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Maybe there is a cultural determinism

Reader comment on item: Bush's Middle East Hopes [and His Failures]

Submitted by Peter Herz (United States), Jan 18, 2008 at 11:51

I'm also begining to share Dr. Pipes' misgivings about Bush's Mideast project. Modern consensual and constitutional government depends on either a culture that has intensely studied the Old Testament , gains a critical mass of people who do so, or has lived under the tutelage of one that has.

The sixteenth and seventeenth-century Monarchomachs (opponents of absolute monarchy) who bequeathed the ideal of limited, consensual government to posterity were involved in a very intense debate over the precise meanings of Deuteronomy 17 and First Samuel 8. Hence, limited, consensual government tended to strike very deep taproots into countries strongly influenced by the Swiss Reformation, such as Switzerland itself, the Netherlands, and the two British kingdoms--to say nothing of their American extension.

Unlike Christianity, which accepted the Old Testament even before the ink was dry on the New Testament autographs, and continues to draw on it for ethics, worldview, doctrine, and devotion, Islam has excused itself from reading the Old and New Testaments by charging that they have been corrupted. Lacking a biblically-based doctrine of original sin (or yetzer r'a--take your pick), it puts a lot of hope in earthly rulers. Hence, Islamic states inevitably tend to despotism.

As a joint heir of Immanuel Kant along with President Bush, I'd dearly like to believe that free republics offer a better chance for peace, and hope that somone can prove the paragraphs above to be wrong. But...


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