Empire and Kingdom

I have been involved in a discussion about the recent upheavals in Egypt.I can’t say that I’m an expert in international affairs — far from it. I actually was thinking very simplistically about it at first, like “hey, they’re standing up for a more democratic system, that’s good, right?” In conversation with courageous, thoughtful Christian friends I began to understand that there is more to it than that. But political struggle always leads us back to the personal. It may always look different every time it plays out, but the same issues  are always lurking underneath the surface. It may take different forms, but the same questions are always at stake.

Hey-

Yeah, I think that my view is really simplistic; not simple-minded, but simplistic in that I don’t have good information available in the political arena.

So when the Egypt stuff started I thought, oh — maybe this is good: they’re calling for more democracy. But then the “news flashes” began coming out of the Christian world: that it was the devil, that it was overthrowing one of the last stable elements in the Middle East, etc. But I still thought it could be a good thing. So I posted on FB somewhere that we just had to pray that it does indeed result in more democracy in Egypt, and doesn’t slide toward the Muslim Brotherhood — and caught a firestorm of near hate responses! In the midst of it I found a woman who agreed with me, and we prayed together, but everyone else was trying to convince me (sometimes quite viciously) of their conservative “change is bad” view.

“what happens when some SOB of a dictator gets over thrown, ‘free and fair elections’ happen, and a totally conservative Islamist regime takes over which institutes Sharia, harbors open hatred for western ideals, and promptly does away with the semblance of democratic ethics that helped it to rise to power in the first place?” I understand that this is what happened in Iran, and this is what the “change is bad” people are trying to say, but I’m hoping (and praying) that it doesn’t have to go this way. … and I agree with you about revolutions.

I look at hundreds of years of peace and prosperity all over Central Asia under Sultans and Caliphs. There was unrest and war too — but while we were tearing Europe apart after the Romans, the Middle East was enjoying an unprecedented era of development in the arts and sciences, mathematics and engineering… it was overall very beautiful! Muslims, Jews and Christians lived side-by-side in prosperous little kingdoms. …and that’s probably the point. They were kingdoms and not democratic societies. But the rulers seemed to know how to mostly leave their subjects alone to live lives of relative freedom under Muslim regimes where they lived largely well and prosperously. I wonder what has changed within Islam to effect such a dramatic shift?

“It’s kind of like the days of communism. The U.S. supported a number of ruthless dictators on multiple continents so long as they did not side with Soviet interests (or maybe so they WOULD NOT side with Soviet interests…)” Yes, I agree — but I think that history has shown us that those policies were VERY shortsighted, and didn’t ultimately work. Those regimes most often came back to bite the US in the butt — besides being morally reprehensible!

This gets to what I was saying about democracy and the privileges of democracy. We have been trying to give it away for decades, and that just puts us in moral and ethical fixes. It’s even worse when we try to FORCE it on people. Democracy is like a box of chocolates. As long as we are giving it away wholesale, people are going to use it for their own purposes. If it’s always free they’ll use it to plug their sinks, to wipe their butts, despots will hoard its benefits only for themselves, and people who don’t understand it will come to take advantage of it. That’s because, as long as we are trying to glut the world’s systems with it, it won’t be valued. …And when we try to cram it down people’s throats, they’ll come to despise it!

” How do we justify our social systems, and how do we support the upheaval of governments in the name of enshrining new systems more like our (American/western) own, if we truly follow the teachings of Christ? Honestly? This is a paradox.” I couldn’t agree more! BUT, if we would realize the value of chocolate ourselves, we’d begin to use it more judiciously. We’d encourage others to invest in chocolate manufacture while we enjoy it, and share it — but sparingly — with friends. We should model the benefits of chocolate, talk about them, even promote them — but not consider ourselves the military purveyor of chocolate around the world. We could even help others build their own chocolate factories; but that’s just it: their own factories producing the kinds of chocolate that benefits the tastes and gastronomic needs of their people most. I think it’s wrong for us to be fighting to cram our own brand of chocolate down other nations’ throats, and worse — when we build our own factories everywhere else, and feel we have to defend them at every turn.

Democracy is not a tool for world domination — democracy is a privilege that is only effective in a people who have fought for it. That’s when we value it.

