Recovering Evangelicalism – Seeking a Justice-based peace in the Middle East –

1984, and counting…

‘We increasingly inhabit a time and place in Western history when humility is perceived to be a sign of weakness; when meekness is taken for a vice, not a virtue; when puff is more important than substance; when leadership, even in church, frequently has more to do with politics, pizzaz, and showmanship, or with structure and hierarchy, than with spiritual maturity and conformity to Jesus Christ; when the budget is thought to be a more important indicator of eccesiastical success than prayerfulness; and when loose talk of spiritual experience wins an instant following, even when that talk is mingled with a scarcely concealed haughtiness  that has learned neither humility nor tears.’

How I wish that I had written that;  it is the first paragraph from chapter 1 of Don Carson’s ‘From Triumph to Maturity’  published in 1984 (IVP); and it could not be more relevant today!

The two-year old child in his mothers arms sees his grandfather abused, insulted and beaten by a young man. Does he understand the uniform, the helmet, the weapon? What does he think? He’s too young surely to think!  He sees – he sees each day his father too tired, too dejected, defeated, old before his time. He goes with his mother to a gate in a wall and she argues and pleads but is turned away. How can he know that she only wanted to attend her grandmothers funeral: five miles away in her own land.

The child is six years old – following his older brother and friends. They are throwing stones at a  wall: he doesn’t understand. The wall he knows, he sees it when he looks from the window of his bedroom. He has never been beyond the wall but he has seen hills and houses, and he’s heard his grandfather speak of “my old olives, just over there”, as if they were a lost, first love.

His brother is shouting and he comes back from his dreaming to see a hole appearing in the wall. A large steel door slides back and through it advance young men armed with what he has learned are guns; they are marching each side of a large truck with very small windows. There is another shout, and clouds of white smoke appear just in front of him. He begins to cough, to choke – he can hardly breathe and his eyes are stinging.

An older boy grabs him, wraps a scarf round his face hefts him onto his shoulder and carries him away down a side street. What does he think?

He is twelve. He is a stone-throwing youth. Does he think, or does he remember. His grandfather’s olive trees that he has never seen, his father’s tired look and bruised face, his mother who looks so old, and his brother, missing now for months.

They came for him in the midde of the night. Smashed the door and dragged everyone, women, children and men, out of bed. And his brother, Adam, they took, no-one will say where or why. His mother has been asking – and is told “it’s ‘administrative detention'”; and when she asks “why” is told, “there doesn’t have to be a ‘why'”.

Two-years old become twelve-years old doesn’t need to think. He remembers: has been taught and has learned well. If those you love, your family, your friends, are oppressed, insulted, beaten, imprisoned without justice, abused, persecuted, assaulted, can it be a surprise that you hate the perpetrator?  And, if you are told that this is all in the name of God, who loves and supports your oppressor and persecutor, will you not likely seek another God? Yet the real surprise is that there is less hate and more understanding from the oppressed than we might suppose.  It is the oppressors who sustain themselves by hate and fear.

This is Palestine: this is Israel: this is Zionism: this is blasphemy! And the Christian response should not be collusion with the lies of Zionism, as did the people of Judah in the time of Jeremiah. The Church was in error in persecuting Jews in the past. We do not redeem that error in the present by being complicit in Zionist persecution of Palestinians in the name of Judaism.

Posting without further comment from Jonathan Cook’s blog

Jonathan is a respected journalist – rare these days.

A very Dodgy Dossier

What is it about British and American parliamentarians, and Israel?

I’ve come to the conclusion that, with some notable exceptions, they’re scared stiff and playing safe. Even those who aren’t entirely sure whether God exists seem to have opted for the ‘insurance’ of keeping on God’s side and not offending ‘God’s people’.  It’s the safe side: if God exists then being nice to his folk registers on the plus side of your account.

It’s all because of the dodgy dossier; no not that one, this is a much earlier one, and I don’t mean the Bible! Any sensible Christian, indeed, many sensible Jews, must conclude that being God’s people wasn’t primarily to do with ethnicity but with behaviour. (Not, please note my evangelical friends, that our behaviour saves us: it doesn’t. But our behaviour reflects, albiet in a glass darkly, what we believe. Shouldn’t it?).

