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Reader comment on item: CrossTalk on Middle East: Shifting sands
in response to reader comment: The Shifting sands

Submitted by Peter Herz (United States), Jan 26, 2011 at 18:57

Frankly, I think a culture needs to have read the Bible (Old and New Testaments) for a while or to have lived in the shadow of a culture that did in order to make limited, consensual government work. For two centuries before the USA became independent, their European forefathers in Calvinist Europe were talking about limiting the power of kings, talking up the political supremacy of law, and even experimenting with a degree of democracy in Presbyterian and Congregationalist church polity. Even Calvin himself said that the ideal government would be a mix of aristocracy and democracy, since "Kings cannot be trusted to do what is right". We in the North Atlantic world are the exceptions. Most political history is despotism in one form or another.

Hence, the ferment in the Islamic world is just another of several such waves in modern times, all of which ended with some kind of new despotism. Islam denies original sin (and belief in original sin is one reason why a host of Northwest European Calvinists said, with Samuel Rutherford, that absolute power is a burden too great for mortal shoulders) and believes in the possibility of a "rightly guided Caliph" (never mind that the first four were all assassinated and their followers quick to tumble into civil war ). This disbelief in original sin is probably one reason why Islam is so prone to conspiracy-theorizing, and blaming everyone but themselves. Hence, I doubt that a seriously Islamic polity could work out a system of checks and balances, separation of powers, constitutional procedure, or nurture leaders who would simply step down and head back to the farm or business once terms were up.


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