Janet and I are on vacation, so I’ve asked our oldest son Ryan to write the Daily Article in my absence. Ryan has been writing for our website for several years. He has earned BA and Master of Divinity degrees and is completing a PhD in church history. I believe you will profit from his insights as he engages cultural issues with biblical truth.
The war against ISIS and the principles for which they stand has been going on for longer than most of us care to remember. It seems like news of their latest attacks is a near-weekly occurrence, and, even as their physical footprint in the Middle East continues to fade, their influence expands across the globe. One primary reason is their ability to recruit through videos and social media.
In the past, the American government has tried to fight fire with fire, making forty-two videos to dissuade people from joining the terrorists. Unfortunately, those videos have a combined fifty-five thousand views—a relatively paltry number by social media standards—and seem to have accomplished little. A new strategy, however, could be shifting the tides.
According to Wesley Bruer at CNN, Priyank Mathur is “a former counterterrorism intelligence analyst for the Department of Homeland Security who moonlighted as a comedy writer for the satirical news website ‘The Onion’.” Mathur has found a way to combine his two interests in the fight against the terrorists. He recently reached out to East India Comedy (EIC), a group of stand-up comedians and sketch writers from Mumbai, to develop a video called “I Want to Quit ISIS.”
The roughly five-and-a-half-minute sketch depicts ISIS as a normal-looking office where a young man attempts to leave the terrorist organization, only to be bogged down in bureaucracy and debates over the tenets of Islam with his manager. The video is quite funny but also does an excellent job of subtly pointing out the hypocrisy behind the terrorist rhetoric. It’s since been viewed more than a million times in Southeast Asia—some of the most fertile ground for ISIS recruitment—and hundreds of thousands of times by people in other parts of the world as well.
Mathur wasn’t sure the videos would ever get off the ground, though. As he told Bruer, “When you ask someone to make a video that criticizes ISIS or some other terrorist group, that’s a lot to ask because you’re asking them to put themselves out there and put themselves potentially in harm’s way and no one wants to attract the ire of a terrorist group like ISIS.”
Still, the comedians were just excited about the prospect of using their talents to make a real difference. As Kunal Rao, one of the members of EIC, put it, “I think it’s great that the government, some government is taking action and trying to do it in a very different way and that’s what we like about it.”
It’s difficult to accurately gauge the impact these videos might have, but the number of views and the chance to take back a bit of the social media advantage ISIS has enjoyed to date are certainly encouraging. Perhaps even more so is the excitement from groups like the EIC at the chance to use their talents to help in that struggle.
As Christians, God has called us to take a similar approach with the talents and gifts that he has granted each of us. Scripture is clear that we all have a role to play in the body of Christ and that using our gifts for the kingdom is a fundamental part of that responsibility (1 Corinthians 12). The problem many of us face is that we limit what God can do with those gifts by drawing boundaries that were never meant to exist.
The comedians now helping to fight ISIS never dreamed that their talents could be used for that purpose, but because they were open to the possibility, they’re now playing a meaningful role in that fight. I shudder to think how much more we could be doing for the kingdom if we were similarly open to allowing the God who was creative enough to fashion all of existence out of nothing to have free reign with our gifts as well. We must never make the mistake of placing limitations on what our limitless Lord can do.
Jim Denison, Ph.D., speaks and writes on cultural and contemporary issues. He produces a daily column which is distributed to more than 113,000 subscribers in 203 countries. He also writes for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Post, Common Call, and other publications.