The dodgy dossier runs like this: “the Jews are God’s chosen people, God made them a promise and now he’s keeping it, don’t get in His way”. Alongside this is the claim, “it was our land 2000 – 2500 years ago, we were kicked out, we’re entitled to go back”.

What is remarkable about these claims is that anyone should take them seriously, especially as a justification, following a half century of industrial killing, for the dispossesion, ethnic cleansing, persecution and oppression of another people. A people, we should note, who themselves have claim to have been on that land for 2000 years and more.

Starting with the last claim; why should this people group be granted a ‘right of return’ that is not available to e.g. Aborigines, American Indians, Celts, Palestinians, etc.? But, further, there is a) no evidence to support the claim of ‘being kicked out’ , it didn’t happen, and  b) no evidence for this people group’s presence in Palestine 2000 – 2500 years ago as possessors. It’s questionable they were there as occupiers.  Which takes us to the Bible.

Here the issue is also quite straightforward. The covenant between God and Abraham-Jacob/Israel was demonstrably conditional. Israel, the 12-tribe collective, broke covenant and, as promised, were expelled from the land, (on which a great deal more could be said). The prophetic promise of return was evidently conditional – it was in peace and upon penitence and dependence on God and God’s Messiah, (not much evidence of that in the ‘do-it-yourself’ Zionist programme!).  The old, broken, covenant would be transformed by the New Covenant of the heart.

The Christian faith is that Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, has sealed the New Covenant in his blood. Those who have the faith of Abraham, whether of Hebrew descent or not, put their trust in Jesus Messiah as people of God, a continous and direct line of a believing remnant in every generation from Abraham to today.

If, by the way, you sincerely wish to ‘bless Israel’, and you should, pray that God’s people will act like God’s people following the example of Jesus. And if you wish to bless the State of Israel (along with USA, UK, France, Germany, Turkey, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia etc. ) and you should, you’ll do that best by speaking truth, which is what our politicians ought to be doing, even if it upsets the zionists.

So, please tell your MP or Congressman/Senator to get their facts straight and to do justice and act mercifully. If they wish to serve God’s people Zionism is the opposite, the wrong direction. And bringing peace in Palestine is very likely to mitigate the Middle Eastern irritation with European (which includes USA) imperialism!

Blessing Israel

In the reaction to Kerry, Trump and May, and following the UN resolution concerning Israel, Christians have once again been urged to ‘Bless Israel’. For ‘evangelical’ Christians this is a command – based on Genesis 12 verse 3 – and the consequence if we don’t is, we are cursed, “the one who curses you I will curse”. This verse, spoken to Abram alone and not repeated to any other patriarch, is often partnered with Numbers 24 where verse 9 reads, “Blessed is everyone who blesses you and cursed is everyone who curses you”So that’s it then, isn’t it?  Well, No it isn’t.

First to say, just supposing that the modern state of Israel has any relationship to historical/biblical Israel, is that we don’t ‘bless’ either people or institutions by urging them to wrongdoing. How does it bless Israel, the modern state (SoI), for them to persist in racist stereotyping of Arabs? If I were to do that of Jews I’d (rightly) be in serious trouble. How does it bless the SoI for it to be in a perpetual state of fear regarding their neighbours?

But if common sense isn’t persuasive let’s return to God’s Word, for theses aren’t the only or last words on the matter. For literalists there can be no justification for extending words spoken to Abram as if they were spoken also regarding Jacob, for, if so, why not Ishmael, why not Esau, whom God also blessed as descendents of Abraham? Then the Numbers verse becomes crucial, but even in our translations the referent is, at least, ambiguous. Clearly it seems intended to refer back to Genesis 12:3, but read simply, where Israel/Jacob is clearly the referent in verses 5 to 7, in verse 8 it is God, and there seems no good reason for assuming that changes at verse 9.

