Monday, December 29, 2008

Violence isn't the Answer to Violence


For decades we have watched the cycle of violence be perpetuated in Israel/Palestine. One side does something, the other responds, and soon the thing escalates. Because of their greater military strength, Israel has often reacted in a disproportionate way. In this case Hamas or militants of some stripe in Gaza, launched rockets -- which they're not able to aim. Most land harmlessly. Israel, responds, with massive military strikes, which kill hundreds, some militants, but others being civilians, even children.

Will this bring peace? The answer is, it hasn't brought peace so far. In fact, it has only worsened the problem. It appears that this operation has been in planning stages for sometime, with the Israeli's looking for some kind of provocation. It's possible that they can destroy Hamas, but as long as the occupation continues, militancy will continue.

As I write this, more than 350 Palestinians have died and more than 1500 have been wounded. The Israeli's seem intent to continue this until they get the desired effect. How many more will die is unknown, but likely many more will die before this is over.

Whatever happens between the Israeli's and Palestinians, there is another issue to consider. That issue is American support and involvement. More specifically, elements in the Christian community, whose theology and interpretation of the Bible needs not only that Israel take complete control of what is now Israeli controlled regions, so as to fulfill biblical prophecies, but needs to push Israel into a conflagration that will lead to Armageddon. Of course, most dispensationalists believe that they'll be "raptured" ahead of time.

I will provide greater comment on the book as soon as I finish it, but I think that a close reading of Timothy Weber's 2004 book, On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became Israel's Best Friend (Baker Books) is necessary reading. Weber goes into great detail as to how dispensationalists have pushed an agenda that will have disastrous results for everyone involved -- but then that's the point.

Whatever God's promise to Abraham regarding the land, it is a stretch to suggest that the current Israeli state is heir to that promise. Israel is a secular state that provides special privileges to its Jewish population. The question that we must ask is -- was God's covenant made with a state or with a people? I believe it is with the latter.

One does not have to like or agree with Hamas to be sympathetic to the Palestinian people. These are not animals that can be exterminated as was suggested by a commenter on my earlier post. These are human beings, just like me, people with hopes and dreams. So, I continue my prayers for peace.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Couple of quick hits.. living in a western suburb..I am nervous to make too many assumptions on either side. Sitting in my office, I couldn't help but wonder what I would I feel if I knew that any time a missile could land on my house with my family said.

That said.. our pastor made a great point about God's justice. To be non-violent in this type of situation requires a God of justice. Who is more than a nice guy, but avenges injustice. It may not sit well with our peaceful image of God, but it is the God of revelation who come to judge the world. So.. in response.. I have to say my violence is not a response to violence.. as it pales to God's justice.

-Chuck

John said...

Chuck,

You said: "To be non-violent in this type of situation requires a God of justice. Who is more than a nice guy, but avenges injustice."

I think the traditional Jewish understanding of God before the coming of Jesus was that God was an avenging god. Jesus' message was corrective in this regard: God and God's justice is not about vengeance, but about forgiveness love and shalom.

God's Messiah would not come at the head of a vengeful host, prepared to destroy the enemy, (no matter what his most ardent followers desired) but instead the Messiah would show us how to forgive, and ultimately to love the enemy.

A God who allows his enemies to murder him on a cross while pleading: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do," does not sound like a God who responds to injustice of 'this type' (by which I assume you allude to the murder of innocents taking place in Palestine and Israel today) with vengeance.

Jesus said: "You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder'; and 'whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment." What I hear in these words is the rather extreme teaching that there is no justification for killing or even violence in the theology of Jesus.

Pragmatically, you may feel that violence is called for, but theologically, I think it is wholly unjustifiable, it is in every case regrettable, and in every circumstance calls for repentance and atonement.

John

Anonymous said...

John.. thanks for calling me out on issues, I confess to typing this quickly without time to review. Let me clarify by saying I believe the "violence" occurs in the next life. It is the Lord's to avenge, not us. Its why as Christians we can me peaceful and merciful b/c we trust in a just God.

However, I am by no means a complete pacifist and feel that my situation here in america is too comfortable to say what is right. I will never have my family raped and murdered before my eyes or watch my children starve due to corrupt government.. or be sent to concentration camps. But I know if someone breaks into my home, I call the police.. which in a sense is bringing in "violence".. or a man with a gun to deal with the intruder.

