Posted by: rogermitchell | February 10, 2011

Praying into the situation in Egypt

What I understand by democracy is the maximum constituent power of the multitude, all of us, to love one another. Not for everyone to be subject to the majority, but there to be the fullest possible freedom for all, including to do things that others don’t like. I believe that this is what Jesus was about and what he died for. So from this perspective, democracy is not majority rule but maximum freedom for all to love everyone unconditionally if they will. Currently they do not have this kind of democracy in Egypt, but nor do we in the West. It is better here on a spectrum between oppression and democratic freedom, but both the West and Mubarak’s Egypt are of the same order, which is how come Mubarak has been a Western ally for so many years.

The call for prayer that some are putting out suggests that the crowds demonstrating in Egypt are not wanting democracy but shariah law, and quote statistics to the effect that 70% of the population want that. Shariah law is certainly not democratic in the way I am describing. But even if it were true that the people demonstrating want Shariah law, and many of them certainly do not, any one who tries to prevent it by undemocratic means will get what they choose, an undemocratic imperial society that oppresses people. Which is what Egypt currently has and on a sliding scale so do we. So if you have free and fair elections and the equivalent of Hitler or Hamas get in, and they do not behave democratically or they suspend democracy then the answer is ongoing civil disobedience for a return to democracy at the expense of lives laid down non-violently in love, like Jesus. So we pray for this kind of democracy. This is at least partly what we have on the streets of Egypt, and I think that it is something for Christians to rejoice over, not speak against. We need to see and expect to see more of it on our own streets.

A further point to this strange call for prayer appears to be that Israel needs an undemocratic dictatorship in Egypt propped up by Western money for their safety and that we should pray for Mubarak or others like him to stay in power for this reason. This is part of the bigger picture that in order to defend our Western political system and bless Israel it is appropriate for them and us to behave undemocratically and go to war and have nuclear weaponry at the ready with which to kill the civilian populations of countries that are our or their enemies if necessary, or at least to scare them off. But whatever does this have to do with the gospel of Jesus who said “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you”(Lk 6:27-28) and who laid his life down to show us how? If we really love Israel then we must pray for grace for them to love their enemies, and if they are attacked by them to use whatever non-violent way of laying down their lives to stop them that they can find. Of course if we are really following Jesus in this we will love and pray for the Palestinians in the same way.

So of course we most definitely do need to pray! We need to pray for good women and men to rise up. For new institutions to be put in place in Egypt and all over the world, including here in the West, that give space and place for maximum freedom of gift and expression. But we need to pray without fear, and it is important for Jesus’ people to operate in his Spirit, which is the opposite to the spirit of this imperial world.

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Responses

  1. Amen

  2. The other night Rachel Maddow reported that on last Friday when Muslims in the main square wanted to pray the Christians there as protesters surrounded them and protected them while they did so. On Sunday the Muslims returned the favour to the Christians who held a mass in the square. I understand all of the human power struggles going on and that will go on, but my prayer is that spirit – the spirit that moved the Egyptian protesters to guard each other’s way of prayer – would be the one that reigns and prevails in the months ahead.
    c.

  3. Good thinking, Roger.

    In all of that action in Egypt, he Lord is birthing something NEW there that will worship Him. Right now it goes thru the birth canal with spiritual birth pangs accompaning.

    Blessings to you and Sue
    Franz

  4. It is disturbing the extent to which these people believe the propaganda of the Western Enlightenment and consider Western ‘democracy’ the manifestation of that which is best. The notion of protecting our way and what benefits us (or, superstitiously, Israel) is the very antithesis of the gospel and – I so agree – the true democracy(-to-come) that we ought to be for. This nonsense needs to be disregarded as being the opposite of Jesus’s way. I find the recourse to consequentialist ethics particularly repugnant.

  5. Love the perspective… maybe these events are much bigger than we realise. Many are calling it the 1989 of Europe coming to (north) Africa. So if this is part of a three-fold trajectory – Berlin, Twin Towers and now this – we might be witnessing something so big, so disturbing to the status quo.

