In his Friday New York Times column, David Brooks explained that President Obama mistakenly underestimates the attraction of ISIS. He thinks that people join ISIS because they lack jobs and economic opportunity, when actually they are motivated by religion. They believe they are serving God and ushering in the last days. What is a job compared to that?
If Brooks is right, and I suspect he is, then while the west may have armies to contain ISIS, it doesn’t have the firepower to defeat their ideology. In his column, Brooks offers only the thin gruel of nationalism. He suggests that ISIS fighters might leave the caliphate for a chance to contribute to the rise of Egypt, Syria, or Lebanon. But ISIS fighters already have a patriotic cause. And it comes with the bonus of serving God. How can a mere nation compete with that?
Brooks’ evaluation was worse on the PBS Newshour on Friday night. When asked whether ISIS was a Muslim group, he replied:
“They are. In some sense, it’s a stupid debate, because is it true Islam, is it perverted Islam? The fact is, religion is all interpretation. God doesn’t come down here and tell us exactly what he means. We have interpretations within Christianity, within Judaism and within Islam. If you call yourself a Muslim, you’re a Muslim.”
“They have different interpretations, but it’s all interpretations. So, one is a perverted or a sick form of Islam. A lot of people fortunately have a much more peaceful form of Islam, but it’s all an interpretation of a faith. What’s the real one? It’s all a matter of interpretation.”
Note Brooks’ secular assumption that “religion is all interpretation,” “it’s all an interpretation of a faith.” Brooks doesn’t believe that any religion has a revelation, as “God doesn’t come down here and tell us exactly what he means.” But without a revelation, all the secular west can offer ISIS members is money and a job. That won’t win the heart of a man who believes he is fighting a holy war on behalf of God.
We’ve come to an interesting place in American life. The West needs people with a brighter, bigger view of God to win the hearts of ISIS and their swelling number of converts. But those are the same people the west seems bent on destroying, all because they believe God has given them strict orders regarding marriage. What happens when the people you can’t live with are the people you can’t live without? We’re about to find out.