the entire population.”

Ramadan in Cameroon: Burqa-wearing Muslims murder at least twelve people in jihad-martyrdom suicide attacks (thanks to Robert Spencer)

“The best acts that bring you closer to God are jihad, so hurry to it and make sure to carry out the invasion this holy month and be exposed to martyrdom in it,” so said Islamic State spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani as Ramadan began several weeks ago.

Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic State last February.

Chad-Blast

“Suicide attacks killed at least 12 in northern Cameroon: source,” Reuters, July 12, 2015 (thanks to Lookmann):

YAOUNDE (Reuters) – At least a dozen civilians and a Chadian soldier were killed in two suicide attacks by suspected Boko Haram militants in the northern Cameroon town of Fotokol late on Sunday, a senior Cameroonian military officer said.

The first explosion went off inside a bar near a Cameroon special forces (BIR) camp just after sundown as many were breaking the Ramadan fast, the officer said, asking not to be named….

L’Oeil du Sahel, a newspaper in northern Cameroon, said the two attackers wore burqas.

Islamist group Boko Haram, which launched an insurgency six years ago to carve out an emirate in northeast Nigeria, has also stepped up attacks in neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger in recent months.

– See more at: http://pamelageller.com/2015/07/ramadan-kill-a-thon-in-cameroon-burka-clad-muslims-slaughter-15-people-in-homicide-martyr-attacks.html/#sthash.QtpzUIKS.dpuf

Not that long ago, most Americans didn’t know much or care to know much about Islam. It was just one more exotic but irrelevant religion that missionaries and National Geographicoccassionally talked about. One scholar noted, “Less than a year before September 11, 2001, the consensus of expert opinion was . . . that [Islam’s] impact had ended long before the Renaissance.” It took a massive terrorist attack on U.S. soil to abruptly bring Islam squarely into the center of the American consciousness.

Since that day, questions about violence and Islam have lingered in the American mind: do these violent terrorists truly represent Islam? Is violence intrinsic to the Muslim faith? Having once been a student at a boarding school for missionary kids that was attacked by Islamic terrorists in an effort to frighten Christian missionaries out of the country, these questions are not hackneyed abstractions for me.

As I observe Christians trying to come to grips with the Islamic world, violence in Islam remains a deeply important problem. As Christians, the issue is important to us not simply because we believe that Christianity is true and all other religions are false, but because we have the duty and privilege of proclaiming the gospel to all peoples, including Muslims. While others may have the option of keeping “those Muslims” out of sight and mind as much as possible, Christians must draw near them.

Better Question to Ask

The question at hand presupposes the possibility of determining the true Muslim faith, which is something not even settled within Islam itself. In fact, the recent upsurge in violence perpetrated by Muslim groups is related to the fact that multiple groups are contending for the undisputed title of the “true successors.” Much as Protestants and Catholics argue over the true successors of the apostles, Islam faces the question as to the identity of the true successors to Mohammed. But unlike the Bible, the Qur’an does not really provide enough footing on its own to resolve the question.

A better question to ask is whether or not there is a legitimate place for violence within Islamic tradition. The answer is yes. The primary means of determining this right in Islam is power. According to Islamic thinking, if you are in power and succeeding, then God is clearly blessing and supporting you. If you are not, then God has chosen not to bless you. Of the first four caliphs after Mohammed, three of them were violently murdered, either by assassination, mob, or in battle, all by “fellow” Muslims who supported other leaders. The first two Islamic dynasties came into power by slaughtering those who held power before them. Islam’s history only gets bloodier from there, since might makes right in a way that is foreign to the Judeo-Christian world. Despite the shocking number of Christians or secular Westerners being killed by Muslims, Muslims are killing even greater numbers of other Muslims.

Political leaders as well as terrorist groups use force to establish themselves as the rightful leaders of the Muslim world. Political leaders might portray themselves in a more civilized manner, but the governments of places like Saudi Arabia and Iran are just as willing to commit violent acts for the sake of gaining and maintain power, even if it means commiting them against their own citizens (or other people groups that happen to live within their borders). The Washington Post recently ran a story comparing the justice system of Saudi Arabia to that of ISIS. The only difference, basically, is that the Islamic State brags globally about their enforcement in an effort to prove their devotion.

