Tag Archives: equality

July 14, 1789: Bastille Day and The French Revolution: So Much Promise; So Much Failure

Liberté, Égalité, et Fraternité!” This cry of the revolutionaries in Paris, started a process of change that began idealistically and ended in anarchy, totalitarian rule, and complete change in the map of Europe. Bastille Day is the moment that two handfuls of political prisoners were liberated from prison. It symbolizes the end of the old hierarchies of church and state and the dawn of a new era of secular citizenship and equality. Many Americans were excited about another nation (and their ally in the War for Independence) throwing off a corrupt monarchy and becoming democratic. But the joy was short-lived as France went to war with most of Europe, secularized every institution, and, after a decade of turmoil, found herself ruled by Napoleon. What happened? Why is this Revolution so different from the American one just a decade earlier?

There are three reasons these two revolutions are NOT the same and why the one in France turned out so poorly. First is the historical context. The American colonies were quite diverse culturally and religiously, though British and Protestant sensibilities were dominant. Jews, Quakers, Baptists, Roman Catholics, and even free thinkers could flourish to some extent. This diversity led to the phrase, “E Pluribus Unum” – Out of Many, One.” France’s cultural and religious history was much different. In 1598 the Edict of Nantes offered limited toleration for Protestants; however, it was revoked by King Louis XIV in 1685 and France lost hundreds of thousands of Protestant and Jewish citizens, leaving a polarization between a reactionary Roman Catholic church and a secularizing Enlightened elite.

The second difference is the vision of the revolutionaries. The 1789-1792 era has many similarities with the USA, but after the execution of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, secular radicalism took over and imposed a new kind of intolerance. Soon there were all kinds of ideological and verbal litmus tests of how truly “revolutionary” one was…and over 40,000 died by the guillotine, most of them original supporters of the 1789 uprising!

Thirdly, anarchy and polarization left a vacuum for a totalitarian regime to fill…hence, the rise of Napoleon. At first his rule brought order and peace, new laws, and even religious toleration. Soon, however, he set about conquering much the European continent and battling Great Britain for dominance. Within a decade of coming to power, Napoleon was one more despot and military leader full of his own self-importance.

The legacy of 1776 and the birth of the USA is one of gradual toleration and democracy. The legacy of 1789 is more akin to the 1917-1922 Communist Revolution in Russia – another land without a history of religious diversity and representative governance. Though France is a strong republic today, she is still radically secular in her corridors of power. The USA remains a haven of religious freedom and diversity, enriching its communities and offering hope to a world.

Reflections and Laments from Dallas, Texas (July, 2016)

Dallas tragedy.
No words.
I am weeping over the historical and systemic injustices still rampant in our land.
As a citizen grateful for first responders and law enforcement, I am weeping for families left desolate.
I am weeping bitter tears over the extremists that gain from inflamed tensions while people of conscience of all colors and classes seek some way forward.

Since the loss of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and the polarization of both political parties, we have lost the moral and spiritual center that grounds peace, reconciliation and shalom.

There is hope: authentic, deep, moral and spiritual awakening rooted in humility and sacrificial love.

There is hope: when we begin with the infinite value of every person and the dignity and equality that flow from this conviction.

There is hope: when we desire peace for our posterity over the passions of this moment.

Weeping and hopeful today.

 

 

 

Telling the Truth: A Public Conversation

Telling the Truth about Islam, Part 1
As several nations face the scourge of Islamicist terror, telling the truth about Islam has never been more important. After the 9/11 attacks in the USA, Western elites have been falling all over themselves separating the “religion of peace” from radical groups that “pervert” a distinguished monotheistic religion.

It is time for the truth.

Yes, most Muslim neighbors are peaceful people. The same can be said of people of all faiths or none in most circumstances. Most people do not murder in pursuit of power. Yes, there have been historical moments when Christian nations have made war on Muslim nations. And, yes, there have been tragic errors in Israel’s pursuit of security amidst scores of nations and millions of people desiring her destruction.

Qualifiers complete. It is time for truth.

21st century Islamist terrorism is consistent with a conquering ethos that dominates Islam from its inception to its current forms. From the conquest of the Arabian Peninsula by Mohammed’s armies in the 620s to the Ottoman expansions into the 17th century, Islam fosters political, military and social domination, allowing Christians and Jews limited freedoms as second-class citizens and violently persecuting all other religions as a matter of policy.

10-10-732 and 9-11-1683

On October 10, 732, the Frankish troops of Charles Martel repulsed the Umayyad cavalry in a field between Tours and Poitiers. The century prior to 732 was one of unabated Islamic conquest. On September 11, 1683, the army of the Ottoman Empire was defeated at the gates of Vienna (in large part thanks to valiant Polish cavalry), ending centuries of Ottoman conquests in Asia Minor and Eastern Europe.

Crusaders and colonizers: it is complicated.

Politically correct historians and cultural commentators enjoy lambasting Western oppression of Islamiclands, citing the Crusades of 1096-1291 and the European race for Africa and the Middle East between 1870 and 1940 as proof that modern Muslim anger is justified and the West is getting a taste of its own medicine. The Crusades represent a complex series of events originating in both Eastern and Western Christian imperial aims. These included protecting pilgrims and reconquering lost territory. Add to this mix the promises of material and spiritual honor and a toxic mix of motives and methods emerges. After 1291, no Christian presence remained in the Holy Land apart from small religious enclaves.

The colonialism of the 19th and 20th centuries was the result of the vacuum left with the end of the Ottoman Empire. There is much indefensible oppression and one must separate the economic and political power games of Western nations from the humanitarian and spiritual goals of Christian missionaries – they were often at odds with each other. By the 1970s, however, no Western nation controlled Muslim territory and the emergence of OPEC and the untold oil wealth ended the ability of Islamic regimes to blame the West for their economic problems. As one Imam in Cupertino CA recently said, “Given the wealth of many Muslim nations, there should not be a single poor Muslim in the world.” (Name withheld for his personal protection.)

And there is Israel.

The birth of the modern State of Israel in 1948 is considered a great evil in the eyes of global Islam. Extremists deny both the existence of Israelite presence in ancient times and the severity of the Holocaust! They avoid the uncomfortable facts that the Mufti of Jerusalem supported mass extermination in 1941, encouraging Hitler with his plans for the Auschwitz and Saschsenhausen death camps. Moderates claim that this tiny state is a Western colonial imposition and now an “apartheid” oppressor of Palestinians. A few brave Muslims work for peace at the risk of their lives. Israel’s support of religious freedom, the presence of a million Arab citizens and a vibrant democracy and economy do not matter – she must be eliminated. Every radical Muslim group repudiates Israel’s right to exist.

How then shall we live?

Islam is organically incapable of fostering an egalitarian democracy. The Qur’an has no texts allowing for the equality of all citizens in a Muslim nation. Reform groups that catch media attention either repudiate foundational Muslim texts or act as a cover for extremist agendas.

Americans and all lovers of liberty must face the truth about Islam. In next week’s essay, we will explore positive attitudes and actions for a better future.