6.1.09

The Rabbit's Foot

Back in February of 2007, Don Miller and I wrote a tongue-in-cheek article speculating on possible Anti-Christs. While the article was co-authored, I remember Don referring to Israel as, "the country we evangelicals rub as a Biblical rabbit foot".

I'm sure he wrote that bit, because it seemed too incendiary for me. I wouldn't say I grew up a Christian Zionist, but I would say I'm glad the my country supports Israel. Through the Old and New Testaments, the idea of the Jews as God's chosen people persists. Chalk it up to bad theology, American culture, whatever...I have a harder time criticizing Israel than others.

Part of this, too, is it's difficult to imagine living in Israel. Here in the US, the idea of preemption is easy to dismiss: we have buffering borders and a vast amount of land. Israel, surrounded by the sea and enemies (and Egypt, a former enemy), does not have the same luxury.

That said, the most recent casualty reports out of Gaza claim between 500 and 555 Palestinians are dead, 2,750 wounded. At least 100 of those are women and children. Israel says it has killed 130 Hamas fighters.

9 Israelis are dead. Some of those have been from friendly fire.

Hearing these reports, my first response is still to defend Israel. Israel has a right to defend herself. What about the 10 rockets Hamas has fired into Israeli territory, including one that hit a kindergarten?

The Israeli kindergarten was empty. 9 Israelis are dead. At least 100 Palestinian civilians.

I knew, though, millions of American Christians will hear those same reports, and won't bat an eye. To them, Israel is good, and Palestinians are bad.

I may not agree anymore, but I can understand Christian Zionism. My question is: when did this mean we need to agree with everything Israel does, to support them at all costs?

11 comments:

  1. Funny, i always thought truly loving and supporting our friends meant keeping them from doing wrong. Like the buddy in a fight who is getting out of control--even for good reason--who you still need to grab by the arms and pull off of the other guy before things go too far.

    God loves Israel more than i do, and i seem to recall Him smacking them upside the head when they were unjust to the poor, the widow and the alien in their midst.

    Friends don't let friends beat the shit out of their poor neighbors, even if the neighbor started it.

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  2. I highly recommend Jimmy Carter's Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. President Carter is a good example of someone who is pro-Israel without giving them a free pass.

    Allies hold each other to the highest human rights standards.

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  3. Thank you Jordan. I was just logging on to write something about how horrified I am about what is going on.

    600 Palestinians dead and 11 Israelis?

    Disproportionate response?

    I am so incredibly saddened. We all should be.

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  5. I appreciated the brief note from Shane Claiborne in his book Jesus for President that there are more Christ followers among the Palestinians than there are among Israelis.

    I don't have my copy in front of me, so I can't cite chapter and verse, much less cite his source, but reading that was a good balancing note for me.

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  6. Jordan,

    The answer to your closing question, I think, is the rise of American Dispensationalism. If Revelation is predicting a literal war between Israel and her neighbors, and this must happen before Christians are airlifted from the Earth...then one response would be to ensure that Israel continues as a geo-political entity and that we get on the right side of the Big Battle.

    I'm not an expert on Revelation. I don't pretend to be. But I think that any theology that promote injustice should be considered suspect. I read how Jesus redefined what it means to be a part of Israel and I at least have to admit that it's possible that Revelation is not talking about a literal battle in the Middle East. I'm truly uncommitted on this matter.

    Regardless, the are so many other reason to be allies of Israel. They are a democracy. We share religious heritage. There is military and economic advantage. However, none of these things add up to the blind eye we have been turning in recent decades.

    Praying for a peaceful two-nation solution.

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  7. This is a very sad situation indeed. And I agree, nobody should get a free pass. But if we are going to call Israel's response 'disproportionate'--which I certainly agree is worth evaluating--we should look at all the numbers.....

