Posted by: rogermitchell | February 8, 2015

more on ISIS and loving one’s enemies

This coming week I will be getting down to work on expanding the paper I gave at the Lincoln Theological Institute conference on Post-liberalism, Individualism and Society back in the summer. This is for a volume my friend Benjamin Wood is editing that is due to be published later this year. Its title then was Individuals: our autonomous selves or the loved others The task is to consider the historical formation of these two perspectives. As I’ve been contemplating this I’ve been reflecting once again on how much our deep-seated mindsets influence the way we respond to practical political issues, and our ability to communicate our perspectives to others. Practical evidence of this can be found in conversations that continue on this blog arising from comments on my post several months back on “What’s the alternative to meeting ISIS violence with violence?”

A big thank you for all who have engaged with what was a very serious post on how to respond to violent enmity, and especially the one or two who took time to enter into robust discussion. One such is Sidney Cordle of the CPA who seemed to agree with a lot of what I had to say up until the point that I suggested the need for dialogue between Christians, Muslims and other people of faith who have a heart for peace and have some understanding of what makes the ISIS extremists tick. It seems that his perspective on the Muslim scriptures simply does not allow him to believe that it is possible to be a true Muslim and a person of peace. He presented a list of Koran quotations to prove his point. My attempt to point out that this approach to relegating all Muslims to fundamentalism was foreign to the testimony to Jesus and his kingdom of peace simply elicited more of the same.

As I understand it Jesus’ approach to the ‘other’ whose faith was not the same as the Jewish tradition was not to argue theoretical points of belief but look for the fruit of their lives. Witness the story of the woman at the well, his commendation of the Roman centurion and the parable of the good Samaritan. With due respect to Sidney, a mindset on truth that holds people to the propositional statements of their scriptures rather than looking for the image of God and potential for the revelation of the Spirit is a sovereignty approach to God and truth rather than a loving kenotic one. The latter refuses to regard anyone from a human point of view, as Paul puts it “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer” (2 Cor 5:16 RSV).

I contend that many Muslims are among those that Jesus identified as people of peace (Lk10:6). In any case on my reading of the testimony of Jesus even my enemies are the loved other and this includes ISIS extremists.  Muslim friends who pour their time and energy into community action and cohesion and search with me for kenotic sources of love for the other in their scriptures and faith tradition are no way to be lumped together with violent extremists. Sidney particularly takes issue with the Koran’s teaching about the cross and the resurrection, and of course I agree with him that their position leaves them with a diminished Jesus and loses the heart of the incarnation. Those familiar with my research on Church, Gospel and Empire will be familiar with the view that the partnership of church and empire in Western Christian history did something pretty similar (See Church, Gospel & Empire and The Fall of the Church). Nevertheless, the interest that my Muslim friends locally have in the person and life of Jesus seems to me full of exciting points of synergy for peace-building and nonviolent ways of dealing with ISIS. My participation in the recent Christian/ Muslim Encounters Jesus Conference organized together with the Richardson Institute for Peace Studies of which I am the external partnerships coordinator only served to confirm this.

So let’s continue this important dialogue please!


  1. I went to an inter faith forum opened by a Methodist minister who asked us to reflect on the unseen force behind the universe whoever we might conceive him or her to be. I was somewhat surprised to find that its organiser was paid by the Government. When I went outside with another lady and we started praying for the light of God to come into that meeting they had to close the meeting. They couldn’t continue. I actually believe Inter Faith is the most demonic organisation there is closely akin to the Freemasons who also follow an amalgamation of gods of different religions and say they are all the same. Of course we can debate with Muslims and discuss freely but we cannot ignore the fact that their Allah is not the same as Yahweh who we worship. “The name by which I shall be known for all generations.” We cannot ignore the fact Jesus said he was Yahweh (Jn8:58) which the Qur’an says if you believe you will go to hell.(S5:72).

    • The leading expert on ISIS theology, Bernard Haykel, says,
      “Muslims who call the Islamic State unIslamic are, Embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton candy view of their own religion that neglects what their religion has historically and legally required. Denials of the Islamic State’s religious nature, he said, are rooted in an interfaith Christian nonsense tradition. The fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. What’s striking about them is not just the literalism, but also the seriousness with which they read these texts. There is an assiduous, obsessive seriousness that Muslims don’t normally have.”

      Roger Mitchell. Sound familiar?

      • Hi Sidney,

        On whose estimation is Bernard Heykel said to be the leading expert on ISIS theology? I am unable to take seriously anyone who exchanges dialogue for name calling, or who denigrates seriously held views and true-hearted attempts at reconciliatory politics as “cotton candy” and “interfaith Christian nonsense tradition.” I have no problem with robust discussion, but this isn’t that. I was hoping for better than this on matters of such seriousness.

        With love

  2. Wow, total confusion. What does it matter how violent or how literally anyone understands or expresses their religious/political beliefs? Isn’t the point of loving your enemy the love, not your enemy’s actions? I confess I don’t get the point of a discussion about how violent ISIS is. Yes, they are. So what? Is that nasty? Yup, violence no matter who engages in it (Christians, the state, local thugs etc) is always nasty. So what? Does that change our response to them? Does it determine our response? If we take Jesus’ model seriously, probably not.

    The only folks I recall Jesus getting annoyed at were the Pharisees of his own religion, you know, the ones who put heavy burdens on ordinary people in terms of egal righteousness so that those ordinary folks could not access the Kingdom. He treated and talked about the Roman oppressors very differently. Were the Roman oppressors non-violent toward local Jews? So Jesus saw the oppression and violence towards his own people and told the Jews to respond with kindness (going the extra mile and all that). I’ve not read the Bible in awhile so feel free to correct me. Does the violence exhibited by any group determine our response? I guess I’m trying to follow Jesus (all that loving and giving) sometimes very poorly rather than a group of violent thugs with a mission statement. So the important issue for me is how Jesus behaves rather than how violent thugs behave.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: