Purpose-driven totalitarians

Terrorism | Should we be shocked, shocked, that some secularists look for meaning in all the wrong...
by Marvin Olasky

Posted on Saturday, August 30, 2014, at 11:35 am

British and American leaders are tut-tutting as reports spread of hundreds of their young subjects and citizens joining ISIS terrorists. They are shocked, shocked, but speaking as a person who joined up with Communist Party totalitarians when I was 22 in 1972, I can say that they shouldn’t be.

In one sense, the Vietnam War radicalized me as wars now radicalize others. But in a deeper sense, I radicalized myself by looking for purpose amid a secular environment that suggested the only purpose was the search for power or pleasure or both. As Johnny Lee sang in 1980, “I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places / Lookin’ for love in too many faces / Searchin’ their eyes, lookin’ for traces / Of what I’m dreamin’ of.”

The terrorists want to win, and they do what they think they have to do. I wasn’t much different except that I didn’t kill anyone. Gavrilo Princip, whose assassination of Franz Ferdinand a century ago led to World War I, wasn’t much different, nor was Barack Obama–friend Bill Ayers. Nor is President Obama himself when he takes the law into his own hands by issuing executive orders that disrespect our power-restricting constitutional order.

Nor, for that matter, are all the judges who strike down laws restricting abortion, as U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel did yesterday when he blocked a new Texas law requiring abortion businesses to meet the building standards of surgery centers. Purpose-driven judges override legislators so that more babies can be killed. I’m not saying that ISIS, the Communist Party, and U.S. government officials are the same. I am suggesting a common impulse: my way or the highway.

None of this is shocking, for as Johnny Lee sang: “Single bars and good time lovers were never true / Playin’ a fool’s game, hopin’ to win / And tellin’ those sweet lies and losin’ again. / And I was alone then, no love in sight / ’N’ I did every thing I could to get me through the night / Don’t know where it started or where it might end / I’d turn to a stranger just like a friend. / And you came knockin’ on my hearts door. …”

We await that knock. We are made to look for purpose—and my compliments to Rick Warren for showing many what the right purpose is. Many of us go through life looking for diversions and amusing ourselves to death. But some do not, and their road can lead to rule by executive or judicial order, or to assassination, or to the Communist Party, or to ISIS. Same song each time. Different stanzas. No surprise. The surprise is when some turn to Christ and gain liberty. 

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. His latest book is World View: Seeking Grace and Truth in Our Common Life. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

Read more from this writer