Three Undergirding Principles 

Why else does violence broadly retain a position of legitimacy within the Islamic tradition? I think three theological and cultural issues undergird violence within Islam.

1. Coercion and Belief 

Christianity teaches that God does not desire mere outward obeisance. He wants heartfelt obedience and living faith. As Paul says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). Therefore, we cannot coerce someone into becoming a Christian. All we can make through coercion is hypocrites. However, you can force someone to become a Muslim (though probably not a truly devout one). All five pillars of Islam are behavioral. Each one can be fulfilled without heartfelt conviction.

Islam means “submission.” Christian means “little Christ.” Even in their labels, you can see a clear difference in priorities between the religions. One promotes discipleship—teaching others to follow. The other promotes conquest (internal and external). Shabbir Akhtar, who lectures at Old Dominion University, argues in D. A. Carson’s book The Intolerance of Tolerance, “Ultimately Islam will (and ought to) win worldwide dominion, because Islam alone, and certainly not Christianity, is internally constituted to be an imperial religion.” This kind of thinking has no place in biblical Christianity.

2. Land 

You can see Mohammed’s sword in Topkapi Palace, Istanbul. Of all the supposed relics of Christ, no one has ever claimed to have found his sword. Jesus said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my disciples would fight to keep me from being handed over” (John 18:36). Jesus rebuked Peter for “going to war” to prevent his arrest. There is no such thing as a Christian nation, because the new heavens and the new earth have not been fully inaugurated. There is such thing as a Muslim nation, because every piece of land that belongs to a Muslim nation belongs to Allah.

While Christians grieve the decline of Christianity in places like Europe, we cannot legitimately go to war to reclaim it for Christ. Instead, we pray and evangelize. Furthermore, Christ’s kingdom advances not in territory but in and through the people who claim him as their King. However, when Muslim lands become less Muslim, that is a direct affront to Islam that must be redresssed.

3. Honor and Shame 

The importance of honor is a key cultural difference between the West and most Muslim countries. Rejection or mockery of Mohammed or Islam is a personal attack on every Muslim. Every person who leaves Islam to become a Christian shames Islam because he communicates that it is unworthy of belief. Christ teaches us that to be shamed by the world for the sake of the Lord is honorable (1 Pet. 4:14). Muslims have no clear category for receiving that shame as a commendation of their faithfulness to Allah, since only success is a sign of God’s blessing. So when Islam is undermined, it must be fiercely defended.

Violence in the Human Heart

These factors contribute to violence in Islam, but more than anything else they condemn the human heart. Physical violence has been a distinguishing mark of all humanity ever since Genesis 4. Violence is not unique to Islam. It’s a distinctive of sinful human hearts. In other words, Islam does not make people violent. Sin does. As a man-made religion, Islam is just one more tool people use to harden the heart and embrace sin.

But common grace also extends to Muslims. Not all Muslims are given over to the violence that the system could potentially justify, just as your atheist/secular neighbors don’t fully embrace every sinful behavior that their non-theist worldview could justify.

Christian Response to Violent Persecutors

How should Christians respond to the reality of Islamic violence? The secular West is scrambling for an answer but coming up empty. Every time we see another attack by Muslim terrorists, public figures sprint to opposite sides of the ring. One side says the violence proves terrorism is the inevitable outworking of Islam, the other that beliefs had nothing to do with it.

The world around us struggles because they are unable to see Muslims as people whose value exists in their personhood, not their beliefs. The world thinks of people in binary terms. Either Muslims are “good people” or extremists who belong with the likes of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot.

But we know—or should know—that Muslims are humans created in God’s image and distorted by the fall. They need the same gospel as we do. Muslims are not the enemy, but they are in bondage to him.

For the rest of the post…

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 7.32.19 AM

Guest Post by Thomas R. Schreiner

Most of us have read the story of 21 Egyptian Christians kidnapped in Libya. An ISIS video showed about 12 of them being beheaded, and it is quite certain that all of them were murdered.

