Beheadings In the World Today

PMT 2013-043b Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Th.D.

In the past few years we have recoiled in horror at the beheadings of innocent civilians by Muslim jihadists in Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Americans Paul M. Johnson and Nicholas Berg and Korean Kim Sun-il were tortuously decapitated by Islamists, who shouted “God is great!” while performing the gruesome deeds. Not so widely reported was the June 21, 2004, Taliban beheadings of an Afghan soldier and  an Afghan interpreter for the U.S.-led forces in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Before this recent spate of beheadings, we learned of journalist Daniel Pearl’s decapitation in Pakistan in 2002. As reported on, the al Jazeera television network has “praised the practice of beheading captives as an effective wartime tactic.”

But these are just a few of the more newsworthy examples of a whole host of contemporary Muslim barbarisms. In 1993 the bodies of U.S. soldiers in Somalia were mutilated by crowds of Muslims. On April 1, 2004, in Fallujah, Iraq, four Americans were ambushed, pounded to death with bricks, dismembered, and set afire while jubilant Iraqis chanted Islamic slogans. Two of their dismembered corpses were hung from a bridge; the other two were dragged behind cars through the city’s main street.

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On May 11, 2004, six Israelis were killed in a bomb attack in Gaza. The news media filmed Palestinians dancing in the streets and playing with the men’s body parts, displaying the severed head of one of them, which was kicked up and down the street in play.

In the West Bank in the summer of 2000 two Israelis were captured in Ramallah, then torn limb from limb while their internal organs were pulled out and their eyes gouged out. The bodies were then thrown from the second floor of a police station to a cheering crowd which set the corpses on fire then dragged them around the city.

How could such inhuman practices be committed by devout Muslims in the name of Allah? How could they even be condoned — much less applauded — by a large segment of the Islamic world? And how could the incredible destruction of life on September 11, 2001 in New York and Washington be cheered on the streets of almost every major Muslim city throughout the world?

Asking such questions betrays both the questioner’s own religious faith and his historical naivete. Our revulsion is a reflex of our Christian worldview; our surprise is the proof of our Islamic ignorance. To understand both our abhorrence at and the Islamic acceptance of such actions will require us to look back to the founders of these two leading world religions to see how they were set in motion.

Christ Our Example

True, faithful, obedient Christianity is committed to the high calling to follow Christ. The Lord urges his would-be disciples: “Follow me” (Matt. 16:24; 19:21). He commands that we should follow his humble example (illustrated by footwashing) so that “we also should do as I did to you” (John 13:15). The earliest disciples in the apostolic era were called “Christians” (Acts 11:26), which is a compound of christos (“Christ”) and anthropos (“man”); thus, they were “Christ’s men,” followers and emulators of Christ. They were called the people of “the way” (Acts 9:2; 18:25; 19:9, 23; 24:14, 22), because of their following the life and teaching of Christ.

The Lord instructs his followers: “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). He teaches: “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). But what sorts of things characterized the life and the teachings of Christ that we should follow as true disciples?

A key theme in Jesus’ teaching is his command: “all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matt. 7:12). Certainly this does not include beheadings.

In Matthew 5:44 he commanded: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” He was so insistent upon this that he taught us:  “whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt. 5:39). These directives cannot lead to a culture of beheading and dismemberment.

Christ was so far from urging his followers to fight that he rebuked Peter who sought to prevent him from being taken away to be tried by the Romans: “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword” (Matt. 26:52). Even when faced with the cruel death of the cross, he told Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18:36).

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When we look at the life of Christ, then, we find that he never lifted a sword in resistance to anyone. Nor did he ever urge his followers to attack others. He even went without resistance to be crucified by the Roman judicial apparatus. And his earliest followers were likewise ill treated, while not lifting up the sword against their oppressors (1 Pet. 2:12-17). Now it certainly is true that Christians in later history from time-to-time took up arms in the “service of Christ.” But they did so against the express teaching and example of Christ.  Hence, one element of our perplexity at the Islamic atrocities derives from the fact that  the founder of our faith teaches us otherwise — in both word and deed. The faithful follower of Christ could never commit such horrible deeds while being faithful to Christ.

But it is not so with Islam. I will continue this study in my next blog article.

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2 thoughts on “Beheadings In the World Today

  1. ajmacdonaldjr October 27, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    The Mexican Drug War Has Killed More Americans Than ISIS Or Ebola Ever Could via @elitedaily

  2. Kenneth Gentry October 31, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Then let ISIS alone?

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