Persecution, Alive and Well

The land of Goshen was the best part of Egypt for herds of animals, so the family of Israel was settled there under Joseph’s administration. The other benefit was that it kept the family of Israel separate from the Egyptians, who considered the herding profession to be distasteful, or worse. It was a great blessing to the family of Israel that Joseph had accumulated such great power for the Egyptian government, because it meant they would flourish through a deep famine-wrought recession. Not long after Joseph died, things changed in Egypt, and the government became repressive toward the Israelites. It used its considerable power to enslave them.

With a somewhat ironic twist, current events in Egypt are imitating history. Only today, God’s people are not necessarily biological children of Israel, but rather spiritual children of Abraham and Sarah. The false religion of Islam traces its own genetic origins through Ishmael, the son of Hagar, claiming that he was the son promised to Abraham. However, the Bible clearly says this is not the case. Islam will always be quite hostile toward Christianity, because of this difference, and especially because of the Gospel. Christians in Egypt have assumed the role of the children of Israel, as the despised animal-herders, but instead of raising sheep and goats, they raise pigs. Pigs are despised and avoided as a matter of law by both Jews and Muslims, but Christians recognize that Christ’s work has freed us from the necessity of observing such ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. So like the family of Israel, Christians have found a profitable economic niche in Egypt.

But now, the Egyptian government, under Muslim control, has taken the Swine Flu scare as a pretext to persecute the Christians, by killing all their pigs. This effort is expressly contrary to the moral law of God, for His injunction against stealing is a protection of private property. If private citizens were doing this, it would be grounds for seeking full reparations from the wrongdoers. However, ’tis the Egyptian government. When a government persecutes like this, it shows itself to be a repressive tyranny. We may see what steps the government takes to make things right with the owners of these pigs.

If it does not make things right, what then? Will the Christians be forced to sell what little they have left and leave their country? But where could they go in today’s world, to find freedom? It’s fast disappearing in the United States, as our own government shows itself to be not entirely different from that in Egypt.

A hallmark of American freedom is the principle that government keeps its fingers out of private life, allowing the citizens to conduct and defend their own businesses, interests, and lives. Though there are still limits to that principle, to keep citizens from harming each other, government intervention is supposed to be limited to that which is absolutely necessary, because our nation is composed of citizens, not of government. That’s why recent actions by American governments (state, federal, and local) have been so troubling. We’ve been taking steps in the direction of Egypt’s example, from the White House to the repressive neighborhood association that measures lawn height to the nearest quarter-inch. On the national level, we’ve seen these examples piling up for some time, but perhaps never as quickly as in the last few months.

In one of the books I’ve been reading, I find it interesting that the anti-federalists of the 1780’s were not opposed to the constitution per se, but to the constitution without a bill of rights that would expressly protect the interests of individuals — and some interests of states — from tyrannical encroachments by the federal government. The federalists argued that the bill of rights was unnecessary, because all rights should be assumed to be protected. I think they were a bit naíve. At least, they were unfamiliar with Chicago politics. Yet the federalists made a good point: when you enumerate certain rights for protection, it implies that the rights not listed are not protected. The anti-federalists did not think that would be such a problem, but that’s where they were wrong.

Though my friend Mary might prefer not to think of these protections as “rights,” and she has a good point, the Bill of Rights has become one of the last friends of the American Citizen in government. Members of Congress are generally only interested in protecting and extending their own influence by spending our tax money. Much of the judicial branch only wants to reshape the country by creating new laws through its supposed interpretation of existing law. Meanwhile, the executive branch bullies private citizens into doing whatever it thinks is right, with the present intention of “spreading the wealth around” in the name of justice. No wonder the Bill of Rights has been under attack: it’s one of the few things standing between American citizens and an increasingly hostile and dysfunctional government. Both federalists and anti-federalists were prescient, at least in their distrust of human nature.

If American voters allow things to continue on the present course (and I use the adjective “American” loosely, because I suspect there have been many voters who are not), the effect of the first ten amendments will be further curbed. Americans will further lose the right to free speech (even on the Internet) and religion, just as our right to petition the government for redress has been practically forgotten. The Second Amendment truly is the original Department of Homeland Security, from both foreign and domestic attack, including domestic attacks upon the United States (i.e. American citizens) by their government. Those who would like to curtail the other rights definitely want to empty this one, as a prerequisite if possible. If and when that happens, American citizens will be in a position not much different from that of the Christian pig farmers in Egypt. Where could we go, then, to find freedom?

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