For Whatever Reason
(The true cause of the Israel/Palestine crisis)
Yes, a lot of passion has been poured out on this subject. Associated social media tweets and threads glow red-hot in rhetoric, diatribe and emotion. There are a lot of people getting angry out there, with few of them able to explain why they are so worked up on the subject. It has become the scratching post for the chattering classes, for an itch that never goes away. We are so weighed down with rhetoric from all sides that we sink into a stupor, powerless to react intelligently to the swift stream of facts and fables that fly around us like bullets.
What is going on here? Why do our media and our politicians insist on focussing the world’s attention to this tiny nation, barely the size of Wales? Yet few are asking why this should be, logic and common sense have been given over to emotional overdrive on a conflict that seems unresolvable, yet taps into something deep within us that few can get a handle on.
If we were to attempt to analyse this feeling of disquiet, we may not like what we find. This is because the deeper we search, the darker it gets. Yet some have made this journey and what they have found has changed them for good … and for the good.
The nudge that I needed was supplied, first, by a Facebook posting from a friend, who eloquently asked “what has become of the British nation? Thousands of people have marched through central London to call for an end to Israel’s ground campaign and air strikes in Gaza. Protesters marched from Downing Street to the Israeli embassy in Kensington. A police blockade stopped them from gaining access. Whitehall, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly and Hyde Park Corner were closed. QUESTION: Where were all these people and why was NOT ONE of them protesting against the ISIS who have murdered thousands in Iraq or the 170,000 Muslims slaughtered in Syria by Muslims? Where was these peoples outrage when Egypt was murdering each other? And where was the protests over the past 12 years as Hamas fired thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians? Is anyone brave enough to give me an answer?”
But, yes, this man was admittedly a friend of Israel, yet … (in a small voice) … shouldn’t all right-minded people echo this cry? The second nudge was more telling, because it came from a well-known Christian blogger from the other camp. He tweeted four times in succession and here is the gist:
Just returned from anti-Israel demo in London. Huge numbers there calling for an end to Israeli aggression … admit to feeling uncomfortable marching alongside Socialist Workers Party and Stop the War coalition … wouldn’t it be good if Muslims would turn out in such huge numbers to protest the extinction of Christians in Iraq? … For that matter, it would be good if ANYONE turned up to protest the Iraq situation!
Needless to say none of this was retweeted, because it was dangerous stuff. Dangerous? Why? Because spiritual truth and light was allowed to briefly flicker into view. This is not melodrama, neither is it mellow drama, but there is a drama involved … and this one started over two thousand years ago …
… You’re a simple man (or lady) in a crowd. You’ve been forced to stay up all night by the enforcers of the chief priests. It’s now 7am and you’re dead on your feet, forced to watch the final acts of a tragic charade. But then there is more, because these very same men are now ghosting through the crowd, with their mutterings, suggestions, commands. Crucify him! Crucify him! A rising chant, builds and builds as the unfortunate prisoner is paraded by the guards, his broken body streaked with fresh blood and bruises. Soon you join in, fearful of the consequences if you don’t. Some go still further as Pilate turns his back on the crowd, angry fists raise to the sky, but inclined towards the man who was claiming to be the anointed one, the Son of God.
Let his blood be on us and our children.
That simple phrase, uttered by a few overexcited Jews nearly two thousand years ago has since become a curse, condemning Jewish people to a history of hatred and persecution at the hands of the followers of that same crucified saviour. What a twisted irony. The very same blood that has brought salvation to millions throughout history was to bring death and disaster to others on the simple pretext of those words uttered by a few Jews in that small crowd in Jerusalem early in that springtime day.
And that’s the point. It’s pretext, not context. It’s reading into the Bible a justification for whatever is already in your heart, rather than allowing God’s Word to feed your heart with His truth. It’s following this train of thought; I have an inclination within my heart to think negatively about the Jews and, to prove that God has given me this inclination, I must search Scripture for verses that make sense of these feelings. It is no different to the cash-hungry televangelist who plunders the Bible to feed his greed, or the deranged cult leader who seeks justification for acts born from his own twisted imagination.
