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

Posts tagged ‘Evangelical Christianity’

I don’t get it

It will be obvious to my many readers, (or ‘my reader’), that there are many things I don’t understand. For instance, ‘eschatology’; lots of Christians today seem to think it’s a recent invention. “Hey Folks, Look Out, we’re in the Last Days; didn’t see that coming did you?”

But the NT writers  know about eschatology, including Paul if his answer to the Thessalonian Christians is anything to go by. But it’s also there in the gospels, “be ready” (Matt 25). So, then, if Paul wanted us to be ready for ‘the End Times’; and there’s lots of evidence he expected it soon; why don’t we hear him saying to the Jews, “hurry up and get back to Israel so Jesus can come back”. If the NT record is anything to go by the idea never crossed his mind. “Jesus is the Messiah, follow him”, time and again, but never, “haste ye back to Jerusalem”.

If having Jews back in the land of the holy one was that important we’d expect to see a mention of it in the writings of the Christian New Testament. But there’s not even a whisper of a hint. Get it?

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Zion’s treasure

The State of Israel, based on the ideology of Zionism, has made ‘security’ its treasure. Based on militarism, the ‘glue’ that holds together the structure of the state and community, Israel sells peace through power. It is a phantom. Peace based on CCTV, on teargas, on overwhelming force is no peace; no people constantly subjected will remain so for ever. If/when they react, it solves nothing to call them ‘terrorist’.

And we may not use the Word of God as justification. The modern state of Israel has nothing to do with Israel in the Bible. Believing so does not just ignore Jesus, what He said and did, it ignores the Hebrew Bible. This is what Isaiah said:

‘The Lord is exalted, he dwells on high; he filled Zion with justice and righteousness; he will be the stablity of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.

‘Listen! the valient cry in the streets; the envoys of peace weep bitterly. The highways are  deserted, travellers have quit the road. The treaty is broken, its oaths are despised, its obligation is disregarded … ‘ (Isa 33)

There is no fear of the Lord among Israel’s leaders and never has been.There is no righteousness, no justice, no stability and no wisdom.  Israel is Jewry without Judaism, Samaria without Jerusalem. If we have any love for Jewish people we will call out Zionist Israel; and we will call out our leaders who – out of 19th century Militaristic Romanticism – defend Israel as if it were especially blessed by God. Israel is a self-created nation that disregards its obligations; a people whose ‘breath is a fire that will consume you’.

There is little point in praying for the ‘peace of Jerusalem’ while putting fire in the hands of those who oppress the poor, the weak, the helpless; especially those living in the land of the holy one.

Evangelicals lacking courage

Fear of being called ‘antisemitic’, of being thought divisive, of losing influence or income? Are these some of the reasons few evangelical charismatic church leaders have had the courage to engage with Christian Zionism. (Odd, when we engage easily enough with the LGBT issue). Palestine has too easily been dismissed as a local difficulty with complicated history involving disputed texts and of little relevance to ‘our ministry and mission’. I have heard from ministers, “there’s no interest among my congregation” – as if that should be a defining factor – when I know people in their congregations who are interested.

Not relevant. When ‘extremist terrorism’ arrives on our doorstep and we demand instant explanations from politicians, the easy answer is, it’s a different religion or culture. It isn’t necessarily meant arrogantly, but that is what it is. Is religion in UK or USA or Germany or Denmark, one-dimensional?  “Those terrorists hate us”; a statement that ought logically to be followed by the question, “why?” and some attempt at rational analysis, is left hanging, as if it helps solve the problem.Obviously it doesn’t; and the logic is not actually that difficult, as long as we are prepared to look candidly at our history.

Cultures and religions have coexisted in relative peace and calm for centuries in many parts of the  world. Not that it has always been peaceful and calm, we know life is more comlicated. But, if people hate us —  and surprisingly few do — from where does the hate come? Extremism is not something cultured in a petrie dish that unhappily escaped due to some laxity in Frankenstein’s laboratory. It has a background, a history. People do not, usually, put themselves in harms way without good reason. In the last 100 years Britain and America sent hundreds of thousands of young men to fight, and many to die, motivated by a desire to defend their homes and a hope for freedom. It is lazy and arrogant thinking to assume that terrorism is fuelled by motives less powerful, even less pure, than our own.

