I just read a Christian ministry fundraising letter that boldly stated a pro-Israel view alongside a subtle anti-Arab view. The letter hoped to raise funds for a preaching program by suggesting to readers this ministry “stood with Israel” against all its enemies.
Clearly this letter is also pro-Jew, basing some of its outlook on the scriptural command to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” But it goes beyond this. The letter seamlessly blends biblical teachings about Jewish people generally and Jerusalem specifically with current Middle East political tensions, the state of Israel’s actions, and end-time prophecies.
One problem with this approach is that it offers a confusing and debatable eschatology (end-times doctrine) and a questionable, at best, mix of religion and politics.
Another problem with this approach is that it spiritualizes Israel the nation-state, thus sanctifying everything the current government does.
I am certainly not anti-Jew, nor am I in any way suggesting Christians should not care about, pray for, or otherwise support Jewish people. I am not suggesting Jews or Israel have no enemies; of course they do. I am not “siding with” anti-Israel commentary, much less some political and religious leaders who regularly make threatening hate-statements about Israel.
I am saying that some Christian, and some conservative and some Republican, leaders are so eager to proclaim a perceived stature within the ranks that they make over-the-top rah-rah statements of “defense of Israel” at the cost of sounding, if not being, anti-Arab. These statements are designed to establish their credentials in terms of fidelity to the cause. “I’m for the defense of Israel, so I must be real," as a truly spiritual Christian, a truly staunch conservative, or a truly pure Republican.
As I noted above, I’m not anti-Israel. But to be supportive of and care about the Jewish people must I also believe that every move the nation of Israel makes is indeed, by definition, a correct one? Must I support the current government uncritically, blindly?
I love my own country. I am glad and grateful to be an American. But I do not believe every act of the USA or a given government is always the correct, good, or moral one. And I say so or vote so. I offer critique because I love my country, not because I do not.
I do not believe in “My country right or wrong but right or wrong my country.” This is an irrational and potentially dangerous hyper-patriotism, not responsible patriotism.
And why must I, if I love the Jewish people and pray for the peace of Jerusalem, suddenly become anti-Arab? Do all Arabs hate Jews? Of course they do not. Are all Arabs “bad” by virtue of their ethnicity? Of course they are not—if you believe so, you have succumbed to racism. Are all Jews “good” by virtue of their ethnicity or religion? Of course they are not, nor are Americans.
And for that matter, not just Arabs but Persians: are all Persians (Iranians) “bad,” enemies of America and Israel, because they are Persians? Of course not. Do all Iranian citizens agree with their leaders? No they do not. Then why lump them together? Why demonize an entire people group because of a given regime?
Much more concerning: why should Christians necessarily adopt anti-Arab or anti-Persian views simply because they care about Jews? Where in Scripture does it say we should despise or work against the Gentile?
So I think the Christian ministry that mailed the fundraising letter I read is not only wrong but irresponsible. I think that in its zeal to be biblical it misinterprets the Bible.
To be pro-Jew does not require one to be—unthinkingly—pro-Israel, even if you wish to support or defend Israel’s right to exist. To be pro-Jew in no way requires one to be anti-Arab, anti-Persian, anti-Turk, or anti-anyone. In fact, adopting a position that is categorically against any people group is a form of racial prejudice and is, therefore, non-Christian or, if you prefer, un-Christian.
The summary of the matter is that Jesus’s redemption and the life-giving Christian faith are for everyone, for Jew, Arab, Persian, Turk, for Gentile, for red and yellow, black and white, for male and female, for great and small, for one and all.
People are going gaga this week over the Mega Millions lottery jackpot passing $500 million. Millions of people are buying millions of dollars of tickets, which of course drives up the jackpot farther. Too bad this is all a celebration in irrationality.
You’ve a better chance of getting two holes-in-one in one round of golf, a near impossibility, than of winning the jackpot.
You’ve a better chance of being eaten by sharks in Ohio than of winning the lottery.
I call it a celebration of irrationality because people suspend reason in order to participate. Nothing about lotteries make sense; yet millions still buy tickets.
You have no ability to influence the outcome. You put your money in the pot and make a vain wish. The odds are all against you; except for a few token winners, only the lottery owners –the “House”—(state governments) win big. Think about it. If Mega Millions is giving away a huge chunk of $500M as a prize, think how much MM had to take in to make this happen.
Many, and I do mean many, though the evidence is anecdotal rather than empirical, lottery winners later face social, personal, and financial problems, even bankruptcies. Why? People don’t know how to handle a lot of money. People you’ve forgotten come and beg you for money. Winners spend like there’s no tomorrow, but there is a tomorrow. Some winners have said winning the lottery was the worst thing that ever happened to them. Makes you think, or it should.