Let his blood be on us and our children.
These words were just convenient for those early Church Fathers who had figured out their own philosophic systems and needed to find God’s approval for the growing tendrils of hatred for this rejected race that gripped their hearts. Don’t take my word for it, listen to what those early Gentile Christian teachers were saying:
… they have committed the most abominable of crimes, in forming this conspiracy against the Saviour of the human race. (Origen)
The synagogue is worse than a brothels …the temple of demons devoted to idolatrous cults … a place of meeting for the assassins of Christ… the refuge of devils, a gulf and a abyss of perdition … As for me, I hate the synagogue…I hate the Jews for the same reason. (John Chrysostom)
These are not a couple of isolated quotes taken out of context; they are just two of hundreds of quotes that could have been used, from the lips of a whole breadth of men who shaped the direction of early Christianity.
What they were saying was that responsibility for the death of Christ should not fall at the feet of those who actually carried out the deed (the Romans), or those who manipulated Pilate to carry out the sentence (the chief priests and elders), or those who uttered those fateful, self-condemning words (the group of Jews who stood before Pilate that morning), or he who willingly accepted his forthcoming death (Jesus), or He who planned the whole episode as the necessary human component of His masterplan (God) … but instead should be laid at the feet of every Jew who has lived on earth from that time onwards.
That’s what the Church has done for much of its history. It is a shameful and wicked act. Let’s see the consequences of this.
• On July 15th, 1099, the First Crusade arrived in Jerusalem and proceeded to slaughter every Jew they could find, many burnt alive in the synagogue. After this monstrous act they went on a procession to church, singing hymns on the way and wading ankle deep in the blood of their victims.
• Jews were again and again accused of murdering Christian children and using their blood to make Passover matzah bread. These accusations were usually at Easter-time and were usually accompanied by massacres of Jewish populations. The first such accusation was in 1144 in Norwich, England.
• Jews were forcibly expelled from England in 1290, from France in 1306, from Germany in the 1350s, from Spain in 1492, from Portugal in 1496 and from the Papal States in 1569.
• Martin Luther wrote a pamphlet, On the Jews and their Lies (1543), using the following descriptions, “venomous … thieves … disgusting vermin … a pestilence and misfortune for our country … children of the devil.”
Who were carrying out these acts? Not Hitler, Stalin or Mao Tse Tung, psychopaths unburdened by consciences or any acknowledgement of a holy God? No, these acts were sanctioned or directly carried out by followers of the crucified Jewish Messiah, who, while dying, openly forgave all who were responsible for his death. These words were conveniently forgotten by the Crusaders who, according to an eyewitness, “cut down with the sword every one whom they found in Jerusalem, and spared no one. The victors were covered with blood from head to foot. It was a most affecting sight which filled the heart with holy joy to see the people tread the holy places in the fervour of an excellent devotion.”
Let his blood be on us and our children.
Perhaps no other Bible verse has been played out so consistently by the historical Church, despite being a statement rather than a command. The Church has seen itself fit to appoint itself as “God’s avenger”. Yet doesn’t Jesus say the following in his divine manifesto, the Sermon on the Mount:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1-3)
The Church has inherited a plank the size of the Grand Canyon.
So now the focus switches from the Jews to the Church.
If you are a Christian I urge you to take the rest of this essay very seriously and pray for understanding and enlightenment. If you are not, you will still be able to follow my argument (it may even cause you to pause and think the unthinkable ;-)).
