Shuck and Jive

Friday, February 11, 2011

Standing With Egypt

This is my column for our February church newsletter.

I wrote it last week when the U.S. still appeared to be waffling. The news has changed. Mubarak has stepped down.
This is historic. This is a great day. Freedom over a dictator has been won peacefully. You don't see that every day.

I hope my column is "dated". I hope that our government will do the right thing and support democracy in Egypt even if it has been in "our interests" for the past 30 years to have an autocrat in charge. I hope the media will report on the concerns of the people of Egypt rather than focusing on the fears of Americans over the people of Egypt.

This is the beginning for the people of Egypt. They will need us to stand with them. Will we?

Dear Friends,

Newsweek Magazine came in the mail today. On the cover is a photo of a man dressed in black (he looks “Arabic”) with a scarf around his face. Behind him and around him orange and yellow flames light up the night. The text reads:
Rage Goes Viral: From Tunisia to Egypt to Yemen, a youthquake is rocking the Arab world. Get ready for the aftershocks.
I guess “we” are supposed to be scared. Scared of “unrest”. Scared of “instability”. Scared of the various boogeymen who could take over. Scared in particular of angry, young, Muslim men. Oh yes, and scared of what this might do to oil prices, the stock market, and the American way of life.

“We” are good at being scared. Every day the news broadcasts give us a terror report with the color of the day. “The terror alert is orange,” says the handsome man with the Pepsodent smile. What am I supposed to do with that information? Pack an umbrella?

How scared ought we be? That depends upon our point of view and position in the world. Those who have access to the stuff and are used to having access to the stuff would like to keep it that way, thank you very much. Those with the stuff want stability. If that takes an iron hand and a limitation of freedoms for others, then so be it. The Roman emperor was elevated to the status of a god because he promised and delivered “Peace to Rome and quiet to the provinces.”

In that time, the provinces included the eastern end of the empire—the place where Jesus lived, taught, ministered, and died. Quiet to the provinces meant no uprisings were allowed. “No rage going viral, not on my watch,” said Pilate, Herod and the rest.

Just to show who was boss, executions were frequent and public. You entered the cities in these provinces by passing the symbols of Rome’s power, crosses populated with the corpses of those who were not quiet when they were supposed to be. Jesus was one of those guys.

Strange isn’t it? It is truly ironic that the most popular religion in the United States is one that claims to follow someone who was executed by Empire. When I witness from the comfort of my living room or office the protests by the hungry and the oppressed against uncaring, dictatorial rule, a rule supported by my own government because of its ability to bring stability and “quiet”, I have a question to ask and a choice to make.

Where would Jesus be?

In Christ,


  1. I hooted with enthusiam when that cover letter came across my desk last week. I truly believe that if this transition in Egypt goes badly it will be because those most concerned with our interests (in other words, our "freedom to exploit") will have influenced it. Let's hope that does not happen. Let us push from this end to see that the people's best interests are kept at the fore.

  2. @Snad while I think those forces would be a big part of the problem there are also forces and problems in Egypt that could make the transition go badly, poverty being at the top and need for a feeling of security right behind it. Democracy is so uncertain and scary in nations that have no experience of it. I hope that Egypt comes out the other side with true freedom. And I hope that the powers that be, particularly in the USA do their best to help Egypt on the path to freedom. I'm not sure how much the USA has helped in the past couple weeks.