Egypt: Democracy and Christianity

The distribution of the predominant Islamic ma...

The distribution of the predominant Islamic madhhab (school of law) followed in majority-Muslim countries and regions (English) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

In speaking of Christianity the other day, I commented that what those who wanted to go back to the early church had to face was that they were wanting (amongst other things) to go back to a society with slavery and that treated women somewhat worse than traditional Sharia does. That’s not what they really want of course, but they make the common mistake of looking at a historical society through 21st century glasses. The church and the society have always reflected each other.

 

That’s why the Bible (like the Constitution) are interpreted somewhat differently from age to age. A case in point is Mary. We all believe (well, those of us that are Christians and Moslems do) that Mary conceived Jesus while a virgin and while unmarried. In my lifetime the virgin part has often been glossed over, and in truth most people today say “So what, she was pregnant at her wedding”. But now translate that story to a conservative Muslim household, that believes in the Sharia. Now Mary either becomes a very dishonorable daughter, or a heroine, doesn’t she? And that was equivalent to the society she lived in.

 

But how did we get here? We, and our churches, grew. Our doctrinal beliefs, for most of us, are the same as the Apostles, maybe, sort of, kind of. We try, but we have built generation by generation upon our ancestors shoulders, so that for us women are equal (although the wise amongst us recognise that they are not the same), our honor tells us to protect the weak, and the other common tenets of western civilization. The acceleration came with the Enlightenment and I think the Reformation is key as well. Why? because once there was something approaching a free market in Christianity one had a better chance of promulgating your views in science, or whatever. It also matters that the Reformation brought in a generation of warfare, warfare has often stimulated technological progress and there’s no reason to suppose it didn’t here. In truth we know it did, the war started with crossbows and ended with nearly recognizable muskets.

 

The relevance for today

 

Interesting, I hear you thinking, so what? Let’s take a glance around the Middle east, shall we. We see a lot of unrest, and the interesting thing about it is that the troublemakers are almost always young and urban. In other words they’ve been exposed to the west, the other side is trying to hold back the tide, and is predominantly older and rural. It begins to look a lot like the younger generation wants to join the west and the old folks are saying no. Nor am I the only one thinking this way.

 

Egypt confronts modernity – Q&A with Herbert Meyer

In light of the turmoil in Egypt, The Center for Vision & Values contacted its longtime friend Herb Meyer. Mr. Meyer was special assistant to the director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the Reagan administration. He also served as vice chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council. Mr. Meyer is the author of two eBooks, “How to Analyze Information” and “The Cure for Poverty.”

V&V – Herb, do you have any thoughts about what’s going on in Egypt?

Meyer – It’s good to hear from you! I could write a 2,000-word essay on the turmoil in Egypt. Come to think of it, I did write a 2,000-word essay on the turmoil in Egypt more than two years ago. To the best of my knowledge, absolutely no one read that piece.

V&V – You are a tremendous analyst, Herb, and we’re not surprised that you saw this coming. After all, you were way out front in forecasting the demise of the Soviet Union for President Reagan and CIA Director Bill Casey. Are our intelligence services in regular contact with you? Have you had opportunities to mentor young analysts?

Meyer – No one in our intelligence service has the slightest interest in checking in with me from time to time. I’d love to help teach an entire new generation of analysts how to do it. When I was there we ALWAYS stayed in touch with those who came before us – we always figured we could learn from them, even if we disagreed with them from time to time – but apparently the current crowd doesn’t do that. There’s always tomorrow….

V&V – Recently, and before the lid came off Egypt, you had a fascinating conversation with Rush Limbaugh. Please share some of the insights that you shared with him. They seem remarkably relevant right now.

Meyer – As I said in that conversation with Rush, the world is becoming modern. This is really what “the war” is all about. Islam is finally starting to do what Christianity and Judaism did centuries ago: figure out how to reconcile faith with the modern world. In effect, the Islamic world has started to write the code for Version 2.0. This is a momentous development in world history. Remember that it took us a long time to get it right, so to speak, and we shouldn’t expect the Muslim world to accomplish this overnight.

