Thinkers thinking the formerly unthinkable …

The press and blogosphere has lit up with speculation on the Egyptian Revolution’s aftermath — and (guess what) opinions diverge. Many have finally noticed Gene Sharp, who wrote a manual on tyranny’s peaceful overthrow. They’re late.  Serbian dissidents under the Otpor! banner studied him while toppling Slobodan Milosevic.  Otpor! members subsequently formed the Center for Applied NonViolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS), a veritable go-to consulting firm for ridding nations of their toxic despots. Incidentally, the exclamation mark is part of Otpor!’s formal name.

I don’t want to say I told you so (translate: “I am delighted to bray, ‘I told you so …'”), but Sharp studied Martin Luther King and Gandhi, who studied … Jesus (Gandhi was a non-Christian admirer).  Those pesky principles from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7; see also Luke 6:17-49) yank the rug out from cruelty, both in our souls and society.  Research shows they yield better results than taking up arms.  Dan Buttry elaborates in Christian Peacemaking: From Heritage to Hope.

Wow.  The moral high ground is actually more practical.  Something to think about.

And we can bet that thinkers are thinking more — especially in Israel, which feels the Middle East’s rapid-fire change.  One is Sever Plocker.  He sees hope:  “The victory of non-violent uprising in Tunisia and Egypt is not only a stable basis for future democracy; it also constitutes a grave blow for al-Qaeda and Global Jihad groups that raise the banner of violent holy war. As it turned out, no regime is immune to non-violent masses.” Tap here for more of his insights. Another is Mordecai Nisan, who spoke to the fear that Egypt might become another Iran.  He notes the cultural differences and animosities between the two nations, and says: “Egypt is a country with a culture of calm confidence, accommodating despair through humor; a place where religion competes with patriotism, and merges with it, for the hearts of the people. In Iran, the Shah repressed and reviled Islam, leading to a radical turn toward religion as a revolutionary catalyst and theme. But Mubarak did not repress religion – no Egyptian ruler or president ever did; rather he repressed Islamic subversion and blocked Islam from assuming a government form. Thus, Iran’s revolution in 1979 was wrought in the cauldron of Islam, while Egypt’s in 2011 rode the wave of liberty.” Press here for more.

Much has also been written about the Muslim world’s own fatigue with religious violence.  Tap here.

At the same time, the Christian Science Monitor noted the return of an exiled Muslim cleric, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who spoke to at least 200,000 in Tahrir Square.  Surely the path is being paved a resurgent political Islam: “The devout crowd, many of whom turned out to hear Qaradawi give his first public speech since 1981, was also a reminder that huge sections of Egypt take their Islamic faith seriously – and that real and open democratic reform will almost certainly lead to a stronger role for the faith in the nation’s political life.” However, al-Qaradawi offered an olive branch to the nation’s Coptic Church: “Qaradawi, a spiritual leader to the Muslim Brotherhood here, sought to reassure Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority saying “in this square sectarianism died” and praised Copts for linking hands to symbolically protect Muslims while they prayed during the uprising.” Here’s the entire article.

So what will happen?  Will freedom reign — including religious freedom, which is absolutely necessary lest governments squeeze our minds?  Can the Egyptian military permit freedom’s creative messiness to do its work?  Or will it slowly re-establish the ancien regime? Will slumbering Western reporters finally grasp that religious issues are vital? Or will they continue to dismiss the transcendent to the back pages, ignoring the wellspring from which many social movements spring?  Think of it this way: You’ll get the scoop on the next revolution if you beef up the religion beat.

We don’t know.  The story is not finished.

Which make these thrilling times.

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About Charles Redfern

Charles Redfern is a writer, activist, and clergyman living in Connecticut with his wife and family. He's currently writing two books, with more in his head.

View all posts by Charles Redfern


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