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Not Supporting Israel: Rethinking Our Theology Amidst War

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The recent current events of the Israeli-Gaza conflict have stirred up quite a bit of emotions on all sides of the conflict, reinvigorating dormant sentiments and strong opinions. More particularly, to my dismay, certain Christian groups (IHOP community, pro-Zionist groups) who support Israel are jumping at the opportunity to voice their support for this conflicted nation.

While the events occurring in 2014 will (hopefully) come and go, some of the theological and cultural principles which formulate such Jewish State support apply both in the now, and as I foresee, in the future when other world events would grant opportunity to do so.

It is with this opportunity that I would voice why I think support for the nation of Israel is a terribly bad idea.

Let me begin by saying that I will be the last to speak on complexities of the history of the Palestinian/Jewish relationship. But I will say that I naturally distrust reductionist attempts of explanations from either side (more recently, this one irked me). So I confess my opinion of whether to support Israel isn’t based on some doctoral research assessing history and conflict.

What my current opinion is based on, and what this article is meant to reflect on, is reflecting on what is happening now. What is happening now is that there is conflict. Not ideological conflict where people’s feelings are hurt, but we’re talking about war. We’re talking about people’s lives being lost, and they are lost because a nation Israel is at war. We’re talking about people’s family members that they’ll never see again; limbs they’ll never operate in again; souls that will never see the light of day again.

It is the cost of war that begs and demands us to revisit our Zionist-bent theologies.

I personally do not think it is a biblical mandate to support the nation of Israel, but rather to support the Jewish people. There is a subtle yet large difference between the two. One, I argue has terrible implications. To support Jewish people is to say that this ethnic/cultural group has a special place in God’s heart. To support the Jewish state, however, is a very dangerous place to be.

It implies that we are nodding off this political entity as some theocratic representation. This, I remind you, is the same sentiment that plagues the American-centric theology that America is God’s nation. This theological poison suggests that America fights God’s wars and that America’s enemies are God’s enemies. Even further so, and I beg us to be so, we must be reminded that prior to the Nazi formation, it began with ecclesial propaganda that the German nation was carrying out a biblical mandate. These grimacing historical examples are stark reminders that there are immense dangers when we pay allegiance to a political entity as divinely approved or guarded.

Yet when I hear Christians supporting either the defense or the military success of the nation of Israel, what we are exactly doing is hiding the nation’s actions, both good, bad, and even atrocious under the veil of some theological umbrella. It, in turn, can leave that nation to be unjudged and held unaccounted for its actions. It is this support of the nation of Israel that I find to be immensely dangerous and destructive.

And in light of the current events we are witnessing today, I believe that what we are doing when we hold such support is that we are turning a deaf ear to what is truly happening-that being that we are supporting war.

And if that is the case, then God help us if our theology of the State of Israel promotes the killing of civilians, women and children included. God help us if our theology blinds us from media bias, yielding this nation to be held unaccounted for its actions. God help us if we cannot re-contextualize and re-imagine this conflict in our own backyard to see whether our theological & ideological allegiances are large enough for the emotional trauma at stake. When we hold our bloodied-dying children in our arms and adhere to a theology which affirms and justifies the death of our kids. Can we do that? How large, really then, is our theology?

As of today, that is exactly what is happening in a nation and a land removed from us.

The truth is, Palestinians are being killed by the 1000′s, far more than Israeli’s. It doesn’t matter if it’s offensive or defensive, who initiated, who responded–this should alarm us as a human tragedy before our eyes, and something that should be accounted for under God. I strongly take issue with Zionist theologies expressed by Christian groups which, as I just explained, inadvertently justifies and hides the cost of human lives.

I take no sides in this conflict. Do not suppose I am pro-Palestine or even pro-Israel. I am convicted that it does not require for us to take a side to have a heavenly opinion about this.

Is it so simple to me that the obvious aspiration that we need to take as Christians is peace? That we should aspire not for supporting the state of Israel, but for repentance from our violent ways, forgiveness, and reconciliation? And if our theology doesn’t veer towards these Kingdom-defining principles, I believe we shame the name of Jesus.

Sure, we can talk Bible passages, Roman 9-11, Zionist theology, blah, blah, blah, but if our theology blinds us from the trauma at stake and justifies the murder of human beings, then stop it.

And if I am understanding correctly, please, for the love of God and for his people, if your support for the State of Israel does that, rethink your theology.

The Sound of Worship vs The Spirit of Worship

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It is more important to cultivate the spirit of worship than the sound of worship.

The sound of worship is cultivated with our heads and our hands. The gifted, the trained, and the talented, regardless of the composition of character, can always excel in the sound of worship.

The spirit of worship, on the other hand, is proven excellent by a different measurement.

Truly excellent worship is cultivated by the direction of our hearts. The direction cannot be measured by notes, music sheets, or by tuners. It is measured in the secret ways in the secret places–a heart that yearns for God, a self-effacing humility in light of seeing a greater vision of God, a unifying camaraderie around a seeking people who are joyously experiencing a common glory, and a burning to see God’s Spirit dwell in our midst.

These things are not easily measurable but they are discernable. In my experience, there is often a difference in the meaningfulness of worship between a dry and high-performing masterpiece of musical precision amidst thousands versus an individual with a broken guitar singing their hearts before God.

It is true that such dichotomies often fail to reveal the whole truth but there is something about the simplicity of a true heart of worship that often lends such dichotomies to be so.

I find that true worship is often… a bit more raw, a bit more unrefined. It is because true worship will always hinge upon the zone between the barrier of my musical excellence and that place where God’s revelation dawns upon me to make me fail for words. Yes…true worship often makes me fail for words! …fail for chords, fail for sounds, fail for excellence, in whatever measurement we are measuring success or failure, for in the event when God’s invading glory overwhelms even our ability to be excellent often proves to be when true worship begins.

For all our obsession with stage excellence often governed by a naturalistic spirit, we must confess that it is tempting to lose the heart of worship. It is the tendency of humans to always veer towards religiousness. Religiousness exalts form over power and for all our fads, trends, bands, and heroes of worship, we can easily remove ourselves from a true place of worship by exalting those things.

So easily can they be idols. So readily therefore should we be able to tear them all down, for in tearing down the physical infrastructure, the true nature of the spiritual will always be revealed.

Can we worship without such sounds? Without such excellence? Without such instruments? Without such a stage or lights? Or have we lost what truly defines the sound of worship? Ah yes–I remember what it is–true worship is the sound of a beating heart before God bleeding for his glory!

 

Character and Power

We should not be impressed with people who have strong anointings or power who do not have a life of character. On the other hand, we cannot think a person with moral excellence is all that a Christian should be.

Jesus was neither a monk nor a showman.

Jesus was a miracle worker who operated with great power and Jesus lived a life of holiness who hated sin and loved righteousness.

We should always aspire both: character and power.

Character demonstrates the work of God within us to transform us into his likeness. And power witnesses to the glory of Jesus as the supreme God of the universe.

I want people to see the holiness of God through my life. Yet I want also want people to see the power of God as I lay hands on the sick, blind, and the demon-possessed. Both bear witness to God’s greatness, and both form the direction that we should strive to be as Christians.