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Sunday, October 23, 2016

What, in the name of God?

It is a question that demands asking, that haunts this most recent atrocity.

Ordinarily, it is only rhetorical, something you might say if you came home to find police cars parked in front of your house. But it takes on a painful literalness following the latest video from the Islamic State, or ISIS, the barbarian army of extremists that has swept through Syria and Iraq.

What, in the name of God?

The answer is bitterly simple. They killed Peter Kassig, that’s what. They lopped off his head and displayed the results on a new video. This, supposedly, on God’s behalf.

No, neither the decapitation nor the video is a first. We still grieve Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter beheaded in Pakistan 12 years ago. More recently, ISIS has made this sort of murder porn ubiquitous.

Other known victims include James Foley and Steven Sotloff, both American journalists, David Haines and Alan Henning, both British aid workers, Herve Gourdel, a French hiker, and many others, including soldiers from Syria and Lebanon. Each was someone’s child and each, presumably, left a hole in someone’s life.

But the story of Peter Kassig, the sad courage with which his parents spoke to the world this week upon the death of their only child, suggests something that seems to need saying in the face of all this grisly cruelty, something about the things we do in God’s name.

Kassig, who was 26, first went to the Middle East as an Army Ranger. He returned as a volunteer after his discharge to use his skills as a medical technician to treat victims of Syria’s civil war. Why would he do this? Because he felt a call. Because it needed doing.

As he told CNN in 2012, “We each get one life, and that’s it. You get one shot at this. You don’t get any do-overs. For me, it was time to put up or shut up. The way I saw it, I didn’t have a choice. This is what I was put here to do. I guess I’m just a hopeless romantic and I’m an idealist, and I believe in hopeless causes.” Or, just a man who believed in something larger than his own life.

Monday, in the wake of his death, his parents, Paula and Ed, met the media at their longtime church in Indianapolis and you could see where he got it from.

They called him Abdul-Rahman, the name he took upon his conversion to Islam. His father quoted Jesus’ admonition from the book of John: “Greater love hath no man than this: to lay down his life for another.” His mother said with an assurance that lifted you as tides lift boats, “Our hearts are battered, but they will mend. The world is broken, but it will be healed in the end and good will prevail as the one God of many names will prevail.” His father asked for prayer. He said the family would “mourn, cry, and yes, forgive.”

“Forgive,” he said. It is arguably the most difficult dictate of faith. No one would blame them if they didn’t even try. But they say they will.

What, in the name of God?

In 1862, mired in America’s most ruinous war, Abraham Lincoln mused on God’s role in the tragedy. “In great contests,” he wrote, “each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be and one must be wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time.”

The observation feels freshly relevant as you juxtapose the bloody charnel house of the Middle East with the quiet faith of one family from the Upper Midwest.

What in the name of God?

Well, ISIS commits murder.

But the Kassig family is driven to serve strangers halfway around the world, to whisper hope in the midst of nightmare, forgiveness in the unendurable moment. And to seek prayer.

“Both may be and one must be wrong,” said Lincoln. He was right. And one is.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132. Readers may contact him via email at [email protected]

Photo: Ed (left) and Paula (right) Kassig speak to the media on November 17, 2014 at Epworth United Methodist Church in Indianapolis about the execution of their son, Peter. (AFP/Aaron P. Bernstein)

  • 1standlastword

    “What, in the name of God?”

    Better stated: In the name of what God!

    That explains all human madness!!!

  • highpckts

    I am certainly not negating the death of this young man, but we play right into ISIS hands! We scream and wail and want troops over there to get these people! That would be such a big mistake. Bush and Cheney tried it and look what that got us. This is exactly what they want so they can preach what a big bad country we are for interfering in their business and more people hate us. Everyone knows this is an atrocity, God help those that did it, but we cannot stop this without risking this country.

