Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Extra Devotional: Defying Dictators - why Lee Bollinger was right

Daniel 2:18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. (NIV)

A lot has been made of yesterday’s visit by the President of Iran to Columbia University in New York. I watched the live debate yesterday because it was an historical moment. Right from the beginning, Ahmadinejad was put on the hot seat by the university’s President Lee Bollinger. Instead of courteously introducing the Iranian president to the audience, Bollinger interrogated the guest speaker and castigated him for the many human rights abuses that are taking place in Iran. In my humble opinion, it was a courageous and probably career-busting move to make.

The media, however, have condemned Bollinger for his discourtesy and undiplomatic confrontation of Ahmadinejad. A leader of any nation should be accorded respect because he or she represents their nation. Any insult against the president is taken to be an insult against the Iranian people. And sadly, into today’s divided world, any insult to an Islamic leader is considered an insult against the Moslem faith.

However, no matter what the diplomatic repercussions are, I believe that Lee Bollinger was right to do what he did. Ahmadinejad is a tyrant whose political regime terrorizes his people. A recent article in Time magazine, written by a female Iranian journalist, expresses some of the major concerns that free-thinking intellectual Iranians face in their country. People are imprisoned for expressing political views; women are killed for being raped; and young teenage boys are hung for being homosexuals. Much of what goes on in Iran is reported by Amnesty International. Ahmadinejad is a callous despot who only cares about power, not people.

When Daniel and his companions faced the possibility of execution, they turned to God for deliverance. They lived under a tyrannical king, whose anger at his advisers caused him to send forth an order to kill all of the wise men, clever teachers, and mathematical scholars in his nation. And that’s usually how tyranny manifests itself – by killing the educated people, in order to rule by fear and ignorance. In modern times, the names of Hitler, Stalin, and Phol Pot have been synonymous with such vicious cruelty. Perhaps Ahmadinejad's name will also be entered into that Hall of Shame one day.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You alone know the hearts and minds of all people, so You know all of the atrocities that the president of Iran may have committed. If he is such a monster, then allow free people to castigate him for what he really is. Remind us that we have all promised never to let the Holocausts of the past happen again. Keep us from being bystanders and help us to confront evil wherever it exists. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.


Rosemary said...

We are so used to being politically correct that the truth becomes an affront. I don't understand why we even let this man into our country.

Stushie said...

That's a hard point to answer Rosemary, but I'm glad that Lee Bollinger, in front of the whole world, confronted Ahmadinejad.

Rob Monroe said...

I think it would have been apropriate to confront him during a discussion period, but not during an introduction. Poor taste.

Stushie said...

Poor taste? For being discourteous?

What about the two teenage boys who were executed by hanging just for being in love with one another? What about the scores of women who have been 'honor killed' or stoned because they were raped? What about the hundreds of academics who have been imprisoned because they speak out against Ahmadinejad's regime?

If all we can complain about is the poor taste of not following the rules of debate according to Robert's Rules of order, then we have slid off into the abyss of inhumane indifference. And that's more dangerous than Ahmadinejad, because we will become bystanders once again.

Rob Monroe said...

Face it - within our church we have people that persecute those that have been raped and choose to have an abortion. They persecute GLBT people that try to walk through their doors or, heaven forbid, make an attempt to become ordained. They ask that people that don't believe what they believe leave the denomination.

True, nobody is killing within our denomination.

Should I be indignant when introducing a fellow member of my church because what I believe is different from what they believe? No, I should introduce them in a civil way and hold debate in the apropriate forum.

I think that the man is not a good person and a terrible force to be in the world. That was not at issue here. What is at issue is being a good host. He was invited for debate. That debate should have been started in a civil way.

Stushie said...

Perhaps you should have a real read of the Gospels and the prophets in the Bible. Being blunt and telling the truth is what our faith is about. Dancing around with dictators and tip-toeing with tyrants, it ain't.

Teri said...

the issue at stake for me here is not being blunt or truth-telling, it's an issue of hospitality. CU extended "hospitality" to someone and then revoked it in the introduction. I agree it would have been better to engage with him, including blunt truthtelling (and maybe even including some of the name-calling since some of that was truthful), in the debate time. But to invite someone, then to act the way they did, was simply rude. It's not an issue of being PC, it's an issue of good manners. The President of the University showed shockingly bad manners and has successfully reinvigorated Ahmadinejad's flagging popularity as a result. I'm all for bluntness (it's my gift, after all) and I'm all for truth-telling. I am not all for being "indian-givers" of hospitality.

Stushie said...

'indian-givers' is hardly a politically correct term. And as for poor manners, as I stated before, if we're more upset about the lack of courtesy rather than confronting a dictator face-to-face, then something is wrong with our faith.