14 November 2006

This is Why I Don't Self-Identify as 'Evangelical'

Note from the LuapHacim, 11/14/2012: The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect my current beliefs and convictions. Even if they do, I would almost certainly express them in different words today. Time changes people, and I am not exempt. Nonetheless, because of its historical value, I will not modify or remove this post. It tells you (and me) something important about where I've been. Read on at your own peril.

Interesting story in the New York Times this morning:
Many conservative Christians say they believe that the president’s support for Israel fulfills a biblical injunction to protect the Jewish state, which some of them think will play a pivotal role in the second coming.
The story does a better job of capturing the issue's complexity than I could do here, but I do have a few thoughts and responses to add.

First of all, I find it sad that modern American Christianity has been hijacked by a nineteenth-century eschatological construct: namely, the idea of a "rapture" that is somehow separate from the return of Christ to judge the world. The construction of elaborate timelines and pseudo-scientific accounts of "The End Times," as this camp describes the age in which we live, is a hallmark of this movement. You can see examples of proponents' handiwork everywhere, from Bible commentaries to the New York Times best-seller list. Tim LaHaye and Jerry. B. Jenkins of Left Behind fame are perhaps the most prominent pop-theologians for this brand of theology.

The most disturbing part of the phenomenon, for me, is that these folks take prophetic accounts and literalize them in order to establish an account that artificially imposes human ways of understanding over the power of God. Ultimately, this insistence on human ways and methods is what is wrong with the Evangelical movement's support of Israel, as well.

Evangelical support of Israel springs directly from the writings of people who hold this Rapture/Tribulation/Second Coming view of eschatology. Their logic is that, since the Biblical book of Revelation talks about the existence of a Jewish people (which they conflate with the modern nation-state) in the "Last Days," the existence of a nation-state comprised of Jews must be necessary in order for the prophecies to be fulfilled. They further assume that it is the United States' role to ensure the prosperity of said state.

Secondly, in their blind support of "Israel," Evangelicals ignore the misdeeds of the Jewish state and its officials. Israeli leaders have been responsible for many civilian casualties, and they have resisted sensible plans to allow the Palestinians a home for the past 60 years. Their resistance has embittered and hardened the Palestinian people to an enormous extent -- perhaps to the point of making a lasting peace impossible.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, it is not the role of Christians to ensure that God's plans succeed. He has no need of our pitiful political machinations. If He wants to use the modern nation state of Israel as a vehicle to fulfil prophecies, that's His prerogative. What we should not -- indeed, must not -- do is to impose our own notions of "the End Times" over God's plan. We should focus on doing what Christ commanded: loving the Lord with all that we have and are, and loving others more than we do ourselves. If God wants to do things in Israel, I bet He can take care of that without our think-tanks and pro-Israel rallies and careful plans for bringing about the Second Coming.


Anonymous said...

Very well said. Though don't let those who like the "evangelical" tag see that you've written "Third, and perhaps most importantly, it is not the role of Christians to ensure that God's plans succeed."

They won't like you crushing the "defense of marriage" position with one stroke like that.

Hope you're having a good day!

Unknown said...

Hmm. I tend to support Israel more on a "grafted" in level. Religiously, that vine is where I was grafted into, and I have no such relationship with the arab world.

I do however, know that Israel will be around in the end, and it has nothing to do in my mind with the heretical rapture theories.

My reasoning is this- I know Israel is close to God's heart. I do not love Israel for Israel's sake. I love it because it means something to the God I love, and my support for it is thus rendered.

luaphacim said...

Marsh -- I don't have a problem saying Israel will be around. I do have a problem with saying it will unquestionably be the modern nation-state of Israel, or saying that it will be any state at all. There are many ideas of "nation," and the idea we have of it today is radically different from any that were in existence before 1800.

Unknown said...

True enough. However, my dim knowledge of history seems to suggest a bad end to those who oppose Israel (in whatever form it takes).

luaphacim said...

hehe -- except the Romans who sacked Israel and tore the temple down in 70 AD. And the Pope when he kicked them out of Rome. And the Crusaders who cut them down and took their stuff all across Europe on the way to the Holy land...

Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

very thoughtful, thanks.

Unknown said...

Hmm... and the Romans were in turn destroyed. The pope.. well, last I checked, various popes and crusaders got their rear ends handed to them by the arabs.

luaphacim said...

Romans: destroyed AFTER making the empire officially Christian. Coincidence?

SOME crusaders and popes != ALL crusaders and popes.