With the end of the end of the world series coming this weekend, I will either sadly or mercifully take a break from these issues, depending on how you look at it.
One of my repeated critiques of popular end-times scenarios has been the passive acceptance that we can only expect horror in the Middle East, even the wish fulfillment that things get worse faster. There is no other word but hate for my feelings about the apathy, indifference and despair these systems have produced among Christians toward their involvement in the reconciliation of the world (obviously not hate towards individuals). As Margaret Gaines’ book Small Enough to Stop the Violence hits the shelves, I have again stressed my angst at the plight of Palestinian Christians who have been ignored by the Church, as they don’t fit our rigid charts and graphs enough to merit our love or our consideration.
But today I want to address the other side of that issue. We know that historically, Christians have tragically committed some of the most atrocious acts of injustice in human history towards Jewish people. The strands of antisemitism in quarters of church history is a blight on our entire story. Because of the guilt that comes from this, contemporary Christians have been eager to embrace an uncritical, un-nuanced support of the modern nation-state of Israel without exception or qualification. Alongside this, there is often rhetoric about honoring the roots and heritage of Christian faith as the rationality for this move. Given the devastating historical record and haunting memories of the holocaust, God’s people want to right the wrongs of our checkered past.
I abhor antisemitism in any and all forms, and of course believe that an adequate understanding of Judaism is the key to understanding Christian faith. But in the emphasis on loving Jewish people in the modern nation-state of Israel, my problem is not that Christians are expressing their love but that they are not loving well enough. You see for many of these end-times enthusiasts, they only “love” Jews in Israel insofar that they are pawns on the board of their wish-fulfillment regarding the end. They want them to be in the right place at the right time to further their own hopes and dreams about the end of days. That is not the same thing as loving them as human beings. They are in love with the game of chess they are playing.
To really love Jewish and Arab people alike is to pray and work for peace and reconciliation, not to entertain hopes for violence. I’m not wanting Christians to love their Jewish neighbors less robustly, but more so. It just so happens that a lot of the folks that say they love them the most don’t love them as much as they say they do.