That seems a little overstated: Most wars fought under the banner of religion are really about terrestrial conquests — land, money, power (see Michael Brendan Dougherty’s essay about Ireland) — and ISIS is probably no different. But Baghdadi needs men and money and weapons, and fighting “the Jews, the crusaders, their allies, and with them the rest of the nations and religions of kufr, all being led by America and Russia, and being mobilized by the Jews” — as the first issue of ISIS’s glossy propaganda magazine explained — is a better recruitment call than “come help me get rich and set up a new country.”
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President George W. Bush was careful to emphasize repeatedly that Islam is “a religion of peace.” His subsequent attacks on majority-Muslim lands may have blunted that message, but the Bush White House saw the importance of not making the “war on terror” into a “holy war on terror.” President Obama has made similar statements. It’s obviously the right thing to do.
Pope Francis was not calling for a Christian crusade against ISIS — as Ed Morrissey at The Week and Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig at The Daily Beast cogently explain, the pope’s impromptu remarks were a nuanced call for true international (meaning United Nations) action to protect all groups targeted by ISIS, including Iraq’s embattled Christians, and well in line with Catholic “just war” teachings. But in this battle against ISIS, nuance tends to get lost in translation.