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 7.59.17 AMWe Are Not Surprised

Jesus told us to expect persecution, teaching his disciples that unbelievers would hate us just as they hated him (John 15:18-20).

Jesus predicted that some of those who kill us “will think” they are “offering service to God” (John 16:2).

Even though most of us won’t lose our lives for Christ’s sake, we should not be surprised if we do. All of us need to be ready to surrender our lives for Christ. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).

We Are More Than Conquerers

Jesus calls us “to be faithful unto death” to receive “the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).

Jesus also calls us to rejoice when persecuted, for it is a great honor to die for our Lord and Savior, and our reward will far exceed our suffering (Matt. 5:10-12; Acts 5:41). Naturally, we may be frightened and scared at such a prospect, worried that we don’t have the strength to suffer. And we don’t have the strength in ourselves, but God promises to be with us in the fire and the flood (Isa. 43:2), and he promises to give us grace to endure the hardest things. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8).

In dying for Christ’s sake, in not loving our “lives even unto death,” we are not losers but winners; we are not overcome by evil. Instead, we are “more than conquerors” (Rom. 8:37; Rev. 12:11). Those who are slain for Christ’s sake come to life and reign with Jesus Christ (Rev. 20:4).

We Grieve with Those Who Grieve

Paul says that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Still, the matter is not simplistic, and life is not easy. We “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). Paul said that if Epaphroditus had died he would experience “sorrow upon sorrow” (Phil. 2:27). Grief floods the hearts of those left behind.

We Pray for Both Our Enemies and Our Suffering Brothers and Sisters

We need a special grace to pray for the salvation of those who have done such a great evil.

We also pray for our brothers and sisters suffering around the world; we plead that God would grant them his joy and strength and perseverance to endure until the end.

We pray that God would protect them and sustain his church.

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Weakened Security in de Blasio’s Big Apple Leaves the City Vulnerable to Terrorism

By Jim Kouri and AR Staff

  • Militant Islamic terrorists struck in the heart of the French Republic, the latest in a growing string of terrorist attacks on the West – now, what are we prepared to do about it?

In the aftermath of the Islamic terrorist attack in Paris, France, on Wednesday — an attack that left 12 journalists and cops dead — cities throughout the world are increasing alert levels especially those in Western nations, according to a number of reports.

However, the terrorists’ crown-jewel target, New York City, has become more and more vulnerable under the leadership of Mayor Bill de Blasio. For example, his dismantling of a special operations unit of police officers that conducted surveillance and investigations of the city’s and metropolitan area’s mosques has left the Big Apple arguably as vulnerable as it was on Sept. 10, 2001.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) surveillance unit, that had gathered and analyzed intelligence on Muslim communities throughout the area, including mosques in New Jersey, wasn’t disbanded until de Blasio took power. During the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his tough-as-nails police commissioner, Ray Kelly, even after an enormous amount of political pressure from Muslim groups and left-wing organizations, such as the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the surveillance program continued.

The NYPD’s anti-terrorism  united known as the Zone Assessment Unit was created with the help of members of the federal intelligence community following the Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaida attacks. The police commissioner at that time, veteran cop Bernard Kerik, was honest about its existence and its overall role in preventing another 9-11 attack by monitoring Muslim-owned business and mosques across the New York region. It was successful in uncovering a number of suspects including wealthy Muslims who were illegally transferring money to the coffers of terrorist groups such as al-Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah and others. Unfortunately, it also was a favorite target protests and civil lawsuits.

As a result of the firestorm created by the coalition formed by the ACLU, CAIR, most news organizations, and others, the NYPD and the New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a statement in April 2014 that said:
“The Zone Assessment Unit, previously referred to as the demographics unit, has been largely inactive since January. Recently, as part of an ongoing assessment of Intelligence Bureau operations, personnel assigned to the Zone Assessment Unit were reassigned to other duties within the Intelligence Bureau. Understanding certain local demographics can be a useful factor when assessing information regarding potential threats coming to the attention of the New York City Police Department, it has been determined that much of the same information previously gathered by the Zone Assessment Unit may be obtained through direct outreach by the NYPD to the communities concerned.”

