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Posts Tagged ‘Palestine’

For many months when I have tried to begin to write these things I have been at a loss to know where to start, or claimed I do not have the time.  But when the heaviness gets to be too much, it just has to be written, with full knowledge that my words are offensive to people I love.  I have held back for literally years from speaking my heart in honesty, for fear of what people may think.  I can now no longer look at myself in the mirror as the fearful person I have been, but speak as I have been burdened to speak.

Early this morning I had a dream I was driving an old, junky car (with a passenger, but don’t know who it was) and came to an intersection in a small town business district that looked as any in America might look, with old brick buildings and cars parked along the street.  As I pulled up, a jihad-style army marched toward us from the opposite direction.  They wore all  black and carried banners with symbols on them.  Their machine guns pointed straight at us.  They stopped at the intersection as well,  keeping their weapons held up, ready to fire.  I felt terrified at first, and unable to move.  But then suddenly the fear disappeared and I decided to turn the car around and go the other direction, whatever the outcome may be.  I realized they might shoot, but it seemed better than sitting there waiting and wondering.  As I turned the car around, behind me was a procession coming from the other way – almost like a parade.  Women were in the front dressed in beautiful Arab clothing as if for a wedding or some special occasion.  Suddenly we heard people shouting at us from all directions to get out of the way, but I was blocked in and couldn’t get out.  I realized at that moment we had driven onto a movie set and ruined an entire scene someone had gone to a great deal of trouble to create.

I don’t claim to understand or interpret dreams, and I’m sure there is a great deal here that I have missed, and possibly just a dream reflecting how I deeply feel.  But it occurred to me when I woke up that all these world events are like a stage – and people have been appointed their parts to play.  Anyone who would interject that this isn’t our true reality, and decide not to be ruled by fear, will be seen as an extreme nuisance for botching the “picture” everyone has dedicated themselves to playing out.

In this world you can find an opinion in every direction from any source.  You can find  someone who has converted to any religion from any other religion – with convincing testimonies.  My husband recently ran across a zealous evangelist for Islam who was raised a fundamental Baptist.  Every human being seeks a group to express and define identity, whether that ideology is religious, political, or simply a lifestyle.

Doris Lessing in her book, Prisons we Choose to Live Inside, astutely observes,

“The fact is that we all live our lives in groups – the family, work groups, social, religious and political groups.  Very few people indeed are happy as solitaries, and they tend to be seen by their neighbours as peculiar or selfish or worse.  Most people cannot stand being alone for long.  They are always seeking groups to belong to, and if one group dissolves, they look for another.  We are group animals still, and there is nothing wrong with that.  But what is dangerous is not the belongings to a group, or groups, but not understanding the social laws that govern groups and govern us.

When we are in a group, we tend to think as that group does:  we may even have joined the group to find “like-minded” people.  But we also find our thinking changing because we belong to a group.  It is the hardest thing in the world to maintain an individual dissident opinion, as a member of a group.” – p. 47, 48

We see “freethinking” movements today as many in our culture seek to reject the norms, yet this group will have its own dogmas and expectations and restrict free thought into areas it seeks to reject.

In my lifetime, I have been carried away in currents of more groups than I care to remember.  I have discovered that to align my life with the pattern that Jesus taught does not seem to be congruent with many groups I am aware of, chiefly because so many of the groups that claim to follow Him have allied themselves with other influential groups that imprint another belief structure on top of His, most of which I feel drown out and alter His true message.

Many world religions seem to have a violent faction and an arm of peace, which I find interesting.  Christians have a tiny slice of their group who reject active participation in violence, most of which exist on the outside fringe of what evangelicals accept as orthodox.

The Church in America denounces the violent past of the Crusades and Inquisition, explaining this was not “real” Christianity, yet the religion as a whole here supports without question the flag of a country, and its military, that have been one of the most and aggressive and meddling since World War II.  Although, when we are finished with a country, the Christians living in those areas are running for their lives, offered no protection from this great military might we Christians here support without question.

Evangelicals also widely support Zionism.  Along with the Hebrew Roots Movement to which I subscribed, these groups set up Israel as the modern fulfillment of Bible prophecy, therefore cannot be in error in any of their methods or goals.  These groups believe Israel must not be questioned  on any grounds for any reason, and refuse to believe any report that may suggest that the Jewish people may in fact be supporting a very oppressive, systematic breaking down of millions of people.  Many I know would in fact not even care.  They believe in the Jewish right to this real estate at any cost.  “Turn the Arab world into a glass parking lot…” – that’s what I hear.  This loyalty is based in religious belief, which ironically is not at all shared by the most devout followers of Judaism.

