Pro-Israel is the Christian Stance?
(You know it’s going to be an interesting post when it’s preceded by a lot of disclaimers)
I’m definitely not sided with one political party or another this election; I’m actually feeling somewhat hopelessly gridlocked about it and can’t decide whether to vote. All that to say, this post is not intended to sway you towards or away from a particular political party. I just sense that the Church at large is not saying some things about Israel that desperately need to be discussed when it comes up in politics.
Also, I am not a political thinker. At all. I don’t understand the intricate workings of foreign policy and all its effects. I am a theological thinker; rather than thinking about how anything affects America, I think about whether things affect the Kingdom of God and to what extent. I try to bring these issues to Scripture and make sense of them through that filter. So if you want to argue politics, you’d be better off doing it elsewhere. I come to the fight weaponless. It’s the old Christian question of my 90′s bracelet here: WWJD?
I also am not claiming to have this very complicated situation all figured out. Writing it out helps me, so in a way, here I am, processing in front of you. In other words, converse with me, don’t crucify me.
I was never confronted with any of this until college, where I read a book called Whose Land, Whose Promise? by Gary M. Burge (highly recommend!), and where I was also introduced to end-times theology other than dispensationalism (you’ve been introduced to it if you’ve read the Left Behind series or have tries to figure out the chronology of end-times events after a pre-tribulational rapture of all the Christians). (I waffle between amillenialism and historic premillenialism, for the five of you wondering.) So if you’ve never heard of any of this, I hope it can be a help to stimulate deeper thinking on this issue.
Disclaimers over. Can you tell I’m a little terrified to publish this?
One candidate wants to strengthen ties with Israel; one does not. Thus ends my knowledge of the political agendas concerning Israel. (I told you: not a political thinker)
My concern is the reaction of the Church, and particularly in the popular thought that support of Israel is 100% biblical, no room for debate. God supports Israel, and America is doomed if she opposes Israel. So vote Romney.
Some food for thought, offered in humility:
1) Israel is an apartheid nation. This means that their national policies discriminate against another race solely because they are not of Jewish descent. Israel came in, kicked Palestinians off their rightfully-owned land, and landed millions of Arabs in refugee camps, land deeds still in hand. Israel routinely denies Palestinians water rights, makes false arrests, harrasses Palestinians. Christians should be against any kind of systematic oppression. This kind of racial hatred is what caused the Holocaust, and it’s ironic that we would support Jews in this apartheid to back up our theological systems (namely, dispensationalism).
2) Israel lost the Land. God continually warned Israel that if she sinned and broke the Mosaic Covenant, she would lose the Promised Land. Judges is a sickening book that chronicles the downward cycle of Israel’s disobedience and God’s longsuffering. God forgives them again and again, and their sin gets to the point that the last few chapters of Judges are pretty grostesque to read. Finally, God used other nations to judge Israel. The Assyrians carried Judah off to exile, taking them out of the Land. Finally, the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem and took over. Between the Old and New Testament, the Roman Empire swept through and claimed the Land. God promises redemption, but it isn’t what they expect: it’s the Suffering Servant rather than the political Messiah they expected.
3) Israel was meant to be a light to the nations, not the end-all Chosen People. Abraham’s lineage was blessed so that they would be a blessing to all nations – ultimately fulfilled in Christ. Much of the Law given to Israel was concerned with justice, treatment of foreigners, widows, and orphans – all of which were the weakest in that society. Ruth was a Moabitess who benefited from these laws: she was a foreigner and a widow, and Boaz allowed her to go behind his harvesters and gather barley they left behind, and then submitted to levirite marriage laws (marrying your relative’s widow) as her kinsman redeemer. As the Old Testament closes, the prophets rail against Israel’s injustice towards the weak, the poor, the oppressed. It matters how God’s people act because they reflect the One they worship. How can God bless Israel when they systematically oppress Palestinians over land? Will He not judge them for the very same things He judged their ancestors for in the Old Testament?
I’m not a dispensationalist, but I absolutely don’t mean to say that if you hold to this theology, you aren’t thinking well or you’re a heartless person. The professor who first introduced the plight of the Palestinians to me is a dispensationalist, and I deeply respect him as a scholar and a Christian man. But if you do hold to it, you need to think very carefully about these issues. Can God’s will for Israel still be accomplished if we were to cry out for justice for Palestinians? Isn’t this the kind of people God calls us to be?
4) Jesus intentionally sidestepped questions about Israel regaining power or the land. Before His ascension, the disciples asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restorethe kingdom to Israel?” In other words, “Can we have our land back from the Roman oppressors?” What does Jesus answer them? “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Mind if I paraphrase? “Nunna yo’ beeswax. Be witnesses to all the earth.” It would seem Jesus is less interested about getting a particular racial group back into power in a land, and more interested in all nations knowing Him. Can we get on board with that?
5) Palestinians are people that Christ loves and cares for. There is a small but strong Palestinian Church, did you know? They are our brothers and sisters and we have an obligation to care for them. They are persecuted. They are weary. They believe their American brothers and sisters have forgotten them. The majority Muslim population of Palestinian Arabs desperately needs to hear the Gospel, and our support of Israel is a huge stumbling block for them. How can we say Jesus loves them but wants this injustice for them? Right. We can’t. The Jews need Christ. Paul never said, “Hey, they’re Jews, they’re okay!” No! He wept for his people. He prayed desperately for them to know Christ. Are we more concerned about getting on Israel’s side politically, rather than having them worship Jesus the Messiah?
6) Are you concerned about terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah? Do you know that they provide for the people food, protection, water, housing – basic things that Israel is denying to the Palestinians. If you want to cripple terrorism, you have to cripple the support for terrorism. And it’s hard to not support the only people who seem to care that your child gets something to eat today.
I’m not pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. Both have committed horrible atrocities in this never-ending war. My concern is that I have yet to hear anyone from the Church speak about why perhaps God isn’t on Israel’s side.
I want to hear the Church preach…
…that our God of justice is against horrific injustice.
…that our God created all people and hates racism of any kind because it’s spitting in His face as Creator.
…that our God desperately seeks the hearts of all Muslims to come to Isa al-Masih (Jesus the Messiah), to be known as their Father, to make them clean in ways their wudu (purifications) can never do.
…that our God is a God of peace and reconciliation and wants to break down the hatred and barriers between Palestinians and Israelis for good.
…that we don’t contend for a land that actually belongs to God, not men. That Jesus promises us far better things than a patch of real estate, for more people than just the Jews. We look forward to the New Jerusalem, to the New Heaven and New Earth, where people representing all tribes, tongues and nations will worship our Jesus.
Perhaps you will still vote Romney because he has a better economic policy, or because he is anti-abortion, or because you like his ideas for healthcare better. Maybe you’re just sick of Obama. I’m no economist and I get confused just reading a health insurance policy. But please, don’t just vote Romney because you believe God wants you to support Israel 100%. Because I’m not sure that’s really true.
(Rude comments will be deleted; free speech doesn’t apply here. If you want to talk freedom, you have been freed from sin, so let’s not give it a place to grab hold of your heart when the Holy Spirit has given you power to speak in love and respect.)