How to Love ISIS

ISISby Brian Snyder

Depending on your political persuasion, it is the common thinking that the Islamic State was born out of some combination of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the Arab Spring, the Syrian civil war, and weak U.S. leadership in the region. But ISIS was around long before the Iraq war, before the founding of Israel, before the fall of the Ottoman Empire, indeed before the start of the Ottoman Empire. ISIS may have gone by different names throughout its history, served different ideologies and different religions, but at its core, ISIS is simply an expression of xenophobic violence, something which predates not just Islam, but civilization itself.

Militarily, perhaps today’s incarnation of ISIS can be defeated. Perhaps we can kill its leaders and capture its territory. But does anyone believe that this will actually defeat the ideology of violent extremism? Does anyone believe that another group will not spring up to take ISIS’ place? Does anyone actually believe that if we just kill the right people that this will solve all our problems with violent cultures?

Fortunately, we have a roadmap to defeat ISIS, indeed to defeat violence. In fact, we have a battle plan handed down by God himself. Before ISIS was evil incarnate, the Romans were ISIS, only with far more power. To first century Jews, the Romans would have seemed every bit as cruel as we believe ISIS to be today. The Romans worshiped strange and violent gods, they crucified, they beheaded, they conquered and they enslaved.

And the Jews were essentially powerless against Roman dominion; they had no hope of throwing of the yoke of Roman oppression through rebellion. And then, God showed up. Jesus could have led an army. He could have recruited and out-maneuvered. But he didn’t. Or he could have rained down literal hellfire. He could have led a legion of angels. But he didn’t.

Instead, Jesus quite curiously loved his enemies. As he hung dying, Jesus begged God for forgiveness of the people who were crucifying him. The people who humiliated him. The people who were torturing him in front of his mother. Jesus loved the Romans, the worst, most violent people on earth. Yet while the Romans may have killed Jesus, Christ still lives and the Romans are long gone. Not surprisingly, Jesus won.

After the Romans were ISIS, a man named Saul was ISIS. A fanatical religious extremist, Saul persecuted Christians, holding the cloaks of the men who made St. Stephen the first martyr. Saul killed and imprisoned men and women simply for their religious beliefs. And then, God showed up. Saul became Paul, and Paul suffered and preached and loved. Not surprisingly, Jesus won.

When God shows up, He tends to win, so if we really want to defeat ISIS, if we really think that ISIS is evil incarnate, the best way to defeat that evil is with God’s help. But the thing about God is that He doesn’t fight fair. He doesn’t use tanks and bombs and bullets, but love. Jesus defeated the Romans with love. Jesus transformed Saul into Paul with love. And so, if we want to use God’s power to defeat ISIS, we have to use love.

So how should we love ISIS? According to the UN, about 8.7 million people in Syria are hungry and about 70% of the population lacks access to safe drinking water. Thus, one way to love ISIS would be to replace our bombs and drone strikes with shipments of food and water and medicine.

Some might say that sending food and medicine to our enemies is a rather poor strategy. But Jesus calls us to love our enemies and we follow that advice not just because the son of God said so, but because love is more powerful than all the tanks and bombs in the world.

By now we should have enough history to know that we cannot out-evil evil. We cannot kill our way out of our problems. We killed Osama Bin Laden and thousands of Al Qaeda terrorists over the past 15 years, yet we may be no safer today than we were in September 2001. Christians in the West have been fighting Muslims in the Middle East for roughly 1,000 years; do we not yet have enough experience to know that killing only begets more killing and hate begets only more hate. Do we need 1,000 more years of war before we try actually following the explicit teaching and example of the God-man we call Christ?





Brian Snyder is a layperson at First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge. He works as an Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University and lives with his wife and two daughters. You can reach him at

Special Contributor to UMR

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This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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“By now we should have enough history to know that we cannot out-evil evil. We cannot kill our way out of our problems.”

Except for American independence, resolution of slavery within this country, stopping the genocide of Adolph Hitler, Japanese Imperial expansion and a few other problems resolved via violent means.

We live in a fallen world. Sometimes you have to punch a bully in the nose not offer him a glass of water.


I do believe Jesus did that!!! Just ask the guys in temple who were selling pigeons. Amen and amen, Kevin!!!!

Daniel Wagle
Daniel Wagle

But has doing all this violence towards Muslims solved anything? Has any war really “ended all wars?” Muslims are very resistant to westerners telling them how to run their societies, and therefore going to war with them won’t work in the long run.

Hayne Hamilton

The history of Islam exists without regard to one’s “Political persuasion”. The Ismamic state came into being when Mohammed, coming from Medina, wiped out his opponents in Mecca in the seventh century BC. It has existed since then, displacing Christianity from Spain in the west across the Meterrranean world all the way to the far orient in the east. It was, is and always will be Islam. If one is to support a position with a historical incidents, one should have a profound understanding of history, for which there is sparse evidence in this article….hh


It would be nice if progressives had as much love for conservative Christians as they do the enemies of America.

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