When ISIS Bombs a Church on Palm Sunday, What’s their Endgame, and How Can We Subvert it?

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The ISIS endgame is a hustle: carry out acts of violence so despicable that they create world-wide backlash & war.

I am bewildered by the footage of bombs going off inside Christian churches in Egypt while worshippers gather to celebrate on Palm Sunday. Grief. Sadness. Confusion. I will never understand what could possibly consume a person that they would throw away their one and only shot at this life in order murder others in cold blood. Life is too beautiful and too precious to be thrown away on something so clearly devoid of meaning.

ISIS is obviously a global concern. What makes them so frightening is that they try to make the senseless sensible. They try to impute meaning to a meaningless act like blowing one’s self to kingdom come in order to take as many others with you as possible. But why are they doing this? What’s their endgame? What are they trying to do?

The Islamic State rejects peace out of hand. They say that they will never submit to peace with those of other religions, even those of their own religion who refuse to join their sect. Their reasoning is simple. They are trying to incite a world war by any means necessary because they think Allah will come fight for them and vindicate their cause in battle. Bombing a Christian Church in the middle of worship is just part of doing business the ISIS way.

What ISIS wants to do is to carry out acts of violence so despicable, so abhorrent that they will create a world-wide backlash against themselves. They are trying to be as bloody, violent, outlandish, and cruel as they can possibly be in order to lure the west into all-out-war. Their belief is that Allah will then intervene on their behalf & they will win this apocalyptic war with supernatural aid. This will usher in a new era of Islamic dominance and independence. Islam will be cleansed of the apostates and only their variety of Islam (an odd, fringe-apocalyptic system) will remain.

So what do we do about it? Well, you cannot win this conflict through bravado and ego. It will take force to be sure, but also patience and even some grace. The worst thing western powers can do is to overreact and take the bait.

Western nations have to rise above the petty, ludicrous blood-lust that consumes ISIS. Yes, they must be dealt with, and it seems as though force is necessary in order to restrain this kind of evil. But great nations have to summon the strength to call terror by its proper name: cold blooded murder. A terrorist attack is not an act of war, because terrorists are not warriors, they are murderers. Western nations need to counter & contain ISIS through strength, but also through diplomacy and cooperation. The attempt to contain the evil of ISIS will happen as much through the State Department as through the Armed Forces.

The good news is that if Western nations can stick together and combat and contain ISIS without being drawn into a massive conflict, then ISIS will eventually decline and fall. No country is allied with them. They are outside the mainstream of Islam. The land they control cannot sustain permanent war. As they are patiently contained and subverted it will become clear that any community rooted in this much violence, this much hatred, this much misinformation, and cruelty is plainly unsustainable, so they will begin to lose potential converts.

About Tim Suttle

Find out more about Tim at TimSuttle.com

Tim Suttle is the senior pastor of RedemptionChurchkc.com. He is the author of several books including his most recent - Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), & An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals.

Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. The band's most recent album is "Straight Back to Kansas." He helped to plant three thriving churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.