Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Jimmy Carter - My Brand of Christian

Wow, so much to say here and so little time. This is a topic that is dear to my heart and that is the treatment of the Palestinian people. This week Jimmy Carter toured Gaza and had a couple of media events. In the one today, he said that the people of Gaza are treated like animals. The reason he said it? Simply because it is true. He has the nerve to say it . . . making him a hated one among many evangelicals.

My point here is that our eschatology should never determine our morality. Christians (nor anyone for that matter) shouldn't let their political lens determine their ethics.

I know how the Palestinian people have been abused. I strongly recommend the book, Blood Brothers, written by a Christian Palestinian who lived through the establishment of the nationhood of Israel. He tells a very moving story about how his family was removed from their land . . . against their will.

Of course I am not a anti-Semite. I am a pro person because all people are created in the image of the God that I serve. The holocaust of course did happen and it was one of the worst events, and most evil, in human history. But this does not make the Palestinian people somehow worth less. Yes, in their great frustration (and not to justify evil in any means) some Palestinians have taken the unfortunate course of violence. That is evil too.

But here is my commentary. I can not ask for prayer for the Palestinian people in my church without people rolling their eyes. I can not say that I believe peace in the Middle East is possible, and should be our goal, without my Evangelical friends scoffing. What ever happened to the concept of the blessedness of the peacemakers?

I was once doing a sermon (in a Lutheran church of all places) about our ministry to reach Muslims. I remember a young man marching up to the podium when I was done and almost verbally attacking me. All I did was say a few words out of compassion for the Palestinian people and that one of the reasons the Muslims are so opposed to Christianity is that American Christians (not Christians in other countries) turn a blind eye to the extreme racism that's practiced in Israel. I know because I spent an entire day in the car with a Palestinian and watched how he was humiliated at every check point by the Israeli army.

I too love the Jews. But as Christians we can not let our dogmatic view of a very specific eschatological concept (God caused Israel to become a nation again in preparation for eminent return of Christ) to influence our view of justice.

Jimmy Carter has been a Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher his entire life. His honesty, humility and boldness . . . his work to help the homeless, all those add up to a brand of Christianity that I envy. Yeah, envy is the correct word.


Anonymous said...

Great post!

When I attended a (Russian) Orthodox church, I was surprised to hear a prayer for the Palestinians. I had NEVER ever ever ever once heard a prayer for them in a church service before. It was...cool. I'm assuming that there must be a high poplulation of Orthodox in Palestine? In any case, it made me stop and think, as have a few news podcasts that spent some time interviewing Palestinians, etc. What a different story I heard in my evangelical churches. Israel, Israel and more Israel----and the Palestinians? Bad guys. Totally not cooperating with the Dispensationalist version of things, ya know?

It's all so strange when you stop and take a step back from it.

Anonymous said...

In "Protestants of Mass Destruction" end-of-the-world choreography, Palestinians are the Orcs.

And the grievance culture of Palestinian Arabs (where the only purpose in life is to get even with the Israelis/Jews) is the type of culture that DOES turn Men into Orcs. We have a LOT of Palestinians in my part of California; it seems everybody who could get out has gotten out, leaving only those unable to flee and those who WANT to become Orcs.

Not that Israelis/Jews fare any better in Darby/Scofield/Lindsay/LaHaye PMD eschatology. Neither Jews or Arabs are people to PMDs, only pieces to move about on the End Time Prophecy gameboard.

The real lose-lose situation is the Palestinian Christians, who go back centuries. (Yes, they exist.) The Israelis are against them because they're Palestinian, and the Muslim Palestinians are against them because they're Christian.

Headless Unicorn Guy

MJ said...

Regarding the Orthodox, many Palestinian Christians are Greek Orthodox. The book, which I mentioned, was written by an Orthodox (see the link: http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Brothers-Elias-Chacour/dp/0800793218/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245253730&sr=8-2 )

There is something wrong with our Christianity when what we believe gives us the cover to not love any people. I know that a lot of churches are doing good things to help the HIV-AIDS victims. I know that many churches are loving to the Gay community, but how many have used their beliefs as an excuse to hate people? My mom's neighbor, a deacon in our old church, as persecuted his neighbors (a gay couple) beyond belief. It could only happen in Tennessee and not be illegal.

I remember when AIDs first came onto the scene back in the 80s that several Moral Majority spokes people were saying things about AIDs being God's "judgment on the homosexuals."

I don't think our belief systems should ever give us an excuse to not love somebody.

HUG, you are so right about the pawn thing. Makes one sick. But walk into any Evangelical church and when they ask for prayer request, ask them to pray for real, lasting peace in the Middle East. They will look at you funny and consider you naive. They don't want peace. They want Armageddon! (or at least the vision of Armageddon that Hal Lindsay has planted in their minds). They want to see the blood of the Arabs rise up to the bridles of the horses.

But I look at I John 2:

9Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 10Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him[c] to make him stumble. 11But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.

pennyyak said...

