On ISIS and Lessons

I am sure you are all aware of the radical group called “ISIS.” I, myself, have been very interested in following their news stories for the last few months. I have an application on my Windows tablet that allows me to view news stories from a variety of media sites like The Washington Post, New York Times, Reuters, The Guardian and many other international publications. What has interested me the most, and what has kept me interested, is not the military activity related to ISIS. Nor has my interest been because of the various political perspectives of those in the West verses those in other places. Nor also has my interest been because of the many stories coming out about local tribes trying to stem the advancing terrorist forces.

Those are all very intriguing aspects of the ISIS situation (and I am always rooting for the local people who are doing whatever they can to stop this force), but the one thing that truly captures my attention is this: how ISIS is recruiting Westerners to not only become sympathizers, but to have them become radicalized and fly out to Syria to literally join the fight. Perhaps you have heard the stories of those from Canada and Britain who converted to a radicalized form of Islam, fought overseas, and died. Or maybe you have heard of the two girls from Denver whom the U.S. government is currently investigated. Or you may have seen the commercials ISIS has put out in an attempt to recruit more Westerners. No matter what you have heard, I am sure you can share my curiosity in regards to how and why this happens.

I tend to be a people watcher. When I would window clean on commercial jobs I would observe people and be entirely fascinated with how people socialize (or don’t socialize) with others, how they would carry themselves in a store, and how they would act in response to all manner of circumstances. I frequently catch myself zoning out as I pay attention to various situations around me and the people interacting within them. People, to me, are incredibly interesting! I say that to say this: I am not entirely surprised by the fact that people are trying to join ISIS, even if they have little to no personal connection to it.

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Some people might blame this on the violence in television, movies, or other forms of entertainment. Others may attribute this phenomenon to a strong distaste towards Western society or anti-patriotism. Others still may view this as the result of a simmering sense of anarchism among youths and maladjusted young adults. It is certainly possible that, in some cases, these may be the reason why non-Middle Easterners are joining a fight in the Middle East. I, however, am starting to wonder if there is another, more easily justifiable reason.

In some other articles I’ve read, it seems clear that one reason people join ISIS is because they are trying to find themselves. Certainly I can sympathize with someone who struggles with their own identity. In fact, I very much admire Socrates’ famous perspective that knowing one’s self is the key to a fulfilled life (although I would add a bit more that). Here is where I think we, as a society, have taken a wrong turn: we continue to tell people to “find themselves” but have neglected to give them so much as a compass or a map. We turn them loose on the world, and whatever path they choose is the path they choose. Obviously, the issue here is that it is not enough to say to someone “just go find yourself.” If it were enough to say that, then we should not be upset or disheartened when people end up joining a terrorist group in their quest for self-realization.

In all honestly, if people are joining ISIS in an attempt to actualize or define their existence, I am not sure I can fault them any more than I can fault those who do far less destructive things under the guise of “trying to find myself.” In fact, how many of us use “compassion,” “enlightenment,” “empathy,” or “sympathy” to mask our own selfish need to define ourselves at others’ expense? Maybe a good lesson to be learned from all this is that we are not all that different from ISIS sympathizers. We simply take different avenues to accomplish our goals of self-improvement for the sake of self-improvement.

Also, how many of us are angry with these people who join ISIS and yet we fully support the underlying motivations for them doing so? It is entirely possible that the real problem here is not ISIS. It seems to me that ISIS has simply stumbled upon one of our society’s greatest flaws and is succeeding richly because of it… “Come join ISIS and realize who you are. Recognize your place in this world, and become who you were meant to be.” Besides the “ISIS” part of that statement, is that not what our culture is motivating people to do? In addition, is not our culture saying this over and over without giving people the proper tools to make wise judgments in regards to how they go about ‘discovering’ themselves?

Forgive me. I forgot that to give anyone some sort of guidance is to impose on their individual freedom and thus attempt to usurp their self-sovereignty by ‘controlling’ the outcome of their quest for purpose and place.

There is something else I would like to say that relates to this topic, but I’ll make that point in part 2 so this post doesn’t get too long.

[Disclaimer: I am not at all a supporter or ISIS or its sympathizers. I don’t know a whole lot about them, but I do know that thousands – if not millions – are having their lives destroyed by this terrorist group.]

