-James A. Baker III, former Secretary of State .
In addition to the time spent in Israel and Palestine, recent conversations on “the End Times” and the fulfillment of prophecy have compelled me to look deeper into eschatology. I have been wary of eschatology because of its ambiguous and (seemingly) convoluted nature.
In addition, I feel that some people use eschatology in abusive ways. Take dispensationalism for example. Here is a belief system that originated in the 19th century that suggests that the people of Israel and the Church as Israel are two separate entities. God will validate the land promises made to ethnic Israel as well as those made to the Christian church. Many Christians have taken the 1948 return to Israel as a sign of prophecy. The end of time is at hand as Scripture is in the process of being fulfilled.
This belief has caused some Christians to be at the forefront of Zionism, a political movement which seeks to restore ethnic Israel to the land, sometimes at any cost. This includes forced removal of indigenous Palestinian populations.
This is not my attempt to unfairly castigate proponents of dispensationalism. I am sure that there are those dispensationalists that decry injustices done to Palestinians. Surely, there are cases of other eschatological theories being abused. I only use dispensationalism as an example of what uncritical engagement with a theory may lead to. It is also an incredibly popular theory in western Christian subculture. Look no further than ‘Left Behind’ books.
Apathetic deference to abstract theories like dispensationalism leads some to privilege ideas over people. Whole people groups are easily dismissed and dehumanized. However, when conflict is communicate in terms of a personal story, messages come through in powerful and convicting ways. This is the power of experience. While itself not the ‘Gospel truth’, the personal experience of the Palestinian people living under occupation shatters beliefs that Palestinians are ‘terrorists’, ‘rebels’, and ‘the enemy of the people of God.’
However, it would be unfair to talk in terms of black and white. There are plenty of places in Palestinian Bethlehem that are just as nice as places in Jerusalem. Not every Palestinian is a refugee or living in a shanty. The conflict I see is not simply Israel versus Palestine. One side is not wholly evil and the other good. There is complexity at every turn. There is injustice done to Jews by Palestinians, Palestinian to Jew, Palestinian to Palestinian, and Jew to Jew.
Am I ‘pro-Palestinian’? Only in the sense that I am disquieted by the overwhelming injustice they face. However, injustice is not unique to Israel/Palestine. It persists throughout every society and in many communites: Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Marion, IN, and Milwaukee, WI.
I am pro-Palestinian, but I am also pro-Israeli. I am pro-Hungarian, -American, -Greek, -Italian, -human. Ultimately, I am pro-justice. It is a brand of justice meant not in terms of retribution, but one that encapsulates peace and the restoration of human dignity.
This is not merely a guilt trip, but a call to reflect: where in my life does injustice exist? On a societal or personal level? What influences my beliefs on people, whether individuals or groups? Do I treat any with contempt in particular?
However, mere reflection does not go far enough.Reflection should lead to practice. Do not let theories get in the way of people. Whether you think ethnic Jews should be return to their homeland or not, all people ought to be treated with justice. Human dignity is engendered from a deep, Christ-like love, which is the aim of our charge. Love issues from a pure heart, good conscience, and a sincere faith (1 Tim 1:5).
May the Peace of the Lord be with you,