“Our administration has promised the people of New York a police force that keeps our city safe, but that is also respectful and fair. This reform is a critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve, so that our cops and our citizens can help one another go after the real bad guys,” Mayor de Blasio (not very popular with members of the NYPD) said in a statement at the time.

“Just like the Obama administration, de Blasio believes that politically-correct, feel-good policies are more important than protecting American lives. In fact, Obama and de Blasio are more interested in the lives and the rights of illegal aliens than in preserving the sovereignty of the nation and the protection of U.S. citizens,” said former police lieutenant, Kiernan McDonald. “In fact, the Obama administration freely spies on American citizens and even targets them, but coddles lawbreakers and radical Islamists,” he added.

Meanwhile, in France, another police officer – a female – was gunned down, allegedly by the two Yemeni brothers linked to al Qaeda who perpetrated the attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Wednesday.

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When Materialism’s Promise Proves Empty

What’s with all these stories of Western defections to Islamic radicalism? Well, the answer may be more over here than over there. I’ll explain, next on BreakPoint.

John Stonestreet

News broke recently of two beautiful teenage girls from Austria, aged 15 and 16, who became burka-wearing recruiters for the terror group known as ISIS, or the Islamic State. And their journey to radicalism is not an isolated case.

In my own state of Colorado, a 19-year-old female just pled guilty to trying to join ISIS, too. And then there are the two young American men who died in Syria fighting for ISIS.

Why are young 21st-century Westerners converting to a brutal form of Islam? Why would young people, with seemingly so much to live for, leave the West for terrorism?

This question came up last month in a panel discussion with radio hosts Hugh Hewitt and Dennis Prager, as well as Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute and myself. We all agreed that the answer was not the radicalism of Islam, but the current emptiness of Western materialism.daily_commentary_09_23_14

The idea that matter is all that matters pervades everything young people see and hear these days. They hear it in science class, from the new Cosmos television series, and even, and as I added especially, in advertising and other media messages. Nearly every commercial message tells us that we’re born to be consumers, that stuff will make us happy and save us from our misery, and that there’s nothing beyond the immediate gratification of this world to live for.

As Dennis Prager said that night, “Secular society produces a lot of bored people . . . Secular society is a curse because ultimately life is meaningless if there’s no God.” The materialistic salvation sold to us promises to fill what Pascal called the God-shaped hole in our hearts … with stuff. But many see the meaningless of secular salvation, and they become bored; others become angry, even murderous.

Remember Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, who killed 13 people at Columbine High School? They weren’t Muslims. Then there’s T.J. Lane, a 19-year-old serving three life sentences for shooting to death three high school students in 2012. At his sentencing, in which he taunted his victims’ families with expletives, Lane opened his blue dress shirt to reveal a T-shirt on which he had scrawled the word “killer.”

We’ve always had young murderers, but the nihilism of today is different. Writing in Time several years ago, Harvard’s student body president called it the “Rude Boy” culture. The tough guy of the ‘60s and ‘70s, he observed, would say, “I’m better than you, I can beat you up”—but the tough guy today says, “I flip you off; you don’t matter and neither do I.”

And that’s a whole new level of brokenness. That’s the cultural shift toward nihilism. A few years ago, the rock band Switchfoot hit the nail on the head when they sang, “We were meant to live for so much more. But we lost ourselves.”

This sort of empty pop-nihilism, to borrow a term from Baylor’s Thomas Hibbs, makes even the evil radicalism of extremist Islam look attractive to some. And parasitic ideologies like these find folks in despair easy prey.

Might it be that ISIS finds this shallow ground as fertile soil from which to harvest young souls for its deadly agenda?

Decades ago, even before the Internet and social media took over so much of our lives, Aldous Huxley warned of the capacity of the media to exploit “man’s almost infinite appetite for distraction.” Could it be that even ISIS looks attractive to those who, after having their fill, still feel empty inside?

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