    • charleo1

      What you say is undoubtedly true. And yet, what are we to do? I think that was my question to myself. Just let the bastards get away with it? And, I can just hear their high and mighty bull malarky. “The filthy American Infidels, are cowardly dogs, against the mighty hand of Allah!!!! Blah, blah, blah…And I think it also goes to the issue of what, if anything, after Vietnam, and, 9/11, and Iraq, we still believe in? The war on terror? I hardly think that’s so, if it ever was. But still, If a bunch of thugs can capture an American, hold him for ransom, then behead him, then put the video of the bloody act on U-Tube, and the President of the Country is then asked by an incensed Nation for his response. What does he say? To the family he says our hearts go out to you? The Nation grieves with you? We are sorry for your loss? But what should be his response to The United States of America? Well, you get my point.

      • highpckts

        As far as reponse goes, I don’t know but going to war over this is insane! These men that have been killed knew going in it was dangerous! I’m truly sorry for their families but I would not risk our country for their foolishness. Who in their right mind would go there now??? As I said above, for every sect you wipe out, there are 2 more to take their place. Over there, it is ongoing and has been since forever! ISIS does it for the shock value and the puffed up Americans fall for it every time. We are being goaded and I hope this President doesn’t fall for it no matter what the war mongers in Congress say.

    • Mikey7a

      No Troops, None! I say, we sit in The Persian Gulf, and literally raze a whole country into oblivion! Yes, give them due warning. Tell the innocent, if there be any, to flee, and flee now. Give them a full week to go, then literally evaporate Yemen, or Syria, then tell Afghanistan and The Taliban, YOU ARE NEXT! Go ahead, call me a war monger. You would be wrong. I do not want a war, I want a reckoning!

      • 1standlastword

        You want the same thing they want. You say bring it and they say here it is

        • joe schmo

          Really! Do you truly think they will last into their threats of taking over the world? Granted they already practically run Western Civilization (Europe) I really don’t think so…… Not right now anyway.

          • 1standlastword

            It could be the Mother of All Wars…LOL!!!!!

          • joe schmo

            Good one….LOL

        • Mikey7a

          You don’t know me at all. I am against everything The Right Wing stands for, but enough is enough. No stupid drawn out ground war. We the US, have the capability, without using ANY Nuclear weapons, to lay waste to a whole country. It is time to show these barbarians exactly who they are dealing with. No more political back and forth, just pure, unadulterated might! I’m talking the kind enough to make that fool Putin, to put his shirt back on, and go hide under his bed!!!

          • 1standlastword

            The rich Arab Nations and the Jews–when they start to feel the blade they will handle it. If the USA can be patient and let IS take the battle to the aforementioned we shouldn’t have to do anything over there.

    • 1standlastword

      The corporate gangsters and whore politicians are much more dangerous than ISIS: and it is legal to kill ISIS. The corporate gangsters kill by use of time and interests and they create a human race of the walking dead. The IS method is gruesome, awe-shocking and immediate. Imagine that method to the slow bleeding out of life supporting energy and hope that happens on a global scale when world financiers collaborate to destroy nations with the help of their whore politicians. We know those death policies. We rail against them all the time here on NM

    • joe schmo

      Remember that quote by a famous Democratic President named Theodore Roosevelt: ‘Walk softly, and carry a big stick.’

      We no longer carry a big stick anywhere around the globe and as for the walking softly part, this Country under your man has gotten so weak it can barely stand on it’s own two feet. China, Russia, the Middle East, North Korea…..on and on and on…..

      I am anti-war but I believe we need to go in and rescue every single American left on Middle Eastern soil held by Isis.

