In the midst of longstanding partisan stonewalling and insolent disagreement regarding most domestic and foreign affairs, Senate suddenly spoke as one unified voice on Friday. In a landslide, 100-0 vote, our representatives declared their unequivocal support for Israel’s military campaign against Hamas.
Because this article is going to reflect on Israel, Palestine, and American theology and policy, let me offer three disclaimers before I suggest three observations that our Senate’s vote exposes about us:
- I affirm the right of Israel and Palestine to follow in the footsteps of my country in declaring independence as a nation.
- I critique Hamas’s leadership as heinous, dysfunctional, and adding to the suffering of its people. I offer the same critique of Israel’s leadership as well as the leadership of my own country.
- I affirm that any country has the right to defend themselves against the attacks of another, but, as a follower of Jesus, I believe that a way other than revenge is possible and the only way forward for a just and lasting peace.
Now, for my three observations:
Observation #1. We, the American people, live with our heads buried in finely manicured sand traps. The vote indicates that our Senators imagine that Hamas is representative of all Palestinian inhabitants of Gaza and, thus, see this as a fair fight between equals. As Holocaust survivor, Gabor Mate suggests, it is a tragic misconception to perceive the Palestinian inhabitants of the Gaza, much less Hamas, as, in any way, on an equal playing field with Israel.
Surrounded by cement walls on three sides and hemmed in by heavily patrolled waters on the fourth, some call Gaza the largest refugee camp in the world. Some call it an open-air prison. Some call it a contemporary concentration camp. Regardless of what you call it, people’s lives within are completely controlled every day (food, water, electricity, and medical care) by Israel.
Rather than a vote affirming a just military campaign between two equal peoples, our Senate just unanimously affirmed its support of the slaughtering of countless civilians (mostly women, children, and elderly as of today) by one of the most advanced, American resourced militaries in the world. We just sent a clear message to the rest of the world that we, a “Christian nation,” unanimously support a war that looks like shooting fish in an overcrowded barrel.
But this is not the first time we’ve sent this very message.
Observation # 2. Revenge is our national response & international reputation. In the aftermath of 9/11 when bombs crashed into our infrastructure, rather than our response to that tragedy being informed by the humble life and teachings of Jesus, we cried out for revenge and stood applauding as Senate unanimously agreed. While some would call our response to 9/11 “just,” the rest of the world called it “revenge”…that cost hundreds of thousands of Iraqi & Afghani lives, over 6000 more American lives, and billions of dollars.
The result? Justice has not been served, more people hate America than before, our deficit is exponentially larger, and we don’t have the bandwidth to manage much less heal what’s broken on the domestic front.
I call upon US American followers of Jesus to reject revenge as a viable solution and both vote to elect representatives who prioritize human flourishing over political and economic power and participate in the formation of those who do. Further, I call upon us to leverage the influence we have in our own neighborhoods, cities, nation & world to participate in the holistic healing of broken relationships that have led to broken systems that are causing broken lives.
Observation # 3. Our national theology, as it pertains to God, Israel, and the Nations, needs radical reformation! While there was no overt religious language included in Senate’s vote, their unanimous decision, representative of the American population, has a resounding Zionist undercurrent that equates the current nation-state of Israel and its Jewish inhabitants with the Promised Land and the Israelites of the Hebrew Scriptures. Further, Senate’s vote indicates that most American Christians navigate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a limited understanding of God, Israel, and the Promised Land that completely ignores the reconciling work of God in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This faulty theological framework is resourcing unfettered injustice and is killing the souls of three peoples: Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans.
Let me offer a reformation to our theology: It was the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that created a new, radically inclusive family. It was the reconciling work of God in Christ that shifted humanity’s identity from tribal (national) to beloved. It was Christ’s work on the cross and through the empty grave that expanded the Promised Land from a tiny piece of real estate in the Middle East to all of creation. It was the comprehensive work of God in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that reveals our God whose favoritism extends not to one bloodline, but to all.
I argue, along with my Palestinian Christian and Messianic Jewish friends, that this theological reformation could have immediate and significant impact toward a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. As the work of Jesus did, this shift would save lives.
I encourage you to initiate a dialogue by sharing this article with your Pastor and your Senator.