Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Palestine got Left Behind

First off, I would like to state that I am not anti-semetic, nor am I Palestinian. I am a simply a critical minded man trying to honor Jesus.

I am currently taking a course about the Jewish-Arab conflict in the middle east. It has covered from about 1890 through today. Most of the course has been focused on the events that have taken place in the middle east, and it has been only moderately interesting.

Today, we focused on American support for Israel. About halfway through the lecture, I found myself feeling sick to my stomach. Among many other reasons (ie. oil), perhaps the most dominating influence in American support for Zionism is ignorance.

Excuse me, let me rephrase that. Perhaps the most dominating influence in American support for Zionism is the association of the new Jewish state with American religious tradition. Many Americans Protestants see the US as God's chosen country. You can find references to the US being the New Jerusalem pretty easily in American history. In 1803, President Adams publicly showed support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Based in Old Testament ideals, we see America as our own promised land, and Americans as the new chosen people. As an extension of this, many Americans believe it is right for one chosen people to help out another chosen people. Many Americans took pride in Jews ability to reclaim the frontier, like they had done with the West. I would like to note that until very recently, I would fit right into this category.

Based mainly on my ignorance of this situation, I thought all these ideas sounded pretty great. All of that seems relatively harmless on the surface. Perhaps the most important, most "exciting", and least likely thing to be labeled as bad is the fact that Zionism is seen as fulfilling biblical prophecy. The OT speaks of Jews returning to Jerusalem and the end being ushered, the Kingdom established, and by our own Christian Tradition, Jesus returning.

Good deal, right?! Jesus coming back, the Kingdom on Earth, Hallelujah! Right?

Sort of...

A little history on Zionism. Zionism is the product of 19th century nationalist movements in Europe. Nationalism defines a nation around a certain people. Germans are people of German decent. The French are people of French decent, etc. Inherent within a Nationalist movement is a need for an "other". I am French, not blank. Many of these nationalist movements were based around the supremacy of white, protestant males. Increasingly, Jews were defined as the obligatory other (but not only Jews, but also Gypsies, peasants, etc).

As you might guess, there is something inherently evil about a nationalist movement. Defining a group of people as other, as unneeded, unwanted, or disposable is not only not "kingdom", it is the basis for genocide. Thus, the holocaust (though the leap here is rather simplified).

Increasing anti-Semitism forced Jews to seek their own national homeland. The obvious choice was Palestine. The problem? Palestinians. Through a series of what started as land purchases, then wars, the vast majority of the people Palestinian people became refugees, forced out of their homeland by war, and forced to live in extreme poverty, some still to this day.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that this entire situation is complicate and convoluted. It took an entire semester to learn all the adequate information (even then, most of it was glossed over), so to boil it all down to one blog post would be a little silly. It is not my intent to pick sides. In fact, I would like to do the exact opposite. It is easy to see (with an objective eye) that both sides have committed their fair share of atrocities, and both are certainly in the wrong on certain point. I would like to transcend sides and look at it through the eyes of Jesus.

One last historical tidbit before moving onto my point. Zionism was founded on secular, not religious, ideals. In fact, many orthodox Jews saw (and still see) Zionism as inherently heretical. The messiah was meant to lead the Jewish people back to Israel, not a secular movement.

So it was this secular Jewish movement that Protestants picked up as the fulfillment of the end times prophecies. Unfortunately, most of these Protestants take on a dispensationalist, Left Behind type view of the end times. More important than anything is to them is the fulfillment of these OT prophecies and the return of Jesus, apparently at any cost.

But does this view of the situation in Israel line up with the way Jesus views the situation? Does Jesus put his own return and the status of the Israelites higher than the Palestinian people?

I would like to propose that if there is a modern equivalent of the story of the Good Samaritan, it would probably have to be Israel and Palestine.

Did Jesus side with Israel in the story of the Good Samaritan? Does Jesus side with Palestine today?

I'd like to propose that Jesus is on all sides, especially those who are poor, widowed, orphaned, destitute (which both sides surely have plenty of). Jesus is not a nationalist, but a Kingdomist. He is all about the Kingdom, all the time. And in the Kingdom, your enemy is your neighbor and you bless those who persecute you.

So how can a movement like Zionism be the movement that brings the Kingdom of Heaven to earth? I would argue that it can't, and isn't. I would argue that it is ignorance or oversight of what the Kingdom stands for that allows for sure end times views. I would argue that Jesus doesn't pick sides, but he picks people, from both sides.

It is time that we embrace an end times world view in which Palestine isn't Left Behind, especially since Jesus doesn't leave them behind.