Sunday, December 2, 2012

Representative Democracy in Action

Back when the Arab Spring was just beginning to realize itself and Egypt was being thrown into chaos, I worried that the Coptic Christians would be caught in the crosshairs and that they might be tempted to respond in a way unfitting of the call we have received in Christ to take up a cross for his sake. Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, I was right on both counts. I also expressed a certain uncertainty about the intrinsic value of representative democracy when compared to authoritarian regimes. Undoubtedly, three decades under Mubarak did not see the Coptic church thrive in an open environment of religious freedom, but there is perhaps a bit of nostalgia for the times when the primary complaint was the inability to get government clearance to build new churches.

An Egyptian court convicted in absentia Wednesday seven Egyptian Coptic Christians and a Florida-based American pastor, sentencing them to death on charges linked to an anti-Islam film that had sparked riots in parts of the Muslim world...Egypt's official news agency said the court found the defendants guilty of harming national unity, insulting and publicly attacking Islam and spreading false information—charges that carry the death sentence.

Chances are that none of the defendants convicted of capital "spreading false information" will ever meet with justice at the hands of the Egyptian judicial system, which may explain why the story is buried in the middle of a religion in brief article. (Although I understand that Fox is making a big deal about it, undoubtedly for all the wrong reasons.) But if anyone thinks that the fact that these eight delinquents are safe means that this verdict is a paper tiger, they're deluding themselves. Pause for a moment and consider being a Copt in Egypt and learning that at any time the accusation of something as vague as spreading false information or harming national unity might carry with it a death penalty. It should unnerve every Christian to realize that by Muslim standards the very confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is both the ultimate falsehood and a direct assault against Islam.

Perhaps it won't be that direct, that obvious an abuse of the law and a persecution of Christians. Perhaps it is merely the construction of a culture of fear to keep Christians in their place in a society that is deeply inimical to them. Regardless, it would appear that the will of the people truly is being enshrined in their government, and it may be a government less willing to capitulate to the pressures of the pluralistic Christian West. My hope, however, continues to be less that the church will not be persecuted (the Great Physician did not come to treat the healthy) but that it will respond to whatever persecution may come with a meekness which deserves the inheritance reserved for it.

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