The nation into which America poured so much blood and treasure is tearing apart. Its government has lost control and is spiraling into chaos.
So much so that recently thousands of Iraqis stormed the “Green Zone,” the portion of Baghdad that lies behind fortified walls. Inside those walls you will find the houses of government, foreign embassies, luxury hotels, shops, and restaurants. The Green Zone is the safe place in Baghdad where most foreigners stay when visiting the capital city.
The Iraqi protesters stormed the walls, tearing them down. They pushed on into the Parliament building, where they occupied the chamber for several hours.
Mostly, they were followers of the radical Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. They became enraged when the government disintegrated and they were unable to seat new ministers who represented al-Sadr’s faction.
The main beneficiaries of Iraq’s chaos are Sunni ISIS and Shi’ite Iran. ISIS wants to subdue Iraq and rule it by conquest. Iran wants to subdue Iraq and rule it by seduction. Both can achieve their goals only when the Iraqi people are at each others’ throats. As they are now.
Though U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden recently paid a brief visit to Baghdad in an attempt to boost the government and calm the situation (as did Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter), the death spiral continues unabated.
And we’re foolish to think we can stop it. These factions have been at war for centuries, since the night the hand of God wrote on the wall and the Babylonian Empire fell to the Medo-Persian Empire — the forbears of modern Iran.
In the years following the fall of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, Britain and France arbitrarily created Iraq. They simply sketched lines on a map and called it “Iraq.” It didn’t seem to matter that they were putting mortal enemies together inside a cage and telling them to form a nation.
From Day One, Iraq has been a nation at war within itself. It has only functioned when run by ruthless strongmen such as Saddam Hussein. Since 2003, the United States has been trying to turn this boiling cauldron into a democracy. I believe it is an unfixable problem. And yet, the U.S. cannot leave, because the permanent defeat of ISIS depends on the nation of Iraq.
Iran is all Shia. Iraq is mostly Shia. And it is drifting into Iran’s orbit by default. It is gut-wrenching to see that nation use its new freedom to give itself to new masters — the mullahs of Iran.
You know something else that is gut-wrenching? Watching America descend into the mindless vacuum created by social media.
A couple of years ago, TIME magazine warned of this very disaster. The editors headlined the article: “Social Media is Making You Stupid.”
It seems people — I call them “Pliable People” — are losing their minds. Not completely, but incrementally. The human race as a whole is becoming less thoughtful, less intelligent, less discerning, and less reflective. We are gorging ourselves on a diet of “thought-candy”, not meat. Meat requires chewing and chewing means work.
Thought-candy is sweet and melts in your mind. It includes things like celebrity news, trite, thoughtless memes, and ready-made, predigested political ideas we already know and agree with. Those things are not bad in themselves, but they do not challenge us.
But those are precisely the foundation blocks of social media. And researchers at Cornell University and Beijing University have found that “re-tweeting” and “re-posting” in the various social media interferes with learning and memory. Noticeably and quickly.
Preoccupation with social media is robbing young people of the tangible human interaction needed for physical and psychological health. The new technology filters out our humanity and isolates us from other human beings — the tone of the voice, the twinkle in the eye, the touch of a hand.
As a result, we are raising a generation of emotionally and sociologically stunted people who find it hard to learn, to reason, to reflect, or to think things through. In 2 Timothy 3:6-7, Paul seemed to describe the social media generation when he wrote, “…led by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
I think this situation has profound prophetic implications. Technology intended to empower humanity has made it weak-minded and easily manipulated. Technology intended to bring people together has made them friendless and alone. In its isolation, members of this generation have created worlds of unseen, imaginary “friends” who “like” them. By excluding real people from their lives and focusing on currying the favor of people they don’t even know, they are preparing themselves to fall into the trap of a man who will, undoubtedly, be a master of the social media — the Antichrist.
Do you know what a “workaround” is? Wiktionary defines it this way: “A means of overcoming some obstacle, especially an obstacle consisting of laws, regulations, or restraints.”
Christians believe that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer. He redeemed us from the penalty of our sins — eternal torment and separation from God — by taking upon Himself our sins and guilt, and paying our penalty by dying in our place.
It doesn’t seem like an even exchange, does it? He gets our sin and we get His righteousness. His righteousness reconciles us to the Father. And it happens the moment we believe in and accept Christ’s substitutionary death.
It is a plan and a gift without compare.
But Islam has no Redeemer. Muslims believe that The Mahdi — their messiah — will someday arrive to redeem Islam, but not individuals. To reach paradise, you have to be good enough on your own. But you can never know for sure if you really are good enough. All you really know is that one drop of “impurity” makes the whole person impure. How terrible to face the end of life not knowing if you’ve qualified for paradise.
So Muslims searched Islamic teaching for what we might call a “workaround.” An action that will guarantee paradise even though the person’s life could not possibly qualify him or her.
And they found it in the Quran. Martyrdom.
In short, Islam teaches that no matter how wayward and “sinful” the life you’ve lived — even right up until your last breath — if you die as a “martyr” for Islam, you and your family are guaranteed instant entrance to paradise. And, as a bonus, 72 beautiful virgins to pleasure you eternally. (The exact number of beautiful virgins is a matter of debate among Islamic scholars, but 72 is the popular idea in the western media.)
That explains why so many “martyrs” for Islam, like Anwar al-Awlaki (who was killed by a U.S. drone strike) and several of the 9/11 hijackers frequented strip clubs and prostitutes right up until the end. They knew they had a workaround: Death for Islam while dealing death to the infidels.
This is one thing that is wrong with Islam. It assures salvation ONLY to the martyr. No one else can know if they are good enough for paradise.
But God has a better way: Jesus. People who think of Islam and Christianity as basically the same could NOT be more wrong. Muslims work hard in their search for redemption in a faith without a Redeemer.
Consider the differences. One faith says you either have to be perfect in your goodness or die as a martyr to be saved. The other says that Someone who truly was perfect died FOR you. Paul said, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses (sins) against them… He made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:19, 21 NASB)
And the even better news? This redemption is not restricted to an elite few. The door is open to ALL, to “whosoever will.” (Revelation 22:17 KJV)