Most young people want a cause they can live for. I can remember when I was young. I did not want to step into my father’s shoes and do the same ordinary work. I wanted to make a difference in the world. I wanted a cause to live my life for, so I went to university and studied economics and politics, because that seemed to be the best way to make a difference. But I soon found that it was an empty well. Secular philosophy could not produce a cause that would make a difference.
It was only when I discovered Jesus, and his message of the Kingdom of God that I found a cause to live for. I was not attracted by forgiveness of sin or a ticket to heaven. What attracted me was the promise of the Kingdom. The good news of the gospel and the kingdom was a cause to live for, and to die for if necessary. I still would not be content, if I did not have the cause of the kingdom of God and Jesus its king to serve.
When a young person in Pakistan, Syria or Iraq looks for a cause, where do they go? If they have a sense of justice, they will realise that their current political order is corrupt, inefficient and unjust. People connected to the powerful get rich, but everyone else remains poor. Those who work to succeed often have the fruit of their labour stolen by the security forces (think of the Tunisian fruit vendor). Those who are robbed cannot get justice, because justice works for those who pay for it.
Likewise, if a young Moslem is looking for a solution, he would not look to Western democracy and capitalism. He can see what they have achieved in Afghanistan and Iraq, and there is no appeal there: just more corruption and injustice.
Christianity would not have much appeal either. If the young man has heard the gospel, it is probably just a promise of a ticket to heaven, and he already has that through Islam. He looks at the Christian culture in America through the eyes of television and the movies. All he sees is immorality and blatant sexuality. He sees young people without a cause, compromised into complacency by materialism. If he wants to make a difference, he will not find a cause worth serving by watching Sex in the City or The Simpsons.
As a Moslem, he naturally looks to Islamic groups first. He does not look to the Moslem establishment, because it is compromised with political and economic power. Christians should not be surprised that young Moslems seek out the most radical groups. We don’t expect a young Christian looking for a cause to join a traditional church. We naturally expect them to look for the most radical church around. They look for the one that is hard out to make a difference. We should not expect a young Moslem, who wants a cause, to do anything different. They are not going to follow the old teachers who collude with the rich and powerful.
For young Moslems looking for a cause, the most appealing option is Islamic State. He see young people radically living out the requirements of Islam. He sees people trying to establish a new order of government, based on the principles of Islam. He sees a state that is trying to apply the Koran to every aspect of life.
Once he joins this movement, he has a cause that justifies the use of violence. The corrupt powers of the West are trying to destroy them so they need to defend their fledgling state with everything that they have.
We know their cause will fail, but we cannot blame them for joining, because it the best cause on offer.
What the young man from Pakistan, Syria, or Iraq needs is a real cause. The cause that he needs is the Kingdom of God that was brought near by Jesus. That is the only cause worth living for, and worth dying for. But if he has heard the Christian gospel, he probably has not heard about the Kingdom of God. He will have heard a truncated gospel of easy believism and a ticket to heaven.
If we are concerned about the jihads and the growth of Islam, we need to start proclaiming the gospel, not just a gospel of forgiveness or the trinity, but a gospel of the kingdom. And we need to start living the kingdom and demonstrate a justice that is real.