      Honey, we have already put this country in grave danger, Not anyone feels safe anymore (31st after Portugal with regards to fearing for our lives) and news for you, we are going down quickly. We are no longer a BIG BAD Country. We have slipped from 2nd to 12th in the blink of an eye:)

      • charleo1

        You say this Country has gotten so weak, under Obama. By
        what yardstick do you measure a Country’s strength? Do you
        think we’re a stronger, or a weaker Country after invading Iraq? Well, how about more secure? You mentioned how you
        believe no one feels safe anymore. Is our military more, or less prepared to meet a looming threat, before or after Iraq?
        Would the public even support confronting such a threat, after Iraq? If the threat didn’t behead Americans and put the execution on the internet? And is that a threat to National security? If so, what do you suppose ISSL would think about
        Obama walking softly, and carrying a big stick, as a response to their provocation? And what does that mean in the context
        of today’s World. Where there are others, who also have big
        sticks? Do you believe a Country’s economic strength supports it’s ability to influence how competing Countries react to it’s foreign policies? Do you believe America has benefited or has been harmed economically by our current trade policy with China? Or, do you believe China will be a positive, stabilizing influence, and profitable trading partner in the long run? And what has Obama done, said, etc. to weaken the Country in any way? Except in the minds of his
        detractors, who after all have a vested interest in saying they,
        “feel,” less safe. Less safe say, than under Bush, on 9/11? How about less safe than when their retirement plans lost half their value in a terrifying span of 3 ugly days on Wall Street, in Sept. of ’08? Obama didn’t do that. He hasn’t cut the one trillion dollar per year, plus supplementals, military budget, once. We still have the most technologically advanced fighting force, the most aircraft carriers, transports, killer helicopters, the most advanced fighter jets, the capability to electronically eavesdrop, in every conceivable way. And Obama has advanced every bit of that, just like every President before him. He presents as a Black man. There is that. And, he’s POTUS. That’s pretty scary to some.

      • highpckts

        We don’t need a “big stick”! What nonsense! Everyone knows we have the capability of destroying them. Puffing out your chest and swaggering like Putin accomplishes nothing. As soon as you wipe out one sect of crazies, there will 2 more to take their place. This man that was recently killed went there of his own accord and accepted their faith! If he didn’t know the dangers well shame on him. That goes for every American. I don’t want to risk this country because of some deluded American citizen decides its ok to go there. If you don’t feel safe that is your problem. fighting an unecessary war won’t solve your issues!

        • joe schmo

          You Liberals are UNBELIEVABLE! We now carry a twig and have no respect for each other nor do we have the respect of the rest of the world.

          Are you including Obama, Reidtard, Peloser, and Hold Up as part of the crazies? You should because they certainly are.

          I never said a word about getting into another war. How many times have I told you I am anti-war, however; I do believe we need to go in and get the rest of the American idiots being held by these lunatics.

          Life is all about respecting each other. It’s like a young man coming of age who gets bullied by others who think they are tougher than him. Something many young men go through to this day. This young man has to stand up for himself otherwise he gets the crap beaten out of him and disrespected. It’s just human nature. You need to stand up for yourself otherwise you WILL get picked on and that is exactly how it is in this country today. That is why we keep getting taunted by people like Putin and Isis. Canada has made fun of us as have the Chinese. At the moment, we are the laughing stock of the world. If that’s OK with you, I guess you no longer care much about ‘this Country.’

          • clcman

            You DO realize that you said “life is all about respecting each other” IMMEDIATELY after refering to “Reidtard, Peloser and Hold Up,” right? Yeah, that’s real respectful.
            Putin taunts us because he has an ego that covers more square miles than his country. ISIS does so because they are terrorists and that’s what they do. We make fun of Canada and China all the time. I don’t know about you, but I don’t respect people who resort to violence whenever they face a joke or an insult. I respect those who have self-control, can keep a cool head and think things through first.

  • tranz2deep

    The horror of the killing of Abdul-Rahman Kassig is that so many Muslims will continue to debate whether to support ISIS, when the barbarous murderers will, do, and did kill their fellow Islamic people to score cheap drama.
    Be he Peter or Abdul-Rahman, he was of their Faith and they killed him anyway. That’s what needs to be publicized, so Islamic people with the self-preservation of a turkey could get a clue and avoid these maniacs.