The internet social media sites have lately been swamped with photos and videos of mass executions, raped women, severed heads and blood flowing like a river. A monster has been unleashed on the civilized world once again, but to be fair to Islam, this monster has been seen before. Among some of the many practitioners have been the ancient Greeks, Romans, Caananite cults, Medeival and Renaissance Christians (Yes, Catholics!), Turks, Mongols, Chinese, Japanese, Communists (in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Soviet Union), etc.
Islam does seem to have a greater degree of recidivism, however.
In all of these episodic spasms of violence, it is not usually the civilization itself, but death cults that well up within them and sweep up many in much the same way ordinary people can find themselves easily swept up in a vigilante mob and doing what hours before would have been unthinkable. Much is the same in the latest spasm of satanic slaughter in the Middle East.
We are alarmed at the persecution of Christians, their wholesale slaughter, and that of rival Muslim sects as well. We are sickened at the sight of their slaughter and want to do something about it.
Beyond prayer and consciousness raising, what else can be done? The answer is military, but in a war-weary nation that actually helped precipitate this by the sudden withdrawal of our troops (creating the vacuum for ISIS) there is no political will or stomach for another fight. So the answer is what?
A steady diet of these photos will only produce compassion fatigue, the genesis of which is illustrated in the Venn diagram below:
Moreover, there is a legitimate debate about the potentially voyeuristic participation in such atrocity and its effects on the psyche and soul. Such imagery becomes like pornography in requiring ever greater thresholds of depravity depicted in order to elicit arousal. This occurred with the nightly news images during the Vietnam War, which had no greater degree of atrocity than other wars, as the historical record continues to bear. Eventually we became outraged, then numbed, then seized with the desire to move on.
Teddy Kennedy led the defunding, we declared victory and came home. This created the vacuum for Pol Pot and his slaughter of over three million humans in just a few short years. In Iraq, history is repeating itself, and the question is what do we do with these images?
On FaceBook I have joined Deacon Greg Kandra in declaring that I will unfriend anyone who posts these images. I don’t need them on a daily basis, and their abundance will merely desensitize me. In just a few short weeks I have already lost the ability to feel shock and horror. It’s becoming just more of the same, and that’s the real shock and horror.
In a recent blog post, Fr. Dwight Longnecker declared that we dare not look away. I disagree. The real danger is incurring the fate of Lots’ wife, of turning to stone for having looked back.
If we truly care, we’ll act. We’ll actually DO something. That will begin with electing new national leadership and rebuilding our military. Death cults have only ever been stopped by military force, and this one is no exception. However, maintaining our edge means not looking on the horror with unfiltered gaze.
That’s the challenge.