Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Palestinian Question – Jimmy Carter’s Visit to Hamas

Jimmy Carter in Egypt with Hosni MuBarak

I know that this is a heavy topic for me to address as a “drive-by blogger” between my patients' visits. I could easily do research and spend weeks on addressing this complex topic and even write a book on it. It has been a dear topic to me for decades. I served as a missionary in the Middle East and I think I know more about the topic than the average Evangelical.

Why am I even brining it up now? It’s for two reasons. You may not have noticed, but there as been a controversy this week about Jimmy Carter visiting with Hamas leaders today in Cairo, at my old school-The American University in Cairo. I won’t waste time explaining the controversy here as you can read about it through the above link.

The second issue is that my pastor, who is a true Evangelical (as I am not) just returned from a visit to Israel. I heard him twice tell the story of how Israel became a nation . . . in a fair and God-directed way. The just way, according to him (and I suspect this is what the Evangelical O.T. professor told them on the trip) was that the Jews began moving back to Palestine in the 1920s and 30s and were buying land from the Arabs at a good price. This view adds, that the European Jews never forced Palestinians off their land. They had agreed with the Arabs to sell the land at an above-market-value. But, then all the problems happened because the Arabs are evil people, and got greedy, wanting their land back.

The pastor adds that he did meet with a group of Palestinian Christians, who have a very different view—but he adds that their view was odd and he does not agree with it.

I’ve had the chance to meet with many Arab people, both Christians and Muslims. Some of them were first generation Palestinians . . . who were eye-wittinesses to the forced expatriation that happened in the 1940s. I would love to tell their story here, but again time is a limiting factor. I strongly suggest the book Blood Brothers by Elais Chacour. Here is a Christian Palestinian Orthodox Priest giving his eye-wittiness (and I think benevolent) account of the events. I will recommend Jimmy Carter’s book; Palestine: Peace not Apartheid (which I have not read yet). Remember that Jimmy is a self-proclaimed, born-again, conservative, Southern Baptist guy and does not support the typical Evangelical view (probably because he is a man of peace and he really does know history).

Why then, is there so much misinformation about the problem, especially within American Evangelicalism?

When you start from a Christian-Dualistic view of the cosmos, where only the spiritual matters, then human history is not as important as theological dogma. Theological dogma is achieved by, in the case of Christians, by reading scripture, using logic and illogical "spitirtual" insight.

But logic doesn’t have a huge amount of merit in the eyes of the Christian-Dualists because it is a function of the physical brain (except for the scholastics who went too far saying that reason was not fallen). But then, there’s the spiritual interpretation of scripture, which has enormous esteem among fundamentalist and Evangelicals.

The problem is the “Spiritual interpretation” is very vulnerable. The theologian or pastor can say “the Holy Spirit” showed me such and such and then it is hard to disagree with them. But scripture is clear that our hearts ( emotions ) are NOT trust worthy. As a Monist, I can say that the emotions are very important, as is the brain, human history, cause and effect—without having to spiritualize everything. I am also aware that we are fallen. Our emotions are fallen as well as our logic, and they can not be trusted to reach absolute dogma.

So, to make sense of this, as it pertains to the Palestinian question, I will come back to Church history. Any mainstream church historian is aware that the Church’s view of Israel has not been the same as it has since the days of C.I. Scolfield (1843-1921). There were even long periods of time in Church history that Christians erred on the anti-Semitic side (which was also terrible).

Mr Scolfield, a lawyer by training, used his fallen logic to come up with a comprehensive way of interpreting scripture, dividing history into great eras of dispensations (ignoring 1800 years of Biblical interpretation by brilliant scholars). These ephods of history (as defined by Scolfield) eventually included the re-establishment of Israel as a nation as a requirement for the ushering in of the second coming of Christ.

This type of dispensationalism became vogue in colloquial, Christian thinking, despite denominational affiliation. For example, I became a Christian through a Navigator ministry which was part of a Presbyterian Church (PUSA). As far as I know, the PUSA does not subscribe to Scolfield Dispensationalism. Yet, the man that led me to the Lord made it clear that we were living “in the Last Days.,” His point was that because Israel became a nation in 1947, thus “within one generation” of that the end would come. If you want to read how this conclusion was reached, with a lot of scripture taken out of context, do a search for CI Scolfied or go the Christians United for Israel web page .

When you combine this dogma with the other flaw of Christian Dualism (that cause and affect in this physical world has no value, that every event, even the most tiniest of things, are all predestine or controlled by God) you can ignore all of human history. So it doesn’t matter how the Palestinians have been treated or what they say.

It is inconceivable to most on-the-street evangelicals that the very doctrine of Dispensationalism was probably the conduit for the UN, the US and Great Brittan to create the nation of Israel in the first place, a self-fulfill prophecy. Did it matter that Truman carried a Scolfield Bible? I think it did. All Evangelicals say they believe, “If it happened, the God did it.”

I must pause at this point to make sure the reader understands my true perspective. I am anything but anti-Semitic. My view point is that God created all people in His image. The scripture is very clear that God loves justice. I am not saying that Israel has no right to exist now. It would be a nightmare to try and restore the Palestinians back to their land that was taken unfairly from them. But Christians should be ashamed that they allowed a tremendous injustice to happen, and they not only looked the other way, but supported it, all because of a Scolfield doctrine. God will hopefully judge us.

As a Monist, we must look at all people as God’s chosen people. In my reading of scripture, I don’t see that God has any long-range plans for Israel as a special people. But it is amazing how a particular dogma can color our glasses so much that we can’t see the truth of history.

I could say much more.

No comments: