A funny thing happened in the Middle East, recently. A team from ISIS, probably in the country of Yemen, made a video for the Internet. One member of the group had a statement to make about his loyalty to the cause. It was a propaganda announcement for the group.
When the man tried to speak into the microphone, in front of the camera, he was interrupted. Every time he spoke, a loud bird squawked nearby, and the man had to keep restarting his speech. He started to get confused, in front of the camera, and he consulted his notes, and someone behind the camera tried to coach him, telling him to be cool. I guess that means stay calm and focus on the job.
- RELATED: When a bird turned an ISIS propaganda video into a blooper: Times of Indian
The video is funny, and it was published in many news sources, around the world. I chose a link to the “Times of India.” The video went viral, and the people who made it probably wish they had erased the tape before their enemies got a copy.
The story is simple, but the rhetoric is complicated, and this story means different things to different people. Rhetoric is a model to analyze a story, and it asks three questions:
- Who is speaking?
- Who is the audience, or who is spoken to?, and
- What is the audience supposed to do?
Think of a television commercial and ask yourself; Who is really speaking to me and what do they want me to buy?
Right now, I am writing this to you, and my best hope is that you will learn something good for your life, and possibly have a conversation with God. Also, I chose the Times of India link because their writing is very clear. I used to be an English teacher; and also, they don’t have ‘click bait’ links. Their professionalism is useful to me.
Honestly, that’s my rhetoric.
One layer below me is a large number of journalists, at least one university professor, and probably some people in military intelligence. This story went viral because ISIS is a military organization in a war, and their enemies are happy to embarrass them. It’s a war of words, and someone distributed this obscure story around the world and made the video go viral. Their rhetoric is easy to see.
And then there is the Al-Qaeda layer. This group of Islamic militants is a rival to ISIS, and apparently one of them found the video. Al-Qaeda first published the video, to embarrass their rivals in ISIS. Their message to the people who support radical Islam is ‘Give your support to us, and not to those other guys.’ They want to be the first choice in their field, and they want to push their rivals out of the arena. Both of these groups, Al-Qaeda and ISIS believe in the same things. In Christian terms, this is like the Baptists competing with the Methodists, or the Anglicans mocking the Lutherans.
One layer above the ISIS presentation is the bird. Did God send a bird to interfere with a propaganda message from a radical and violent religious group? I have no way to prove that conspiracy theory, but ISIS is famous for things like enslaving young women, and executing people by throwing them off of tall buildings. They have a long list of violent deeds, and a God who can create the universe and move mountains can also direct a bird to do His work. Or maybe the ISIS camera crew just didn’t bother to chase that bird away.
And at the bottom layer is an ISIS video production crew. They had a message, and they wanted to persuade someone, about something. They worked to get some benefit for themselves, but the project went wrong. You could say it blew up in their faces.
Below the bottom layer of all this human rhetoric, invisible in the basement, is God.
Notice that this is a religious story, about religious people. What is missing is a message directing us to God, and encouraging us to worship. All we have is someone at the bottom, loosely referring to God, and every one piling on for their own benefit. This is the business-of-religion, with only as much God a necessary.
In the Bible, this business is known as ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing.’ It is not only a problem among radical Muslims, we have been warned about this problem in Christian churches. This is a human problem; we like to use God as a resource to get what we want. We have our own rhetoric.
Jesus warned us:
Also, in the Bible, Paul said goodbye to the Christians in Ephesus, and he warned them; the cynical business-of-God would come into their church after he left:
What’s missing, in all our human struggles is simple surrender to our creator. If I can persuade you at all, that’s where we should be.