The United States of America is in a very tough position. Over the last half century or more, the United States has dubbed itself the world’s police force. Oh sure, Americans will be the first to say that it is not our job to police the world; but our government’s actions say differently. Whenever there’s a problem in just about any country, we seem to get involved in one way or another.
It started after World War II. We saw ourselves as the champions of democracy (although our own government is more representative than democratic), and we viewed ourselves as the archenemy of Communism. It seemed to make sense. After all, Communism is a totalitarian form of government. It stands for everything that we, as Americans, oppose. So, when the USSR tried to expand the influence of Communism, America stepped up to oppose.
I have no problem with the US combatting Communism. Somewhere along the way, however, we became what we opposed. No, we did not become Communist. What I mean is that we opposed the USSR using undue influence, or force, to spread its Communistic ideology. The whole idea of democracy and representative government is that a people freely chooses who governs them. They also have a constitution which sets limits on their rulers. The United States, however, has long been acting more like the totalitarian USSR.
We have gone from simply opposing the forceful spread of totalitarian regimes, to trying to force foreign peoples to accept democracy. We are imposing our own ideology on others. Americans tend to view democracies and republics as the best, freest forms of government. We can not comprehend that any people would desire any other form of government. We don’t seem to grasp that some cultures have values and traditions that are not exactly compatible with our form of government. We just do not understand that some people are either not able to govern themselves yet, or do not wish to govern themselves. Let us not forget, too, that the United States has been sending out mixed signals.
A perfect example is the Middle East. The vast majority of Middle Eastern people are Islamic. The Muslim religion has a morality and principles which are not compatible with democratic or republican governments. Islam is a religion which lends itself to totalitarianism. It is a heavily male-dominated religion. It allows polygyny (males having more than one spouse), and the wives and children are completely subject to the whims of the husband and father. Islam demands women and children to follow certain social customs that are not conducive to a free society. To force democracy on predominately Islamic societies would have the same effect as when Protestants attempted to gain certain freedoms in predominately Catholic societies during the Protestant Revolt.
In the sixteenth century most European countries were predominately Catholic. The European mind of the sixteenth century did not comprehend the idea of separation of church and state. The spiritual realm was viewed as superior to the physical realm, and secular rulers were seen as obtaining their authority by the consent of God. Since the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ, anyone wishing to rule also had to obtain the consent of the Church. The Church’s word was equivalent to the Word of God. Hence, if the Church gave or withheld consent to rule, the decision was seen as the decision of God.
All of this being the case, rulers looked to the Teachings of the Church to help them in developing laws for their respective kingdoms. Hence, faith and society were intertwined. To topple the Faith of the people was topple the very rules on which society was built. The Catholic Church still teaches that outside the Church there is no salvation. In sixteenth century Europe, this meant that no other religions could be tolerated; if such toleration meant that these faiths would compromise the Faith of the people. That is exactly what Protestantism proposed to do.
The rulers of Europe were Catholic. Since they were seen as ruling with the consent of God, everyone in the kingdom was expected to adopt the Catholic Faith. In fact, it was illegal to be anything but Catholic. (Countries which would defect to Protestantism would adopt the same view. It was illegal to be anything but the specific branch of Protestantism that the ruler adopted.) Since Protestantism was rejecting the Catholic Faith, and was teaching that each Christian could interpret the Bible authoritatively for himself, and that Scripture alone was the rule of faith, Protestantism sought the overthrow of society. All of this explains the violent reaction on both sides. Catholics rejected the potential overthrow, not only of their way of life in their respective countries, but of the Faith of the Apostles themselves. The Protestants were combatting a religion they felt had distorted the teachings of Jesus Christ, and had substituted traditions of men for the Gospel.
When the US attempts to force Middle Eastern/Islamic societies to accept democracy or republicanism, it has the same effect as the Protestant Revolt had on sixteenth century Catholic societies. It destroys the very fabric upon which those societies are based. Democracy/republicanism actually runs counter to Islam. An Islamic country can not long remain intact when its people attempt to assert their freedom.
It may seem reasonable to assume that people want to be free, but when your whole society is based on a faith that is totalitarian itself, freedom doesn’t seem so reasonable. Islam actually means “submission”. It specifically refers to submission to the will of Allah. The Christian view of God is one of a father/child relationship. The Islamic view of God is one of a master/slave relationship. Slaves do not possess freedom. Hence, a society based on Islam is not conducive to a form of government which promotes persona freedom.
To make matters worse, the United States has been sending mixed signals, as I said earlier. The Egyptians revolted against the rule of Mubarak, and they attempted to institute a more democratic form of government. The terrorist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, had undue influence in the elections that resulted from Mubarak’s overthrow, and many of their own people were elected to the government, as a result. After the Muslim Brotherhood began persecuting anyone who opposed them, the people of Egypt revolted.
This revolt, like its predecessor against Mubarak, was a popular revolt. The majority of Egyptians were unhappy with the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, and they attempted to assert their right to overthrow an oppressive government, and elect a new one. This was no different than what our own Declaration of Independence said. Our Founding Fathers believed that a people had the right to overthrow even a validly elected government if it overstepped its boundaries, and became too oppressive. The whole idea behind democracies and republics is that the government rules with the consent of the people. This is what America believes, and it is what we have preached.
Yet, our government contradicted this very core idea when Obama demanded the people of Egypt return the Muslim Brotherhood to power. The US contradicted its own belief when it refused to provide aid it had been giving Egypt (aid which we shouldn’t have been providing any foreign country with in the first place, as it is not our responsibility) unless our president’s demand of the return of the Muslim Brotherhood to power was met. How can we expect people to take us seriously, and accept the idea of freedom, when we are acting against freedom. It is the right of all people to choose their government. Whenever a democratic or republican form of government has been established in a Middle Eastern country, it has failed to work as it should. This is because Middle Eastern societies (with the exception of Israel, of course) are based on Islam; and Islam is not compatible with any form of government which promotes personal freedom. To force Middle Eastern people to accept our form of government infringes on their freedom of worship. The only solution is for the United States to mind its own business. We are not the world’s police force!
Peace in Christ,
David J. Pollard
American Catholic Solidarity