  6. Like Cheryl I have also been encouraged with the reports coming out of Egypt

    This was one of the reports I saw
    http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=54416

  7. Agreed, I wrote this.

    http://randomreviews.placeboism.com/Articles/what-we-need-to-learn-from-egypt.html

    • Have I got my wires crossed or does this mean that Robert Miguel and Justin are one and the same person?

      • Shhh don’t tell anybody…

  8. Over the last couple of weeks many people across the prophetic spectrum have been drawn to Isaiah Cht.19. especially verses 2-4 in relation to Egypt. Time will tell, if we’re seeing, as many beleive, an unfolding of biblical prophecy before our eyes.

    It is important to recognise the signs of the times, so that we understand how to position ourselves in these days of the shifting and shaking of nations. We see clearly from Isaiah 19, that God himself is the mover and shaker, and though things may become very testing and confusing for a while, we trust in the grace and truth of Jesus to abide in us, and direct us, as we abide in him, and we have confidence that his good and perfect purposes for this Middle East region shall “in that day” prevail as promised in Isaiah 19, 23-25.

    Liz Gibb

    • Thanks for the contribution Liz. As you will be aware, this raises the crucial question of how we exegete and apply Old Testament prophecies like this. As I have been emphasising through this blog, if we are truly disciples of Jesus, then we start from the incarnation in our reading of the rest of scripture, OT and NT alike. For me this means that no scripture can trump God’s life laying down love for all humankind, and his equal love for all nations. His choice of Israel has to have been the proof of this and not its contradiction. Those groupings like Israel, and now the church, that God has particularly partnered with as agents for his justice and peace, are only true to him if they lay down their lives for the nations of the world like he did. This is his desire for all those that follow him. So I believe that the wonderful possibility for Egypt today is that it may be an example to us all of peaceful transition to justice and peace. Israel needs such an example and so does the self obsessed West and its largely captivated church.

      • Indeed. It’s hard not to read the Egypt of Isa 19 as being at least as reflective of the West, if not more so.

  9. I agree with this Stephen. If I had time to exegete Is 19 fully, which I probably don’t, and so likely won’t at this point, then I would in all likelihood apply it to the West today. I suppose you don’t have an hour or two to do it by any chance? Could be helpful. We could make it a guest contribution and have it as a main post. Just a thought!

  10. Thanks…so clearly put with events meaningfully interpreted, Roger. As Martin intimates, the geopolitical map is morphing again and another set of stories will unfold. Lovely to see a mother and son from Egypt being interviewed in the sunlight on a balcony yesterday…

  11. I have wondered if, as I watch Muslims and Christian in Tahrir Square take turns to protect each other as they pray, I might actually be looking at Isaiah 19:19.

  12. Thanks Roger for sharing that. I could agree more with most of it 🙂 I also love trying to reconcile politics and Jesus. I’m very interested to see how things progress in Egypt. I know a lot of people praying for more freedom 🙂

    I do want to question your use of the word: democracy.

    I think your definition of freedom and how that relates to Jesus is great, but realistically most people who talk about democracy mean ‘our way of doing things’.

    As you say in the west we don’t have true freedom you are talking about, but we do think democracy (our way of doing things) is best and we want everyone to have democracy (do things our way).

    The justification for invasions, national manipulation, machiavellian politics and refusing to protect the poor and broken is usually ‘democracy’. Doing things in western interest in the name of democracy validates those actions.

    Maybe it’s time for someone to invent a new word that means what your saying? As you say democracy these days doesn’t look like what you describe.

    • Hi James, thanks for this. I completely agree with your reservations about the contemporary use of the word democracy. I take this up in the most recent post. We don’t have what I mean by democracy in the so-called representative democracy of the West, but a rather arrogant cover up for the status quo. You are suggesting that it’s time to invent a new word for true democracy. This is similar to the suggestion that we find a new phrase for the kingdom of God, which has been similarly devalued. I have been working with the word kenarchy as a possible alternative for both of these words/phrases, as can be seen by scrolling through past posts. But while looking for new words like this can help, I think that the attempt to reinvest the familiar words with new meaning is the way to go. This is what Jesus himself seems to have been doing by taking the empire concepts of law, monarchy and temple and turning them competely upside down and inside out. A course of action that I think that his disciples do well to repeat!

