Monday, February 27, 2006

The impossibility of Islamist Iraqi freedom

On the Iraqi sectarian violence

In the words of James H. Joyner:

We owe it to the Iraqi people to do everything we can to help avert a civil war and give their fledgling democracy a chance. Saving them from themselves, however, is both beyond our power and responsibility. If they decide civil war is the only way to settle their longstanding disputes, we must stand aside and let them fight it and then try to salvage a relationship with the eventual victors. While that would be a bitter pill, indeed, after coming so close to achieving the incredibly ambitious vision of the neo-cons, it would nonetheless be preferable to the other alternatives.

Some of my personal thoughts on the attendant nature of freedom and the human person:

  • It is impossible to give freedom to someone whose heart isn’t free.

  • It is impossible to give democracy to a people who will not deserve it.

  • Freedom is a gift of God related to agreement with the nature of God, and responsibility to live Imago Dei.

The problem with Iraqi democracy is a problem with Islamism. Look at the northern, Kurdish controlled aspects of Iraq that have embraced freedom full bore, with all its responsibilities. Now, look at the Islamist sections of Iraq. The distinctions are riveting.

But they only reflect the nature of Islamism itself. How many Islamist democracies are there in the world? How many Islamist countries where external, human freedom is protected and inner, spiritual freedom promoted? Therein is the point reflected.

As one Islamist person put it, in the recent protests, holding a hand drawn sign that said, “Freedom, go to hell.”

That is why we cannot save Islamist Iraqis from themselves. Until they are willing to live in the responsibility of Imago Dei, and respect the image of God in all humans, not just those who reflect Islamist mores, they will not have freedom.

And we can’t give it to them, much as we would like.

God save them from themselves, to Himself.

The larger lesson echoes for all humans, in all the little civil wars that beat in our own chests…



Anonymous said...

Well and sadly put. The civilization we enjoy, fragile and imperfect as it is, is the result of centuries of cultural, religious, intellectual, geographic, etc influences. It's much like a gnarled but beautiful old oak tree, you simply cannot grow it overnight.

Loy Mershimer said...

There are a lot of lessons wrapped in this issue.

First, the reality of spiritual development. Nature illustrates this in the birth of the butterfly: there are stages in development that must be fought for in order to be entered. To do less is to be deformed. In human terms, we see this in life and love all the time: what comes easily is soon disdained, mistreated and thrown away.

Secondly, the reality that Scripture teaches, that "out of the heart flow the issues of life." In order for life to be right, the heart must be right. And this by grace. When God wants to change a nation, He changes a heart. And when a nation comes to accept this inner reality, even through great trial and error, freedom results.

Thirdly, then it follows that spiritual life [or inner freedom] precedes outer freedom. Freedom then, is primarily not so much physical power to do what we want, but the spiritual power to do what it right.

Fourthly, the historical, theological and philosophical truth that freedom must be maintained. Or, as God spoke to Israel, time and again: Remember and then act upon this remembrance. "Humble yourselves and pray," He says, "and I will heal your land."

All these things we have processed through, in great trial and error, as a nation. The theory of freedom has been there from the beginning -- religious and cultural freedom, in theory.

But even then it had to be fought for in Revolution against Imperial powers. Great, long sacrifice...untold sacrifice and hardship. But even that wasn't enough, for one class of people were only considered 3/5 human!

Thus our nation discovered that one cannot enslave others without enslaving oneself. And again, in countless sacrifice, Civil War blood poured out on the altar of slavery to the tune of 700,000 lives.

So slowly, through toil, error, blood and sacrifice, a costly success has dawned, and a light to the nations. Take that light away and behold! what manner of darkness in this century!

Yet, even now, we still learn in trial and error. Even now we fight against ourselves trying to serve ourselves instead of greater Good -- God's intent for the nations.

There's been far too much sacrifice to let our nation slide into the abyss. And yet, far too many lessons, too much history, to think that others can get by with less...were they to be as free.

Many lessons!

Worth pondering...