Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Loving Our Global Neighbors - and Enemies

by Philip Rizk

The global village is showing signs of its ever-shrinking diameter.

"The Danish have no more work here," the man with a big beard and even bigger gun told me as I approached the security office. Men such as this one matter to me, because he holds the power to welcome or reject me - in this case as I entered a meeting with the fishermen's union in a Gaza Strip city - just as it matters what someone on the streets of Damascus, Tehran, and Basra thinks because he has the power to accept or reject his neighbor, whether she be in Denmark, Russia, or France.

The Daily Star, a Middle Eastern English-language newspaper, reported Feb. 1 that Vebjoern Selbekk, editor in chief of Magazinet, the Norwegian Christian magazine that reprinted the Danish cartoons, said the act was "not aimed at provoking" Muslims and that it was "justifiable under freedom of _expression laws." The issue at stake is that these freedom of _expression laws may not apply in other parts of the global village. What seems to Selbekk his right to freedom of _expression is to my friend with the gun a matter of religious faithfulness, and one that is based on divine laws, not individualism.

It is not Western values of freedom of speech that we must evaluate, but their underlying philosophy of individualism. The Western mind is raised to believe that what it thinks, expresses, and believes is a private and personal matter. In the Arab world, where societies share a collective understanding of self, such teachings are heretical."

How ironic! The Bible, that so many of us in the Western world claim to follow, has almost nothing in it that reflects this philosophy of individualism. The Biblical characters and communities we study in scripture were all vastly more like the modern Arab world in its "collective understanding of self." How do we modern western Christians escape the confines of this philosophy of individualism long enough to help back our world away from World War III - pitting the entire western world against the entire moslem world?