Monday, August 14, 2006

First Saturday, then Sunday

With the current ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon still holding under Resolution 1701 -- and one can only hope it will still hold until the UN can actually get more troops in there to enforce it -- I have to continue to marvel at one aspect of the debate; the unwavering support of some elements of the evangelical community for the State of Israel and their refusal to question its actions.

Make no mistake about it, I too support the State of Israel and its right to exist. I always have. I also support the right of Palestinians to have their own country; preferably with the pre-1967 borders, but I would support any border settlement that ensures two countries live side by side in peace -- with free access between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as well as to the Holy Sites of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. As late as a couple of weeks ago, comedian Jon Stewart suggested making Jersualem an "international city" again; but realistically this is unviable in the current situation: The only sites that I could see being in neutral territory again are the Temple Mount (including the Dome of the Rock), the Church of the Holy Sepelchure, and a few other places in and around Jerusalem held sacred or in high esteem to one or more religions; as well as the Cave of the Patriarchs in Jericho, important to all the monothestic faiths.

I also support the absolute need to destroy terrorism in all its forms -- no matter who's behind it. To have peace, we must sometimes have war. And the only thing the terrorists understand is war. They are the ones who sacrifice human shields -- even fellow denizens of their respective faiths -- for selfish purposes. While civilian casualties must always be minimized (which is partly why I was somewhat critical of the dimension of the current conflict) they are going to be inevitable. A country has to able to defend itself from threats both from outside and within -- and when one considers that Israel is less than 10 km wide at some points, the imperative to be able to strike back is even more crucial.

What continues to annoy me, however, is that in their zest to support the Jewish people, televangelists and their minions refuse to recognize there is a Palestinian problem. Among the Palestinians, as well as Israeli citizens who are of Arab origin, are a small but not insignificant number of Christians who feel they are being ignored in what the religious hotheads and the mainstream media perceive merely as a Jew versus Muslim conflict. It's way more complicated than that. Besides the thousands of Palestinian Christians in refugee camps (which are almost always passed by on official or semi-official tours of Israel), the Christian community in Israel, like most others in the country, which the situation would just go away -- that there would be a lasting and viable peace.

It's not just that the false teachers and their followers want to trigger the Battle of Armaggedon, which is completely unbiblical to begin with (only God the Father knows the timing of the end). It's that they simply don't care about their fellow Christians. In so ignoring, they are not paying attention to something that Hamas -- now the government in Palestine -- once said. "First Saturday, then Sunday." They want to destroy the Jewish state, but their accompanying goal which they know is impossible without the other happening first is to forcibly convert Palestinian and Arab Christians to Islam or else. In fact, many have already been driven out knowing they are no longer welcome even in what could be their home in a free and independent state sometime in the future.

Some criticize Dubya for using the phrase "Islamic facists" the other day, and as US President he probably should have learned his lesson from when he referred to the war in Afghanistan as a "crusade" after 9/11. Unfortunately, there is an arcane truth in what he said.

During World War II, a Protestant minister named Martin Niemöller (1892-1984 -- and who, incidentally, was an anti-Semite) said: "First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I was not Jewish. Then they came for the social democrats, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I was not a member of a union. Then they locked up the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me ... and by that time, no one was left to speak for me."

I suppose some credit has to be given to those who are speaking up for the Jews -- matter of fact, we all should be. But the fact is, the false teachers are not speaking up for their fellow Christians who are just as surely the victims of facism and terrorism as are the Jewish people as well as the majority of Muslims who want no part of the conflict, either. At the very least, one of the most positive aspects of the State of Israel is freedom of religion and the right to worship on the day a person chooses -- be it Friday, Saturday or Sunday. The worse part of what the evangelicals are doing, however, is they have an ulterior motive to forcibly convert Jews in Israel and elsewhere to Christianity -- which they believe is essential to paving the way for the return of the Messiah.

If they only bothered to ignore the "annotations" of Cyrus Scofield and John Nelson Darby, and actually read the Bible without those references, they would realize their entire theory is built on a house of sand. Contrary to what so many TV preachers teach, Jews are already the chosen people of God -- they do not need to be converted. There is no two-part return of Jesus of Nazareth (namely, a Rapture followed by a seven year tribulation) because the Rapture is heresy, period -- the Messiah will only return once and for all, he won't make a "stopover." One cannot trigger the end times -- only God can do that. One cannot presume the end is near because "knowledge has increased" -- it has exponentially ever since the Renaissance and even before then.

I am convinced that when Jimmy Swaggert, John Hagee, Benny Hinn, Oral Roberts, Joyce Meyers and the rest of "that" crowd show up on Judgment Day, the first question Jesus of Nazareth will ask them is, "What did you do for the least of your brothers and sisters in Palestine?" I'm not quite sure how they're going to respond when that happens -- but for now, it's pretty obvious they've done squat.

First Saturday, then Sunday. They speak out against pornography, alcoholism and gambling altogether, and doing all sorts of business on Sunday altogether in the United States, but they can't be bothered to speak up for some who can't even get to Church on Sunday because they're being terrorized? In the land where Jesus -- a Palestinian Jew -- grew up? Now ask yourself, who's the real hypocrite?

Yeah, yeah, I know, "Judge not, lest ye be judged." But isn't that what those guys are doing by pretending the least among them don't even exist, or believing they deserve to be swept under the mattress?

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