I was somewhat concerned when I read the first report, so I e-mailed a friend of mine who follows this stuff closer than I do. I wanted to know if there was a back-story to this that wasn't getting published. His response was pretty much the stuff published in the second article. He asked me what I thought. I didn't intend to give more than a short answer, but once I started writing, I couldn't stop. I'd like to think it was from the Lord, but you decide. It is relatively long, but you can read it faster than a cat video would take to watch...
Here's my response, slightly edited. I'm calling my friend Theophilus, which can mean either "beloved to God" or "lover of God." Both are true of him, and I hope of you. Either way, the former is true, you are beloved to God.
Dear Theophilus,<idle musing>
Lots of things going on in this whole scenario; I’ll try to deal with each one, but let me know if you don’t follow.
1. In The Land of Canaan and the Destiny of Israel, Frankel, a secular Jew, looked at the land promises to Israel and came to the conclusion that they are conditional on Israel serving YHWH. The current regime in Israel seems more intent on political subjugation of non-Jews than anything else. Witness the treatment of Palestinians and the “Wall” that is being built.
2. One can disagree with the stance of Israel toward the Palestinians and not be against Israel. I know some Israeli Jews who are very much opposed to the direction that Israel is taking here. One can scarcely call them anti-Israel! I fear that the formerly oppressed have become the oppressors themselves.
3. The prophets called Israel to account and were doing so by the voice of YHWH. When there was injustice, Amos called it out. Of course, the ruling party in the Northern Kingdom kicked him out, but YHWH was the one who called him. See Rick Hess, ed.,War in the Bible and Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century, the last chapter (on Just Peacemaking) for more details (a great book, by the way!).
4. The close alliance between Christianity and Nationalism in the U.S. has me quite concerned. How much of what happened with Beck is related to his strong nationalism and the upcoming U.S. elections? Beck spews hatred and a strong civil religion with the U.S. as his real god. The fact that most U.S. Christians don’t see anything wrong with flying a flag in the church buildings while they won’t display a cross for fear of offending someone is a problem (and yes, I did have someone tell me that when I asked them why there was no cross but a U.S. flag!). The fact that patriotic holidays like Memorial Day, Fourth of July, etc. call forth celebrations of “freedom” more that Easter does is a problem. The fact that most U.S. Christians don’t have a problem reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is terrifying. Where does their real allegiance lie? See just about anything by Michael Gorman for a good critique.
5. The U.S. is not God’s chosen instrument in the world. Well, let me rephrase that, it might be, but so was Assyria! But that didn’t keep God from judging Assyria for overstepping its bounds (see Habakkuk!). The Christians in the U.S. would do well to take a look at Augustine’s City of God for perspective. God was getting along fine before the U.S. became ascendent, and he will get along fine once it falls (and it will—every empire does).
6. The whole dispensationalist viewpoint on the end times is theologically deficient. At no time in the history of the church did anything approaching Dispensationalism appear until Darby and then Scofield’s development of it. It is based largely on a misreading of scripture through the lens of Germanic (and Enlightenment) anti-Semitism which equated the Old Testament with legalism and formalism (read Wellhausen, et al.). One only need read Hosea to realize that there is no covenant of law and covenant of grace. It is always and ever grace. The fulness of that grace wasn’t disclosed until the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, but it was always grace. From the moment that Adam and Eve took the apple, God has been pursuing humanity! Praise God for that! That’s all grace.
7. The way that the Christian Right has been whitewashing Mormonism since the last election has me concerned. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association took down their page on Mormonism as a cult after Franklin Graham endorsed Mitt Romney. When called on the carpet, the BGEA said it was removing it because of something that I don’t recall, but the bottom line was Romney was Mormon and Franklin wanted him elected. Why? Because he represented what the Christian Right wanted. Not because Romney was an Evangelical who wanted to exalt God, but because he stood for a strong America with values that they endorsed. Sorry, but that’s just a bunch of double talk for we want to stay in power. Forget the cross, we want the crown. Bomb the Muslims! Revenge!
8. Just as the church sold out far too much to Constantine and his successors, so has the church sold out far too much to the U.S. Government for the sake of “influence.” What has that influence bought? The rich are richer than ever. The churches are emptier than in recent memory. There is no revival. There is no cry for revival—but there are loud cries for bigger armies and more invasions. Defend American interests! What ever happened to the way of the cross? What happened to forgiveness? What happened to feed the poor and oppressed? I haven’t seen any bills introduced to eliminate abortion—the calling card that the Right has always used to get the Evangelical vote—but there have been bills introduced to slice benefits to the poorest among us. There have been letters written warning Iran that we want war. Quite the exchange, the glory of God for a piece of power that will wilt. Pure religion and undefiled is to make widows and orphans seems to be what the church is saying instead of taking care of widows and orphans.
So, yes, I have a huge check in my spirit about this whole thing. I think that nationalism has dulled the sensitivity of too many people to what God is really calling the church to: humble fasting and praying that holiness would grab the church. After all, the promise in Chronicles starts out by saying if my people will humble themselves and turn from their wicked ways… it doesn’t say if other people will turn… and as long as the divorce rate in the church is as high as the rest of society, I’d say we have a problem. As long as preachers are preaching prosperity instead of giving to the poor, we have a problem. As long as…you get the idea.
Sorry this got so long, but this is where my prayers have been going for the last 10 years or more—actually since before 9/11 and especially since. Especially when the Sunday after 9/11 when we were at a megachurch in Minneapolis and the pastor prayed for our soldiers to win. I felt the Lord nudging me to go up to him, so I did. I asked him if we couldn’t pray for the perpetrators as well, that they might experience the love of God. He told me he couldn’t. To his credit, within a week he was able to. But most pastors didn’t. That’s a problem. We’ve equated nationalism with Christianity. That’s sin.
Now it's your turn...what's wrong with my response? Or, maybe a better question, what is God calling you to do in response to this? If he isn't calling you to prayer, something is wrong! And that prayer could be that I "see the light!" But if it causes you to classify me as a "liberal" or "Israel hater" or some such label, then know that your hope isn't in God, but in a political process that will ultimately fail you, because only God can fix matters of the heart, not laws and government processes...