Current Events Deirdre Ink Slingers

The Real War on Women: ISIS’s Slaves

The Real War on Women: ISIS's Slaves

The Catholic Church teaches us that the highest expression of love is self-gift.  This teaching flows from Christ’s gift of himself on the Cross.  This is the ideal that should guide our understanding of sex and marriage, in which husband and wife give the gift of self to the other and cooperate with God to generate and rear new life.

We are familiar with how this understanding is rejected in the modern West.  Less familiar is how this ideal is being radically rejected by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

According to ISIS, unbelieving women in conquered territories are the rightful spoils of war, given to the conquerors by God.  ISIS argues in its propaganda magazine Dabiq, the practice of saby or taking slaves, including sex slaves, in war is sanctioned by the Sunnah, the verbally transmitted teachings and sayings of the prophet Mohammed.  ISIS laments the many Muslim leaders who reject this teaching, and accuses them of burying the teaching and being enemies of Allah.  Notably, ISIS denies that the purpose of sex slavery is pleasure.  One Dabiq author, apparently a woman, argues that anyone who makes that claim is a “mistaken ignoramus.”  The purpose, rather, is liberation:  the sex slaves are freed from their unbelieving communities and given the opportunity to believe in Allah.

According to ISIS’ interpretation of Islamic law, a man must make sure his sex slave is not pregnant before he has sex with her. The rule, supposedly, is to protect against confusion over the child’s paternity. This has led to ISIS forcing their sex slaves to take contraceptives, and even forced abortions in some cases. Many of the women who have been freed from slavery and shared their stories did not even know they were being forced to take birth control every day. They shared their accounts of being forced to take a pill each day in front of their captor, of being injected in the thigh with what they later found out was the contraceptive Depo-Provera, forced or pressured into taking abortion pills, and required to pass urine tests to prove they weren’t pregnant before being purchased by a new fighter. Some women were even forced to take two or three different types of contraception at the same time just to be sure they did not become pregnant.

Surely these facts belie ISIS’s assertion that sex slavery is really a tool of evangelization in the minds of its practitioners.  ISIS fighters are taking every measure to keep the wombs of their captives barren not for the sake of their conversion, but to maintain them as perpetual sex objects.

But suppose there are some who sincerely understand their rapes to be evangelistic.  Would this not demonstrate the deep bankruptcy of ISIS’s rape theology?  The Apostle John teaches that he who does not love does not know God, for God is Love.  Indeed, Love is a Person, eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son, the Logos.  God is Love and Reason, not Arbitrary Will.  This is why it cannot be true that God desires conversions by rape.  Such is the theology of darkness, of those who wrap their hatred of non-believers in the clothing of light.   But, we know that “He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still” (1 John 2:9). 

How to deal with ISIS is of course a massive geopolitical question that cannot be adequately addressed here.  But there are things we can do.  Let us pray for these victims and their persecutors.  And let us reject the theology of darkness by how we live.  In our workplaces and homes and ball fields, let us give witness to Love by allowing God to love through us.

Adrienne Apologetics Bible Current Events Faith Formation Ink Slingers

On Video Proof, Oral Tradition and Written Tradition

1st Generation iPhone, 2007
1st Generation iPhone, 2007

In 2007 Apple launched the iPhone, and at the time it was the best device of its kind to easily take and share pictures and video. Seven years later, it appears everyone around me, both young and old, has an iPhone, an iPad, or one or several of their competitors’ devices. I heard that more photos had been taken in 2011 than in the almost 200 years combined since the first photograph was taken. These devices have made a revolutionary impact on our culture in an unusually short period of time.

The overwhelming use of personal device cameras is providing the internet with video recordings of almost all current events, both newsworthy and not so newsworthy. We are recording massive amounts of current events in 5 second to 2 minute long videos. I remember a tragic story a few years ago where a father was catching a foul ball for his son, lost his balance and fell to his death – and if that weren’t astonishing enough it was almost more astonishing that there wasn’t a single video clip of the fall. We are a society desperate for video documentation. I can’t help but wonder how much news might be filtered from us where video documentation is lacking because media outlets know our addiction to video clips and the trust we place in them. After all, seeing is believing.

