“It is always better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing, than to believe what is wrong.”
― Thomas Jefferson
I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine that I really think illustrates the precarious mindset of a lot of Americans today. My friend, Ted, is a good guy. He’s a typical American in his late 50’s, church-goer, loves his family and uses Fox News and the newspaper to shape his window to reality. Ted’s not really into reading books or increasing his knowledge. He’s not one to have an original ‘Ted’ thought. His worldly opinions are shaped by a viewpoint passed down from his parents and Rush Limbaugh. He’s not into ever challenging his beliefs with any kind of truth. Facts are pesky when they don’t coincide with one’s rock-solid world outlook. Ted is a very narrow-minded individual, but he believes this to be a virtue. He’ll tell you! Ted also loves Jesus and Militarism, sometimes not in that order. Like I said, he’s a typical American and a decent man.
Before I get into the little conversation that Ted and I had, I want to explain what I mean when I call him and a lot of Americans like him, a Christian Zionist. A Zionist is Christian who believes God has ordained his flock to protect Israel at all costs, unconditionally, with unyielding war measures. They also advocate for an imperial foreign policy strictly because of what they construe from Old Testament writings. Philip Giraldi explains Christian Zionism like this, it’s a…
“set of beliefs based on interpretations of specific parts of the Bible – notably the book of Revelations and parts of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Isaiah – that has made the return of the Jews to the Holy Land a precondition for the Second Coming of Christ. The belief that Israel is essential to the process has led to the fusion of Christianity with Zionism, hence the name of the movement.
The political significance of this viewpoint is enormous, meaning that a large block of Christians promotes a non-reality based foreign policy based on a controversial interpretation of the Bible that it embraces with considerable passion. Christian Zionism by definition consists of Christians (normally Protestant evangelicals) who believe that once the conditions are met for the second coming of Jesus Christ all true believers will be raptured up into heaven, though details of the sequence of events and timing are disputed. Many Christian Zionists believe that the Second Coming will happen soon, within one generation of the return of the Jews to the Holy Land, so they support the government and people of Israel completely and unconditionally in all that they do, to include fulfilling the prophecy through encouraging the expansion by force into all of historic Judea, which would include what remains of the Palestinian West Bank.”
Now that we got definitions out-of-the-way, here’s how our little talk went.
Ted and I were going about our day with nothing more than a little small talk here and there. Nothing deep, just pleasant conversations. And then Ted finally got to talking politics like he does sometimes. Damn Ted. Now, just to let you know, he’s a huge Obama hater, which I don’t blame him for. So when he started complaining about the current administration and crying over some perceived “anti-American” policies that the president was pursuing, I wasn’t shocked.
Ted’s face took a different form when I said this to him, “yeah Ted, it’s too bad that Obama amplified all of Bush’s horrific, big government policies.” When I tried to explain to him that Obama has the same major policies—undeclared wars, police state, unconstitutional surveillance, Patriot Act, welfare, corporate bailouts, money inflation—as his hero Bush did, he looked at me like I was a terrorist. But what got the conversation really going was when Ted let me know about his huge disappointment in Obama’s decision for his new Secretary of Defense—Chuck Hagel.
I told Ted that I thought this just might be the best decision Obama has ever made. Again, another look like I’m a terrorist was pierced my way. Now, you have to understand how much Chuck Hagel is hated by the bloodthirsty, Israel loving neo-conservatives. Though Hagel is not perfect by any means, the good thing about him is that he doesn’t want to bow down to Israel’s every command. Conservatives are appalled, of course, and tried everything within their power to block his nomination. God forbid someone in the upper echelon that doesn’t want to police the world, send our youth to die for lies and continue to financially feed the defense contractors. God Forbid. Ted doesn’t see it this way. The Bible tells him different.
Ted despises Chuck Hagel because he’s a government Official who has the ability to show a little restraint with our military intervention. Ted has been conditioned to always support war and never question the motives. This is called patriotism and Ted is a Patriot. At one time, Hagel brought up the possibility of rethinking our unconditional support for Israel. Ted hated this, along with raging chicken hawks like John McCain and Lindsey Graham.
This is when it gets good!
So I asked Ted why he relentlessly supports a socialist nation like Israel, a country where only 2% of the population is Christian. I told him that Muslims were more prominent there, inhabiting 17% of the population. Now again, as you could probably guess, Ted hates Muslims, so this cut him deep. “I don’t know about that,” was his reply. That was his reply to most of my questions. He didn’t believe me whenever I tossed some hard facts into the realm of his conscious. So his only answer that he could seem to dig up was “uhhmm, Erik, how about the Bible. The Bible says we have to support Israel.” So I asked him where in the bible? He didn’t know.