Firstly, we need to know what God has to say on this issue. After all, He is still very much involved with human affairs, despite what many in the Church think. He didn’t just light the blue touchpaper with the flames of Pentecost, before leaving us alone on earth to do what we want. He had this to say about the Jews, his first covenant people:
This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar– the LORD Almighty is his name: “Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,” declares the LORD, “will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me.” This is what the LORD says: “Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:35-37)
And no-one could dare to declare that this passage has been taken out of context. It comes straight after the only verses in the Hebrew Scriptures (repeated in Hebrews 8:8-12) that specifically speak of a New Covenant, a covenant that would be sealed by the blood of Jesus and would be made with the Jewish people (Jeremiah 31:31). The Gentiles are only grafted into this covenant, as explained in Romans Chapter 9-11, where Paul is speaking to the Gentile church:
If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. (Romans 11:17-18)
If this is not familiar to you it is because the Church today rarely addresses these three Chapters in Romans, except to strip out a verse or two to graft into its sermons. If you read it you will find another warning to the Gentile Church:
Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. (Romans 11:20b-21)
There is no reading of these three Chapters in Romans that tell any other story than God reminding His Church of His continuing love and His future plans for the Jewish people. Yet much of the Church (but not all of it) is ignorant of this fact. We must stop cherry-picking our Scripture and start reading large chunks of Bible narratives, to catch the flow of God’s story. These three Chapters would be a good start and you should preserve the context by beginning your reading at Chapter eight and finishing at Chapter twelve. There is a gap between “nothing being able to separate us from the Love of God” (Romans 8:39) and “offering your body as a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1), where we read the story of God’s great mercy to His original covenant people. God’s mercy, but the Church’s folly … and wilful blindness!
So, to bring these ideas together, in the Jeremiah 31 passage, God first declares that he will institute a New Covenant with the House of Judah and Israel (i.e. the Jews) then, as if to stress the identity of the prime recipients, He then goes on to tell us that the Jewish people are as likely to be rejected by Him as mankind being in a position to measure the whole universe or the sun and the stars shining no more.
In other words, despite the dominant thinking of the majority of the Church today, the Jews are still in God’s plan. This is dangerous stuff, because the Bible is full of stories of people and nations who have tried to thwart God’s plans, let alone coming against God’s people. These stories never had happy endings! Beware, Church!
Beware, Church, because this is no longer about the Jews, neither is it about God. It is about you, the Body of Christ. It is also about the members of that body, so, from now on, this is about … you, dear reader.
But the Church has changed in terms of its treatment of the Jews … hasn’t it?
Think again. There was a meeting of the good and the wise of the Christian and Jewish communities. The question posed was, “Why does the Church hate the Jews”? This time the same old excuses – accusations of Christ-killing, of child snatching or poisoning wells – were not reeled out. Instead there was just a corporate shrugging of ecclesiastical shoulders and an admission that they had no answer. The Church just doesn’t like the Jews … period. This meeting was held as recently as 2002 (and was reported by Melanie Phillips in the Spectator magazine) and those who came to this conclusion included a future Archbishop of Canterbury. This is very much a current problem in the Church and is one that is rarely addressed directly.
If honesty is to be exercised, then here are the two thoughts that have probably crossed most minds. Firstly, the appeal to Church tradition. Could the Church Fathers, Augustine, the Popes and Martin Luther – who have given us so much guidance in living the Christian life – have got it so wrong about the Jews? That’s an easy one. It’s all a matter of context. Read the history of these fallible men and see for yourselves how their view of the Jews was coloured by their own human prejudices. How can one compare their subjective conclusions on the rejected people, the Jews with God’s divine assurances for His accepted people, the Jews? Do we follow God or man?
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
The second thought concerns an attitude that I have experienced, along with many Christians who wish to promote a better understanding of Jewish people in the Church. The attitude is this, from many Christian leaders; the last thing I need in my church/fellowship is division, so we steer well clear of the topic of Israel and the Jews.
Now step back and analyse that remark. Yes, we all want to promote order in churches, but do you think that God cares more for order than for putting right a historical wrong that is a hidden cancer in the Church in our country? Ignoring this is tantamount to condoning it. God’s truths are meant to create division, that’s the way we can separate the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the chaff. If a split results from incorporating “Hebraic” elements into a church service then whose side do you really think God would take? Unfortunately, there’s a major problem here and we must individually decide if we are a part of this problem, or agents for a solution.
But back to reality and to a statement that best sums up the majority of Christian thinking on this issue: OK, so Christians, for whatever reason, just don’t like Jews. It’s always been so, perhaps it always will be so. The key words here are “for whatever reason” and it is these words that are going to lead us deeper into the heart of this problem.