I used to be a pacifist: when I was 16 I became a registered conscientious objector. But God has since shown me that He sometimes uses warfare — because there are things worth fighting for. God told me, before the second Gulf War started, that He was bringing down Saddam Hussien because He had heard the cries of the people Saddam was slaughtering. I believe in world peace, and that it will be achieved when Jesus returns to sets up His own Kingdom — but even then, it will be because He has conquered His enemies. Your pacifist Jesus is coming back to fight a war! Read it. AND turn the other cheek; give your cloak too; pray for your enemies; love those who hate you! Because it’s not about being a pacifist or believing in war, it’s about being committed to doing the right thing (the righteous thing) in every situation. That’s why the systems of the world are so messed up: they actually still believe in the Machiavellian “Do the wrong thing for the right reason”. Those dictatorships will come back to show you that the original choice was evil.

Jesus reminded me when I was twenty years old that I couldn’t live the “Christian Life”. I couldn’t live Baptist theology, I couldn’t live Charismatic theology, you can’t live Liberation theology, just like no one could live the Law. It’s all a dead letter. He told me that there are only two things I can do: Stay close enough to listen, and when I hear Him, just obey. That’s how I have lived my life since. I come close to Him every day, I talk about these things with Him and I listen to what He says about them to me. I compare what I am hearing with what others are hearing that I trust. Sometimes I have to speak out. Often I have the privilege of telling others what God is saying to me.

I really respect others who care enough to research things and come to an opinion. I compare that to what God is saying to me. I also really like it when I find someone who has studied in a field and has a good grasp on the underlying causes and effects. Then I compare what they say to what God is saying to me. I allow myself the pleasure of seeking things out and thinking about them, and coming up with my own opinion — God has made me for that. But I bring everything to Him and seek out what He says about the matter. I have found that He often has a VERY different take on things than the theologians. Theology is ABOUT God, relationship is WITH God. These things are very different.

Concerning Egypt, I haven’t heard much from God. I originally thought it was a good thing that the people were standing up and peacefully demanding a more democratic situation; then the rioting started, and more violence once the military forces became involved… I can’t see or hear for them. But I think that’s a spiritual principle — I can see and hear as far as my sphere of influence extends. I can’t “hear from God” for the Egyptian people, and I cannot begin to tell them the answers for their people and their land. I think that’s in God’s order, and that it’s right and good. I wish my own people didn’t consider themselves the worldwide “oracle” and go meddling so much around the world. We need our chocolate more than ever, and if we valued it more, people around the world would too.

I just pray God’s protection on the people of Egypt, and that He will be given the opportunity to give them more peace, freedom and democracy. I pray for the most constructive resolution there for the people of Egypt — not primarily for Western interests, and NOT for radical factions! I pray for salvation for the people of Egypt, and that tyrannical chains of both western and Muslim extremist interests would fall away. Thank you God, and you’re big enough to do it!

God is Able! If He can love me and change me, He certainly can love and change radical Muslims! Thank you, God — I ask you to do it.

It’s not about your theology, it’s about your relationship!

Bless you Brothers and sisters

Pray for the people of Egypt

Pray for the people of Egypt

,

Scott

Advertisements

About jscotthusted

J. Scott Husted is a writer, educator, minister and teaching missionary currently living and working in Seoul, South Korea. He carries a passion for cultivating authentic community, the establishment of the house of prayer, the plight of children at risk around the world, and raising up a new generation of leaders with a passion for the Kingdom of God.
Gallery | This entry was posted in God's Kingdom and World Events and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Empire and Kingdom

  1. brookenc2011 says:

    Scott,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the Egyptian crisis. I’m glad they’re going to try to manufacture their own brand of chocolates now. You raise a good point about how Americans so often try to cram their chocolate down the throats of countries that don’t have a pallet for it. I am thankful America didn’t get involved with Egypt and hope that they stay out.
    I would like to ask the Egyptians how they plan on sustaining democracy. How will they reach democracy when people from the same country cannot accept each other’s opinion? How is it that people are considered traitors of Egypt if they do not think in a similar way?
    People don’t really change, only circumstances. The desire of every individual to belong in the world is always present. This can be applied to states, and their inherent desire to belong in the world system. I pray that Egypt will fill their void that has been created by corruption and discover what it means to live in harmony with people who have different ideologies.