In the Hebrew Roots Movement we enamored ourselves with the teachings and way of life of the most faithful in Judaism while at the same time, never getting clued into the actual stance of many of them toward the political state of Israel itself.  This group does not believe in serving in the military (but are being forced to) and contend that the fulfillment of prophecy will come through the Messiah without violence and oppression.  Interesting viewpoint!

Evangelicals and Orthodox Jews both agree that the prophecies of Israel’s restoration will take place, but have very different views about the methods.

All religion aside (if that’s possible in this case), a brave voice in Israel wrote an article recently that explained most clearly and simply the situation as I had come to observe it as well.

The single most overwhelming item of evidence of Israel’s rejection of peace is, of course, the settlements project. From the dawn of its existence, there has never been a more reliable or more precise litmus test for Israel’s true intentions than this particular enterprise. In plain words: The builders of settlements want to consolidate the occupation, and those who want to consolidate the occupation do not want peace. That’s the whole story in a nutshell.Gideon Levy

This Palestinian hatred does not emerge in a vacuum.  Even the war hero, Moshe Dayan, honestly  acknowledged this fact, while still holding to the line that Israel must march forward no matter the reprisals or dangers.  But at least he didn’t glaze over the root cause of the conflict.

 “Let us not cast the blame on the murderers today. Why should we deplore their burning hatred for us? For eight years they have been sitting in the refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we have been transforming the lands and the villages, where they and their fathers dwelt, into our estate,” 

(April 1956)

http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/week-s-end/doomed-to-fight-1.360698

 

When this injustice of continued land-grabbing ceases to take place, and Palestinians are not treated as sub-human on a daily basis in their encounters with the IDF checkpoints, and their basic human rights are acknowledged (speaking of the overall strategy here, not the wonderful exceptions to the pattern), then the claims of persecution and threat   may be taken more seriously in the world community.  I applaud that warning shots are sent to a house before it’s destroyed.  It’s great to be courteous when taking over a land.  I am not sure my own country is as thoughtful.  But attempts to minimize civilian casualties does not a moral army make if the directives are wrong in the first place.

I implore you to take less than 10 minutes to hear this alternative voice:

I understand Israel has a deep-seated fear, and a genuine danger from her neighbors, which she herself feels  obligated to escalate and perpetuate.  These nations are on track to bring about destruction of the entire region.  Palestinians are not that immediate threat to Israel’s destruction, although they do manage to cause pain and suffering.  Their rockets shut down the economic activity but harm little else.  They are pawns – used by opposing sides – to justify activities that profit a few.

Jesus says to live by the sword is to die by the sword.  If Moshe Dayan was correct in his assessment that to have a nation state of Israel in this region is to commit to a life of the sword for survival, then what does it mean to pray for the Peace of Jerusalem?  What would be the prayer for Jerusalem now that Jesus would pray?  Would it be similar to the one He prayed in tears when He walked the Earth?

If my survival, and even more commonly – my prosperity, depends on bloodshed, the damage to my soul is greater than I have done to the body of my enemy.  I speak this of my own country even more so than Israel.

Can we form spiritual and political alliances or are they mutually exclusive for a Christ follower?  Are there people being called in all areas of the world who see that this path as one of self-extinction, not of peace?  For those who believe this theology of spreading the gospel to save the world, is it more effective behind the sights of an assault rifle or not?  Does the person on the other side of the rifle barrel or in the drone target zone understand the difference between your soldiers and missionaries?  And why you support both?

I close with one last quote from Doris Lessing.  She was a humanist, but echos my observations of the polarization of mankind into extremes.  I however have to differ with her on the point of reason and sanity.  The Narrow Way doesn’t usually follow into those categories.  But while there is great evil increasing, I also see rays of light coming out from unlikely sources.  Come quickly Lord Jesus – if not in the clouds today – at the least in our hearts.

 “This is a time when it is frightening to be alive, when it is hard to think of human beings as rational creatures.  Everywhere we look we see brutality, stupidity, until it seems that there is nothing else to be seen but that – a descent into barbarism, everywhere, which we are unable to check.  But I think that while it is true there is a general worsening, it is precisely because things are so frightening we become hypnotized, and do not notice – or if we notice, belittle – equally strong forces on the other side, the forces, in short, of reason, sanity and civilization.” p. 3,4  Prisons We Choose to Live Inside

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Israel_Palestine_FlagMy heart is broken today over the escalating violence in Israel and Palestine.  I ache for all the suffering on both sides.  