This is when I threw in some lively questions.
Wanting to make a colorful point, I asked Ted why he supports the murder of Christians. This floored him. “What are you talking about man?” That’s when I tried to explain to him that Israel is occasionally killing Palestinian Christians, like in Bethlehem and what not. So isn’t the support you give to Israel unconditionally also mean giving support for the murder of Christians? “I don’t know about that.”
He wanted to do further research on that stunning fact. I was proud of him.
(I forgot to ask him about the 1500 plus Palestinian children that has been killed since 2000, but I doubt it would have fazed him much)
So, Ted, being a conservative, I know he should hate government intervention in the economy (besides Bush’s bailouts, that was OK because he was a Republican). I asked Ted why he thinks it’s a good idea for our government to take money by force, from the hard-working producers of our country and give it to such a wealthy and corrupt government as Israels (8 million dollars a day to be exact). Isn’t this kind of like socialism that you despise so much, and rightfully so? I also inquired Ted to show me where in the constitution would we find the authority for our government to give Foreign Aid? Blank stare. Also, I know Ted loves George Washington, so I asked him if he thought the first president of the United States was wrong when he said, “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.” Blank stare again.
I told Ted that if he really wanted to know the true reason why the US government supports Israel at such extremes, that he needed to read a book called, The Israel Lobby. He said he would not. I figured as much.
My main question to most Christians is why they have such unwavering support for Israel?
Didn’t the New Testament destroy the old way of thinking? Boundaries, land and sacrificial lambs we’re tossed into the abyss of the past when Jesus lived and died. Jesus never talked about supporting Israel or giving them money to fight wars. National borders were below Jesus. And being under the great Roman Empire, Jesus never called for the overthrow of regimes or nations or to focus on political means for reform. He taught “blessed are the peacemakers”, not warmongers. Jesus’ reform came from the heart and mind, not from worldly forms and institutions. Did Jesus want the prostitute locked in a cage for her sins? Nope , but Christians do. His message was for an inner transformation of the self and not for the punishment of those who believe differently.
Christians have gotten so involved with public policy and worldly ambition that they’ve entirely missed Jesus’ message of compassion, peace and love. Jesus said, “see to your own soul.” He didn’t call for his disciples to obsess over the future destiny of some geographical boundary of land. The former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, puts it like this, “The concept of the land had then evolved throughout different stages of Revelation, beginning with the physical, geographical and political concept and ending up with the spiritual and symbolic meaning. The worship of God is no longer linked to a specific land. A specific land is not the prime and absolute value for worship. The sole and absolute value is God and the worship of God in any place in the world.”
The devout in this country have made Christianity into an American religion instead of an idea for the whole of humanity. This is dangerous and only divides and causes unending strife. The first 1800 years of Christianity was never about Israel. The fathers of Protestantism, Luther and Calvin, never conversed about paving the way in Israel for the Second Coming. This is a new concept that should be rethought about. If you are going to have strong opinions about ancient creeds in the Old Testament, it would be wise to have done some research and really know who and why these things were written (hearing it from the bloodthirsty lunatic, John Hagee, doesn’t count). If a misguided Christian is going to spout out some crazy proposals for mass murder because of a deluded, out of context quote from Ezekiel, they should be able to tell us why, who, and for whom this text was written for. They should know the historical background of the text. You would hope one would be able to give us a date and tell us how many times it was translated before it reached their brain. But anyone who sponsors war, destruction and bigotry based on their futile attempt to understand their own religion doesn’t deserve to be heard from. It’s impossible to intellectually negotiate with people who have accepted metaphorical stories as historical facts.
Saying all this, I’m not purveying that we should abandon Israel overnight. And I’m not an anti-Semite. I’m just saying that we should rethink our relationship with an ally that might be causing more harm than good. The region is drenched with history and the people’s passion over there is way more extraordinary than our governments ability to manage. One of the main reasons America is hated around the world, dreadfully so, is because of our governments aggressive foreign policy and our financial and military support for Israel. This is not a secret. Israel’s government officials, whom are mostly non-Christians, know they have the naive American public in the palm of their greedy little hands thanks to the fervent religious passion that they so happily exploit. The Israel Lobby is very powerful.
In truth, Christians should disavow folks who misrepresent the message of the Bible. They should ignore those who bring the religion into disrepute. Jesus taught people to act and think differently. He made us aware that the Kingdom of God is not of this world. Peace was his main message, but unfortunately, this Golden Rule has been lost to his flock. Christianity is about living truthfully and selflessly in this life, not the next.