In a recent CNN segment, reporter Clarissa Ward interviewed a leader of ISIS-K, a Muslim group that opposes the Taliban because … they aren’t serious enough about following Sharia law. As the interviewee observes of the Taliban, “they can’t present one example where they have observed fixed Islamic law punishments, where they have cut off a thief’s hand, have stoned to death an adulterer, have stoned to death a murderer.”
Ward then asks the man if he has participated in executions, bombings, and the like. He replies, “I have too many memories where I was present myself at these scenes.” He then plaintively recalls one instance where they captured five enemy soldiers and “Our fighters became over-excited and we struck them with axes.”
In her report, Ward then refers to the man’s testimony as “chilling brutality”. And if you were to play those excerpts for any number of conservative North American Christians, they would agree heartily: the man’s attitudes toward punishment and his treatment of enemy combatants does indeed demonstrate chilling brutality and, indeed, evil.
The problem is that these punishments of limb amputation and death-by-stoning are part of God’s Law as recorded in Torah. And while executing enemy combatants with axes may be morally horrific, it pales in comparison to similar modes of execution imposed by the ancient Israelites on non-combatant Canaanites, Amalekites, and Midianites including women, children, infants, the handicapped, and the elderly.
So a note to my fellow Christians: before you judge the actions of ISIS please deal with the cognitive dissonance at the heart of your reading of the Bible.