Sadat on enterprise and sacrifice

All his life, Anwar Sadat, the Arab leader who sought to make peace with Israel, was willing to buck the tide of prevailing opinions among his allies.
In his autobiography, he recalls economic conditions in Egypt in 1961, nine years before he became President. Mr. Sadat writes, on page 213 of In Search of Identity:

“In 1961 the nationalization measures were taken and an economic takeoff could have taken place, based on the public sector as well as a healthily promoted private sector; we could have proceeded to vast economic achievements.
“However, our socialism began to be singed in practice with Marxism.  Any free enterprise system came to be regarded as odious capitalism and the private sector as synonymous with exploitation and robbery.  Individual effort came to a standstill, and from this stemmed the terrible passivity of the people that I still suffer from to this day.
“A point was reached where the state was expected not only to undertake economic planning (apart from running foreign and domestic policies), but actually to provide eggs and chickens and dozens of other things that individual free enterprise could and should have easily provided. As a result, and according to that “new” theory, the people came to rely on the state in everything. They expected the state to provide them with food, work, housing, and education.  Indeed, having professed to be socialist, the state was expected to provide citizens with everything they needed without their having to make any positive effort at all. It was that shinking back from active individual enterprise that marked the beginning of our abysmal economic collapase.”

That’s what the man wrote about individual free enterprise. I think it is still timely advice. But I’d like to bring to your attention another matter of importance that Sadat brought into the discourses of men before he was assassinated in 1981.

A few years before his death, this President of Egypt stood boldly before the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem, and proclaimed a desire to work toward a peace with justice. He was the first Arab to do so.  On November 20, 1977, he spoke a message of hard truth balanced with hopeful intent to the legislators of Israel. Anwar issued a bold challenge that day–not only to the Israelis, but also to his fellow Arabs, and also to the whole world–as if such lofty words of peace can be uttered among men in the annals of power. Peacemaker that he sought to be, Sadat spoke these words as an historical– and even (dare I say it between Muslims, Jews, and Christians)– theological foundation for his appeal. He said:

“It is so fated that my trip to you, which is a journey of peace, coincided with the Islamic feast, the holy Feast of the Sacrifice when Abraham–peace be upon him–forefather of the Arabs and Jews, submitted to God, and, not out of weakness but through a giant spiritual force and by free will, sacrificed his very own son, thus personifying a firm and unshakable belief in ideals that have had for mankind a profound significance.”

What’s significant here is Sadat’s use of the words “sacrificed his very own son,” in reference to the patriarch of monotheistic religion, Abraham. This is curiously instructive.

I gather that Muslims believe that Abraham actually sacrificed his son (whom they call Ishmael) that day, whereas Jews believe (according to Torah) that God spared Abe’s son (Isaac) that day by providing a lamb as propitiation.

Meanwhile, we Christians believe that those words “sacrificed his very own son,” apply to God himself, as God sent Jesus, through the historical tradition of Abraham, to be our unblemished sacrificial lamb, offered as atonement for the sins of us all, individually and collectively.

Put that in your hookah and smoke it. We shall see, when the kingdom of God is manifest, how all this plays out.

CR, with new novel on the way, Smoke


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