As an American citizen, I have no ground to confront the violence of any other nation.  We romanticize our “wars” no matter how pointless, and worship our military.  I love and respect everyone who serves, but I find it sad that reverence for selfless service is used as a barrier to discourage open discussion about what they are asked to do and how.  As the whole world knows, we love our guns too.  It’s hard to find an American, Christian or not, who doesn’t believe violence is an admirable way to solve a conflict.  

Not only do we support violence, but Christians here have some strange beliefs about who God loves and doesn’t love, and therefore some people are of more value than others.  As I try to see humans through God’s eyes, not political and religious bias, and realize none of us are without fault or deserving of more of God’s favor, it becomes increasingly painful for me to remember the lock-step allegiances I used to ascribe to, and the people I used to degrade in my speech.

Father forgive us for these blind hatreds and loyalties both.  We are all in need of mercy.

Violence begets more violence, unless you achieve complete extermination or brokenness of an entire people group.  Once again, my country was successful on this front too with the continent’s First Nations.  While their total populations dwindled to only 250,000 at one point, and many believed they would vanish forever, there are now millions trying to reclaim their identity, and heal from centuries of genocidal practices toward every part of their lives for generations.  Yet we are still proud for having put them under our feet and taken everything from them we could.  I believe we have convinced ourselves they deserved it.  The “settler” and the “pioneer” are some of the most revered icons of our history books, and indeed my own great-grandparents were among them.

Why do people with no power or hope of winning continue to fight and bring these battles of final wrath upon themselves?  (Explore “The Great Indian Wars”)  Because they see what little they have left continue to be taken from them, right down to their dignity and their ability to provide for their own families.  Food is cut off, travel restricted, the space they are allowed to live becomes smaller and smaller as more settlers move in.  They see lands their families worked and lived on for generations taken over so that houses can be built for those who hate and abuse them, with military protection.

To this day, few people ever stop to ask, “What right did we have?”.  

I am living in peace on a land that 180 years ago was a war zone between the invaders and the people that had lived here for thousands of years.  My people won, and are still proud of it.  But when I go back and read the history, the broken promises, and learn of the devastated people, all I want to do is cry.  Nothing then, nor now, will stand in the way of our prosperity.  

This blog was not started to be political, and this discussion is much more about what the heart of Jesus sees when he looks at the world, not all the lies we tell ourselves about who is better or worse.  As Christians, many of whom proudly “Stand with Israel”,  I plead with you to not stand for violence toward any human beings.  Endless discussions abound over what people have a right to do in order to defend themselves.  Jesus had a right, but He set the example that it was more powerful to not exercise that right.  The bigger question is, what is the revenge cycle going to solve, and when?  

Genocide is a high price to exact in order to gain security.  Yet it appears there are elements on both sides here who have made a pact to follow this track to the end.  I know it is not the desire of all the people on either side.  Which side has the ability to actually carry it out, and will it in the end be justified or later listed with all the other unfortunate events in history?  

Where would Jesus stand?  I would personally love to see Him standing somewhere on this earth anytime now.  But my grasp on eschatology and prophecies wane a little hazy.  All I know is that whether it’s next year or 500 years, my call is to stand in Love, not on either side of a battle line.

I am encouraged that many voices are speaking out, from Israel as well, and I feel less compelled to do so.  But my husband and I both have discussed how our own past support of political sides that blinded us to the humanity of those we deemed as “enemies” leaves us with a burden to speak out for love, truth, and honesty.  I am not on anyone’s side, or against anyone.  I am for Love.  And for those who choose to walk in it as the highest road.  

If you are wanting people to believe the Jesus you speak of, you must put down the gun – both literal and figurative.  My faith has been sorely tested more by those who profess to be of this religion than by any other challenge.  “When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?”  Good question, Jesus.

 

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I suppose it happens often, that we learn more about people at their death than we ever knew during their lives.  In fact, living under the sub-culture of a strict religious sect as a child, the first time I ever heard of Elvis was the day he died.  I was out taking my banana-seat bike off some sweet jumps we built, when a neighbor kid stopped me and squealed, “Did you know Elvis died??!!!”.  I had not yet learned it wise to conceal ignorance of matters that seem common knowledge so I asked, “Who’s Elvis?”  I don’t know if my friend was more shocked at the death or at the fact that I had never heard of him.