Last month, I read an article at The Gospel Coalition where contributor Joe Carter attempted to review the evidence we were receiving about the atrocities ISIS was committing against Christians. Specifically, he was curious about child beheadings. While there was indeed a man reporting such atrocities, Carter questioned his authenticity and specifically asked why journalists in the area weren’t photographing and sharing pictures of the child beheadings, if it was true. I found this demand for pictorial evidence eye-opening.

Only a few weeks ago, a video depicting the beheading of journalist James Foley went viral. I can’t attest to the content of the video as I didn’t care to watch it. Furthermore, I was moved by a plea from Foley’s family that people like myself refrain from watching it out of respect for Foley and also in order to dissuade ISIS from finding viral success in beheading videos. While we as a nation are uncertain children are being beheaded by ISIS, we are indeed convinced that James Foley was beheaded – we have the video.

We are at the dawn of a new information revolution. And I wonder. In our lifetimes will we see a shunning of the written word in favor of video documentation? It seems we already are. However, it also seems preposterous that we could ever completely distrust the written word. After all, it is physical, unlike oral transmission which relies too much on faulty and dishonest living humans. We only barely trust oral testimony. Once it is written, then can we begin to trust it. But now, even written testimony isn’t nearly as convincing as video testimony. I foresee video documentation usurping written documentation as trustworthy, even to the degree we trust written documentation over oral. My children and future generations will have never known a time where video documentation wasn’t available, and this will permanently skew the handing on of history from now on.

Gutenberg Bible, Harry Ransom Center
Gutenberg Bible, Harry Ransom Center

In the 1450s Johannes Gutenberg printed the first Bible printed by moveable type. His invention, the printing press, created an information revolution. In the decades to follow, printed information became mass produced, and literacy flourished amongst the common folk for the first time in history. Less than a century later, people were so moved by their confidence in the written word that some Christians became suspicious of oral tradition and would only rely on the Christian teachings they could verify by their own reading in the Bible.

I wonder if I lived in the late 1400’s, might I have scoffed at the prediction that oral testimony would lose almost all of its credibility in favor of written testimony? Today, I want to scoff at the prediction that the written word will lose its trustworthiness to video documentation. I think, “But! The Bible! It is written Word. It is the inerrant written Word of God. That could never be dismissed!” And yet, perhaps Christians 500 years ago thought the same about oral teachings. Granted, we don’t have Holy Spirit given video teachings, like we have the Holy Spirit written Scriptures. But, as I worry for the future credibility of very credible written documentation, I can’t help but mourn the loss of credible information housed in oral form that was dismissed because of its medium.

Jesus orally taught his disciples and commanded they set forth to teach others – and Jesus’s example of oral teaching was the only example He left his chosen apostles for teaching all He commanded. Jesus didn’t distrust oral teaching. In fact, it was His preferred medium. Jesus said to Doubting Thomas, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (Jn 20:29) I wonder, how soon the day will come that would be Christians will not trust even this Scripture because there is not a 30 second video clip on Godvine where Thomas places his fingers in Christ’s wounds and we can re-hear Jesus’s voice saying these inerrant words of wisdom? St. John wrote about Jesus in the conclusion of his gospel, “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.” Perhaps Jesus preferred oral teaching because like He who exists outside time and space, our memory, one of the attributers of our soul, is not limited by time nor space – oh, what about Jesus John’s memory contained!  We know St. Paul said, “We walk by faith, not by sight” because we can read it in Scripture (2 Cor 5:7). But, I wonder what else did St. Paul say that hasn’t been handed down because we didn’t trust it if it wasn’t written? We who no longer trust the method of information sharing preferred by Jesus, oral teaching, are no more walking by faith than our children’s generation who will naturally only trust the videos clips they see. I fear to realize the knowledge we will fail to pass on during this next information revolution as we continue to favor only what we can preserve by an iPhone’s onboard camera.

The Incredulity of St. Thomas, Carravagio, 1602
The Incredulity of St. Thomas, Carravagio, 1602

I am thankful for the Church’s perserverance in safeguarding and teaching Catholic oral traditions alongside the Scriptures. Clearly, God knew what He was doing when He established the Church. He knew that humans would begin to filter information based on medium. We’ve seen one type, oral, filtered away, and are now beginning to filter the other type, written, away as well. Yet, the Church will perservere, promulgating Christ’s teachings in both forms, despite our biases. Thanks be to God.

Catholic Sistas offers our prayers for family of Christian martyr James Foley, for all persecuted Christians and for their persecutors. 

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us. 

St. Thomas, pray for us.