In a timely and refreshing piece for The New Republic‘s “Washington Diarist” column, Leon Weseltier writes about the “lost art” of simultaneously supporting and criticizing Israel. His words resonate particularly strongly with me, as I grew up in a strain of Christianity that emphasized a strong, almost religious devotion to the Jews. Many well-known and influential Christian leaders (John Hagee, for example) have built entire ministries on admonishing Christians to “support” Israel. In many cases, the discussion on this matter in the Church has become over-simplified and departed from rational and logical thought. This is something that needs to stop; it needs to stop and be replaced by a concerted effort to understand the true nature of the relationship between Christianity and Judaism and all the different issues that go along with it.
I’ve heard more sermons preached on Genesis 12:1-3 than probably any other and they all more or less took the form of: “Bless the Jews and God will bless you.” Though it was often said in slightly more words, the overly-simplistic logic and bad theology was almost always present. Furthermore, this concept of “supporting the Jews” was often implied to include, by extension, unfaltering and unquestioning support for the modern Israeli state and it’s policies and actions. I’m no theologian, but I can quite confidently say that to take that Scripture (or any other, for that matter) and extend it to mean that Christians should always support the actions and policies of the modern State of Israel, even when they stand in opposition to Christ’s teachings, is simply invalid.
A refreshing development, as Weseltier notes, would be people (Christian Zionists included) learning to disentangle their support for the Jewish people from support for the government of the state of Israel. I, for example, support Israel’s right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people and as a sovereign nation, but I also support the bid of the Palestinian Arabs to have their own state in line with the original United Nations resolution governing the division of land in Palestine; I support freedom for the Jews, but I also support freedom for Palestinian Muslims and Christians; I believe Hamas should stop firing rockets into Israel from Gaza, but I also believe that Israel should stop illegally building settlements on land that doesn’t belong to it.
If anything, the most prominent thing that’s needed is a little bit of balance in the way Zionists think about Israel. Some of you may have heard the catchphrase, “America: love it or leave it” at some point in your lives and–hopefully–you understand the underlying fallacy. In the same fashion, it’s possible to support Israel and simultaneously not support every action or policy of the Israeli government.
The Crisis of Zionism: Undeterred by Unavoidable Realities