Andrew Sullivan plays the prophetic voice in affirming the exceptional values that founded America without ignoring the unexceptional parts of our historyâ€”including the threat of falling victim to the same over confidence and self-reliance that has ruined past empires. Money quote:
America’s exceptional freedom and exceptional wealth did not exempt it from unexceptional human nature or the unexceptional laws of history. To believe anything else is to engage in nationalist idolatry.
The protests began on January 25th. On January 28th I got hooked. Two days later I wrote down my hopes for what would become of the Egyptian uprising. On February 2nd, I watched in fear and disbelief as government thugs descended on Tahrir Square, attempting to defeat the peaceful protests with acts of violence. By Monday the 7th I had pretty much resigned myself to the idea that a peaceful revolution wasn’t in the cards, and that a stalemate would drag out until the protest lost steam.
But today…Today I watched the world change.
The most amazing thing to me about the past 18 days has been watching the resolve of the Egyptian youth as they held steadfast to their demands without sacrificing the core principles of their movementâ€”proving that peace can overcome power without becoming a mirror of what it is you’re rebelling against.
The Egyptian revolution also taught me an important lesson about freedom, and that is that true freedom comes from the inside out. I’m not sure that people instinctively know how to be free. Instead, I think liberty is more like a pair of shoes that you first have to grow into before learning how to run in. A lot has been said about the role that technology like Facebook and Twitter played in this movement, but I believe the most important role it played was in simply giving people a platform to find their own voices. It’s with these newly found voices that that their country has been, and will continue to be, liberated from the inside out instead of having “freedom” handed to them from the outside without ever having the chance to build the foundational character it takes to sustain those freedoms.
Another lesson is that while the future isn’t written in stone, that doesn’t mean that progress and change are inevitable. If you ‘wait on the world to change’ you may find that it never does. Change takes courage and sacrifice. In this case it took 300 lives and 18 days of civil disobedience. Stability often feels comfortable because it gives the false sense of security that you are in control of the situation when in fact the situation has control of you.
Right now no one knows what the events in Egypt will turn into. Tomorrow people will begin to speculate about what will happen next and what it will mean, trying to turn the uncertain into the inevitable. I suggest we don’t jump to conclusions, but instead allow ourselves to reflect for just a moment on today…the day we saw the world change.
I’ve been transfixed by the story coming out of Egypt for the past few days. It’s amazing to me to see how quickly the world can change right in front of our eyes. The technology that has been used to organize the current protests in Egyptâ€”along with recent ones in Tunisiaâ€”have only come into existence within the last 7 years. Think about how crazy that is.
As an American I am reminded that the freedoms that I take for grantedâ€”based on the the belief that all people are worthy of dignity and the right to self governmentâ€”are not ideas that have been evident in the history of the world, even at our current moment in time.
I pray that the people of Egypt who have shown such amazing courage this week will see their resolve rewarded with a truly democratic government that is deserving of the people who they will be charged with governing. No other form of government that has yet been imagined would do them justice. I fear that the current regime will be replaced by a gentler version of the same autocratic leadership that has controlled power in Egypt since the pyramids were being formed, or worse, that they would replace the current leadership with theocratic leadership that would not only rule over the people because of the power they wield, but would also be able to claim to have God on their side.
I’m led to believeâ€”and hope I’m not wrongâ€”that the latter is less likely since Egypt has a history of Muslims and Christians living in peace together. A few recent stories would seem to support that hope. In December, when a Coptic church was the target of an ugly act of terrorism, the local Muslim community rallied around Christians in the country and served as human shields to protect those congregations from more attacks during their Christmas celebrations a few weeks later. In turn, Christians reportedly stood guard this past Fridayâ€”the Muslim holy dayâ€”over protesters while they participated in their prayer services. And later this weekend, when a group of believed fundamentalist Muslims started chanting, “Allah Akbar”â€”a common phrase of Muslim solidarity that often gets used by Islamic extremistsâ€”they we’re shouted down by people chanting, “Muslim, Christian, we’re all Egyptian!”
Whatever ends up happening with Egypt, we can be sure that the country will never be the same. It’s likely that there are many challenges ahead, and a new era will be ushered into Egypt through a string of small victories and failures. But for the moment, the current revolutionâ€”aided by a technological socializationâ€”has found it’s greatest strength in a truly human socialization. One where people aren’t measured by their social status or religious background, but by the fact that they are a part of the Egyptian family. And a proud family she should be.
In the wake of the tragic shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Saturday, there has been no shortage of speculation about what motivated the shooter to take the actions that he did. I think it’s natural and healthy that the people involved in politics and media would want to want to reflect on the culture of their trade and question how that culture did (or didn’t) contribute to the crime. Some will do so responsibly and others won’tâ€”that’s life.
