Tuesday, August 12, 2014

ISIS and the Christians: Be Cautious

Over the weekend I saw a number of posts on Facebook which claimed that Christian children in Iraq are being beheaded by members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). I even saw one post claim that children were being buried alive. The potential evil and tragedy of the situation attracted my attention and made me wonder to what further level is humanity able to still sink.

But I also know that in our digital age nothing spreads rumors and misinformation quicker than the internet and especially social media. So I scoured the various news sites. I performed Google searches and I looked for some acknowledgement of the tragedy when President Obama announced the US would be dropping aid to the Yazidis religious minority in Iraq.

But I found no information about Christian children being beheaded. Consequently, I watched with the hope that it was not true.

And it seems now that my instincts may have been correct. I read a report on the Gospel Coalition which investigated the claims and has determined the following:

While it is possible that children are being beheaded by ISIS in Iraq, there is currently no credible evidence to support that claim. We should pray this report turn out to be just rumor and that whatever other crimes are being committed, that God is sparing the children of Iraq from “systematic beheading.”
As Christians, we have a duty to champion the truth. We should avoid spreading unsubstantiated claims and inflaming dread and panic by playing on people’s natural disgust of harm to children. ISIS is an organization that has committed heinous acts of violence and violated the human rights of many of our fellow believers. But we must not partake in the spreading of lies, even if it is against our enemies.

You can read the whole article here.

The situation in Iraq is terrible. But we should also be careful that we don’t do anything that might inflame it. All of the people of Iraq should be in our thoughts and prayers. But we can best help them by spreading truthful information about the situation rather than unsubstantiated reports.

It’s easy to believe things about evil people, those we might consider to be our enemies. But we must also remember not to treat our enemies in such a way that make them out to be guilty of more evil than they already are. It becomes very hard to love and redeem one’s enemies when we are actively spreading misinformation about them that makes them look worse than they already are.

I close with a quote from C.S. Lewis that was on the Gospel Coalition site. I think it applies to situations like this one.

"Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, `Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything - God and our friends and ourselves included - as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred." - C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


  1. I can't speak to the veracity of this link or the news agency, but I did find this online. While I do find it almost incomprehensible that anyone would do such things, I have studied enough history to know that the almost incomprehensible is often commonplace in times of religious war.

  2. I have not participated in the spread of this meme because, as you suggest, one needs to be cautious of news that seems too sensational. On the other hand, what has been described is not far afield from what the Washington Times discussed in their recent editorial. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/aug/12/editorial-where-is-muslim-outrage/

  3. What about there personal testimony of Canon Andrew White…?

  4. Hi Dr. Byron - I'm working to verify the content, but at least one person who claims to be a Christian refugee, from Mosul, says that people have overstated the problem for political gain: http://bit.ly/1sn5tMU

    If we can get enough source information, it might make for an interesting journal article. Up for co-authoring something like that? If so, let me know: georwes@regent.edu