As we read the Old Testament we find that one of the ways God judges a nation is by allowing its enemies to become stronger as a means of discipline to bring that nation back to God. Reading the books of Judges, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Haggai, Isaiah, Joel and Jeremiah (to name a few) shows that God will even allow an enemy country to disinherit a nation as a penalty for turning away from the Lord!
The past few decades have seen the United States and its allies lose more and more of their monopoly on power and influence with the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the global financial crisis, which, coincidentally, have coincided with the forced legalization of same-sex marriages in six Northeastern states, the proliferation of homosexuality as a lifestyle to be celebrated in mainstream media, as well as the continued legalization of abortion.
With the militant Islamists rioting recently over The Innocence of Muslims, the online video denigrating the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, many are astonished at the fact that radical Islamists are continuing to unite all over the Middle East and North Africa, as well as places as far away as Australia and Germany, to riot and/or protest the posting of this anti-Islamic movie. While they seem to have unity and a rage-fueled commitment to advance their religious and political views, many of their opponents do not share the same commitment to succeed.
The following are some reasons I believe radical Islamists are hopeful they will eventually win:
1. Radical Muslims Are More Desperate than Christians in the West
When the Roman Empire was gradually dissolving because of an overextended military, tanking economy, high unemployment and low birth rate, which forced them to allow more and more immigration from the Barbaric Germanic tribes, the emperors placated the masses of citizens by giving them free bread, gladiatorial contests and circuses. This sounds eerily similar to the current United States population that depends on entitlements, and/or indulges in entertainment and immersing themselves in sports and music as a motivation for living resulting in a slothful, indifferent, self-focused population that cares more for peace and comfort than for dying to protect liberty, life and biblical values for the next generation! (Whatever happened to men like Patrick Henry who famously said, “Give me liberty or give me death”?)
Socialistic Western European nations like France, with their indigenous people used to having six-week vacations every year, seem to have generally lost the will to fight for their own freedom and are potential pushovers for radical Islamists who are willing to die and experience much hardship for their ideology.
Since people living in affluent, advanced societies become more focused on pleasure and self-fulfillment they tend to forget about the sacrifices it took for their nations to get to where they are today! This present affluent generation, which is used to living in peace and safety with a lot of potential upside, becomes stressed and complains about things that inconvenience them even though the poorest people in the USA live better than most of the rich people in other nations! For example, most people I know on food stamps and welfare have a cellphone, running water, heat, electricity and other amenities that 80 percent of the world can only dream of!
On the other hand, the nations in the Middle East host many truly poor, hopeless people without any real dream of advancement regarding education, career and financial stability. Thus, their only hope is the next life, which makes them prime candidates for extremist religious views that glorify martyrdom and motivate them to die for a cause greater than this earthly life—something a generation in this country generally has not had (with the exceptions of some of the folks exemplified in the military during the Middle Eastern wars of this decade and firefighters and NYPD who risked their lives on Sept. 11, 2001) since the Greatest Generation made up of the men who gave their lives to protect liberty during World War II!
Of course, Christ-followers in the Global South, China and Latin America may also have the same desperation and longing to follow Christ as Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa. Thus, the hope for Global Christianity is increasingly emanating out of the Non-Western Church.
2. The Weakening Voice of the Roman Catholic Church
It is obvious that Islam’s primary historic opponent, the Roman Catholic Church, is losing influence in Europe and North America—where most of the money and influence of the world resides. One of the reasons is the global scandals regarding the sexual abuse of children by the priesthood, as well as the more recent scandal involving the financial corruption of the Vatican uncovered by the pope’s personal butler.
In the Northeast of the USA the Roman Catholic Church is closing many of its parochial schools because there are not enough children enrolled, and many of their parishes have empty church pews, fewer young people are committed to the church, and the influence of bishops over their people regarding their religious views such as abortion, same-sex marriage and contraception is decreasing.
3. The Sleeping Evangelical Church
While the threat of Islam is growing with the resurgence of radical Islam in the Middle East with the recent so-called Arab Spring (i.e., the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt) the evangelical church in the U.S. is being put to sleep with Sunday messages catering more to the self-centered consumeristic desires of the flesh than to challenge their congregations to be committed to evangelizing the nations and manifesting the kingdom of God!
The desire for larger churches is driving many pastors to a corporate methodology for success rather than the New Testament emphasis on fasting, prayer and preaching with the power of God (Acts 6:1-4; 1 Corinthians 2:1-4) and standing for righteousness politically and socially in our pulpits.
While we as a nation continue to abort almost 3,000 children per day, legalize same-sex marriage, and continue to go downhill because of low moral standards and budget deficits fueled by almost half the country not paying taxes with concomitant high demands for more entitlements (which could almost destroy the next generation and will bankrupt many states like California), most of the evangelical church is just singing louder to drown out the cries of injustice and sin (as documented in the book How Do You Kill 11 Million People? Why the Truth Matters More Than You Think by Andy Andrews).
