A message for Israel and Evangelicals: Genesis isn’t a policy guide
With a dogmatic loyalty to Israel born out of a literal interpretation of the Bible, is the American Christian Right the new Jewish lobby in US politics? Mixing religion and statecraft isn’t just dangerous and unwise. It’s sacrilegious.
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The sign is part of a wider phenomenon: the American Christian right’s dogmatic support for Israel and the Jewish state’s claim to the “Holy Land.” It’s a loyalty born out of a literal interpretation of the Bible and its apocalyptic narrative and a view that ascribes divinity to a physical place. And this reflexive support for Israel has spread to the broader conservative base and American political scene in general. Look no further than Glenn Beck’s “Restore Courage” trip to Jerusalem planned for this August, which at least one GOP presidential contender has noted he will attend.
Such religious attachment isn’t an isolated theological agenda. It’s at the heart and history of the conflict in the Middle East.
But with a Palestinian bid for statehood planned for September and escalating tensions in the region, there’s too much at stake to use God as a real estate broker. To avoid a potentially violent flash point, leaders must look to a peaceful constituency – not the political ploys – of the world’s great religions, all converging in this Holy Land.
Mixing religion and foreign policy
Mingling religion with foreign policy has a longstanding history: from the Islamic armies of Allah marching across the first millennium Christian world, followed later by two centuries of theologically dubious European Christians crusading across Mediterranean lands. In some respects, we moderns have never escaped medieval traditions. The problem is that these traditions are the foundation on which diplomats are still forced to build.
“Isn’t it unwise to use the Bible to settle real estate disputes?” I asked the pastor of the conservative congregation whose sign I’d passed.
“We take the Bible literally, every word,” he replied on the other end of the phone.
“What about Genesis 15:18, where Jehovah promised Jews all the land ‘from the river of Egypt [the Nile] unto the great river, the river Euphrates [think Baghdad]’?” I said, “Surely you don’t think Israelis have claim to a huge chunk of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, do you?”
The evangelical clergyman replied, “I am kind of excited to see what God will do for Israel.” He went on to tell me he thought all Arabs and Palestinians living within Israeli borders should be deported to neighboring Arab countries, an idea that has had underground currency in Israel for more than a decade. “God made a covenant with the Jews that the land would be theirs in perpetuity,” the minister explained.
Finally I asked, “When you say ‘Hold God’s land,’” I asked, “which God are you talking about? Isn’t the Islamic Allah just another name for God?”