How is it that ISIS seems to be so effective at recruiting young people to join their cause? We are hearing more and more of youth who leave or plan to leave their homes and families in the United States and travel to join ISIS in the holy war. One of the more recent cases to make the news is 19 year old Mohammed Hamzah Khan from Bolingbrook, IL who, according to the CNN report Illinois mom tells ISIS: ‘Leave our children alone’
…had invited his family to join him in his plans to travel to join ISIS in the Mideast, authorities said. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is using warfare and terror in an attempt to create an Islamic state across Sunni areas of Iraq and in Syria.
Mohammed Hamzah Khan is in court and:
…is charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. The charge he faces carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
FOX News’ Gretchen Carlson on her show “The Real Story” asked Lee Carter, Communication Expert to what she attributes the success of ISIS in recruiting. Without hesitation she said they are using “Weapons of Mass Marketing.” Now that is a good use of turn of a phrase and I think she is correct. ISIS is offering something which is appealing to idealistic youth, absolutes. Right and wrong is clearly defined, God is represented as bigger than us. Allah is viewed as the only true god who demands submission and will punish those who refuse and reward those who are faithful. ISIS has made good use of social media to get their story across. One of the reasons they are so effective is that the Jihadists really believe what they claim to believe to the point that it really affects how they really live. Serving and pleasing god is their highest priority and everything else comes in second or third place. There is a certain romanticism to what they are marketing which is very appealing to youthful idealism. The call to commitment to something bigger than themselves is very powerful and that call is coming well packaged through social media. Islamic Jihadism is transforming civilization. One thing that should be noted, Islamic Jihadists are not overly concerned with trying to get unbelievers into the mosque to hear what they have to say or giving entertaining meetings to offer user friendly ways to live a better life or feel better about life by making Allah a part of your life. No, they don’t even pretend to be concerned about how you feel but only that you submit.
Of course, I would argue that Islam is a false religion worshipping a false god which was invented and marketed by a false prophet originally. Muslim’s are certainly entitled to believe what they choose to believe but the right to believe doesn’t make the faith claims true. The battle between Christianity and Islam isn’t new. In fact, some have said that by the 11th Century, Islam was vying with Christianity for dominance and Thomas Aquinas rose to the occasion. Bill Pratt at the Tough Questions Answered Blog, wrote What Did Thomas Aquinas Have to Say about Islam? gives a few of the arguments and thinking of Aquinas which effectively refuted Islamic claims of his day. One of Bill Pratt’s comments is instructive:
Thomas then goes on to differentiate the success of Christianity with the success of Islam. He argues that Muhammad offered no miracles to prove he was from God, and that his sole appeal was based on the carnal pleasures he offered his followers, including military power.
This is an important observation and is just as true today as it was in the 11th Century. The primary appeal of ISIS is also, “based on the carnal pleasures he offered his followers, including military power.”
Add to the effectiveness of “The Weapons of Mass Marketing” the voice of liberal media who regularly disdain and mock Christianity while protecting Islam from even being questioned and the situation gives ever more credibility to ISIS and similar groups.
So what is to be done? The answer is simple to understand but difficult to implement. The church needs to recognize and reaffirm the God of Scripture as He has revealed Himself, restart the ministry of the church (worship of God, exhortation and education of believers, praying for and with one another, providing for the needs of the body) within the church and move the mission of the church (evangelism and challenging false religions) back to its rightful place, outside the church and into culture. The art of mass marketing is simply the attempt to persuade others to particular beliefs which in turn alters their behavior on a grand scale. For much of history Christians were the leading thinkers, artists, scientists, philosophers, inventors, etc. Their ability to lead in these areas was based on their view of and commitment to God. The greatness of God has been diminished in many churches. It leaves little for unbelievers to be in awe of or to call them to commit to. ISIS will lose if their ideas are exposed as false and defeated. Two passages come to mind by the Apostle Paul on this issue. One has to do with our behavior before unbelievers. We might call this the weapon of the well lived life:
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.(2 Corinthians 6:2-10)
There is nothing in here about seeking a comfortable stress free life but in fact the enumeration of how was ought to act and react to a difficult life. Paul unbelievers will treat believers and his response to that treatment. The power exhibited in such a life draws detractors into rethinking their views and commitments. Why? It is a real life demonstration of being committed to something bigger than we are. The other passage is 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 which we might call the weapon of the well trained mind:
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
These are indeed The Weapons of Mass Marketing and powerful weapons they are!