"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
-- Apostle Paul, Romans 12:21
There has arisen in the Middle East a virulent strain of evil rarely seen. One which is beyond our collective abilities to comprehend. The group calling itself the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) has been waging war in Syria and Iraq in which they have killed men, women, children, and the elderly with animalistic savagery. In the past two months, ISIS has snuffed out the life of two Americans and two Britons in the most heinous way, videotaping and then posting their barbaric deeds on the internet for all to see; prisoner and American citizen Abdul-Rahman Kassig's life hangs by a thread as the Islamic State has threatened to murder him. In the face of such inhumane violence many have become disheartened at our seeming inability to do anything about it. But we are not without hope. I believe there is something the people of the United States can do, every man, woman, and child, to help isolate this malevolence.
Wars are, by their very nature, brutish and cruel endeavors. In 1953 President and World War II hero Dwight D. Eisenhower solemnly described wars' costs: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed." Never were these words proven truer than in the battles raging right now in Syria and Iraq. The United States, the UK, and a broad coalition of Middle Eastern nations are trying to militarily defeat ISIS; senior Administration officials are warning the mission will likely take years to complete. There is something besides military power, however, that can be brought to bear against this despicable enemy, and it is something in which every one of us can participate.
At the end of this month, America celebrates Halloween. This day has typically included caricatures of ghosts, witches, devils, and other spooks. In recent times Halloween parties and events have also included the use of simulated, lifelike body parts, bloody gore, and decapitated bodies as props. In light of the horrific atrocities that ISIS continues to perpetrate on so many innocent people, I call on all Americans to join me this year in foregoing such costumes and props, and instead change the holiday to one that celebrates life.
I can only imagine the nightmare that the families of ISIS' American victims must still be suffering. But envision what kind of impact it would have on them if, on Halloween, they were to see simulated decapitated bodies and other gory items "decorating" American households on the night of 31 October? It would be like re-opening an anguishing wound and pouring salt into it.
Michael W. Smith recently released a Christmas album entitled "The Spirit of Christmas." This album celebrates the birth of Jesus - the Prince of Peace - and the hope He represents to the world. Jesus would later note that evil comes only "to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life - life in all its fullness." I therefore ask all Americans at least for this year, to show compassion for the surviving family members of ISIS victims and change the focus of Halloween from one that makes light of death and evil, to a two-part celebration of "The Spirit of Life."
First, I heartily encourage the children to go trick-or-treating and attending fall festivals as they always have, but to wear costumes that exemplify life and goodness, avoiding those that make light of evil and death. Students should still have parties, but likewise change the event's focus to "The Spirit of Life." Secondly, I suggest the adults set aside some portion of that day and devote themselves to prayer. We should all pray to the God of light, the God of life, asking Him to bring comfort to all those who have lost family members to ISIS atrocities, and then that He would bring about a quick end to this evil blight.
One of the things that has made America great over the last two centuries has been that our citizens embody the spirit of life. America at her best has celebrated the elevation of the lowly and meek, while opposing those who oppress and enslave. By changing the focus of Halloween from its typical emphasis on horror and death to one celebrating decency and life, we graphically demonstrate the civility and goodness of our people, which will sharpen the focus worldwide on the depravity of ISIS, and deepen their isolation from the rest of civilized humanity. Whereas these butchers kill and destroy even those of their own religion, we pray to the God of peace for the protection of all people - whether Christians, Yazidis, Muslims, or non-religious minorities; victims are victims regardless of any affiliation.
The Apostle Paul encouraged those of his day not to lose heart at the evil that plagued their time. Instead he implored them to overcome the evil with good. It may seem like a such a small thing to alter the focus of a holiday for one night and for all the adults of this nation to set the day aside for prayer. But great things can sometimes be accomplished from small beginnings. Please join me on 31 October as we all celebrate The Spirit of Life.
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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of the Department of Defense or US Army.