Friday, February 11, 2011

The Egyptian Revolution . . . the "Biblical" Perspective

(The photo is linked from CBS New York's web page)

I felt so proud of the Egyptian people that I had to speak or the words would come out of my ears. I feel great joy for them.

I have a close connection with Egypt with the fact I lived there for a few years and got a degree at the American University in Cairo in Arabic Studies. My son Tyler was born there. I still have many Egyptian friends with whom I communicate with. They, as a people, are endeared to my heart. But I've really been perplexed this week by the lack of enthusiasm that I've seen among my politically conservative friends . . . especially my Evangelical friends.

My Christian friends often accuse me of being 1) liberal and 2) negative. I come across as negative because, as you've observed here, that I'm often critical of the way Evangelicals do things (and think). But I also come across to them as Mr. Grinch when I speak the pure, honest truth, even when it is not pretty (the anti-Pollyanna syndrome). But this week, from my perspective, it seems to be the opposite.

I'm proud of the Egyptian people. They overthrew a brutal dictator without firing a gun. They did throw a few rocks in self-defense. They took great risks and didn't back down. Christians and Muslims stood arm-n-arm in unity. I sensed God's presence. They are all His children, created in His image. Being Muslim doesn't make you the children of a lessor god (or of Satan). All people carry the scent of God, their creator, on their breath.

But the conservatives (as I switched between Fox and the other channels at Thrive) had deep furrows on their brows as this unraveled . . . as did some of my Christian friends. Why? What's with all the negativity? This is a wonderful moment in history and we should all be dancing in the streets in the same spirit of the joy in green hills and cobblestone streets of the Shire after the fall of Sauron.

The reason that the Christians can't grasp the joy of this moment is because they are under the curse (as in a Tolkien fantasy) of 19th century and early 20th century men such as Darby, Scofield, and Moody. In the dispensationist perspective, further developed by Lindsey and LaHaye, 1) Israel must become a nation again, and God will use that nation, 2) the end is near, 3) the whole world is going to hell in a hand-basket (tribulation) in the end.

So, rather than celebrating the wonderful good news of God's created people standing up to evil and being liberated . . . these Americans, sitting in their hot tubs and watching it unfold on their huge, flat-screens, have sour faces. They only have one concern (not the 80 million Egyptian souls) and that is, "What does mean for Israel?" or, "Is this the beginning of Armageddon?" How many times this week I've been accused of being naive because I don't realize that this was orchestrated by the Muslim Botherhood and the people on the street were just lemmings. They don't deserve any of the freedoms that we do . . . lemmings are nonhuman.

But sour, ole me is really an eternal optimist at heart. I am also more of a fundamentalist (rather than liberal) than even the snake handlers of East Tennessee. Why do I say that? Because I believe that we should take the Bible very, very seriously. We shouldn't add words or thoughts such as from men like Scofeld. We shouldn't claim certainty (I'm certainly not certain about my views of the end times) where the Bible isn't certain. I believe that lying is sin . . . even when we lie for Jesus (or to make ourselves look spiritual). So I rest my case . . . and smile big for the Egyptians.

Below is a photo of me with some Egyptian school kids near the pyramids three years ago. They came up and shouted, "Hello. How are you!" showing off their English. So I said to them in Arabic, "What are your names? Where are you from? What school do you go to?" They thought it was a hoot that a white-faced tourist spoke some Arabic. I think of these little ones. They have a bright future . . . and I'm not being naive.

me and kids in Egypt

So, how can you look in these precious one's faces and not care? How can you let your theology diminish their value? What is truly the Biblical view? I will let you decide.


Jaimie said...

It didn't even enter my mind that there was a negative view of this situation until I saw a Facebook comment. A friend said she was rejoicing for Egypt, and someone commented something to the effect of "There will never be peace in that region." Wow. Just wow.

jmj said...

I hate those comments about there is no hope, no chance of peace doom and gloom . . . then raise their hands and praise God how wonderful He is. Something doesn't make sense to me.

Someday, I believe, the homeless of the world will have homes. The sick will be well, the hungry fed and peace will be so thick that the lion will play tag with the sheep and the toddler will play a fun game of hide-n-seek with the cobra. I like that God.

Eagle said...

You know I was thinking about some of this the other day. Given the "sanctity" of Israel...what does this mean for evangelicals, end times theology, etc...?

