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The Christian Church, capital "C," the Body of Christ or the Church Universal, exists today in the Middle East and North Africa. What this means is that indeed there are local Christian churches and local believers in every country in the region. Now some of these churches exist in hiding, "hidden believers" as Brother Andrew called them, but they are there. And their faith is amazing and resilient.

But the church is also, in some countries in the region, suppressed, repressed, oppressed, and at times persecuted. SAT-7, Christian satellite television in the region, broadcasts daily in Arabic, Farsi, and Turkish to the Church and to all who wish to view its programs.

Here's more on this vital subject:

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

 

The West, including the U.S., tends to interpret everything that happens in the Middle East and North Africa in terms of religion. In other words, we see the social and political turmoil daily rocking countries like Syria and we say, religion is behind all this. Maybe, but probably not, at least not all of what we see.

Certainly religion is involved in everything that takes place in the Middle East and North Africa. To some extent religion has been involved in the protests, conflicts, or revolutions called the “Arab Spring.” But religion doesn’t explain why dictators hang on to their posts with a death grip. Religion alone doesn’t explain why people risk their lives, why fighting has morphed into vicious guerilla warfare, or why other countries in the region don’t intervene to stop the killing in Syria.

What explains most of what’s happening in the region is simply the old evil triumvirate of power, greed, and corruption. Dictators like Ben Ali, Gaddafi, Mubarak, and now Assad want to hang onto power as long as possible. They don’t want to and for the most part don’t step down voluntarily. What they do, typically, is leave office only when they are in a box.

And the triumvirate of self-aggrandizement is also at work among the opposition. Unfortunately, the rebels, insurgents, or protestors are not all freedom fighters. They are people who want power and are willing to do anything to get it. Once in control, no one is quite sure what kind of government and society the new regime would allow.

So it would behoove those of us in the West to step carefully in our foreign policy re changing or emerging regimes in the Middle East and North Africa. There’s still a place for realpolitik.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

I just read a Christian ministry fundraising letter that boldly stated a pro-Israel view alongside a subtle anti-Arab view. The letter hoped to raise funds for a preaching program by suggesting to readers this ministry “stood with Israel” against all its enemies.

Clearly this letter is also pro-Jew, basing some of its outlook on the scriptural command to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” But it goes beyond this. The letter seamlessly blends biblical teachings about Jewish people generally and Jerusalem specifically with current Middle East political tensions, the state of Israel’s actions, and end-time prophecies.

One problem with this approach is that it offers a confusing and debatable eschatology (end-times doctrine) and a questionable, at best, mix of religion and politics.

Another problem with this approach is that it spiritualizes Israel the nation-state, thus sanctifying everything the current government does.

Now let me pause here. I've written on the subject before in a piece called "Jews Versus Arabs Or Jews And Arabs." The point is, why can't I be pro-Jew and pro-Arab?

I am certainly not anti-Jew, nor am I in any way suggesting Christians should not care about, pray for, or otherwise support Jewish people. I am not suggesting Jews or Israel have no enemies; of course they do. I am not “siding with” anti-Israel commentary, much less some political and religious leaders who regularly make threatening hate-statements about Israel.

I am saying that some Christian, and some conservative and some Republican, leaders are so eager to proclaim a perceived stature within the ranks that they make over-the-top rah-rah statements of “defense of Israel” at the cost of sounding, if not being, anti-Arab. These statements are designed to establish their credentials in terms of fidelity to the cause. “I’m for the defense of Israel, so I must be real," as a truly spiritual Christian, a truly staunch conservative, or a truly pure Republican.

As I noted above, I’m not anti-Israel. But to be supportive of and care about the Jewish people must I also believe that every move the nation of Israel makes is indeed, by definition, a correct one? Must I support the current government uncritically, blindly?

I love my own country. I am glad and grateful to be an American. But I do not believe every act of the USA or a given government is always the correct, good, or moral one. And I say so or vote so. I offer critique because I love my country, not because I do not.

I do not believe in “My country right or wrong but right or wrong my country.” This is an irrational and potentially dangerous hyper-patriotism, not responsible patriotism.

And why must I, if I love the Jewish people and pray for the peace of Jerusalem, suddenly become anti-Arab? Do all Arabs hate Jews? Of course they do not. Are all Arabs “bad” by virtue of their ethnicity? Of course they are not—if you believe so, you have succumbed to racism. Are all Jews “good” by virtue of their ethnicity or religion? Of course they are not, nor are Americans.

And for that matter, not just Arabs but Persians: are all Persians (Iranians) “bad,” enemies of America and Israel, because they are Persians? Of course not. Do all Iranian citizens agree with their leaders? No they do not. Then why lump them together? Why demonize an entire people group because of a given regime?

Much more concerning: why should Christians necessarily adopt anti-Arab or anti-Persian views simply because they care about Jews? Where in Scripture does it say we should despise or work against the Gentile?

So I think the Christian ministry that mailed the fundraising letter I read is not only wrong but irresponsible. I think that in its zeal to be biblical it misinterprets the Bible.

To be pro-Jew does not require one to be—unthinkingly—pro-Israel, even if you wish to support or defend Israel’s right to exist. To be pro-Jew in no way requires one to be anti-Arab, anti-Persian, anti-Turk, or anti-anyone. In fact, adopting a position that is categorically against any people group is a form of racial prejudice and is, therefore, non-Christian or, if you prefer, un-Christian.

