It is hard to disagree with the conclusion drawn by National Review editor Rich Lowry in this piece that extremists in Egypt called Islamists are conducting a pogrom against the Coptic Orthodox Church there.
Indeed, the Copts, who have been around Egypt since several centuries before the Prophet Muhammad even introduced the world to Islam -- and who make up roughly six percent of the Egyptian population -- have been oppressed there for a long time. But rarely has it been this bad. And "this bad" is terrible and an outrage.
In fact, the 2013 annual report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, issued even before the recent fall of the Morsi/Muslim Brotherhood government, said this: ". . .during a February 2013 visit to Egypt, USCIRF found that the Egyptian government continued to engage in and tolerate systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief. . . .Coptic Orthodox Christians, and their property, continued to experience sustained attacks. In many cases, the government failed or was slow to protect religious minorities from violence."
All of that is true and all of it is disastrous and now it's even worse.
At the same time, I'm intrigued by the way many American Christians who would identify themselves as evangelical or conservative are defending the Coptic Christian Church despite their differences in theology -- differences that almost certainly would make those American Christians harsh critics of the Copts if the Copts were located in the U.S.
That's because Coptic Christians are monophysites, meaning they believe that Jesus Christ has a single nature. Traditional Christianity, by contrast, holds that Christ has two natures in that he is both fully human and fully divine. This two-natures idea of a "hypostatic union," as it's called, goes back at least to the Council of Chalcedon in 451 C.E. Nonetheless, the Copts have held to their monophysite theology.
In some ways I suppose this is a bit like someone attacking a brother or sister with whom you have all kinds of internal family arguments. Those arguments may not be settled and they may be real and painful, but if someone attacks your family member you set all that aside and come to his or her defense.
Which is much better than telling the Copts they are heretics and deserve their fate.
Speaking of American Christians who would call themselves conservative, Baptist Press managed to do this lengthy story about Christians in Egypt's current turmoil without once mentioning the Coptic Church. That's some delicate dancing.
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OF WAR, NATIONS AND RELIGIONS
Want a little help understanding the nations and religions of the Middle East and, more broadly, the old Ottoman Empire. This essay should help. It also explains why the future for Christians in the geographic birthplace of Christianity isn't too bright.
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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it, click here.
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ANOTHER P.S.: Earlier this week here on the blog I wrote about plans for reuse of the Saint Paul School of Theology campus on Truman Road in Kansas City. Yesterday that seminary's president, Myron McCoy, announced that he would be leaving the school in the summer of 2014.
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A THIRD P.S.: My latest Presbyterian Outlook column now is online. To read it, click here.