Will the Arab Spring Produce a Waterless Cloud?

by Derrick G. Jeter

Liberty has come to Libya . . . or so it appears. After four decades of tyranny, the Libyan people have thrown off the shackles of oppression and are free to determine their destiny.

This is good.

But troubling reports foreshadow a future of further tyranny, not freedom.

The Libyan “Draft Constitutional Charter for the Transitional Stage” states in Part 1, Article 1: “Islam is the Religion of the State and the principle source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).”

If Part 1, Article 1 of the draft constitution is adopted in a post-Muammar Gaddafi constitution then the idea of liberty in Libya will take on a different meaning than liberty does in Western countries. This is not something new under the sun—understanding the nature of liberty in the Middle East has been the challenge from the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. Since then, we’ve tested George W. Bush’s doctrine of exporting democracy to Islamic states. Thus far it remains to be seen whether Iraq, or any other Islamic country, can establish and maintain lasting liberty as understood in the West.

We rightly celebrate the 2011 “Arab Spring” that toppled long standing dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, but we should tempter our celebration with realism. The Arab Spring may not bring gentle showers of freedom to these North African countries. Rather, it may produce waterless clouds—forming a shadow of liberty without the substance.

Durable liberty is only possible under the rule of God, the rule of law, and the rule of representative government. This is the tradition of Western countries, including the United States—a tradition stemming from the authority of God and His Word, the Bible.

Yet, philosopher Vishal Mangalwadi in a May 20, 2011, interview with the Christian Post asked: “why is it that no Muslim nation in 1,300 years has been able to create and sustain a free society?” The secret of American liberty, he argued, is “in God we trust.” But what about Islamic freedom? “Why did . . . Islam fail to produce liberty?” Mangalwadi wondered in The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization. Islam believes, as does Judaism and Christianity, in the authority of God and his word. However, Mangalwadi argued in The Book that Made Your World:

A key factor is that Islam denied God the power and love to come to this earth to establish his kingdom. If God does not come to establish his rule, then we have no option but to be ruled exclusively by sinful men. . . . Islam has never been able to foster a reformation that could undermine human totalitarianism, because it rejects the very notion of God coming to establish his kingdom. It also fails to empower the people by its refusal to translate the Qur’an into the languages of the people. [340]

The revolutions of the Arab Spring holds out the promise of liberty. But enduring freedom is never won through revolution alone—through the force of arms alone. Enduring freedom is only won when the force of arms is accompanied by the force of the Spirit—a revolution of the Spirit. Only then can the seeds of liberty take root, flourish, and bear fruit. Without the Spirit of God all that one can hope for is an exchange of one tyranny for another tyranny.

History bears this out.

The Russian Revolution under Vladimir Lenin threw off the chains of the Tzars only to shackle the people behind an iron curtain of the godless Soviet Union. The Cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong drove out the “corruption” of Western ideas only to corrupt the people with Marxist ideas leading to the slaughter and oppression of millions. And the Cuban Revolution of Fidel Castro deposed the dictator Fulgencio Batista only to impose another dictator which nearly ignited a nuclear holocaust and continues to deny freedom to the Cuban people. These Eastern, Asian, and Hispanic revolutions—to say nothing of the revolutionary history of Central and South America—did not replace the heavy yoke of despotism with the light yoke of liberty. Rather, these revolutions replaced one tyrannical yoke for another tyrannical yoke.

Not even the godless French Revolution established longstanding liberty. Influenced by the atheistic writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “social contract,” Maximilien Robespierre led a revolution that devolved into the Reign of Terror. Eventually, the impious mob turned on their leader and sent Robespierre to the guillotine, executing face up so he could see the blade fall. What followed the bloodbath in France was the dictatorial reign of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.

That was then. This is now.

What will happen to the newfound freedom in Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia remains to be seen. But history is a stubborn guide—and it points to the truth that without the God of the Bible alive in the hearts of men the Arab Spring will prove to be nothing but a waterless cloud. As Robert C. Winthrop, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (1847–1849) said: “Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet.”

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If you liked this essay please share it with your friends. You can read more of Derrick’s ideas about liberty in his book, O America! A Manifesto on Liberty. Available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/America-Manifesto-Liberty-ebook/dp/B005FD0EQ2/ref=pd_rhf_p_t_1.