For whatever reason? Pharaoh thought he had a reason, they may grow too large and turn against us.
For whatever reason? The Church fathers thought they had a reason, after all the Jews killed Christ, didn’t they?
For whatever reason? Emperor Constantine thought he had a reason, they are encouraging Christianity to remain too Jewish.
For whatever reason? The medieval Church thought it had a reason, they steal communion wafers in order to stick pins in them and trample on them, so torturing Christ!
For whatever reason? Martin Luther thought he had a reason, they refuse to convert to Christianity!
For whatever reason? Voltaire thought he had a reason, they gave us Christianity!
For whatever reason? The Muslims think they have a reason, they have stolen our land.
There’s an awful lot of “for whatever reasons” and I haven’t even started on those who blame the Jews for capitalism, communism, 9-11, the two World Wars, polluting the Aryan race, Hollywood (we’ll concede that one!) on a list that grows longer year by year.
It’s that word “whatever”. It tells us that the World will always find a reason to hate Jews, it’s not just about what happened at 7am that Jerusalem morning many moons ago.
Let his blood be on us and our children.
It runs far deeper than that, with a whole catalogue of religious, racial, economic, political or sociological reasons for this hatred. It used to be just anti-Semitism but now we also have a politically correct version of it called anti-Israelism. Have no doubts about this, it’s really the same thing, it’s just more acceptable in polite society. You don’t need to find a single reason, no reason is needed, we just don’t like them, as those Church leaders admitted in that meeting in 2002, though they weren’t speaking personally, but for the wider Church. We just don’t like them.
There must be reasons for this.
In fact there are and it’s just one reason … and it’s a biggie!
We know that there is one God who has blessed us with the possibility of salvation and the gift of eternal life and calls Israel “the apple of His eye”, promising that they will never cease to be a nation before Him.
But we also know that there is one adversary, who hates God, hates His Messiah and His people. He particularly hates the Jews. Paul gives us good reasons for this:
Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen. (Romans 9:4-5)
The Jews were responsible for all of this?! No wonder Satan hates them. He also hates them because they hold the key to his ultimate demise, when Jesus Christ returns as a Jew to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and claims his inheritance.
That’s the reason, no other is needed and it implies something too awful to contemplate:
If you have any negativity towards the Jews, even in a small way, then you are aiding and abetting the enemy of our souls.
Never before can a much-used phrase have more relevance, the uncomfortable truth.
It is time the Church grasped the reality of this statement.
Just read your daily newspapers, read the blogs, watch the news. Have you ever wondered why:
• There is a movement against Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. It’s called BDS – boycotts, divestment and sanctions – and it is sponsored by a variety of repressive Muslim regimes. Those who support this, including the promotion of an annual Israel Apartheid week in colleges throughout the country, include neo-nazis from the Right, radicals from the Left, anarchists, deluded academics and Muslim fundamentalists. All united in hatred on an issue that is not born out by facts if any of these people bothered to do their research.
• The human rights council in the United Nations has adopted more resolutions condemning Israel than it has all other states combined. Israel has never served on this council, whose current members include such bastions of human rights as China, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
• One of the recent candidates for Pope, Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga is a notorious Jew-hater. In an interview with the Italian Catholic publication, 30 Giorni in May 2002, he even went as far as blaming Jews for the recent cases of sexual misconduct by priests, through their control of the media!
• There is a one-sided Church initiative called EAPPI that focuses almost entirely on the “evils of Israeli occupation”. It is supported by the Quakers, the Baptist Union, the Catholics, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and possibly the Church of England too.
Believe me when I say that, if this list would cover all current acts against the Jewish people in the realms of politics, economics, religion, academia, social behavior etc., it would provide very grim reading indeed. And all this against a people group who number just 0.19% of the world’s population! You just couldn’t make this up.
Wasn’t Satan a clever boy then? He’s managed to dupe so many of God’s people into believing his propaganda, knowing full well that most in the Church today are either ignorant of his schemes or are helplessly blinkered or are distracted by the shiny trinkets that lay scattered on pathways leading nowhere.
Wake up, Church and smell the roses. It’s surely not too late to get your act together.