The summary of the matter is that Jesus’s redemption and the life-giving Christian faith are for everyone, for Jew, Arab, Persian, Turk, for Gentile, for red and yellow, black and white, for male and female, for great and small, for one and all.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

After spending a week in the Middle East (MENA for Middle East and North Africa) here are a few of the things I’ve learned, confirmed, or reaffirmed:

*The MENA social and political turmoil the West calls “revolutions” can more accurately be described as “evolutions.

*"Arab Spring” is a misnomer in that the social unrest in various countries in the region are not just Arab and not characterized by much that fits a metaphor like spring.

 *Some protestors may want religious rule, but most want personal freedoms, economic opportunity, justice, and liberation from corrupt regimes.

 *Much of MENA government-aided or generated turmoil the West assigns to religious influence is actually rooted in the classic triumvirate of power, politics, and greed.

 *“Regional culture” exists but not generally to the level people in the West believe—the political and social culture of each MENA nation is different from other nations.

*The dominant religions of MENA are not impregnable socially or spiritually, meaning followers may turn and are turning to other faiths.

*The Christian Church exists in MENA as a minority religion, but while suppressed, oppressed, and in some countries persecuted, the Church is also resilient, strong, and unbowed.

*People are becoming followers of Christ in every MENA country and the Church is growing faster in Iran and Algeria than most other countries of the world.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

 

A while back my SAT-7 colleagues in the UK developed a new website called Wazala.org. It features issues, news, views, developments, and challenges in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). In particular, Wazala keeps an eye on Christians, Christianity, and the Church in the region. Wazala is a derivative of the Arabic word "wasala," meaning to connect, to join, to reach out.

Who can deny that MENA is a strategic region? Virtually every night, in some way, the region is featured in stories on international news channels. If you know much about biblical prophecy you know the region plays a prominent if not predominant role in the End Times. Add to this oil and other economic considerations, the volatile position of the “island” of Israel, and the fact that three wars continue to plague the region—depending upon whether you believe Afghanistan is part of the ME, depending upon how you evaluate fighting in Iraq, and depending upon whether you believe the Libyan Revolution is a “war,” at least in terms of Western involvement. In any event, MENA is strategic by about any definition of the term.

Wazala.org references things political, but it is not given to political prescription. Rather, Wazala attempts to apply a Christian perspective to developments in MENA. In this the site provides the rest of us a service. The West, and especially America, needs to learn more about MENA. We need to learn how cultures function where there is essentially no separation of Church and State. We need to understand not simply news-network-theology but the deeper, theologically complex, layered nuances of the region’s dominant religion. The more we learn the more, hopefully, we understand. The more we understand the more we will be able to give an answer of the hope that lies within our Christian faith.

I highly and without reservation recommend to you www.wazala.org. It’s good to learn the Lord is at work in MENA. Indeed, “He is there and he is not silent.”

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

 

 

Awakened every morning by a local rooster. Guy owns the town and let us know.

In the area we stayed up the mountain Lebanon apparentlly has a lot of tree frogs. We heard a bunch at two different outdoor restaurants earlier this week and I've heard them periodically throughout the evening via my room balcony door.

Lebanese food is very, very good, especially the meat and fruit, but dinners often go late, as in return-from-dinner-at-11:00 pm. Two fellows from Jordan, who of course speak Arabic, went shopping. Said things are cheaper in Lebanon than at home in Jordan. I saw them just now. Came back carrying stuffed plastic bags.

I've learned to enjoy watching little Lebanese children whenever I've had the chance. The wee little ones, like any wee little ones anywhere, are especially cute. Here, though, they're real eye-catchers because of their usually big dark eyes and lots of curly black hair. Beautiful kids.

Beirut climbs the mountain or high hills if you prefer, which makes for fantastic views over the city and sea. People on the hills and back into the mountains often live on property owned by their families for several generations. And, like anywhere, it’s cooler at higher altitudes.

People in Lebanon tend to live in religiously-defined areas, including in Beirut where you can see or drive through both Christian in “East Beirut” and Muslim in “West Beirut” areas or neighborhoods. The level of social interaction between these areas varies with circumstances at different times. Commercial interaction pretty much exists except in the most tense of times.

Parliament Square and blocks around it were shattered by the war in the 1980s, but the buildings in this downtown district have been beautifully and meticulously rebuilt. Government buildings and shops like Starbucks, ice cream, and souvenir stores line adjacent streets. Police are everywhere in evidence. A “mall” populated by high-end stores is located along three or four streets a couple of blocks away.

Martyr’s Square monument is rather interesting to say the least. The statue was erected in 1937 to memormialize the Lebanese who suffered under a blockade by the Allies in WWI. The people endured famine, starvation, plaque, and the hanging of nationalists on May 6, 1916. The statue, amazingly, survived the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) and is now riddled with bullet holes. It is a poignant and important symbol, a salute to the resolve and resilience of the Lebanese people.

The Lebanese people I have met are friendly, capable, and interesting. They are well educated, multi-lingual, and generally involved in the pursuit of some profession. They’re very much into family over multiple generations and they think globally, in part because they have so many Lebanese relatives living in diaspora worldwide.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.