  13. Hi Roger! Good to see you keeping your hand in with things geo-theopolitical. Allow me a moment to do my grumpy old man thing. I couldn’t agree more how annoying it is to see these calls for prayer focused on maintaining the status quo in Egypt or stirring up fear about the Muslim Brotherhood. It seems to come from a self-absorbed Western Zionist perspective. Surely a selfless loving prayer would focus upon the rights of Egyptians to walk the same highway to freedom and peace that we are on.

    A couple of things before I have to get back to work:

    1) Working (& praying) into North Africa over the last 4 years following a prophetic call to ‘build a highway’, it is no surprise that these peoples are ripe to challenge the dictatorial theocracy they have been under since the 7th century. Our Western history bears the scars of this same struggle. Now is the time to cheer them on!

    Last Autumn I brought a message from Exodus to several hundred pastors in Egypt entitled ‘Throwing off your slave-drivers’. What irony? It was completely apolitical with the Spirit putting his finger on the real enemy – fear! I rejoiced last week when I heard our Egyptian brother, who is organising the conferences, proclaim, “I am free! We’ve broken through the fear barrier!”

    Where did it all begin? Why does the Kingdom break out in small, out of the way places? Nazareth? Tunisia? Read this great piece of writing from Fareed Zakaria on the Time website this morning. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2049804,00.html#ixzz1EGv1z8Do

    “The year of the revolutions began in January, in a small country of little importance. Then the protests spread to the region’s largest and most important state, toppling a regime that had seemed firmly entrenched. The effect was far-reaching. The air was filled with talk of liberty and freedom. Street protests cropped up everywhere, challenging the rule of autocrats and monarchs, who watched from their palaces with fear.
    That could be a description of events in Tunisia and Egypt as those countries’ peaceful revolutions have inspired and galvanized people across the Middle East. In fact, it refers to popular uprisings 162 years earlier that began in Sicily and France. The revolutions of 1848, as they were called, were remarkably similar in mood to what is happening right now in the Middle East. (They were dubbed the springtime of peoples by historians at the time.) The backdrop then, as now, was a recession and rising food prices. The monarchies were old and sclerotic. The young were in the forefront. New information technologies – mass newspapers! – connected the crowds.
    Except that the story didn’t end so well. The protesters gained power but then splintered, fought one another and weakened themselves. The military stayed loyal to the old order and cracked down on protests. The monarchs waited things out, and within a few years, the old regimes had reconstituted themselves. ‘History reached its turning point, and failed to turn,’ wrote the British historian A.J.P. Taylor.”

    The author goes on to share his conviction that there can be no turning back in the Middle East. My conviction comes from a word the Spirit spoke to our team in preparation for our strategic prayer journey to Tunisia in 2009. “Tunisia is the thin end of the wedge.” This English idiom is used for something small and seemingly insignificant that will lead to something much bigger. Let it be so, Lord. Raise up people to build and protect this ‘Isaiah highway’ that leads to freedom and peace for ALL peoples and nations.

    2) Isaiah 19 has obviously come to the fore in light of recent events in Egypt. The many interpretations I’ve read over the last week seem to hold a mirror up to the desires of the authors. Some get excited at the prospect of Egyptians fighting one another because the ‘end is near’. Others struggle to hammer this very square peg into their round ‘Jewish eschatology’ hole. A few marvel at the wonder of ancient enmities being laid aside in the picture of highway from Egypt through Israel to Assyria.

    Could it be that part of the fat end of the wedge, is for God’s people to see (and then champion) His big picture for the Middle East? I’ve just read James Goll’s Praying for Israel’s Destiny. It surprised me as Goll laid down a much larger biblical foundation than the title would suggest. His focus on Abraham’s seed has much to offer and I’d recommend it to anyone seeking a two-eyed perspective.

    • Great to hear from you again Jonathan. Thanks for this input on what is clearly a vital topic. I like the cautionary point summed up by the A. J. P. Taylor quote. My own research, now nearing its completion, is replete with similar examples. I sense that this is a fulness turning point of epochal proportions. “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2Th 2:16-17).


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