For the Jews, Against the Jewish State?
I write this primarily to fellow American conservative evangelical Christians who have a similarly philo-semitic bias as myself. I think I'm not just speaking for myself when I explain the following reasons for our bias.
First, we see the current Jews as descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That is, the current Jews in some sense inherit the blessings and promises that the Lord gave to these patriarchs. In particular, He declared to Abraham, "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:2-3). We understand this promise to still hold for Abraham's descendants and definitely want the Lord's blessing rather than His curse.
Secondly, we have been deeply affected by the slaughter of 6 million Jews by the National Socialists during World Massacre II. We connect this spiritually with previous attacks on the Jews, like the failed attempt by the wicked Haman to massacre the Jews in the Persian Empire recorded in the book of Esther and regularly commemorated to this day on Purim. Because the Jews are "the apple of His eye" (Zechariah 2:8) they are a special target of the Lord's enemy, Satan. Though we remember and honor the many Christians who hid and otherwise defended Jews at that time (like Corrie ten Boom), we are haunted by the thought that Christians might have done more and determined to never turn a blind eye while Jews are mercilessly slaughtered again.
Thirdly, (and this only applies to some of us, mostly those who hold a pre-millenial eschatology), we see the re-constitution of Israel as a glorious fulfillment of biblical prophecy. We feel a special kinship with Israel as the very land and people that produced our Lord Jesus to be a "light for the Gentiles, that [he] may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." (Isaiah 49:6) As my father has controversially put on billboards around Saint Louis, "Christianity is the most successful Jewish movement in history." We see the Jewish nation as still having a spiritual destiny to, among other things, eventually "look on me [the Messiah], the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son."
What I would like to argue, though, is that many of us have gone from these admirable motivations to a mistaken conclusion: that to support the Jewish people, we must back the Israeli government come hell or high water. There are a number of reasons that this leap is not warranted, no matter how many neo-conservatives say it is. I'll mention a few.
First, the people and the government ruling over them are not the same thing! Call me paranoid, but it sure seems like the government often acts against the interests of the people it rules. I think most of us have an easier time seeing this in our own country. If we hear someone opposing actions of the US government, we do not automatically assume that they are "anti-American." In fact, it is quite common among my conservative evangelical brethren to be deeply suspicious of the government's schools, it's push for a "culture of death," and it's generally anti-religious stance. Why just the other day our own Dr. Dobson strongly suggested that Christians in California should pull their children out of the government schools. Whether individual Christians agree with Dr. Dobson's recommendation or not, I doubt they would say he was motivated by anti-Americanism. Rather, it is understood that he is deeply concerned for American Christians and is warning them of a danger from the government to their efforts to raise their children "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."
Just as we can distinguish between support of the American people and support for the US government and its policies, so we must also learn to distinguish between support for the Israeli people and support for the Israeli government. Perhaps you believe that the current Israeli government is doing the exactly best thing for the Israeli people. But at least grant me this point, that it is imaginable that the Israeli government could do things that are not in the interests of the Israeli people, that are in fact diametrically opposed to the interests of the Israeli people.
Secondly, if you find yourself enraged by criticisms of the Israeli government, let me remind you of some other people who have criticized the Israeli government in the past: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah, Elisha, ...you get the idea. No one who takes the Bible seriously can say that the special status of the Lord's chosen people exempts a Jewish government from criticism, even very harsh criticism. What if, when we support Ariel Sharon or another Israeli administration, we are not supporting an Israeli leader like David or Solomon, but one more like the rule of Ahab and Jezebel?
Thirdly, let us recognize what the Israeli government is... Not what we hope and believe it to be someday, but what it is right now. It is an avowedly secular, and generally socialist state. It just might possibly be that such a government would do things of which we would not approve and would certainly not want to be seen as endorsing. Could the well known sympathy of American evangelical Christians for the Israeli state be compromising our witness? We must be very careful what we are endorsing, especially when politicians are involved.
Finally, I would point out that biblical Israel was repeatedly told not to ally itself with the big boy on the block of the time (e.g. Egypt). The Lord told the Jewish people then to rely on Him and His protection rather than on fickle human allies. The US government is an unreliable and clumsy ally for Israel, that may very well be enabling the Israeli government to do wicked things that will only bring endless tsuris (trouble, aggravation) for the Israeli people.
Beware of the neo-conservatives. They do not share our concerns, which are to act in harmony with the whole testimony of the scriptures and to always stand against evil deeds no matter who does them... Be they Kings, Emperors, US Presidents or Israeli Prime Ministers. Let us be "wise as serpents and gentle as doves" as we "pray for the peace of Jerusalem."
April 13, 2002
Stephen W. Carson [send him mail] works as a software engineer, studies Political Economy at the graduate level at Washington University and works with inner city children in St. Louis through a ministry of his church. See his reviews of Films on Liberty.
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