A Christian holocaust? A group dedicated to eliminating Christianity altogether? It sounds extreme and impossible, but that is the vision of ISIS. In Defying Isis: Preserving Christianity in the Place of Its Birth and In Your Own Backyard, Johnnie Moore sounds the alarm: Christians, ISIS wants you dead.
Moore points out that the territories where ISIS is most active, parts of Iraq and Syria, played an important role in Old Testament history and in the early growth of Christianity. I often focus on the sites of Jesus' ministry as the land of the Bible, and then I think of Christian expansion primarily to the west. Moore reminds us of the history of the people of Israel, and points out that in the first half of Christian history, the eastern church was in many ways stronger and more advanced than the church in the West.
These historical reminders are important, but more important are the stories of Christians facing unutterable evil under ISIS. Our brothers and sisters in Christ face a choice: convert or die. Many are being martyred in a manner no less evil than the Nazi persecution of the Jews. And like the Nazis, the ISIS aims to eliminate an entire religious group: Christians. He challenges American Christians, especially Protestants, to expand our view of the Christian family. Many of those being persecuted are Catholic or Orthodox, but are no less our brothers and sisters we worship with every Sunday.
On a couple of points I was left with questions. Moore gives a nod to mainstream Islam. He notes that Muslims make up the largest number of ISIS's targets, and that Muslims, Jews, and Christians must work together against ISIS. But I'm not clear where he draws the line? He gives dire warnings of ISIS adherents "in your own backyard." While the internet provides the inspiration for extreme, violent actions, where do they get other inspiration? Not at First Baptist. So are these future ISIS extremists at the friendly local mosque? How friendly are we supposed to be?
Further, while the threat of ISIS is clearly huge, and through social media and modern communication the threat is global, how effective are they really? They kill Christians, Muslims who adhere to different beliefs, and Jews. They have limited success in recruiting new members, and the rest of the world sees them as a scourge. In my view, the potential for expansion is very limited.
None of what I said should be interpreted as my disagreeing with Moore, nor do I want to sound as if I'm minimizing the suffering of Christians under ISIS. Moore is right: we in the West must not ignore ISIS. If there's ever a time at which Western Christians need to pray for the persecuted church, this is it. I appreciate Moore's work, compelling me to be aware and to pray.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!