I tell people, “If you have to gamble (and I’m not for it), than at least don’t gamble in the lotteries. They’re the worst odds out there. Go gamble in a casino where you have at least a little (though not much) better odds of winning something.”
Lotteries are a state legislator’s dream—they’re a way to tax those least able to afford it without calling the revenue source a tax. What’s better, it’s a so-called “voluntary tax.” People participate, which is to say they give their money to the government, of their own free will. From a legislator’s perspective, what’s not to like? But who loses? The Public. You do.
Lotteries, even Mega Million lotteries with enormous jackpots, are ultimately a losing proposition. They’re bad politics and bad economics. Certainly, they’re a bad bet.
Keziah: A Little Piece of God’s Heartby Lizzie Grayson is the impetus for this blog. I read the book flying home last week from Cyprus, and I haven’t been able to get the subject out of my mind.
Keziah is a profoundly moving book about coming to terms with the experience of a stillborn child. It’s a book about a child “lost” and also ultimately about the sovereignty of God, faith, and praise amidst pain.
The author Lizzie Grayson shares she and her husband Mark’s experience with multiple pregnancies, two that ended with the births of their living and healthy children Joshua and Iona, and three that ended with a blighted ovum, a baby that died in the womb, and a stillborn child, Keziah.
Lizzie Grayson candidly relates her emotional highs and lows, her worries, fears, and weariness, and her questioning God’s design and intentions. She also catalogs in clearly stated spiritual terms what she learns about the Lord, herself, the Christian faith, the incredible support of faithful family and friends, and life itself. Their story is at times a tearful one, but it’s also one that, eventually, in the grace of God is a triumphant one.
No one knows why God takes a child home stillborn and Grayson doesn’t try to offer special wisdom much less clichés. What Grayson and her husband offer is their tale of woe, comfort, and joy as they walk with the Lord, not always understanding but trusting. In the end, they conclude from experience that “God is good,” not simply because he in time blessed them with a living and healthy baby girl, Iona, but because he blessed them with a child in heaven, Keziah.
I know personally Keziah’s grandfather and grandmother, people of profound spiritual commitment and gracious spirits. So somehow I’m not surprised to learn their daughter and son-in-law are people of similar strong Christian faith.
This story brought back memories. When my wife and I were in our early twenties we “walked through the valley” with a couple whose beautiful daughter was stillborn. They had two sons who looked like their blonde father. Then they had this little girl whose jet-black hair and features copied her mother.
The wisest thing the preacher did, I thought, was recommend our friends allow a complete funeral process. My wife assisted Mother in preparing. I drove Dad a few miles along the interstate and will never forget his quiet but deeply felt grief during that drive. We attended the wake with them, viewed the little girl with them, heard the pastor speak briefly but meaningfully to them, went to the cemetery with them, and stayed with them for a time thereafter. I claim no special part for us, but I will always be glad we were able to be there with our friends through this time.
The process of “Good-bye, for now” that the funeral day allowed may not have brought immediate “closure”—who can feel “closed” when they’ve lost a daughter? But the process made a profound statement that this deceased little girl was not a “thing,” not an “it,” not a trauma to get past, but a human being living forever in heaven. Like Keziah’s parents, to this day our friends celebrate, more than thirty years later, the existence of their daughter and their trust in God’s perfect will.
I recommend Keziah. It’s a personal, practical, and powerful book.
I'm not an artist. I wish I were, at least in the sense I could draw or paint or sculpt some rudimentary pieces of my own art. But in God's providence artistic talent is limited in my DNA.
What's not limited is an attraction to and an appreciation for art in all its forms. From divinely crafted breath-taking beauty in Creation to the art museum where most of us see great art, I like it all, even "modern art" with all it's weird presentations. I've visited the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the National Gallery of Art and other Smithsonian art museums in Washington, D.C. to name a few. I highly recommend them all.
Art and the ability to appreciate it, certainly the ability to create it, are gifts from God. This gift is part of us, human beings, part of our being made in the "image of God."
If to this point in your life you haven't enjoyed some form of art I urge you to try it now. Go to any reputable museum and ponder the beauty, the expression of human values and aspiration, or simply the sheer ingenuity involved in many forms of art. Think about what the artist was trying to say, what you like or dislike about a particular objet d'art, or what draws you to one form of art and perhaps not others.
That's another thing. Not everyone likes the same kind of art. This is one reason we have so many forms with which to interact. Find the art that you like and go from there. Your appreciation for other forms will likely grow in time, but even if it doesn't, you can enjoy what you like.
Here are a few more thoughts about the gift of art: