Exporting fear instead of Gospel – where “The Christian Right” gets it wrong

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welcome to the Ghetto

Jesus: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

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Christian Palestinians

I had an interesting conversation with some Palestinian Christians not too long ago. Rebekah and I were visiting Bethlehem along with participants in a graduate level seminar. There were preachers, grad students, professors and a few spouses – like me – along for the ride.

My perspective, as always, is one of the open spirit: observer, listener, student, and journalist. I was there to learn, to gain fresh perspective, to ask questions, and to have my eyes opened. And boy did I!

We drove into Bethlehem through a gap in the wall. We visited the Church of the Nativity, walked the streets, talked with some merchants, and went to a Christian college where local Palestinian believers learn more about following Jesus as ministers.

The most interesting nugget I picked up from our visit was this observation by one of the Palestinian Christian leaders: “Our biggest threat is not from Israel,” he said. “It’s not the Jews who scare us so much as American Evangelicals.”

“Our biggest threat is not from Israel,” he said. “It’s not the Jews who scare us so much as American Evangelicals.”

DSC_0389Fear? Fear of other Christians? We talked about this some more and I thought about the tragically skewed view of “covenant” that is held by those who see Christianity as interchangeable with American Nationalism. As if God’s Covenant with Abraham amounts to a kind of manifest destiny mandate 21st-Century American Christians can cash in. “Take it!” their God declares, “it’s all yours.”

And we all know what happens to the people who get in the way when we begin to believe we have the right to take what we like, and especially when we promote the lie that God has given us more “favor” because we’re just that special.

Remember the Heart of the Gospel?

Many American Evangelicals carry this romanticized notion of “God’s Chosen People.” “We support Israel no matter what…” is not only a political plank but it stands outside of Christ’s call for love, justice, and reconciliation; Christ’s peace, kindness, grace, goodness, light, and I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

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I couldn’t help but remember my conversation in Bethlehem this week when I watched the news and noted the relationship between the demands of the Evangelical Right, Trump’s relocation of the U.S. Embassy, the consequent protests, and then Israel’s heavy-handed brutal response to a people trapped in their Ghetto behind a wall.

I can connect the dots, and there is a lot of blood on the hands of those American Christians who continue to give my Palestinian friend good reason to fear.

I cannot understand how the Christian Nationalism that is eating away at the heart of the Evangelical Right can in any way pretend to have anything to do with following Jesus, and living as disciples of the humble, peaceful, merciful man who walked the hills of Galilee and who calls us to be his hands and feet in this world.

1-IMG_5279“For I am gentle,” Jesus says “and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29).

And so must we be – DEREK

 

8 comments

  1. The timing of this blog post is remarkable. I was discussing the Evangelical Pro-Israel stance with my mother just last night, stating that I couldn’t understand why support for Israel seems to be a requirement for being a Christian. I don’t know enough, (and likely never will), about the Israel-Palestine conflict, to take a solid stance either way. However, I believe that the the mainstream Church has gone off the biblical rails in so many ways, it makes me thing twice about standing with them on this. I struggle with balancing Christ’s message of peace alongside Luke 12:51 where He says he did NOT come to bring peace.
    Thank you for your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Amy – I’m glad you’re having these kinds of conversations. And I’m glad you feel comfortable floating the hard questions! Nothing is ever quite as clear-cut as we’d like it to be…

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  2. Derek — I am so relieved after reading this post. I feel so isolated from Christianity because of how I see people who wrap themselves in the Christian flag and the American flag becoming so hard-hearted and cruel. I’m struggling with what I know is an obligation to be in fellowship with believers and my utter astonishment in what I see as a perversion of everything Jesus teaches and stands for. I haven’t reconciled my feelings yet, but I feel better having read your acknowledgment of what I’ve been seeing. Are you familiar with John Pavlovitz? I’m frequently in agreement with his assessment of current politics, but I also want to make sure that I’m not heading in a wrong direction. Do you have any thoughts on this for me?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Marilyn – great to hear from you. Sorry you are feeling a little lost. I’ll have to check out Pavlovitz. For starters, I’d recommend listening to Rebekah’s messages (either our church facebook live feed for video or at our website https://www.wakeforestpres.org/) There’s a consistent thread in her preaching of pushing back against the perversion you reference. Even here in the Bible belt people are very open to the truth and tired of the “crap”

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  3. Well said, Derek, as always. The compromised witness of religious right comes from decades of alignment with right-wing politics. This is another example. It is foolish. That said, I have an observation. Many of my right-leaning Christian friends were obsessed with opposing Democrats, Obama, and then Clinton. (They can’t seem to let it go). But have you noticed the left-of-center church’s passion for politics, too? A number of my fellow seminary alums are quite vocally pro-left and regularly denounce Israel (sometimes in ways that can only be described as anti-Semitic) and of course, they seem to despise the Republicans and Trump. My observation: neither side loves each other much, well, or visibly. They don’t know how to talk to each other. They are suspicious and scared of each other. If the people in American churches can’t find a way to show grace and love to one another here, perhaps the right-wing evangelicals are not the only ones missing something that following Jesus is supposed to produce.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True. Agreed. I’m Re-reading Mere Christianity with two of the men’s groups and Lewis would be all “keep your eyes on Jesus; everything else is a distraction”!

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