On Computer-Error’s and Apologies

hey y’all.

After fiddling with my computer for the last week or so, and recording my second podcast, and doing a few hours’ worth of editing, my editing software is now not running properly. As such, I cannot export my audio file into an uploadable format for your listening pleasure. In other words, I cannot publish my podcast this week. This is a real bummer, because I won’t be by a computer again for at least two weeks as I head off to East Africa, and the podcast I just recently recorded was about Holiness (and I was really looking forward to hearing your feedback on it, but I suppose I will have to record it again).

I apologize for the infrequency of my last few posts. This summer has been very hectic as I get into a new rhythm only to be thrown off by my upcoming international pastorate.

I hope you remain patient with me until I get my next podcast up!

Until next time…

On Fight Club and Meta-narratives

A couple weeks ago I wrote an article for my friend Matt’s blog. Since my mind cannot seem to settle on any one idea this week, I’ve divided to link to the article here.

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I hope you enjoy my discussion on understanding postmodern culture!

Also, feel free to leave a comment here of any topics you would like me to write about! I’d like to begin writing in a more dialogue-friendly manner than a “here’s what’s on my mind, take it or leave it” manner.

On Congestion and Vanilla

This past weekend was very interesting.  I experienced my final Preaching Ambassador trip ( a program at my school where students go out and preach on weekends for ministry experience).  It was such a simple thing, but it represents a major shift in focus for me because now my focus of ministry is changing from ‘travelling preacher’ to ‘pastor’.  It will not be much longer before I take on my first pastoral position.

I’m not sure how I should feel about this, and so many things are going on right now that I do not even know where to begin with a blog post.  I thought that buying myself a couple extra days would help clear my mind, but it looks like I won’t be posting anything super interesting this time.  I’ll try again for my next post on Friday, but this just goes to show that I’m just as limited in my abilities as anyone else.

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I will say this, though.  Every single one of us is constantly being used by God whether we know it or not. What looks like our mundane actions or our uninteresting conversations become tools that are used to build His Kingdom.  It amazes me how the simple things others have done (that many don’t even remember doing) have made such a strong impact on my life.  Rarely have the big events, the influential people, or the emotionally-charged moments been life-changing for me.  No, it is in the ordinary and the everyday that makes the biggest differences in our lives.  After all, Jesus was born to a peasant and placed in a feeding trough. 

Rejoice the typical, and celebrate the ordinary.  

Intro to Blogging

I was told by some of my friends during my recent mission trip to East Africa that I have a lot of good things to say.  Later on, I was told by an amazing friend of mine that I should start a blog or something similar, to write down my thoughts.  So, this is the beginning of my blogging expereince.

Honestly, I don’t think of myself as having very much to say.  Sure, I’ve been through a lot in my life.  I suppose anyone would have a few things to say when they’ve experienced some of the things that I have.  But, at the same time, it’s just me.

“Who in their right mind would want to listen, or read, what I have to say about anything?” -That’s a question I find myself asking sometimes.  Usually I’m too busy thinking my way through a situation I’m in, or contemplating my life, or I’m too busy trying to figure out how in the world I’m going to get through the next two days of work with only one pair of shorts to really stop and think whether my thoughts should be shared with other people.  Truthfully, I don ‘t think the world should be exposed to my brain.  Not that I have radical, perverted, in-human thoughts running through my head, but because many of my thoughts are a complicated mesh of emotions mixed with reason mixed with faith that, quite honestly, makes them impossible to convey in a way that someone else would understand it the way that I do.  That, and I tend to use a lot of run-on sentences which no one enjoys.

Don’t get me wrong though, I do enjoy sharing my thoughts.  I simply won’t express them unless I’m asked or feel comfortable enough with someone to share them, and I will almost never speak my mind in group settings.  It’s interesting to me that I’ve become that way since, when I was growing up, I would talk all the time and got in trouble for it quite often.  But, loneliness can change a person quite drastically if enough time goes by, and for a painfully long stretch of time I’ve had to endure such a state as loneliness around when I was 20.

Eh, that’s a story for another time!  Suffice to say that I’m not in the habit of sharing my thoughts, so this whole “blogging” business should be interesting for my readers and myself.