Friday, January 9, 2009

A Theology of Gaza

How do we approach the current conflict between Israel and Gaza in light of what scripture says? As I have already mentioned in my previous post, I grew up being fervently pro-Israel. This sentiment was based in part on a particular theology that saw the birth of the modern nation state of Israel as being a fulfillment of prophecy, thus necessitating Christians' and Americas' unqualified support. I also leaned towards Israel in part because of personal affection for many Jewish friends as well as my own reaction against anti-Semitic beliefs held by some in my family. I still wince when I hear antisemitic terms or ideas used in casual conversation, just as much as I do when I hear casual racism as well. Thankfully, my mother was very good in reminding me that Jesus is Jewish and that all of his followers were too. That shaped and continues to shape my understanding of my faith.

However, as regards my understanding of what scripture says concerning who God "blesses" and why, I have sharply changed my own understanding concerning America and Israel. The underlying assumption behind many Christians, especially American Christians, is that God has established a "special" relationship with America, because of its being a "Christian" nation. And likewise God has miraculously brought about the rebirth of Israel. This dual belief sees America's well-being as being contingent to its relationship with modern Israel. The assumption is that modern Israel is coterminus with ancient Israel, and that both are to be allied with if anyone would hope to be "blessed" by God.

But what if these assumptions concerning Israel, both modern and ancient, and America as a "Christian" nation, are wrong? As might be expected by what I've already written, I do believe they are wrong. The basis for my rejection of these views comes from key scriptural passages that speak directly to who God says are his people. In the Old Testament God clearly worked through the tribal framework of the Israelites. Although even then the text makes clear that God worked salvifically through non-Israelites as well. But we see much more clearly in the New Testament that Christ Jesus is the center-point of all history. All of the Old Testament promises point forwards to Christ. All of the New Testament (and subsequent history) points back to Christ. He is the lens through which all of history must be seen. Nationality, race, class, sex, and any separating distinction, are all relegated to unimportance in light of our identity in Christ.

How does this relate directly to the events in Gaza? If Christ is the center of all of history, and all identities are driven by their relationship to him, then that defines the modern state of Israel as well as Gaza. It also defines America in the same way. Scripture declares that God will bless the "seed of Abraham" and he will bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him. Contrary to many Christians who believe that this scripture refers to the modern nation state of Israel, scripture unambiguously states that the "seed" spoken of is none other than Christ himself and no one else. That then means that Israel, America, Palestine, Gaza, etc., are to be seen as normal nations judged in their relationship to Christ. In that light, they all fall under the judgment of being unrighteous because of their unbelief in Christ. Therefore, the only "covenanted" nation is the church. And the church is made up of "every nation, tribe, and tongue."

This means that Israel's invasion of Gaza and indescriminate bombing is to judged by normal international law. Likewise, Hamas is to be treated according to their words and actions as well. In other words, we should look at the whole of the picture, complicated as it is, and judge according to the reason God has given us all.

They all have blood on their hands. But so do we.

1 comment:

ananas said...
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