Good post. I was doing a search the other day about Christians in the area of Gaza, and there don't appear to be many left, being caught between the fire and the frying pan. However, surely there are more in a wider area. And yes, what a terrible life for anyone in that area, whatever their beliefs.

I always thought that Jimmy Carter was a great man (he doesn't seem to get high marks for his term as President, although I certainly remember his Camp David peace talks), and has done more peace-making/charitable things in his life than all the other presidents that come to mind. I believe he left his home church because of a racist incident.

I really wonder if Zionist Christians really even like Israel, or if its just some sort of convenient mindset to complement their end-time views. There are organizations of Israel citizens (as well as at least one Jewish/Arab group there) that are extremely opposed to the policies of their government.

It seems clear to me (and I think this is echoed by most of your readers to at least some degree, those that comment anyway), that we are not called to love countries, or political divisions, but all people, with special regard to those oppressed, hungry, sick etc. Palestinian's have been securely within this framework for a long time now (as well as others from diverse places).

I have prayed many a prayer that God will raise up peacemakers in our midst, and I have seen many different sorts of Christians heap ridicule on those who have taken on this difficult task.

Why don't we call them what God calls them - the children of God.

Anonymous said...

They will look at you funny and consider you naive. They don't want peace. They want Armageddon! (or at least the vision of Armageddon that Hal Lindsay has planted in their minds). -- MJ

Been there, done that, got the scars to prove it. Back when the Bible had 3 1/2 books (Daniel, Revelation, the "Nuclear War Chapter" of Ezekiel, and Late Great Planet Earth). Didn't stop having flashbacks until 1988. These days I am VERY skeptical of any End Time Prophecy. (Google "OBAMA ANTICHRIST 2012" for a sampling of the weirder ones and remember: While we were preaching Grinning Apocalyptism to a burned-out world with only Dark Futures, Obama was preaching Hope.)

They want to see the blood of the Arabs rise up to the bridles of the horses. -- MJ

LaHaye (of Left Behind: The Neverending Series fame) actually "did the math" as to how many would have to be killed simultaneously to fill the entire Valley of Jezreel that deep.


My writing partner (the burned-out country preacher) credits Darby, Scofield, and Lindsay for destroying American Protestant Christianity.

Headless Unicorn Guy

Sean McKeating said...

There is no doubt that in evangelical circles, the pro-Israel (more than even pro-Jewish) bias is extreme. The chicken and egg argument of who oppressed who first and therefore who is the proper aggrieved party is also a tail-chasing argument.

However, after years of military reprisals, Israel left the Gaza strip and gave land and control to the Palestinians for peace. The result? Gaza elected Hamas to leadership, used the extra land to launch missiles further into Israel, and continued to demand destruction of Israel as a state. Other than not existing at all, there seems to be nothing Israel can do to meaningfully engage the Palestinians for peace.

As to President Carter, he is obviously a believer who has put himself on the line digging wells in Africa, Habitat for Humanity, etc. However, his foreign policy as President and his continued involvement in international affairs today has been a hindrance rather than a help. I can have significant disagreements with his policy prescriptions without questioning his salvation or sincerity.

I join you in prayers for genuine peace in the Holy Land. I do wonder, though, how peace can obtain when one of the parties cannot abide the other's existence.

NOTAL said...

MJ, Have you read "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid"? I was meaning to, but never got around to it. (that and I don't like paying for new books)

Regarding Palestinian Christians, a good group that I have been semi-involved with (as in getting and reading their newsletter) is the Friends of Sabeel. They work hard with Palestinian Christians to promote peace and reconciliation.

Sean, I agree that those Palestinians who want nothing less than the complete destruction of Israel do make peace a lot more difficult. However, I think that while their position is not good, it is understandable. Especially considering that when Israel did pull out of Gaza they they continued very strict sanctions and blockades of Gaza, turning it effectively into a prison camp, while in the West Bank they continued to take more and more land with the settlements. There have been awful crimes committed on both sides, but there have been a lot more victims on the side of the Palestinian , so that is where most of my sympathy goes.

Anonymous said...

I really wonder if Zionist Christians really even like Israel, or if its just some sort of convenient mindset to complement their end-time views. -- Pennyak

From what I've experienced, it's the latter. Before I knew the term "Christian Zionism", I coined the description "Anti-Semitic Zionism". Went something like this:
1) The Jews are in the Land.
2) This fulfills End Time Prophecy.
3) Therefore, Israel is God's Will and Can Do No Wrong.
4) But Jews are still Christ-killers, and God WILL destroy them all at Armageddon unless they're Born Again just like Us.

As I said before re the Arabs, to such "Anti-Semitic Zionists" Jews/Israelis are nothing more than pieces to be moved about on the End Time Prophecy gameboard. Nothing.

Thank you, John Nelson Darby.
And Scofield.
And Hal Lindsay.
And Rayford Steele LaHaye.
And Buck Jenkins.

Headless Unicorn Guy