I was fortunate to grow up in a conservative Catholic household, one where weekly Mass attendance was mandatory and love of country was drilled into my and my sibling’s solid little heads from day one. This was occasionally supplemented via application of the board of education to the seat of knowledge, my brothers and sisters oft complaining that I never received the number of spankings they did. Not my fault I was the perfect child. But I digress.
Another principle taught by my father was that religious and/or racial bigotry was for fools and would not be tolerated under his roof. I have always been grateful for that. He also taught us that Martin Luther King’s dream of a day when all would be judged not on the color of their skin, but by the content of their character, was an ideal on which to build a life philosophy. For this I am also grateful, even though living this out can get you in a lot of hot water with people who believe some signifying factor — race, gender, economic status, political philosophy, what have you — excuses them from such judgment.
Back to the no bigotry philosophy. I never, and I mean never, could figure out why anyone hated Jews. I was taught early on that Jews are God’s chosen people. How could you hate God’s chosen people? I mean, really now. Later on I was swept up in teenage evangelistic fervor, believing Jews were simply people who hadn’t yet realized that Jesus was the promised Messiah. I’m sure the synagogue in my hometown appreciated all the Messianic Jewish literature I occasionally put in their mailbox.
I also learned early on a love of Israel.
Initially, as much as my childhood mind could understand such things I learned the history of how modern day Israel was formed in 1948 due in no small part to the world’s horror over what had happened in the Holocaust. I read all I could find about the country, and watched every movie such as Exodus about Israel’s formation. I saw how the surrounding countries were determined to annihilate Israel, routinely launching wars against it and even more routinely getting their collective asses handed to them. When I embraced Christ during the aforementioned teen evangelistic fervor days, I re-embraced Israel as not so much the fulfillment of prophesy but rather from the straightforward belief that these were God’s people once again living in and ruling the land they had been promised. In other words, I was a gentile Zionist.
I haven’t changed my mind on this and never will.
To me, supporting Israel is not solely based in belief that God has declared it to be His people’s home, although certainly this strongly influences my thinking. It also stems from how despite insane odds against it Israel has built a prosperous, inventive and stable democracy in a region where such is noted mostly for the total absence thereof. The spiritual bond with Israel is strong. But it is not the only bond.
Israel is a sacred land, the place where Jesus lived, died, was buried and rose from the dead. I do not believe it is infallible. However, I utterly reject the notion that Zionism is equivalent to bigotry and that the United States should let Israel go it alone. Even as it is a sacred land, so there is a sacred obligation for believers to honor God’s words about the land. I propose no litmus test stating that support of Israel is mandatory for Christians. However, I challenge believers to study Scripture and then offer a Biblically sourced reason why Israel should not be supported. Search God’s Word, and in its light search your heart.
Even as Sarah Palin kept a small Israeli flag in her office when she was Alaska’s governor, and has often worn either an Israeli flag pin by itself or a pin with the United States and Israeli flags, it is my belief Israel is to be kept in my heart. This belief I will never let go.
Let the songs of Zion, unlike the lament of Psalm 137, be songs of joy.