Generous Orthodoxy  

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Power to the people of Egypt

Little did I know when I wrote my post about the "Jasmine Revolution" in Tunisia that it would be only a matter of days before the Egyptian revolution would burst into the world's headlines as one of the world-historical events of our time. How many congregations are praying for this amazing uprising to succeed? The Glenn Becks of the world, who do not read anything in depth about the situation, are resorting to the usual scare tactics. In particular, the Muslim Brotherhood is being targeted as an entity reminiscent of the Ayatollah.

I myself was misinformed about today's Muslim Brotherhood, having read about its beginnings in radical Islam. I did not realize how much it has changed. Numerous articles about the Brotherhood in recent blogs and news outlets have been enlightening. One of their leaders, Mohammed el-Betalgui, said that the group wanted a "civil state," not a religious one, and "We are standing for a real democracy, with general freedom and a real sense of social justice."

The Lede, a valuable blog conducted on the New York Times website, collects articles and blogs from all over the world on various topics. A particularly arresting one appeared in England's The Guardian a few days ago (I won't take the time to look it up right now, being on someone else's WiFi), delineating the difference between Egypt's revolution and the one in Iran. It's so important for leaders in the church to read carefully. We in the churches tend to divide between "liberal" sentimentality based on an ill-defined religious pluralism on the one hand, and fear of a monochromatically strange and alien Islam on the other.

For the purposes of theological reflection following up on my previous post on Tunisia, I propose a more courageous posture on the part of Christians about the fact that democracy and secularism themselves arose out of a Christian matrix, and from nowhere else. Wherever we have seen popular uprisings, they have been influenced in some way, however indirectly, by Christianity (and that includes Gandhi's movement). This influence has been almost entirely suppressed and denied by the bien-pensant. We should rejoice in the Egyptian people's revolt as thought it were our own. It was especially thrilling to read about the way that the protesters in their tens of thousands forged new communities. A New York Times reporter on the scene (Anthony Shadid) wrote on Saturday, "In a country made miserable by the petty humiliations of authority, Egyptians were welcomed to Tahrir Square with boisterous greetings. 'Thank God for your safety!' 'Welcome heroes!' 'Come on and join the square!' Most poignantly, they simply chanted, 'These are the Egyptian people!' In the ardor that the protesters have brought to the idea of community, the reporter continued, "in some ways, Egypt's revolution has already happened."

Coincidentally, I have been studying John Ford's movies, which have human community as their main subject--community and the price that has to be paid for it to come into being. This is a universal human theme. Let us rejoice that God is on the move. Nothing ever turns out entirely as we would wish in this world, but wherever ordinary people rise up against tyranny and corruption, it is a sign of the power of the coming Kingdom of our Lord.