But we are not left with ambiguity because, if Numbers 24 is part of Israel’s story that story continues and, if we are prepared to read our Bibles carefully, we see that both blessings and curses are set before Israel (Deuteronomy- do your own research!). Get to the prophets and we see the consequences of wrong choice. Of course we don’t even have to get as far as the prophets to find morethan a hint of what is to come. At the dedication of the temple Solomon claims, “you … have kept for your servant, my father David, what you promised him. Indeed you promised with your mouth and this day have fulfilled with your hand” qualified with the caveat “if only your children keep to their way, to walk in my law …”. As we know,they didn’t, except for the remant chosen by grace. (1 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Romans).

The final blessing for Israel was the Israelite from Nazareth, the builder and teacher, Jesus. If we who call ourselves ‘evangelical Christian’ wish to bless Jews we do it better by loving them as did Jesus and trying to make them jealous rather than angry and contemptuous. If we wish to bless Zionists, and we should, we do that better by pointing out that they are far astray from their (supposedly) Judaic inheritance, and showing them the inconsistencies within their arguments and claims. And, if we want to bless the SoI, and we should because those who live there and in the region are also made in the image of ‘the One’, we do that best by helping them see that they are heading for a dreadful disaster.

And, if there are still evangelicals who want to ‘bring it on’ thinking they are helping on God’s plan, two things. First, God doesn’t need or want that kind of help. He’s given us a commission and it doesn’t involve destruction (Rev 11:18). And second, yes we are in the ‘end days’, have been for nearly 2000 years, so let’s work for the kingdom. The ‘tribulation’ will not come, it has already been, 1900 years ago, and continues a truth for many Christians in the world today, persecuted by nations who are our political allies(!). And, there will be no ‘rapture’ – a complete misreading of a text about a different subject. When Jesus returns, he will do so just once, and then the judgement. Christians excused suffering? Since when, since Matthew chapter 5?

I shall continue to bless the SoI by doing my little best to hold her accountable for her sins, and I’ll continue to do the same for my own land and for others as far as I am able. And I shall continue try my best to bless Israel of the new covenant and to be a blessing in God’s good creation.

Anti-Semitism ill-defined

I recently posted on the question whether Zionism and Judaism were the same: they aren’t see Is Zionism Judaism.

We now hear that the UK government (speech by Theresa May to the Conservative Friends of Israel) is to introduce an official definition of anti-Semitism. Sounds like a good idea? So it would be, except this definition goes beyond defining and into describing, and the problem there is what’s described. Here’s the ‘working definition’:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Why not – we may ask – a simple statement such as ” antisemitism is hatred of Jews however expressed because they are Jewish”? Or to re-phrase or paraphrase an earlier post of mine:  “antisemitism is hatred of Jews because they are Jews;  Islamophobia is hatred of Muslims simply because they are Muslim and … Hatred …  of a person because of (their)  race, culture, creed, is quite simply, stupid. Criticism of people (of whatever race, creed or culture) because of what they believe or what they do is a totally other matter.” see https://dave1meec.wordpress.com/2016/10/17/flying-saucers-antisemitisim-the-labour-party/

The ‘working definition’ comes from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) who provide this press release,  which provides ‘examples’ as to how to apply the definition. So, for bullet 2,  pointing out that published media in US and UK is substantially  owned by Jews (which is accurate), is antisemitism.  Bullet 3 states ‘Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.’, which sounds OK until we speak about ‘real wrongdoing’ committed by a Jewish group, the Israeli government, who claim to speak on behalf of all Jews worldwide. By this definition the repeated bleats of UK & US governments that ‘settlement building is an obstacle to peace’ may now be construed as ‘antisemitism’. Dear Theresa, is this another issue you haven’t thought through?

point 6 is ‘Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.’ But what if it is true? Are there certain truths we cannot tell because they are ‘antisemitic’? Will we arrive at the stage where we cannot criticize Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, not to mention ‘toryism’ or socialism….?

And point 7, ‘Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.’ which seems to my simple mind to be an exercise in extreme intellectual acrobatics. It is a matter of historical (and logical) record that the State of Israel is based on ethnic, therefore racial and racist, claims. Also historically,  the Jewish right to self-determination was delivered by denying that right to the indigenous people, the Palestinians.  Racism is alive and well in Israel, as many Jews are at pains to point out.

Freedom of speech is under attack, but as much to the point, truth is under threat. I shall continue to speak out and I pray that people of good conscience, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Christian, humanist and other will do the same.

 

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