    From 2000 to 2004, Hamas was responsible for killing nearly 400 Israelis and wounding more than 2,000 in 425 attacks, according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    From 2001 through May 2008, Hamas launched more than 3,000 Qassam rockets and 2,500 mortar attacks against Israeli targets. Hamas does not seem all that 'poor'.

    I don't have all the facts or even begin to understand the very complex history of that region. Just seemed liked some numbers were missing from your original post.

    Any way you look at it, all of the deaths, on all fronts are terribly, terribly sad.

    I too pray for a peaceful end to all of it.

    As always, thought provoking...

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  8. The point I'm hearing from you, Erika, is Hamas is just as much at fault here as the Israelis.

    And i can't disagree.

    But I don't agree with your point about missing numbers. Your stats are stretched out over four years, four years ago, and still fall short of what's happened in the last few days in Gaza. Further, we're talking about an oppressed people as opposed to the strongest military in the Middle East.

    In combat zones, mortars are a fairly common occurrence, and don't pack a lot of range. Neither do Qassam missiles...the best of which are able to travel only 10 kilometers with little or no accuracy. Between 2001 and 2008, 15 Israelis were killed by Qassam missiles.

    Not that i'd want one fired at me.

    Criticizing Israel doesn't mean supporting Hamas...I hold my country and its allies up to a higher standard.

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  9. Jordan, thanks for taking time to respond... this is a unique website--- open, accesible discussions on relevant topics-- thanks for that.

    I bring up numbers from 4 years ago because it demonstrates Hamas history of attacking and killing Israelis. This history, I would think, would factor into how and to what degree Israel would respond to the most recent conflict. I'm not arguing if their response is 'disproportionate' or not, I'm just wondering, as a Christian, what you would say is the right response.

    As a relatively new Christian, I ask myself what Christian self defense looks like? As a mother, I wonder what length I'd go to to protect my children and whether that would conflict with my faith. If someone had murdered my son and had a missle pointed at my other sons, (whether it be short or long range seems irrelevant), how do I respond, rather how would God expect me to respond? If I've asked for peace and the missles still keep coming, what then? Before I became a Christian, I could have answered that question much more quickly. What does 'loving your enemy' mean when your family is threatened? My questions obviously go way beyond the Israel-Hamas conflict.

    I ask these questions as a person who is very, very new to trying to care about the things God cares about.

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  10. Erika,

    Excellent questions.

    Answers will be hard to come by, and there are folks across the theological spectrum who would answer differently. In general, I think this site tends to land on the pacifist side, though i certainly don't speak for everyone.

    We ran an article on Christian pacifism almost two years ago, and it would be a great place to get that standpoint. I suggest the article AND the comments, which were solid.

    Thanks for commenting, Erika! I appreciate any chance to talk through this, and I apologize...I think I misread your point about "disproportionate".

    Here's the link for the article:

    Five Questions Your Pacifist Friends Are Tired of Answering

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  11. Larry, your comment biased against dispensationalists shows a general misunderstanding of Biblical theology. While it is true that dispensationalists believe in a literal earthly future for national Israel, every theological system has to work through what to do with the book of Joshua and God's commands to national Israel to drive out all the other inhabitants from the land He promised to them. In the Old Testament record, when Israel obeyed God (often by killing all of their enemies - men, women, children, and livestock) God blessed them, but when they did not, God judged them. So the problem is not primarily eschatalogical it is hermeneutical. How do we interpret God's unconditional and everlasting covenant between Himself & Abraham? Do we call the God-ordained genocide of the book of Joshua unjust? If we approach the Scriptures with a literal, historical, grammatical, literary hermeneutic, then we must wrestle with the question of when or if Israel should stop trying to obey God's command to subdue the land? These are questions that cannot be answered by shifting blame on one theological system.

    There is no question that God will judge injustice. But the question remains: is national Israel being unjust, or are they obeying God's command to drive foreigners from the land? How you answer that question will depend on how you read the Old Testament, not just how you read Revelation.

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