Israel, America, and the Church

For about two thousand years, the cultural narrative about the Jewish people was that they were rejected by God and could do no right.  For the past two hundred years, the Christian church has begun, in some quarters, to promote the idea that Israel is God’s chosen people and can do no wrong.  While this more recent view is refreshing, after two thousand years of being forced out of state after state, attacked, persecuted, and stripped of rights and dignity because of our commitment to God’s commandments, it is also untrue and unhelpful.  The Hebrew Scriptures attest to two things, Israel is God’s chosen people and Israel can screw things up.  These two realities can be held in tension, and should be. 

The Books of Number, Judges, Joshua, 1 and 2 Kings, and Chronicles are testimonies of people whom God loves who find ways to make a mess of things.  In that way Israel is very much like, say, you and me.  We are beloved by God and make a mess of things.  Accepting this tension allow us to support Israel and to call Israel to do what is right.  In a sense, Israel, as a nation built upon Jewish History and identity carries with it two elements that require more of her.  The first is she has the Torah, with its requirements of equity, compassion, and justice.  The second is she has her own national and ethnic history and experience of suffering, rejection, and injustice.  Often the Torah tells us to perform a command of fairness to another because, “you were slaves in the land of Egypt.” 

A common complaint is that nations protest when she behaves as other nations do.  The complaint is often merited.  One rarely hears complains about the mistreatment of Palestinians in Syria, conditions which mirror those in Israel.  The question is whether this is simply a double standard or actually a higher standard.  Double standards we can do without.  However, if we believe we are people of the Book, a higher standard is required of us whether people call us to it or not.  In the end, they will not be the judges of our actions.  The Book will be.