Charisma in 1988, around when my mom used to read it to me.

I have fond memories of reading Charisma magazine with my mother when I was a child. I remember her reading me stories of miracles and revivals happening all around the world. Vaguely, those memories of reading the only magazine (besides Readers’ Digest) that my parents subscribed to are tied to my earliest hopes about being a writer. But since my parents let their subscription lapse, around the same time they ended their relationship with the charismatic church that I grew up in, I haven’t really given Charisma a second thought. Until today.

A former teacher and friend of mine (who also attended that charismatic church and may have even had his own subscription to Charisma) brought my attention to this “eyewitness report” from Egypt published on Charisma’s website on Saturday. After a short editorial introduction, the bulk of the piece is a letter (or maybe a series of letters, the layout is really confusing) purportedly sent by an Egyptian Christian named Rafik Guindi who insists that the continuing unrest in Egypt “has nothing to do with this original protest! What is happening right now is a conspiracy to topple Mubarak from outside the country!!”

Guindi’s story begins by describing a prayer session in which he prayed for peace and security in his land, asking God, “Father, answer my prayers with rain.” Well, it rained, and God issued some vague instructions about assembling a Holy Council and something about the words “Justice” and “Truth.” I’m not leaving anything out there; God’s words to Guindi seem to have been this vague.

Guindi and his wife followed the events in their country and began to wonder why the international news media seemed bent on covering the ongoing protest in Tahrir Square. He writes, “The news media is reporting this as ‘the people of Egypt’ wanting Mubarak to leave immediately. Did they ask the ‘people of Egypt?’ For one, they did not ask me!”

He then described a counter-protest at Mustafa Mahmoud Square in Mohandessin. This event, he says, received no media attention even though it began with a thousand people and in his estimation grew to tens of thousands, then to hundreds of thousands and several hundreds of thousands, and finally, he writes in all caps, to possibly over a million!

Back in Tahrir Square, he says, the original protesters had all but cleared out and were “replaced by other HIGHLY ORGANIZED GROUPS. They all have the same model of cell phones. They all have the same blankets (eye witnesses). THESE ARE NOT THE PEOPLE OF EGYPT,” he writes.

With ever-increasing use of caps lock, Guindi issues his conspiracy theories about a plot to take over the country. He concludes, “People in Tahrir Square are escalating the situation on purpose to topple President Mubarak FOR THEIR OWN HIDDEN AGENDAS. This is TYPICAL OF THE MUSLIM BROTHERS, AND EVERYBODY IN THE STREETS OF CAIRO KNOWS THIS. We heard people on the streets saying that the plot to take over the country is now clear.”

Now, obviously I’m not in Egypt as Guindi is, nor am I a specialist on current events in Egypt. I’ve been following the events to the best of my abilities, given the coverage that is available to me. But, then, it’s not really Guindi that concerns me; certainly he is welcome to his perspective and if it appears to him that this is some kind of foreign-born conspiracy to topple President Mubarak, well…I hope he’s wrong.

The real problem here lies with Charisma. This account comes under the headline “Charisma News Online,” and is billed as an “eyewitness report.” But this is not journalism. Posting an unedited letter by a person about whom we know nothing more than that he is Egyptian and who is, despite his claim to the contrary, a conspiracy theorist, is utterly irresponsible.

See, I remember the way the people in my church read Charisma; I remember how seriously they took it. And if the comments from readers are any indication, plenty of people still take the magazine that seriously. Though some commenters question the validity of Guindi’s account, others, like this one, buy it completely: “This article confirms very clearly what I felt strongly in the Spirit this morning as I watched the news… a coup to overthrow the government and takeover by the Muslims and soon sharia law.”

Fortunately, there is no shortage of counterpoints to this account, written by people with a deep knowledge of the events in Egypt. Take, for example, this piece by Ashley Makar, a graduate student at Yale Divinity School and co-editor of Killing the Buddha, over at CNN’s Belief Blog. Or see this account of how Christians and Muslims are coming together in Egypt as a result of the protests, published by the BBC. Also, see this piece in Religion Dispatches, which seeks to dispel the mounting fear around the Muslim Brotherhood, entitled, “5 Reasons the Muslim Brotherhood Won’t Turn On Israel.” Finally, for a more balanced bit of worry about the impact of the events in Egypt on Egyptian Christians, there’s Joseph Bottum at USA Today.

