The “One Love Manchester” event, on Sunday 4th June, left me cold, grieved and ultimately frustrated; but truth be told, it was a build-up.
For whilst, on the one hand, I questioned whether such a festival was actually facing up to the issue of Islam’s violent history, on the other I wondered: what is the Body of Christ doing? And I don’t mean “We’re praying for the victims and their families.” What is the church actually doing?
Even if the church did anything, would the world really care? The common person is more likely to flock to their idols than they are to the God of all creation.
Here were thousands of people seeking solace from their pain, not in the “mender of broken hearts”, but rather in “false gods”. Here were sheep without a shepherd, singing the praises of hirelings.
I questioned whether darkness could shine light into darkness.
But who’s to blame?
Are they to blame because they reject Him and substitute Him for idols?
Are we to blame because we don’t let our light so shine before men?
Is the problem us, idolatry or both?
Perhaps it’s ignorance. Aren’t we meant to be the bearers of truth? Not just generic truth, but the truth?
I want you to take a moment and consider the picture through theological lenses.
We call these people “stars”, “idols”, and “celebrities”; Some even call them “gods”. They seem to live in a world beyond our own. Meeting celebrities is often called “mingling with the stars”. Whenever we see snaps of them in ordinary clothing or in “down to earth” interviews, we marvel at the fact that they seem as “human as we are”. They hold incredible influence and sway over our lives, driving fashion and public opinion; they even influence politics. When politicians want to get a demographic behind their campaign, whose endorsement do they seek? They appear perfect and pristine; almost untouchable. They are what many aspire to be and who they aspire to be around. Some will, literally, sell their souls in order to join their pantheon.
Heavenly beings were, figuratively, called “stars” in scripture. The people of ancient times believed that the stars determined your fate. People looked to the heavenly bodies as their gods. The opening of Genesis 6 tells of how heavenly beings (called “morning stars” in Job 38:7) came down to earth to cohabit with human women, producing giant offspring. The people, literally, mingled with the stars. The nations believed that the gods determined one’s success, whether in finances or fertility. In order to solicit their aid, people would fashion idols in an attempt to bind the deity so that it could fulfil their wishes. Ancient myth is rife with godly disputes that could have come right out of our gossip magazines. The giants of Genesis 6 were called “mighty men of renown”. They were the “celebrities” of their age.
Are you beginning to see the picture?
Have you ever stopped to wonder why we call celebrities stars and idols? I tell you, it’s not accidental; it’s because people saw the connection between celebrity and ancient myth, and they made it explicit.
God exiled Israel from the promised land because they worshipped foreign gods; and in England’s time of crisis, we’ve turned to false gods to come down and placate us.
Why Do They Hate the West?
Do you really think that the objective of ISIS is merely to cause “division”? Do you believe that their objective is just to strike fear and terror into the hearts of Westerners? If we do, it shows how much we woefully underestimate them and how little we know about their true motivations. Why are we so ignorant? Because we are repeatedly bombarded with the mantra that “Islam is a religion of peace; ISIS is NOT Islamic.” Thus we don’t actually take the time to learn what they believe.
By ignoring the religious and apocalyptic foundations behind those who attacked Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena and London Bridge, we adopt the misguided notion that the only thing these people want to do is divide us with hatred. According to our politicians, they’re just angry men given a twisted ideology; they’re not actually following a genuine theological conviction.
Thus, the solution is a show (literally, a show) of “love” and “unity” to the sweet tune of decadence. Now, I am painting with a broad brush, not every song lyric was full of immorality. Justin Bieber alone stood out as one who called upon the people to realise that “God is good in the face of darkness”, and for that I commend him. But when Ariana Grande (the headline act) has a song about how she’s slept with a guy so much, she can’t walk properly, I have to wonder. Why do Jihadi’s attack the West? They attack because they see the West as socially, morally and spiritually corrupt. And what do we do in response? We call upon the “stars”; the very figureheads of our morally and spiritually corrupt society, to celebrate that corruption.
Allow me to put it another way. Groups like ISIS and those who support their theology (because it is a theology) attack the West because they believe the West is unashamedly sinful. Their religious texts teach them to fight against unbelievers until they submit to their God and their prophet. Ultimately, they want the same thing we do as Christians: they want God’s Kingdom to come and for His will to be done on earth. The difference is, they have a different God, a different kingdom and an entirely different way of bringing it about. Does that make their methods right? Of course not; but if we don’t get this, we won’t get them.
So, think about this for a moment; ISIS attacks the West because the West is sinful. In response, the West puts on a show glorifying the very sin it’s being attacked for. Do you see now why “One Love Manchester” left me cold? Because it wasn’t addressing the heart of man’s problem, it was celebrating it. The theology and actions of these men are evil; but what if they have a point? Groups like ISIS make no distinction between “The West” and “Christianity” That should concern us.
I’m not saying the Church alone is responsible, but would these groups have as much reason to attack if we stood as light in the world, counter to the culture around us? Would we not, perhaps, be the first line of defence? This isn’t a guarantee that the entire culture will change, but at the least there would be a distinction between wheat and tares.
One Love Manchester wasn’t what we needed, because what the world needs is light. What the world needs is truth; and darkness cannot shine light into darkness!
We need the truth, not a half-baked show of “love” and “unity”. True love loves the truth, and true love hates evil. I’m not saying that we take up arms, rather that we wage war exactly how scripture commands us to:
“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…” – (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
We are to wage war against every argument, lofty opinion and thought that raises itself against the truth. In so doing, we must proclaim the truth and live the truth. We need to talk about what Islam is and why ISIS has just as much right to claim its Islamic roots as any other group, but primarily, we need to stand as witnesses to the true Kingdom of God.
Now, some will say this isn’t “loving”; but people often use the slogan of “love” to oppose standing for uncomfortable truths. It is through love for mankind and love for truth that we engage in the fight against evil; all evil. The way to end this war is to never stop fighting against the evil that perpetuates it, and we don’t do that by salving ourselves with a false sense of “love” and “unity”; We don’t do so by saying “Peace, peace, peace” when there is no peace!
Raising money for the families of those who are victims is admirable and noble, but turning a blind-eye to the iniquity of our society will not end this conflict; and it is a conflict. It isn’t a conflict over “British values” or “freedom”, but a war between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. It is a war for the very soul of humanity. ISIS is not an attack; it’s a wake up call!
When Israel abandoned the worship of Yahweh for the worship of idols and foreign gods, Yahweh sent His prophets to warn them that their exile and destruction was coming at the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians. In the wake of this warning, false prophets arose to reassure apostate Israel that nothing was going to happen to them; the mantra, again, was “Peace”. God’s response to them was clear:
“For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” – (Jeremiah 6:13-14)
“Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord God. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations. They shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord God. Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash, say to those who smear it with whitewash that it shall fall! There will be a deluge of rain, and you, O great hailstones, will fall, and a stormy wind break out.” – (Ezekiel 13:8-11)
We see a similar sentiment appear again in the New Testament:
“While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” – (1 Thessalonians 5:3-8)
The Body of Christ is not of the night nor the darkness. We should not sleep as others do. The Church needs to wake up, get equipped and let our light so shine before men. Maybe if the morning star rose in our hearts (2 Peter 1:19, Rev 22:16) the culture wouldn’t turn to vain imitations. There can neither be peace, nor security whilst we refuse to face up to the truth and confront our culture with the truth.
Recommended resources on Islam:
“Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward” by Nabeel Qureshi
Acts 17 Apologetics with David Wood
“What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Quran” by James White
Converted 2 Islam with Brother Ismaa’eel