Emerging Faith Must Be Combined with an Emerging Politics

by , under Church, Emerging Church, News, Politics, Theology

...but they should defend justice.

The political shake-up in the Middle East is going to have serious repercussions across the West too. A democratic system does not prevent those with extremist views coming to power by the will of the people, and there are many in the US and Israel who are concerned that releasing Mubarak’s stranglehold in Egypt will result in a more aggressive stance towards Israel and the rise of extremist elements in its politcs.

This could be awkward, but is the hard end of the democratic system: the people choose, and what the people choose you have to go with. End of.

However, in the case of the more aggressive stance towards Israel, it’s clear that this is an equal and opposite reaction to the almost unquestionably pro-Zionist stance of the US. The Arab countries may appear extreme in their political aggression towards Israel, but this is exactly matched by the extreme political aggression the US has traditionally shown in support of Israel.

Much of this support has come via the Christian right working in coalition with the Zionist lobby, and what concerns me is that many who may be moving towards a more ’emerging’ view of faith are not really thinking through the implications of that politically. In other words, if you are beginning to call into question your inherited ecclesioloy, you are also going to have to call into question your inherited political theology.

What I love about what Brian McLaren is doing is that he has refused to shy away from this. He’s been to the region, seen with his own eyes, and responded in his writing and speaking. Shane Claiborne has done the same, as has Jonny Baker.

Sadly, many have not followed. They want a theology of ecclesiastic liberation, without a politics of a just peace, and I’m afraid that the two simply don’t match up.

Although he is a self-confessed ‘conservative republican’, a conversation I had on Facebook with someone recently outlined one of the key problems. A plea to pray for peace in Jerusalem – a worthy prayer, of course – was followed by a quotation from Genesis:

“I wil bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

This was followed by the comment, ‘this is not an interpretation; this is just a quotation from Scripture.’

The problem is, by framing this verse in the context of prayer for peace in Jerusalem – alongside a video link to the Israeli national anthem – it has been conscripted to speak on behalf of modern Israel. Which then begs the point: does it mean that Palestinians should be cursed? If so, then the many many Palestinian Christians I know living in Bethlehem or Beit Sahour are being told they are cursed by fellow Christians in the West.

The verse is God addressing Abraham – and again here is a problem. Are the Old Testament passages that refer to Israel to be read as refering to the modern nation state of Israel too? If they are, then Israel is effectively a Jewish state. And this is inherently racist as defined by the UN: its laws are biased towards people of one particular faith.

The problem here is that this is precisely what is going on in Israel: the law works in favour of those who are Jewish, and against those who are still Israeli citizens, but of Arab descent.

The theological positions we hold have political implications, and if these are unbalanced and unjust then we can only expect an equal and opposite position to be held by those on the other side. ‘Praying for peace in Jerusalem’ has to mean justice and peace for all on all sides, and retaining a strongly pro-Israel stance – at the expense of justice for Palestinians – is actually fuelling extremism.

Please, don’t inherit poor theo-political positions. See for yourself – go to the region if you can and meet people from all sides. I’m pretty sure that’s what a guy from Bethlehem would have done a while back.


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  1. rodney neill

    living in Northern Ireland one gets tired of endless processions of naive do-gooders coming to the province on fact finding tours about ‘divided socities’…it is patronising to be treated like a rare species of bird that avid twitchers come to gawp at. The complex nuances of the situation are not understood because they have not lived or grown up in the country or trite ‘everybody needs to get along’ slogans are spouted by these people.
    Life is far more messy, grey and complex than do-gooders appreciate when they rush to simplistic judgements.

    Rodney

  2. KB

    I’d agree with much of this, but I’m not sure if you’re agreeing or disagreeing with the post above!

    Do-gooders really don’t do much good, but I’d rather people went on fact-finding tours than stayed home and didn’t engage with any challenge to their inherited views.

    So… find out facts, but make significant relationships too. This will avoid the move to simplicity – and judgement.

  3. rodney neill

    hello Kester,

    I used to be deeply influenced by Christian Zionism years ago and would imagine their riposte would be that it was God soverign choice and will that the Jewish people inherited this land so it still belongs to them…to oppose this is to oppose Gods will such as the UN and other nations do….I am not sure if going to Israel on fact finding tours will change their position much as many thousands of Christian Zionists attend the feast of tabernacles in Jerusalem each year.

    ‘Israel/Palestine’ is a very hot button issue theological issue between Christian consevatives and liberals in the UK

    Since I come from a divided society I am very wary of passing judgements on others

    rodney