But one man who passed this week I knew a little of.  In 1986, Amnesty International held a benefit concert in my city.  I went, not because I knew much about their work, but because of the amazing line up of musicians coming. I still remember this as the best concert I’ve ever attended.  Five hours of some of the greatest music the 80’s had to offer.  The topic of the night was Nelson Mandela, still in prison.  We recoiled at the thought a developed society could, in our modern times, be so deeply and oppressively divided over race.

I later heard all the excuses surrounding the “it’s just the way things are” philosophies, as well as all the derogatory opinions of Mandela himself.  A co-worker from Africa of British descent, whose family fled Rhodesia during the transition to Zimbabwe, flatly stated that black Africans cannot govern themselves.  He astutely observed that all attempts at their own independence ended in bloody chaos, without taking into consideration what might be creating the challenges.  A client listening in to this conversation, a white, British citizen himself, had some choice remarks about their average intelligence and other things which I really prefer to forget.  This was right about the time when Mandela was being released from prison, soon to do the opposite of what white people expected.  Forgive.

Yes, Mandela had a different political ideology than most Americans embrace, and yes he did resort to violence in his past, as so many often do when they feel it is the only way to overcome their oppressors.  That’s not a foreign concept in America is it?  I think that’s what those canon shot fireworks on 4th of July are meant to commemorate?  Who is a terrorist and who is a liberator?  Just depends which side you are born on doesn’t it?  Violence is violence.  Either it’s a solution, or it’s not.  A worthy cause doesn’t make it prettier.  I understand why people believe it’s necessary.  I am sad when people (anywhere) see it as the first solution.

Often anger and hate boil over and create an endless cycle of killing and revenge.  But when Mandela walked out of the prison, he chose to leave the anger and hate behind and be truly free.  He led his countrymen in this path, and prevented what everyone expected – more killing than ever before.  I have read some of the most encouraging things in the last few days of his life and work.  They give me hope that peace and reconciliation can come, and hate can be put away in other places of the world where it seems to have consumed the minds and hearts of people.

There is no good side in a hate-filled land.  There is no bad side when Christ loves all the people involved with his own pierced hands and heart.  One side may be stronger than the other, but it is to the strong and those who have the power, to choose the path.  What if our enemies overcame us tomorrow?  What philosophy would we wish them to carry?  The one we now hold?  Or the one that Jesus taught, and Nelson Mandela learned to live and teach?  What if those First Nations that European civilization oppressed in America from the time the first ship landed, had a chance to rule over the kingdom built on their blood and land?  What would they choose and what would we deserve?

There are so many issues in this world we only seem to hear one voice from.  Often we may think there are only two sides when there are many.  We don’t seek to understand why, or walk in the shoes of another’s life to see through their eyes.  We want to be right, stronger, superior, victorious.

I discussed with my oldest son recently the phenomenon of super heroes in our pop culture.  Our society, in my experience, is overwhelmingly aspiritual, while at the same time very religious in some places.  But we still have our icons to worship – be they actual human celebrities, sports teams and players, or cartoons.  The heroes are strong, overcoming, witty, invincible avengers.  Yes, that’s the name of the movie even!  They are the opposite of Jesus, my superhero.  Are we a part of this culture that admires these values above all and not even realize how deeply drawn away we are from the heart of Christ?  We are so attracted to the patriotic Captain America, the strength of Hulk, and the self-centered humor and blind pride of Iron Man.  Mankind has always needed something bigger and  more powerful than themselves to worship.  The nature and heart of what we choose in this regard reveals our own desires.  I believe it takes the stronger man and woman to choose peace.  I am not sure I am that strong.  It’s hard to choose it even under my own roof sometimes.

My heart breaks for so many suffering people in this world – for the atrocities of the past, and the present.  This time of year, we think and speak of peace.  I shared a picture recently on facebook that said, “Dear God, let me worry less about putting Christ in Christmas, and more about getting Christ back in “Christian.”  It was shared more times than anything I have ever posted in my several years there, which shocked me.  I believe we deeply sense a problem in this country within the Body of Christ, but it’s easy to point the finger at all those “fake Christians” out there, when we need to look at our own lives – held up to the Light of Christ and His LOVE.  Let that Christ in the Christian begin with me.  Most of the time I feel like a paper-thin, invisible Christian.  I want the light to shine out, and for people to realize it’s HIM and not me.

Mandela’s heart was also tied with those who still waited for freedom.  I don’t want to argue about what that means, or what people deserve.  I just long for that with him, for all people.  When enemies collide in love – it’s the most beautiful thing on earth.  It began in the Cross, and may it continue to spread, one changed life at a time.

May we love all the people God put on this Earth, and consider ourselves in an honest manner.  

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