Being an Egyptian-American, Egypt has been on my mind for quite a while now and certainly this past week of the 4th was no exception. Though I was born in New Jersey and most of my family lives in the States, and although my Arabic is pretty bad, and although I still don’t like foul (it’s just boiled and mashed fava beans but they smell absolutely wretched. I think it’s the spices that are added), Egypt is an important place to me. And if even if we knew no one in Egypt, it would still be – it’s part of our family’s story and just that is enough for me.
Now given you don’t know what you don’t know but as you would imagine, I have always been extremely grateful that my parents immigrated here. And I’ve never wished to be anything but Egyptian. If I am completely honest, I think the only thing that I would have changed is to have more “tall” genes in our cultural DNA and for the smell of foul to not be a part of our childhood mornings. Thank God for Cocoa Pebbles and Rex’s Market ;) But I wouldn’t have changed much.
It’s extremely profound to me that Egypt and America had/having elections in the same year. It’s safe to assume that not many Coptic/Protestant Christians voted for the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi. While it was wonderful that he quickly announced that he would select a Christian and a woman to be the vice presidents, there are so many complicated dynamics going on in Egypt. Examples include the absolution of parliament by the Supreme Constitutional Court, Morsi’s call for an alleged terrorist to be released and stories like the young man escorting his fiancee home being stabbed to death inflicted by a small group of Islamists (and have taken to the streets as a form of “Morality Police”) has me just as concerned as before the elections.
Then I started thinking about our country and the challenges we are having here. My heart broke for the more than 70 people who died from the complications of recent devastating storms, power outages, and extreme heat conditions. Our news sources showed us graphic pictures of the Colorado wildfires, argued more about issues like the healthcare debate, gay-marriage, unemployment and a downward spiraling economy. Then, just before we sat down to our July 4th dinner with our friends, we learned that a 40 year old church member suddenly died that day from a massive heart attack.
Each country has its problems, challenges and tragedies. Each life is filled with the same. There is evil, pain and suffering everywhere and this is among the reasons why statements regarding American exceptionalism, and triumphalism are bizarre to me as a Christian. I am more interested in the Kingdom that gives hope in the midst of despair, joy despite suffering, and life in the face of death. This is among the reasons why patriotic songs seem out of place for some of us in worship services. Believe me, so many of us are grateful for this land, we need to protect, preserve and be just. But these noble pursuits are not for our own sake but for the sake of all, in the name of God.
At our Sunday night evening service, I had the honor of giving the pastoral prayer. During which I prayed the Lord would teach us the difference between nationalism and patriotism. I prayed that because I too want to grow in that understanding but I think seeing our place as active citizens and participants of God’s Kingdom yet still being thankful for our nation is a big part of it (You can read the previous post which unpacks that more).
May God be with us here in the States, in Egypt with both Christian, Muslim, agnostic, may the presence and the peace of God be found in Syria, Iran, North Korea. May he be found by all hearts that are seeking and may those that are not begin.