  2. Joan Massey says:

    Well said, Scott.
    Islam did have a golden age once, long ago… I wonder if it was between the larger Caliphates… What has changed recently is their desire to have the world united under Islam in a Global Caliphate, a single unifying government …that encompasses all nations under Islam. Their big drives to form large caliphates in the past always seemed fairly bloody and destructive, if memory serves. But when they lived in peace, how they could shine!
    I too hope for the best for the people of Egypt. I do not believe Governments rise or fall apart from His will… and in this case, it was time. How it plays out in the long run remains to be seen. Will Islam eventually triumph? Will a fierce and harsh leader take over? Eventually, according to Scripture. But I pray they have time to live as free people, in a free society with dignity… in a climate that allows a free exchange of ideas in which the Gospel can be more easily shared. I pray they have that time. I welcome the revolution, because either way, God is there.

  3. Hey Scott,

    Sorry it took me so long to get into this and share my thoughts.

    I like the thoughts you explore in this post. I have quibbles over the historical interpretation and the nature of the democracy you describe, but I share your desire to see the world transformed by relationship with Jesus the Christ.

    First, I am not sure about the comparison with Iran. Before the Ayatollah, whose office has held rather ultimate power (way more power than any president could hold) in the nation since 1979, the Shaw was in power and was part of a succession of monarchical dynasties that lasted several centuries. Democracy has been a nominal entity in Iran in recent years, but the people do not have ultimate say whether or not they vote, a condition that has long preceded the sham elections 2 years ago.

    Second, I agree that the history of the Middle East has been somewhat of a contrast to western history, but only during certain eras. Though I am not sure that we can make a comparison between the middle east and the west. Or maybe we can. This is partly because the 600 year head start Christianity has had on Islam. It fascinates me that the church experienced the reformation when it did, solidifying a category of acceptable Christian practices ultimately mirroring aspects of the enlightenment. With the bloody reformation, the doors were thrown wide open for a new brand of intra-Christendom religious liberty. As this pluralism took root within Christianity, and with the Westphalian system of diplomacy limiting the collusion between church and state, the necessary environment for the religious peace the west has experienced since the time modern liberal democracy began taking firm root in the 18th century started to take shape. Remember, the reformation was a full 1400 years after the inception of the Church. We had 1400 years to kill each other and others often in the name of Christianity. I think the current revolutions in the Islamic world are fascinating because Islam has now been a religion for almost 1400 years. If the nature of humanity is truly universal, maybe we can draw similarities between faiths that will help us to predict their political futures. Though nothing empirical would suggest that this is true…

    Maybe what we see indicates that peace oriented reform within a monotheistic religion takes time. Christians were killing each other (and Jews, and ‘pagans’, and Muslims) for many hundreds of years through the time of the reformation. I appreciate that you make note of that fact, and I want to see more Christians noting hope for Islam as a viable worldview that can exist in a democratic context just like agnosticism or buddhism (though I confess that the survival of any modern liberal notion of democracy in an Islamic context is a deep concern of mine as well).

    Do you think Islam could have its own John Huss? Its own Martin Luther? And give rise to a series of regional reforms, maybe like what is happening now, that enshrine a new era of democratic functionality in the Islamic world? Or maybe Islamic societies are more inclined to order and peace with a king or a strong man at the lead? Or maybe what comes about will be its own unique thing: a justice centered, human dignity protecting system of governance that doesn’t match the west’s version but is well adapted to the Islamic context.

    I feel strongly that just like in the rest of Africa, colonization should bear the brunt for the root (though not the total propitiation) of political unrest in Islamic regions today. The artificial barriers of kingdoms and states superimposed by western entities left the region in a massive upheaval because of power vacuums and zones of security enforced by colonizing powers. Once they pulled out, the buffer was gone…

    And even in America, we can’t forget that we had a massive and bloody civil war 100 years after our democracy was founded. We have had a lot to iron out and we still do. And these regions will too.

    (I totally agree we can’t shove our version of democracy down the throats of our neighbors at our convenience, btw).

    Finally, what you say about earning democracy and sharing is perhaps the hardest bit for me to connect with. This confounds the most basic aspects of modern democratic ideals: chiefly that our rights are inherent not because we earn them but because of the basic dignity all people share. If this chief assumption is removed, we are left with next to nothing in terms of the essential fabric of democracy. It’s the whole, “we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are….” bit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s