Saturday, February 19, 2011

Women in Egypt

I was talking with a couple of Christians in town last Thursday, and we got to talking about Egypt. I had to hear a lot of nonsense about how it was all organized by the Muslim Brotherhood on Twitter and Facebook by guys that were clean-shaven to conceal their membership in the Brotherhood (who didn't even join the street protests for several days), and how all the Egyptian Christians in their church were telling them how the Brothers were dressing in police uniforms and beating people, so that they could get control of the revolution that way - and now the Brotherhood is going to seize power and turn Egypt into an Islamic fundamentalist state like Iran, which has never happened since the Muslim conquest in 640-641. But it had to be true, since they were hearing this from these Egyptian Calvary Chapel members who in turn said they were hearing it from their family members in Egypt.

I don't know who has heard what from whom, but I really wish people had some sense of the ridiculous, some kind of functioning crap detectors. Ideology, like all idolatry, really makes people stupid. But reality will prevail. We'll see what happens in months to come.

One obvious difference is that in Iran it was Khomeini's baby, which other people joined. There is no equivalent of Khomeini in Egypt. But here's another point, more significant from a biblical point of view. Look at these women. This is the result of hard work in labor organizing, feminism, and other struggles to force an opening in civil society that has depended significantly on women for some time, this latest effort since at least 1998. Those ladies weren't facing those riot cops, and even intimidating them, out of nowhere.

The Bible records that the fundamental injustice among humans, coming after our injustice to God, is gender injustice - specifically men oppressing women. In brief, the woman got deceived and screwed up, and then the man deliberately took her advice, knowing it was wrong. And then their eyes were opened and they knew that they were naked.

Only after the man ate and ratified the woman's mistake did the wheels come off. So Paul concluded in Romans 5.12 that it was by one man, Adam, that sin came into the world, and not by the woman.

And then God asked about this, and the woman told the truth, that the serpent had deceived her and she ate, and the man said, "The woman whom You gave to me gave it to me and I ate" - blaming God and the woman in one breath.

And yet millions of people. including rulers of the Christian church going centuries back, ascribe the blame to the woman, even saying she did wrong to blame Satan for his part - much as women are expected today, when their husbands beat them up, to say that everything is their fault.

So I think the role of women in the Egyptian revolution, how they participated and how they were free and safe from groping and abuse during the rallies, makes all the difference.

Watch those pics again. They don't look like what happens to women in Afghanistan, or in the American pornography industry, which produces and exports more violent pornography than any other nation in the world. They don't look like what generally happens to women in American churches either. It's not whether people call themselves Muslims or profess to be Christians or something else that counts.

Just as you would expect from Genesis 3, including the eternal enmity between Satan and Woman (Genesis 3.15), what matters most is what you do to women. What happens to women in Egypt going forward will determine more than anything else how things go from here. Societies that treat women better, as Islam did better than in Europe until around 1800, do better. Those that treat them badly do badly. It's not the theological professions that people make that counts so much as what they do, as we may read in the gospels.

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