Again.. my lack of clarity is b/c I struggle with the back and forth of these issues.

-Chuck

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

With me this is personal. Although I have no personal friends in Gaza, I do in both the West Bank and Israel. They are Christian and Jewish and Muslim and all are dedicated to a just peace. Palestinian Christians--many of whose families have been Christian since the 1st or 2nd C. and who lived in this land when the Romans ruled and during all the years of the Diaspora--cannot understand why U.S. Christians seem to hate them--or in many cases seem not to even know of their existence.

I've heard some conservative Christians even say that if some Palestinians are "real Christians" they will voluntarily LEAVE.

Few of the Palestinian Christians back the violence. My friends, Sami and Alex Awad, are leaders in the nonviolence movement.

There are also Palestinian Muslims, Israeli Arabs, and Israeli Jews who push for peace. But the U.S. knows nothing of this because of the biased media.

I keep praying for my friends.

John said...

Chuck,

As a practical matter I too struggle with contrary messages on the issue of defensive violence. However, in the abstract, non-violence and complete forgiveness is exactly what Jesus calls for.

And I don't think Jesus' prayer from the cross was 'forgive them while they live out this life and punish them properly after that.'

I think He prayed that the Father would indeed forgive them and remember their sins no more, ever.

And I think when Jesus admonishes us to forgive 70 times 7, I am certain that he was not proposing a temporary forgiveness, until God can take care of the matter in the afterlife - but that the forgiveness we give to our brothers and sister be absolute and eternal what we bind and forgive on earth is bound and forgiven in heaven.

As for God's justice - I have no idea what that means, honestly; but I am certain at least (1) that it has little to do with Greek notions justice as developed by Plato and Aristotle, and (2) that it has nothing to do with an eye for an eye, ala the Old Testament notion.

I also know that Scripture asserts that the right of vengeance belongs exclusively to God; I think this assertion includes the corrolary notion that God reserves the right to grant mercy from His justice.

I really am content to leave the definition and effectuation of God's Justice to God, and hope for the best.

John

Sean said...

For ages the people of Israel have been made a target, but how many of the tribes exist to this day in that region? I myself have Jewish backgrounds yet I am on the other side of the world. The idea of a Jewish state is almost absurd. It is the same as saying the US is full of the American Race or the American Religion. We are all people and we are all children of God. Israel, though they may be in the Lord's favor cannot be aided in their pursuit for the eradication of the Palestinian state. We must however remember that Israeli Jews do not claim Jesus as the Messiah, otherwise they would be Israeli Christians. That being said, we cannot dictate that the extremists are not following Christ teachings because they do not ascribe to them first and foremost. However, as Christians, we must strive to end this crisis responsibly. Blessed are the peacemakers. Seeking to usher in the battle at Meggido is irresponsible Christianity and I will be the first to call those, who think that to be just, a zealot. Jesus did not teach you to hold a sword against your enemies, whomever they might be. Israel should just be content in knowing that the children of Abraham did in fact multiply and spread to all parts of the world, and not concentrate on a single region, a single border... God is in everything. I do not support Israel's overactive airstrikes any more than I supported my country's invasion of Iraq... which is nil.
I would like to mention that in my household, several people either feel that my not condoning Israel's actions as "dangerous" and "un-Christian" and for those whom I know who say, "I don't care, let them kill each other and be done with it." Apathy in the face of injustice is immoral, no matter what side of the fence you rest.

Gary said...

Cornwall,

I never said any person was an animal.

But, when someone has expressed the desire to kill you, and follows that up with gunfire, and bombs, then defending yourself by killing them is not unreasonable. And it matters not whether the number is one or 100 million.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Gary,

I wasn't referring to you. There was an anonymous comment that called the Palestinians animals and essentially called for their extermination.

I've not agreed with your positions, but you have conducted yourself with a dignity I've not seen in earlier postings. I hope you will continue that.

roy said...

the bottom line is that violence no longer works (if it ever did). The situation in Israel is a case in point. They have been killing each other for decades and nothing has changed. It will not solve the problem and cannot solve the problem. One side must say, "no more." Then things can begin to be worked out.

The only other alternative is complete destruction of one of the groups. That is immoral and completely unacceptable to anyone except those who hold bizarre theologies - like the dispensationalism you reference in your next post Bob - that enable immoral behavior. Short of that, there is no rational reason for the violence.