There is certainly a Christian response to the events in Egypt, and as I wrote yesterday in my Patheos column, interpreting current events through Old Testament story and prophecy is not it. I’m still not sure what exactly is required of us, but I think we can add spinning out conspiracy theories to rally conservative Christians against a perceived Muslim takeover to the “what not to do” column.

About The Author

Jonathan D. Fitzgerald

Editor | Follow him on Twitter.

0 Responses to Charisma’s Egypt Conspiracy Theory

  1. Anonymous says:

    I tried to read your article but that image burned my eyes out and I am now typing this chiefly by muscle memory.

    I wish I had something of substance to add here, but unfortunately I do not. Perhaps little other than that my parents were (and are) charismatic and very conservative. I saw Charisma many times, but my parents would not let me read the magazine; instead they shooed me over to C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. If this is the kind of writing what was in it in the 90’s and the Oughts then I count myself grateful.

  2. Joshua Keel says:

    Very disturbing cover image. And very sad that this kind of conspiracy theory mumbo jumbo is being propagated by a purportedly Christian magazine.

  3. Jim says:

    I was in Cairo in November, glad it was then and not this month!
    I have been concerned that perhaps there was more going on than the U.S. is aware of. I am not a conspiracy theorist,… but I do not trust the elements of radical Islam.
    This week I was at a screening of the film Iranium. The keynote speaker was Michael Medved. He spoke about the current trouble in Egypt among other things. I think Michael is a brilliant man, and he is pretty well connected and, in my opinion, not a nut. 🙂 It was his opinion that this is in fact what has been reported, a grass roots movement that at least in its beginning, was not instigated by elements of radical Islam. That was mildly comforting.
    However, the whole thing looks a lot like Iran in the 70’s. There were reports of Israel bombing tunnels in Gaza that Palestinians were attempting to use to get into Egypt to support the uprising. Here is a link to one of those stories..
    Something to watch for sure.

  4. Michael says:

    Thanks Jonathan

  5. Philip LaFountain says:

    I hope Guindi’s theory is wrong too. I also think it is a possibilty the muslim brotherhood will take control however I think it very unlikely. Egypt is very westernized and has economic interests with Israel, also I don’t believe Egyptians will give up the internet and and other freedoms for sharia law. I think they are too westernized for an Iran to happen. Although they are the only other organized opposition party as far as I know, I’ve been watching the Google staffer who has become another voice that inspires Egyptians. I wonder if he’ll turn into a democratic leader much like our early leaders.

  6. Aaron Austin says:

    Last night I was eating at my parents’ house and Glen Beck was on. He nearly ruined my mom’s cheeseburger, and she makes good burgers. He seems to think that Google is the cause for all this unrest. Egh.

  7. James M says:

    I think the key point is: “Posting an unedited letter by a person about whom we know nothing more than that he is Egyptian and who is, despite his claim to the contrary, a conspiracy theorist, is utterly irresponsible.” Currently I am in Israel and we are quite interested in what goes on in Egypt. Unfortunately the Charisma article is wrapped in Christianese lingo which tugs at the hearts of me and my friends. (I am a former reader of Charisma magazine; the picture of 2nd Chapter of Acts looks aged to me—I remember when they were touring with Barry McGuire…) So, I have a couple of friends who took the Charisma propaganda story hook, line, and sinker. It’s discouraging to think I could dress up any lie with the required “the Lord told me” or “I went on to hear the Lord” and this is good enough for ‘spiritual’ people to swallow it. God, please, why is there so many so-called spiritual gifts of ‘tongues’ but a drastic shortage of the gift of “wisdom”?????

  8. jwriceman says:

    Around the time Charisma published this, I got the exact same report as an unsolicited email from a charismatic ministry. The sender claimed that the report had come through Rick Joyner, which in itself is a variant from Charisma’s claim. Although I can never prove it, from the beginning I had a strong hunch that the alleged Egyptian Christian is a fictitious person; that the whole thing is a hoax. The style, tone, etc. of his writing sounds way too much like an American Christian Right Charismatic. And when “Guindi” rants that the mainstream media doesn’t want you to know the truth, that is such an outworn whinge of the far-right American Christian Right. Not too Egyptian sounding to me.

    Either this “Guindi” is an Egyptian who spends 12 hours a day watching God TV and another four hours listening to Beck, Hannity and Limbaugh, or the report was written by an American conservative Christian posing as an Egyptian. This is just my take; as I said above, I can’t prove it either way. But it’s super fishy.

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