The short answer is, “yes.”
The reach of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh, is worldwide. It is naive for anyone to believe that radical supporters of the organization have not been planted, whether by crossing the borders or through recruitment, in the United States. This isn’t a call to watch your neighbors and start a witch hunt reminiscent of McCarthyism. It’s a call for spiritual preparations, outreach, and recognition that we as Christians must add to our own list of duties.
Some are called to fight the Islamic State in physical means. Most of us are charged with spreading the Word and promoting the true Kingdom of God to strengthen those who may come under persecution and to point the vulnerable in the right direction that they may find the Holy Spirit through devotion to our Lord and Savior.
Why the Islamic State is a Threat to Everyone
The entity that everyone associates with the Islamic State is embodied in the fighters in the Middle East spreading across Iraq and Syria. Some recognize that it has crossed those borders and is now embedded in pockets across other countries such as Libya, Egypt, Turkey, and through the influences of Boko Haram. What everyone needs to understand is that anyone can be influenced and radically embrace the callings of the Islamic State. These people are in all countries including the United States.
First, it’s important to recognize the difference between Islam and the radicals of the Islamic State. It’s a murky distinction due in large part to the way the United States government has chosen to differentiate them, but here’s the reality. The vast majority of Muslims in the world are against the Islamic State in concept. However, if only 1% support them, that’s still between 10 and 20 million people.
A recent call for attacks on individual US military personnel will probably yield nothing for the Islamic State. Not yet. Most experts are calling it a scare tactic, but that’s not correct. This seems to us to be a tester, a volley sent out by the leaders of the Islamic State to see how dedicated their contacts in the United States truly are. They don’t know where they truly stand here, so they are testing the waters to see if it will yield any results.
If no action is taken by Americans against the people listed by the Islamic State, this will not be a true defeat. They will be able to use it as a ridiculing rallying call to their supporters with whom they have contact. It will appeal to their emotions by calling them all cowards, telling them that they are going to be punished by Allah, and classifying them with the rest of the Americans who they plan on destroying. In other words, this first call is a way to set up future calls for action. Those calls will be more likely to work.
The Islamic State has No Racial Barriers
Islam is not a racially encompassed religion. Anyone of any race can join. After 9/11, there was bigotry and hatred pointed to anyone who even seemed to be of Arab or Persian descent. This was, of course, a very bad thing, but the media continued to spread the concept that the terrorists and their leaders were from the Middle East.
The Islamic State can appeal to anyone who is lost. It can appeal to any race, any sex, and only discriminates when it comes to sexual orientation (at least when it comes to recruiting).
Many in the United States and around the world, particularly the young and easily influenced, can be targets of Islamic State recruitment. Social media has been a powerful tool for them and the advancing communication technologies makes it easy for them to interact with just about anyone who is disenchanted with their society or their place in the world.
Recruitment Attracts the Weak in Spirit
Those who are most likely to radically support the Islamic State fall into two categories. The first would be those who feel they have no choice, those who are already part of the Muslim faith and who see the Islamic State as a way to reach their perception of heaven. It’s hard for non-Muslims to understand that the only certain path to “heaven” in the Islamic teaching is through jihad. Those who are good people doing good things, following the Quran and obeying the teachings of Mohammed are not guaranteed a path to “heaven”.
The second group of people most easily recruited to the Islamic State are the disenchanted. One simply needs to take a survey at Harvard or any college in the United States to realize that many students do not like America. It’s not just a matter of under-appreciating our freedoms as was the case with the last generation. Many in this generation feel that we’re the bad guys and organizations such as the Islamic State are fighting the good fight.
This shocks some people. I’m not sure why. This has been the trajectory of the nation for some time and as with every other generation that preceded it, today’s kids are not heard for what they’re really feeling. The difference today has been the growing disillusionment towards the American way of life as well as foreign policy that took a sharp left turn starting around fifty years ago. I won’t go into that discussion other than to say that we’re losing the fight for the souls of our children.
Now is the time to prepare. As a believer, you must prepare yourself and your family for the possibilities. Those 21 Coptic Christians who were beheaded by an affiliate of the Islamic State were prepared. They were terrified. They knew they were going to die, that they would never see their families again, and that their bodies would be desecrated after their heads were taken.
Knowing what they were facing, they still chose to stay true to their faith. They had the opportunity to convert. They didn’t have to claim Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Had they renounced their faith in the beginning when they were being kidnapped, they would have been left with the other people present rather than being taken to their deaths. They were steadfast. We must be as well.
It’s impossible for us in America to contemplate a similar situation happening here, but that’s what we must acknowledge. If it never happens, so be it. If it does happen, we cannot allow our faith to waver. This is something that we all must contemplate because for many of us a lack of preparation can result in the wrong choice being made. Are you fully prepared for whatever the adversary throws at you? Are you wearing the full Armor of God at all times?
Once you are prepared, it’s important to do what we are called to do as believers.
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.Matthew 28:19-20 (KJV)
It’s not just about reaching the people in the Middle East or other countries, though that is a calling for many. It’s about reaching those around you, those you can influence, those who are seeking whether outwardly or through subtle hints. This is our greatest calling as believers. We must be a part of the spreading of the Kingdom of God.
Sometimes, people will come to you with questions about your faith. Other times, people will be against your faith in ways that seem militant. In both cases, you must be prepared as a witness.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:1 Peter 3:15 (KJV)
Know what you’ll say in any situation. Read your Bible daily. Pray constantly.
Once you have your heart prepared, it’s important to see the signs being given off by others. Again, there’s a thin line between a witch hunt and a true recognition of opportunities and threats. Those who are vulnerable to the doctrines of the Islamic State can come in any form, so it’s important that we’re able to recognize when someone is open.
Those who can be influenced by the Islamic State are likely also able to be influenced by the Word of God. You must recognize the possible threats but also know when an opportunity arises to be a light to them. You can make a real difference in someone’s life. You simply have to discern the chance and be willing to take it.