Our Evangelical and Charismatic failure to attend to both history and theology in dealing with Christian Zionism; sometimes in a misguided attempt to avoid involvement in politics, (as if ); is the more sad from the perspective of our kingdom mission imperative because of the immense damage Zionism and its so-called ‘Christian’ parter has done and is doing to God’s world and God’s gospel.

Lord Have Mercy.

Balfour – a call to repent

100 years ago this coming November British Evangelical Christians helped to promote what would become one of the worst, but least recognised injustices in our imperial history. With the arrogance of power the leading statesmen of Britain allowed themselves to be seduced and pressured into agreeing that Palestine and the Palestinians would become subject to the desire of Zionist Jewry. Chaim Weizmann’s political pressure on those statesmen and the consequent letter from Robert Balfour to Lord Rothschild on 3rd November 1917 created the present catastrophe that is the Middle East. Aided by a little-known and recent theological invention, Jewish desires for safety and security – mainly aimed at the ‘new world’ of America – were diverted to the Zionist dream of a secular, socialist utopian nation state: for Jews.

No doubt that first paragraph will produce cries of ‘antisemitism’, but aside from those simpler attempts to limit freedom of analysis there will be some who say that the situation in the ME today cannot be blamed on Israel. Were that criticism to be qualified by the word ‘only’ I’d agree; but Israel, in the guise of Zionism, is where it began. Might Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia etc. be in a similar mess had Israel never come into existence? Possibly, but that kind of speculation solves nothing; we are where we are because of where we have come from.

Israel today bears significant responsibility for the divisions and violence in the region, and those Jews who have chosen to remain outside Israel but who offer political and economic shelter are equally culpable. Neither may we absolve Arab leaders who have consistently failed their people.

But it is evangelical Christianity that must stand in the dock, in the spotlight, under judgement. We have given credence to a theology cobbled together from ‘proof texts’ that ignores great chunks of the Bible and lent credibility to supposedly biblical claims that secular Zionism has manipulated for its colonialist agenda. Is there an  evangelical theologian who is willing to justify a ‘coming’ of Jesus before his ‘second coming’, (logically making it a third coming)? Is there an evangelical preacher who is prepared to support the creation of an oppressive nation state rather than living and preaching the kingdom of God? Sadly, the answer to that second question is ‘yes’.

Some people are saying our government (UK) should apologise for the Balfour Declaration. I understand, but I don’t agree. An apology would change nothing, it would be meaningless. What is needed, from church leaders, Christians, and the governments of UK and USA is repentance. We must ‘change direction’ – the meaning of the Greek word. The church is called to preach, teach and live the kingdom message of righteousness, justice and peace; just as were Abraham and Jacob. That requires us to cease unquestioning support for Israel, (as well as other unjust regimes in the region such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan etc.) and to apply pressure to all parties to work together with people of goodwill in their communities to bring about the changes essential for peace. The sequence – righteousness – justice – peace, is correct, it can be no other way.

American democracy

Just a couple of questions: The ‘West’ got involved in Syria because we wanted to get rid of Assad because his regime was undemocratic. Why, when regime change in Iraq has had such a disastrous effect (unless, of course, you make and sell killing equipment)?

We made similar claims for Iraq, removing the vicious dictator Saddam Hussein, despite protecting him for years and supplying him with weapons of mass destruction against Iran.

So perhaps the next question shouldn’t be “Why?”, but, “When are we going to invade Saudi Arabia?”  Let’s do some basic comparisons.

Syria – autocratic regime, but with some beginnings of democracy. Saudi Arabia – Monarchic rule based on Wahabi-Sunni ideology

Syria – protection of minorities.  Saudi Arabia – Shia persecuted. Christianity not allowed.

Syria – women have role as in modern Western society.  Saudi Arabia – women subordinate to men.

Final question (but wait for next post….)  who benefits from the chaos in Syria (apart from those who invest in killing)

 

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