Not Supporting Israel: Rethinking Our Theology Amidst War

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.

Posted by Phillip Chan

Phil has been writing in the Black Box for 10 years. His passion is to grow in his love for Jesus to obey his purposes in our generation.

4 comments

  1. Rachel

    Hi Phil,
    Been following your blog for months now and I’ve been coming to the same conclusions that you are in this post. A documentary created by some people in YWAM shares the same sentiment. I recommend watching the whole thing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFUm7rTOOio
    Rachel

    1. Phil

      P.s. thanks for sharing the documentary. Watching through it a bit, it looks super super interesting.

  2. Phil

    Rachel-thanks for sharing! I hope that we can all (including my own) continue to refine our theology so that we can match God’s heart.

  3. Jon Fung

    Hey man! Just started digging around in your old stuff. Love the analysis here, especially the recognition of a culturally biased, American-centric theology. When I was reading about Bonhoeffer’s life I was also struck by the amount of Biblical teaching that went into Nazi propaganda, and how we do the same all the time, to a less obvious extent, in the political and secular values we hold as Americans, not Christians. Keep challenging the church, bro, and keep writing good stuff!

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