Not only that, but liberal left-leaning leaders are gaining more influence in the evangelical church. They have a proclivity toward cultural accommodation regarding abortion and same-sex marriage, and view big government as the solution to our problems rather than focusing on God’s top ten moral list of priorities regarding the righteous standard for a nation as stated in Exodus 20. The result: The church is becoming less distinct from the world and depending more on the central power of men than God.
4. The Divided Evangelical Church
Twenty years ago, before the online revolution, there were only a few prominent evangelical voices who had the clout due to their vast media empire to unite the church and even change elections (James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham to name a few).
Nowadays, because of the incredible ability to both communicate and do research online, there is so much information and so many voices speaking to the church that the evangelical body (as well as the historic denominations) are becoming more fragmented on a national scale.
Also, with the influence of post-modernism and liberalism in our churches and seminaries, the evangelical church is losing its center; no one really knows what it means to be evangelical!
While the Roman Catholic Church attempts to stay united by the pope and their bishops (although even that is being challenged by social networking and the spirit of independence in this culture), the evangelical church has continued to divide and denominate since the Protestant Reformation began. Hence, evangelicals, who in my opinion have the most potential to hear from God and walk in His power to change the world, have historically been too divided to make a difference in saving their nations. This makes me thank God for the rise of Christianity in the Global South, China and Latin America. But these have also been limited by a divided church with no real understanding of the Kingdom of God to infiltrate and change the political and social structures of their nations.
5. The Lower Birth Rates of Europe and North America
Some estimates are that Western Europe will be about 20 percent Muslim by 2050 because the death rate of nations like Italy, Spain, France and England is higher than the birth rate; these nations need to depend on mass immigration to keep their economies going. A large percentage of their immigrants are Muslims from the Middle East and North Africa. These same Muslims also don’t immediately conform to Western culture and consequently have many more children than their European counterparts. It remains to be seen if the West will secularize the Muslims or the Muslims will Islamize the West!
The same thing is happening with the European Caucasian population in America. But in the U.S., much of the immigration is from Latin-American nations that generally espouse conservative values, which is good news regarding the strength of Christianity in North America.
However, long term, the Muslims will have more children than native European Caucasians and even African-Americans (who are aborting 1,600 babies for every 1,000 births). This means, in the long run, these Islamists have hope they can have great political and religious influence in the U.S. in 50-100 years.
6. The Obama Administration’s Position on Israel, the Arab Spring and Political Polarity in the USA
It seems to be obvious that President Obama doesn’t have a good relationship with the prime minister of Israel (Benjamin Netanyahu) and has waffled on issues like his commitment to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as well as being committed to a Palestinian State and giving up the West Bank. This gives Muslims hope they will be able to garner more public opinion in the U.S. toward their position.
Also, the president has many critics who believe he could have done more to protect the interests of the U.S. when the Arab Spring began instead of taking a passive stance, thus allowing radical Muslims to take control in nations like Egypt that were once staunch allies of the U.S.
Further exacerbating this: The U.S. is almost two different nations with two completely different value systems and interpretations of the U.S. Constitution. Since Roe v. Wade in 1973 there have been culture wars that are continually dividing our nation and making it harder for our country to move forward with our goals—whatever those goals are!
While the Democratic Party has officially backed same-sex marriage, abortion and universal health care, the Republican Party is generally made up of a socially conservative agenda with a vision of a decentralized federal government that emphasizes individual freedom as the greatest path to the pursuit of happiness. Whoever gets elected this November will have their hands full and will need a miracle to unite the nation under the same ideals!
In conclusion, I have given some reasons the radical Muslims are hopeful, in spite of the fact the U.S. military has said in the past that the Taliban and al-Qieda have been decimated and demoralized because of the death of many of their top leaders like Osama bin Laden. (I believe for every one of their top leaders killed that more of them can potentially pop up and lead because of their commitment to their ideology.) This doesn’t mean I believe they will ultimately win; at the end of the day, the Lord Jesus Christ rules sovereignly in the earth and will even redeem the rise of Radical Islam for His glory.
Although the USA may one day lose its superpower status, the kingdom of God will never decline. God can awaken this nation again even as He did during the First and Second Great Awakenings! Finally, there are some hopeful signs now in the evangelical church as many united prayer movements are being launched and there is a resurgence in purposeful unity that, hopefully, will not be too little, too late to save our nation from further judgment and disorientation.
Joseph Mattera has been in full-time ministry since 1980 and is currently the presiding bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition and Overseeing Bishop of Resurrection Church in New York, a multiethnic congregation of 40 nationalities that has successfully developed numerous leaders and holistic ministry in the New York region and beyond. Click here to visit his website.