“What I believe in my heart must make sense in my mind” – Ravi Zacharias
I caught a few minutes of a talk by Ravi Zacharias yesterday on my way to church. In it, he talked about a conversation he was having in Jerusalem with an Islamic Imam. At one point the Imam put forward that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, at which Zacharias protested. His response was this: “take your foot off the necks of the people, and see how well your ideas flourish.” Brilliant. (I know, I’m way out on a limb by contending Zacharias said something brilliant.)
I think the response has merit in religion as well as public policy. Zacharias’ point, from a religious standpoint, is that a person’s “conversion” is only of value if it is a free choice. Men will do many things under threat of punishment. When a man chooses a religion under such a scenario, it is reasonable to question the veracity.
The message to the theocrats is clear too. In Christianity, the only morality, the only conversion that is meaningful is the one that is chosen freely. The best one can hope to achieve by public policy is an environment where people are free to choose the good.
I think there is a broader sense to the public policy point though. Leaving religion aside for a moment, I have argued in times past (here for example) that if your ideas can only survive in the absence of alternatives, then they are not good ideas. If the only way your philosophy carries the day is to suppress all counter-positions, then we can hardly distinguish between your ideas and fascist tyranny.
Of course I usually argue this in regards to liberalism, where policies continually fail until they can be instituted at a national level (no alternatives within America). If they can only be applied at state and local levels, the system crumbles, because the hard-working people flee (and hard-working people are an absolute necessity for success).
Speaking of – the last week has brought some broad-sweeping protests in Turkey, the crossroads of Islam and democracy, the place where the religious and public-policy aspects of the argument come together. Who knows exactly what is going on there, but reporting here contends that it all began with some “environmental protestors” who were forcefully ejected from the square. At this offense, a broader coalition came out of the woodworks to protest the suppression of freedom. The riots are in their third day, and the riot police are apparently struggling to deal with the conflict. Is Turkey a free democracy or not?
Time will tell, but I suspect things will settle down after the protestors have made their point. Now, if this translates into an election loss for Edrogan, we will see more clearly (i.e., if he loses and holds on to power, then we have our answer).
If your ideas only survive by removal of opposition, they are not good ideas. If free people freely choose something else, then you haven’t made a winning argument (or the outcomes of your policies have proven them failures). And we, the Christians, have to believe enough in our faith, in our religion, in our ideas, that our political motivations are to make people free to choose – and nothing more.