For 30 years, Hosni Mubarak kept Egypt from becoming modern. He and his military took control of the economy, and they wrecked it. This is a country of 90 million people, half of whom are illiterate, 70 percent of whom live on the land – and which imports half its food. This was okay with U.S. policymakers, because in return for keeping Egypt from moving forward Mubarak kept the peace with Israel. At some point the lid on this pressure cooker had to blow off, and that’s what happened last year. It was idiotic for all of our (self-proclaimed) professional conservatives to say we should have urged Mubarak to put the lid back on. That cannot be done; at least, not without gunning down 20,000 or 30,000 protestors and then explaining that the U.S. said it would be okay….

V&V – An apology to you, Herb. We followed your analysis about the Muslim world going through convulsions on the way to becoming more modern, that is to say, more liberal and free in the classical sense. Frankly, we thought you were wrong. You called the February 2011 Egyptian revolution, just a “half-revolution.” You predicted that the Egyptians would seek more freedom than what they would get under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

– See more at: http://www.visionandvalues.org/2013/07/egypt-confronts-modernity-qa-with-herbert-meyer/#sthash.9LlcgJs9.dpuf

 

And Steven Hayward over at The Power Line Blog offers this

 

Here’s a historical counter-factual thought experiment for you: suppose the German military, in the spring of 1933, decided that the ascension of Hitler and his Nazis was bad news for Germany, moved to remove Hitler by a coup, outlawed the Nazi party, and in ruling henceforth by military decree thereby ended more than a decade of democratic weakness that was the Weimar Republic.  What judgment would you cast?  (Turns out Tom Trinko over at AmericanThinker.com has wondered the same thing.)

 

Well, OK but a good contra-factual needs a smaller turn for a larger effect.

 

What if England and France had overruled Wilson, and insisted on merely the personal abdication of Wilhelm II and the coronation of Crown Prince Wilhelm as King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany. The problem, of course, was the traditional American distaste for royalty, but in less than 20 years we managed to swallow that enough to like the King of England. Or even more to the point, if somehow they had managed to take Wilson up on just stopping and calling it status quo ante bellum.

 

But my point is this, the Hohenzollerns were held in deep respect in Germany, not really all that different than the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha’s (neé Windsors) were and are in England. If we had forced something like the conditions of the rule of their cousins on Germany, can anyone really imagine any Emperor of Germany giving Hitler that much rope. I wonder how much the lack of leadership experience in Weimar led to Hitler. A lot, I think.

 

And that leads to what I take as Steven’s point, political power must be in tension, it has no compressive strength. Our founders gave us a tripartite federal establishment with most real power reserved to the states. (Yes, we have screwed that part up, we need to fix it.) Even with the limited power of the federal government, it is split three ways.

 

England was similar with the Monarch and each house of the parliament, although they have gotten it even more out of balance than we have.

 

But pure democracy is always that old (not very funny) joke, of the lamb sitting down with two wolves for lunch. The lamb always needs protection, all minorities, right down to the individual do. It’s also something progressives don’t understand. They do in one direction, when they are in the minority, they understand very well, it’s other people’s rights they seem to have trouble with.

 

The Muslim Brotherhood, seems to have a similar problem (although while quite cowardly, it is more violent, so far, anyway). And so perhaps, the army is acting in lieu of whatever cultural safeguards should be in Egypt’s government going forward to protect minorities such as the Copts. Armies are usually an imperfect instrument for this type of mission but far better than nothing.

 

But Egypt is going to have to solve Egypt’s problems

 

we can’t do it for them.

 

 

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5 Responses to Egypt: Democracy and Christianity

  1. Pingback: Egypt and the Middle East: Through the Fog | nebraskaenergyobserver

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