My take on endtimes theology is that it has really f&*^ed over the church. So many things have been tainted in a really sick way. Here are 2 that I personally observed

1. During the launch of Iraq Freedom in 2003 my pastor gave a sermon about how we are about to end the End Times becuase of the concentration of (150,000?) troops in the Middle East and because we are attacking Iraq, (ie Babylon). Sick.....

2. On the evening of September 11, 2001 my Crusade chapter met. Some evangelicals were almost "happy" about 9-11. Why? They thought we'd be drawn in a war, and be instantly raptured. I got the feeling as if some weren't as troubled or bothered by how many people died in the World Trade Center. How could you be like that? So insensitive and cold...

Some of this really bothers me MJ.

BTW...what's your take on the Muslim Brotherhood? My only concern is that I don't want to see democracy be put in place only so that some can use it to destroy or influence it. I'd be frightened if a Taliban style government was elected into power and they started to destroy their rich and deep history.

I do think our foreign policy is flawed...we claim at times to support democracy and want to see it spread. Then we support people like Mubarak, Musharif, etc... we can't have it both ways.

I've always wanted to go to Egypt MJ...always had a deep fascination with Egyptian history.

jmj said...

Eagle, I recommend the book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, by Mark Noll. He talks a lot about what you've said.

Unless Egypt has changed a lot since I lived there, I don't think there is any way they would tolerate the Taliban type theocracy. Some of my Egyptian friends, whom I've been in contact even this week, were very strict Muslims, yet they would never want a authoritarian government like Iran.

Anonymous said...

I remember sadly watching the TV news bulletins when Anwar Sadat (a great man, I believe) was assasinated, and Mubarak succeeded him. Just last Christmas, I remarked to a family member about the scarcity of democracies in the Middle East, even in Israel's "friendliest" neighbor, Egypt, which has been ruled by a dictator president for 30 years. He certainly hasn't seemed to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor; had Sadat survived, I don't think he would have stingily held onto power so long, nor oppressed his people (but then what do I know about politics).

So, yeah, I've been watching the Egyptian revolution with great interest, and am VERY happy for them.

But it's not over by any stretch. I'm sure there are opportunists who would seek to simply assume Mubarak's role for themselves (military?). Most revolutions are messy. I do hope and pray that true democracy prevails in Egypt. Too often, it's "Meet the new dictator...same as the old dictator."

Does anyone believe that Russia is now a democratic society?

Anon. in New England

jmj said...

No, I don't believe that Russia is or was a democracy. However, I to believe that Egypt is in a different boat. Maybe I'm not smart enough to explain the difference and time will tell.

NOTAL said...

I am also very happy for the Egyptian people. I'm excited, and cautiously optimistic to see what becomes of this revolution. It's always great to see a (almost) completely non-violent revolution. I think this is also potentially great news for the Palestinian people in Gaza. My understanding is that the Egyptian people are generally embarrassed/ashamed of how their government has been completely subservient to the wishes of the US and Israel regarding the Rafah boarder crossing, and blockade of Gaza. With any luck, the starvation of Gaza will soon be over. Gaza is an excellent example of how the US views democracy as good, unless you elect someone we don't like.

I brought your daughter to an Egyptian solidarity rally a week ago. Although small, it was good to see at least some people here celebrating with the Egyptian people.

Have you seen this incredibly moving image of Egyptian Christian protesters forming a human wall to protect their fellow protesters, who are Muslim, while they prey. Talk about loving your neighbor. I hope Christians here in the US will take note.

jmj said...

I'd heard about that photo but hadn't seen it until now.

Anonymous said...

To that "Biblical Perspective (TM)", Israelis, Egyptians, Jews, Arabs, whatever -- even those Egyptian schoolkids at the Pyramids -- are nothing more than pieces to move about on the End Time Prophecy gameboard. Nothing more. "It's Prophesied, It's Prophesied..."

E. A. H. said...

Excellent post. I was baffled by all the "they can't handle democracy" mumbo jumbo going around, but your perspective sheds more light on the situation. Of course-- Left Behind, etc, etc, et al. I should have known! I've so thoroughly distanced myself from that line of thinking that it wasn't readily apparent to me. But it makes sense now. And it makes me sad. Skewed eschatology shouldn't influence our foreign policy, nor should it cause us to put the people of the world into a hierarchy of importance and relative worth.