The violence in the Gaza strip is appalling; the nightmarish cost of civilian life and seemingly endless onslaught of the Israeli war machine is merely symptomatic of centuries, perhaps millenniums, of hate, retribution, and jealousy. To say that there is some sort of overnight solution (short of the return of Jesus), is to not understand the deeply spiritual nature of this conflict and what it represents on the stage of human and divine history.
So, this blog post is not a proposed solution to a crisis that has been occurring since Sarai made the fateful choice of telling her husband to sleep with her maid, Hagar, in her stead. What I am hoping to convey, and hopefully correct, is our flawed theological and eschatological biases that are allowing the systematic destruction of nearly a hundred civilians a day; a number that was over 700 the last I checked.
This could have easily been a paper, the subject is a very studied and fought over one, with the casualties often being the dissected Jewish people in the hands Christian theologians. It is especially Dispensationalist theology (a special breed of the eschatological view called “pre-millennialism” ), that is directly responsible for the over-zealous correction of the latent anti-Semitism often found among the A-millennial (another eschatological view that denies a literal 1000 year reign millenium under Christ as supposedly described in Revelation and other canonical apocalyptic works) theologians who have little use for Israel since it is supposedly engrafted with Gentiles into a new people of God (Spiritual Israel or the spiritual children of Abraham). When the Jewish state was formed in Palestine, many Dispensationalists took it as a doorway to future biblical prophecy and have heavily influenced U.S. and U.N. policy toward the state of Israel ever since. Where before the West’s attitude was “a Jew can do no good,” Dispensational theology and sympathy/reparations for the Holocaust, changed this to “a Jew can do no wrong.” Pendulums often swing in history, sadly often revealing our fondness for pronounced extremes rather than the truth that lies in the middle.
All of this has led to today; well meaning Christians, not wanting the U.S. to get on the “bad side” of biblical prophecy are nearly fanatical about their support for Israel, period. There is no room for discussion; the Jews are God’s chosen, elect people and he used the U.N. to give them back their homeland from their ancient enemies (Palestinians are often linked in ancestry with the Philistines, which is likely an erroneous connection) and thus it is our duty to make sure they get what God has intended for them, no matter what.
This sort of thinking is, well, wrong.
Distinguishing Between the Three Israels
Before going into my argument, I want to clarify the “three Israels” that I believe exist today.
1. Political Israel
Political Israel can be defined as the world entity and power whose political structure and sovereign boundaries are currently governing the region of Palestine. This includes all of the government officials, military units, and ultimately citizens of the Zionist nation of Israel.
2. Ethnic Israel
Ethnic Israel includes anyone who can claim Jewish ancestry or who is covenant-ly connected in some way to Judaism (Gentiles are considered Jews if they are circumcised and follow the Torah if you are religious, and can be Jewish through some sort of initiation [e.g. marriage] if not religious). Ethnic Jews are not necessarily religious, but they do share a common pride and adherence to certain aspects of their culture (whether orthodox, conservative, or reformed Jew).
3. Spiritual Israel
Spiritual Israel is the group of people who are aligned to Jesus as the Messiah and worship him as King. Spiritual Israel (a new nation and kingdom) is represented by first God-fearing Jews (both before and after Christ) and then by Gentiles who are engrafted into the faith (both before and after Christ). These are the spiritual descendants of Abraham; these are the ones for whom the kingdom of God has ultimately been prepared.
Distinguishing between the three is very important in the following discussion; the problems we face in dealing with the current Gaza humanitarian crisis can be found in our inability to accurately and carefully differentiate among these “three Israels.”
Why Distinguishing Between the Three Israels is Important
Upfront I want to be clear that I lean A-millennial in my eschatology, though this is by no means a set in stone conviction. However, I believe what I am about to say has relevance even if you are a Dispensationalist; it is not the theology that is the problem, it is the application of the theology that is the issue.
First, whether you agree on a future kingdom for Ethnic Israel or not, it is a presumptuous mistake to assume that such a kingdom will come from the roots of what is currently Political Israel. It is somewhat irresponsible, in my view, to assume that the current nation of Israel (formed since 1948) is the fulfillment of prophecy. In fact, the world may change a thousand more times before the fulfillment of that prophecy comes to pass. Political Israel has not aligned itself with Jesus Christ, far from it in reality; only a fraction of the population is even religiously Jewish, most are just as secular as most Americans. To give this kind of God-ordained status to a fallible, secular state is an extrapolation of biblical prophecy and is causing many people to ignore the atrocities committed against Palestinians.
Second, not all of Political Israel’s citizens are ethnically Jewish In fact, a lot of the exploitation of Palestinians and the continued settling on their land is encouraged by Zionist Neo-Cons from the U.S. U.S. policy and practice is dominate in Political Israel because the U.S. badly needs an ally in its flawed, continued war with terrorists and the Muslim governments that “normally support” them. Political Israel will do anything and everything to keep the U.S.’s favor and as a result the U.S. protests but looks the other direction when Political Israel flexes its “right to defend itself.”
Third, Political Israel is using our old military equipment to conduct its massacre of Gaza; this alone should give us pause as to the blood that may be on our hands as a result of our military-industrial complex. We who are part of Spiritual Israel need to be asking the hard questions and not just assume that “what-we-have-always-done” is necessarily right. If we are continue to give our support (and our guns) to a Political Israel that is committed to terrorizing and massacring civilians, we are just as guilty as they are and we will be held accountable.
Fourth, we are not atoning for the Holocaust by allowing Political Israel to enact their own crimes against humanity. Not all of Ethnic Israel is a part of or even in support of Political Israel; if they are, it shows how deep human hypocrisy and forgetfulness really flows.
Fifth, we as the Spiritual Israel are responsible for decrying all sin and unrighteousness in the world; it is not our place to force it to stop, but we should find ways to demonstrate that what is happening is unacceptable. This includes what Hamas and other groups are doing in response to Political Israel’s aggression; we must be a people who calls men and women to lay down their guns and seek reconciliation. We cannot be so blindly committed to our tentative eschatology that we forget our duty to be witness of justice and righteousness through the love of Jesus Christ.
In other words, we have to stop taking Political Israel’s side at the expense of justice and compassion for Palestinians. We cannot keep ignoring the mounting deaths, whether Hamas is using them as human shields or not, Political Israel has a responsibility to hold their fire. These despicable, seemingly desperate tactics are being used because they think they (Hamas) have no other resort; the might of U.S. made weaponry and training cannot be overcome with conventional tactics. What they are doing is wrong, it is a humanitarian atrocity, but so is rolling in with tanks, destroying the civilian infrastructure, and terrorizing civilians who have no where they can flee to. We cannot take sides when people are being used for unjust political ends and where living a normal life is crime that could get you imprisoned or killed.