Last week, Timothy Dalrymple, editor of the Evangelical Portal at Patheos.com invited me to join his team as a weekly columnist. I agreed, and this morning marks the launch of “In Progress,” my weekly column, which will be published every Wednesday.

This week I wrote about the tendency among Christians to understand recent events in Egypt through the lens of Old Testament story and prophecy, and how this is the wrong approach. Here’s an excerpt:

While I agree that a large swath of the population chooses ignorance over understanding the complexities of this particular moment in the history of the Middle East, I am sure that that there is another large portion of the population that, rather than having “no idea what was going on,” attempts to fill that void of information with whatever interpretive framework they find ready to hand. That is, I’m afraid many Western Christians are attempting to understand the protests in Egypt exclusively through the lens of Old Testament story and prophecy.

This association can be seen in a variety of places, from Britain’s Daily Mailreferring to the conflict as an “Old Testament-style fight,” to Glenn Beck’s end-times prophesying. Even Saturday Night Live jumped in on the fun on a Weekend Update in which Fred Armisen, as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, joked that, “Egyptians have never been great with symbols. Read the Bible.”

I can see both positive and negative aspects of this phenomenon, although the positive seems not positive enough to overshadow the negative. That the Old Testament stories of Exodus, stories that Christians believe tell us not only about who we are and where we come from, but also inform our understanding of the nature of God, so permeate our culture in 2011 speaks to their enduring power and persuasiveness. And yet, on the other side of this same coin lies the problem: it is too easy to force current events into a biblical narrative that may not actually fit.

Read the rest here, and be sure to check back every Wednesday for subsequent columns.

About The Author

Jonathan D. Fitzgerald

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0 Responses to Are We Talking About the Same Egypt?

  1. Jonathan: While you’re “afraid many Western Christians are attempting to understand the protests in Egypt exclusively through the lens of Old Testament story and prophecy,” I’m afraid that many Western Christians aren’t biblically literate “to understand the protests in Egypt exclusively through the lens of Old Testament story and prophecy.” More examples would be needed to make your case stronger. Based on my experience of Evangelical churches, there isn’t enough expository preaching through Old Testament books. What we need is a wider and deeper familiarity with the Old Testament, so that it can be applied to our current exigencies with the sensitivity and sophistication of Walter Brueggemann – my favorite Old Testament scholar.

    What do you think would be “a truly Christian response” to the events in Egypt? Joseph Bottum, former editor of First Things and contributing editor to The Weekly Standard, argued in his USA Today op-ed that the government of the United States should be defending and promoting “freedom of religion” – not “freedom of worship” (as Obama puts it) – in the Middle East.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2011-02-07-column07_ST_N.htm

  2. Jonathan: I think your next op-ed for Patheos should attempt to answer the question: What is “a truly Christian response” to the events in Egypt? I don’t have an answer, but I look forward to yours. 🙂

  3. Mary says:

    I think this article is heading down the right path–does the Old Testament need to be “applied” to any current events? The OT was written to specific audiences in specific times; it was not written directly to our time. It was written for us, but not directly to us. The Bible needs to be read as a whole (reading random passages is dangerous to do), OT and NT together. Honestly, Christians need to stop stretching the meaning of the Bible to somehow fit into every single current event. (This especially goes for Christians who have never read the entire Bible cover to cover.) Instead, reading the Bible involves looking for the arguments the authors were trying to make, and discern what they wanted the response of their audience to be. Bad things happen and will continue to happen, and not every single thing was prophecied about in the Bible.
    A truly Christians response? Pray. Don’t judge. And please, please, please read the ENTIRE Bible like any other book, carefully! 🙂

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