Monday, July 28, 2014

An open letter about Gaza

Much of my blog is mundane, even trivial. A random collection of partially worked out thoughts and ideas, reflections and stories. Occasionally I stumble into something thought provoking and even more occasionally articulate something thoughtful in response. I range from theology to sport, work to leisure, politics to biomechanics. It's wide, it's eclectic and it's me.

Some things bother me deeply, Gaza is one of those things. It's a mix of politics, theology and centuries old issues and rivalries. Palestine is not the only region of the world where this is true, but it does evoke all sorts of responses within the Christian community. As an evangelical Christian I've often been confronted by those within my broad theological fold who support Israel come what may. Citing all sorts of biblical passages, they often seem to have little time for those of us who do not share their perspective.

So I'm going to make my thoughts as clear as possible and risk the retribution that may come my way. Some thoughts will be far from complete, but that's me and I make no apology for thinking out loud.

I am deeply distressed by what I see happening in Gaza. As the body count rises I see no end in sight to the shelling and exchange of fire. By God's grace I hope a ceasefire comes sooner rather than later. Leaders on both sides must accept responsibility for what is happening. I am not so naive as to think one side is more to blame than the other, although Israel's response always seem out of proportion to the threat. If you've not seem Jon Snow's moving account of his recent visit to Gaza, then find it and watch it. It raises a lot of questions.

For me, an attitude that supports Israel on the basis of some theological conviction that there is some divine right to the land is both misplaced and highly questionable. Is it not a reasonable reading of Scripture that disobedience has consequences and historically the loss of the land was once a consequence of a failure to obey the Law? Does some eschatological expectation of the Messiah returning through a specific gate really abrogate that principle?

Perhaps we should go one step further and say that given our understanding of the cross and its central role in the redemption story, that the land no longer figures in the same way it once did and that the nation of Israel is now a secular state and not an all important immutable part of God's unfolding plan.

Where the solution lies in such an intractable situation I do not know. While Hamas, and others, continue to dedicate themselves to the destruction of Israel, it's unlikely that the region will be ever see peaceful coexistence, but that does't mean that such coexistence is not on our radar of hope, and in the case of those of us who believe in prayer, on our list of topics that we bring before God.

Tony Campolo has pointed out in the past that God loves Palestinians too. We ought not to forget that truth. Whatever the political right and wrongs, whatever the theological arguments may be, people are dying, children are dying, and personally I believe that grieves the heart of God. Let's not forget that even in the Old Testament, Israel was under instruction to care for the foreigner in its land, and was repeatedly warned about the consequences of not doing so.

So enough is enough. Let governments and organisations around the world do whatever they can to bring an end to the carnage and to work as hard as they can to broker peace among the people of Palestine, and let the Christian community be unafraid of challenging those who need challenging because of either misplaced theology or a sense of guilt over the past.

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