By Joe Sobran
A few days ago I wrote that many in the Christian
Right favor the state of Israel because of their
interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Since then, I
have been deluged with e-mail messages from Protestant
supporters of Israel. Most of them deny that their
position has anything to do with the prophecy of the
battle of Armageddon as described in that book.
It seems I've been approaching the Bible from the
wrong end. Most of these correspondents simply appeal to
God's promise to Abram (later Abraham) in Genesis 12:3:
"I will bless them that bless you and curse them that
curse you." Nearly all of them omit the rest of the
verse: "In you all the nations of the earth shall be
blessed." Most Christians believe that this refers to the
redemption of the human race by Abraham's remote
descendant, Jesus Christ. But let us pass over this
Still, it's a long jump from believing that
Abraham's race is divinely favored to believing that the
present state of Israel is a continuation of the ancient
covenant. It's another long jump to believe that this
could impose a responsibility on the U.S. Government to
back the current Likud regime of Ariel Sharon.
Such long jumps come easily to Senator James Inhofe,
an Oklahoma Republican, who has said: "God appeared to
Abram and said, 'I am giving you this land' -- the West
Bank. This is not a political battle at all. It is a
contest over whether the word of God is true."
Why the United States should be obliged to enforce
God's promises -- as Inhofe understands them -- we are
left to wonder. If only such conservatives would
interpret the U.S. Constitution as literally as they do
the Bible! How does intervening in a remote ethnic war
for religious reasons, thereby exposing the American
people to needless danger, fall under the heading of "the
common defense of the United States"?
Does Inhofe think his religious duty to Israel
supersedes his duty to uphold the Constitution and
protect the American people from harm? If so, he should
resign his office and help Israel in his capacity as a
private citizen. He could, if he chose, move to Israel
and enlist in its armed forces. But he has no right to
involve the rest of us in his mission or to make us bear
its costs and risks.
That goes for others too. They are entitled to hold
their private interpretations of the Bible. But they are
not entitled to use political power, including the
individual vote, to give those interpretations the force
of law, much less to plunge us into war in order to
It has often been observed that those who are eager
for war usually expect others to do the actual fighting.
I have yet to hear from any pro-Israel hawk who says he
intends to take up arms himself.
I should add that I've also heard from equal numbers
on the other side. I've received a counterdeluge of
messages from conservative and fundamentalist Protestants
who vigorously disagree with their Christian Right
brethren on this matter. Some simply think God's promises
are being misapplied when converted to approval of a
modern secular state. Others argue that the state of
Israel hasn't kept up the Israelites' end of the original
covenant. Others, citing St. Paul, hold that Christians
are now Abraham's spiritual heirs.
It's a fascinating controversy, partly because it
raises anew the old question of the exact relation of the
Old Testament to the New. I will merely note that some of
my pro-Israel correspondents come pretty close to denying
that the Palestinians in Israel have any rights at all.
Apparently they feel that Israel would be justified in
God's sight in slaughtering them all, on supposed Old
One reader even suggested that by quoting Christ's
words, "Blessed are the peacemakers," I was endorsing
"appeasement"! Obviously there are at least some
situations in which appeasement is the right course --
those in which, say, turning the other cheek will calm
your adversary down and appeal to his conscience. After
all, reasonable people can often be appeased. And
sometimes they deserve to be appeased.
Well, it just goes to show: "The devil can cite
Scripture for his purpose."
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