American Christianity is particularly susceptible to the narrative of redemption and retaliation that is prophesied to occur in the end times, when the Messiah will return, vanquish his foes and bring glory to his followers. Israel reclaiming the Promised Land is integral to this apocalyptic fantasy, so it’s important that Israel remain powerful in the eyes of the Religious Right.
By David Todd McCarty | Thursday, August 15, 2019
I can’t speak to the intricacies of Israeli politics, a deep understanding of the historical complications of the middle east, or even a basic knowledge of the political structure of Israel’s Knesset. I am not Jewish. I have no particular claim of family history, claim to the region or land. I do however, have a deep understanding of Evangelical Christian culture in America and the lengths they will go to secure victory in the name of the Almighty. This part I know all too well.
The thing you have to understand about modern day, Evangelical Christian culture in America is that they dream about the end of the world in much the same way that a four year old dreams of Christmas morning. They are not looking forward to hellfire and global destruction per se, mostly because they don’t plan to be around for that part, but they see this as the Second Coming of the Messiah, when the Son of God will return to Earth and restore his reign. This is good news for them. In their minds, beyond God returning and making everything copasetic, this also means a vindication of the sacrifices they’ve made, the destruction of their enemies, and their ascendence to Heaven where they will sit next to God and revel in their triumph. It’s a confirmation of their entire legalistic worldview.
The reconstruction of the Jewish homeland is part of this prophecy, so American Conservative Christians have always been fervent supporters of the State of Israel as a representation of divine providence and the ultimate will of God. There can, therefore, be no room for dissent. To oppose Israel is to literally oppose God. That does not make for a healthy foreign policy climate.
Belief in the inerrancy of your Creator is bound to give you a false sense of entitlement as we have seen over a few century’s of war and atrocities committed in the name of religion. Christians have used religion and holy righteousness to rape and pillage foreign lands since the early days of recorded history. Christians aren’t alone in this, but they maybe holding most of the records.
In all fairness, not all self-proclaimed followers of Jesus Christ believe in this legalistic and retributive version of Christianity. Many believe in the teachings of the Lamb of God, to love your neighbor as yourself, to be humble and kind, to turn the other cheek, to love your enemies, and that the meek shall inherit the earth. Those Christians do exist. They just don’t represent the vast majority of white, evangelical Republicans in America who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and continue to support him today.
The government of Israel is all too aware of this situation and uses it to their advantage, especially the right wing party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. While they couldn’t be more theologically opposed in their beliefs, conservative Christians and Israelites have a common cause which they can rally around. The absolute and unexamined support of the power and legitimacy of the state of Israel, with no regard to the Palestinian cause. When you are God’s chosen people, as both groups believe the Jewish people to be, then you can’t let a few million brown Muslims get in the way of divine destiny.
What we are left with is a culture in America that has been trained that it’s not only politically dangerous to criticize Israel, but it’s socially dangerous to do so as well. Anti-Semitism is a very real threat to Jews around the world, and the rise of the extreme Right throughout the planet has only exacerbated this problem. No one wants to fan those flames, so rather than call out the Israeli government for very obvious human rights abuses, we tiptoe around the issue, or in the case of most American administrations of both parties, we ignore it.
To allow a single country, government or people to operate with impunity because powerful players believe them to be untouchable, is dangerous indeed. To allow them to persecute a religious and racial minority within their midst is not only criminal, it goes against the very teachings of their collective faith. Christians. Jews. Muslims. Not one of these faith traditions condones this.
We need to be able to have reasonable, rationale debate in this country about our military support for Israel, mostly because unlike other countries, our support comes with no conditions. This has allowed the more radical right wing of Israel’s political establishment to thrive and grow. We are all carrot and no stick.
Before you accuse me of being patronizing towards Israel, we don’t have to give them any money at all. We choose to do this, presumably, because we think it’s in our best interest. I’m not sure that argument has really been well made, but it’s worth a discussion. Right now, it’s not even on the table.
Blind allegiance with no ramifications for bad actors is not compatible with the American ideal of justice, equality, and democracy. It not only does not further our goals as a country, it could be argued that it has contributed more than anything to the unrest in the Middle East and countless wars that we’ve instigated either openly or covertly. You only need to look at the ratcheting up of tensions with Iran to see the forces of politics and religion at play. Saudi Arabia and Israel both view Iran as an enemy solely due to religious differences. It should say something to you that the Sunni majority Saudis would rather side with the Jewish state of Israel, rather than allow the Shia Muslim majority of Iran to prosper. And because we are categorically aligned with Israel, we allow the leader of Saudi Arabia to murder journalists without recrimination.
The people of Israel do in fact live in a state of constant threat from those around them who would do them harm if they could. There is no denying this. But being threatened does not give you the right to threaten someone else.
There is a parable in the Bible, as told by Jesus, about a man who owed an unpayable debt to the King. The man begged the King not to throw him in prison for his debts and the King had mercy and freed him from his debt. Upon leaving the palace, the man who had just been forgiven a vast sum of money came across a man who owed him $100. He demanded the man pay him and when he could not, he had the man thrown in prison.
There are some, who after having suffered cruelty, make a choice to treat others the way they wanted to be treated themselves. Then there are those, who like abused children, grow up to be abusers themselves.
We should be able to have a debate in this country about our policy and relationship with the State of Israel without having to defend accusations of anti-Semitism. They are not mutually exclusive issues. We can reject racism in any form, and still debate foreign policy.
If you take religion and race out of the debate, we are dealing with national security and human rights. Those seem like important topics and should be discussed.