For Christians, I think this is a good time to reflect on Jesus’ message to look at the log in your own eye before trying to remove the spec in your brother’s. This is a good moment to remember that the language we use matters, and that we can disagree with people without making them into our enemies.
When an event like this happens, our natural instinct is to reach for labels that allow us to separate ourselves from the ones who committed the evil. At this moment it may be liberals blaming conservatives, but in other instances it’s Christians blaming Muslims, whites blaming blacks, the poor blaming the rich, etc. (or the other way around). If instead, our first instinct is to see the evil that lives inside ourselves we will recognize that our lines of demarcation collapse and the ones we seek to marginalize are actually our own flesh and blood.
A central calling for Christians is to be peacemakers. Peace, we understand, is not simply the absence of current conflict, but the presence of a just community. In the midst of tragedy and violence, I believe this means every Christian must ask themselves: â€œHow am I responsible?â€ What more can we do to bring peace to this world as the Prince of Peace has called us to do? What are the situations and environments that allow this kind of hate and violence to grow? How can I not only stop conflict, but also be a part of bringing about a just community that displays the positive presence of peace?
To place blame and to want to defend yourself is natural, but misses the point.Â Peace starts with seeing the good in your enemy in spite of the bad and loving them without condition because you recognize yourself as an imperfect person also in need of love and correction. And that’s worth reflecting on.
The book of 1 Samuel in the Old Testament tells the story of how Israel asked God to give them a human king like the nations around them. Soon after, Saul was made the first ever king of Israel and so began the long tradition of people wanting to led by people that they could identify with.
There has been a lot of ink shed by political analystsÂ over the past 18 months trying to figure out what the driving force is behind the political backlash against the current leadership in Washington from the political right, especially from the Tea Party movement. A lot has been made of the sputtering economy and the unpopularity of the health care bill passed last year, and while both play a part in the debate, I don’t think either are at the epicenter of the firestorm we’re seeing played out in the media day after day.
In November on 2008, a perfect storm happened that left a major group of America’s population in a position where they simply were unable to identify themselves with the leadership in Washington. According to the latest stats from the Pew Forum, the largest religious group in America is Evangelical Protestants, a group that is 81% White non-Hispanic. Ever since the Moral Majority took the stage in the 1980′s this group has also increasingly viewed the Republican party as the true “Christian” party while seeing the Democratic party as the “non-Christian” party at best, and the anti-God party at worst.
So here after the 2008 elections you have this perfect storm where the largest single demographic in America woke up to a completely Democratic government led by a President who, for the first time in the history of the nation, didn’t share their skin color. If that wasn’t reason enough for a backlash (which it would have been in my view), the fact that this happened to take place in the midst of two wars and the worst economic situation we’d seen since the Great Depression should be more than enough to explain why a movement like the Tea Party was inevitable; people want to be led by leaders they share a common identity with.
In a week I fully expect the newspapers to be filled opinions about how the economy was the big story in this election, or how the Tea Party was a clear referendum against the current administration’s agenda. Don’t be fooled by the hype, the real story here is not a battle over ideas, but a battle over identity.
Jim Wallis, a leader in the Christian “social justice” movement, extends an olive branch to Glen Beck with this open letter:
I think we got off on the wrong foot. I listened to your speech last Saturday and heard a lot of things that we agree on. In fact, I have used some of the same language of our need to turn to God, and the values of “faith, hope, and charity” (love). What I would like to find out, and others would too, is what you mean by that language.
“I don’t think the million-dollar contribution will make Fox News Channel more right-wing oriented, because, for the most part, I don’t see how it could be,” says Eric Burns, former chief media critic for Fox News.”
â€œThe Tea Party might look a mile wide on Fox News, but itâ€™s only a few inches deepâ€¦Tea Party folk are not crazy people. Theyâ€™re just misguided. Theyâ€™re deeply conservative people who see the corruption of government. Theyâ€™re right about that. But they react by being antigovernment. Theyâ€™re wrong about that. They see the need for individual initiative and entrepreneurial possibility. Theyâ€™re right about that. But then they affirm a corporate agenda and donâ€™t realize corporations are a big part of the problemâ€¦Theyâ€™re much weaker than people like Glenn Beck think they are. But Iâ€™ll fight for the right of Glenn Beck to express his opinion. Even he has a right to be wrong, which he is most of the time.â€
I’m not sure if Dr. West is right or wrong about the relative political strength of the movement, but I do agree with him that the majority of Tea Party sympathizers that I know are definitely not crazy as many left-wing pundits would have you believe. Glad to see that a progressive leader like West would be willing to give credit to this conservative movement on areas where they’re concerns are valid even if he disagrees with their proposed solutions.