I grew up like most mid-western American Evangelical Christians. Conservative politically and biblically. I believed in two bumper stickers – “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” And… “God. Guns. Guts. Lets fight to keep all three.”

How’s that for Conservative? Nebraska and Colorado Springs. Focus on the Family and the Navigators. My dad was a pastor and I was on the fast track to being a Conservative Christian Missionary poster-boy. And in that, I knew a few things to be true about Israel and its surrounding neighbors.

1. I believed the Bible was God’s literal word and so when it said in the Old Testament that the Jews were God’s chosen people, and the region of Palestine was their homeland – I believed it. That simple.

2. The current nation of Israel is a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and we should do all we can to support that.

3. Israel is an underdog amidst a sea of hostile Arab countries.

4. Arabs have been horrible neighbors with airline hijackings, Olympic village killings, suicide bombings, terrorist tactics. And Palestinians are leading the charge.

5. America is Israel’s friend in every way: culturally, politically, and economically. Many Israelis sound and look like us (since most of them are immigrants from the West back to Israel).

6. The Holocaust was an unspeakable horror and we were complicit in our silence. The Jewish people deserve a homeland.

And like most partial truths….well, these points are partially true!

I will attempt to very briefly answer where I’m at now with these six points after 30 years living and serving in the Middle East.

1. I still believe the Bible is God’s actual and real word. Helpful to us in every way. I believe in it from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. The nation of Israel in the Old Testament clearly had a special place and purpose. When they fulfilled that, God blessed them. When they didn’t – he didn’t. In fact his promises to them were conditional upon obedience. They didn’t obey. Jesus never mentions the land and neither does any other New Testament author. Paul argues persuasively in Romans and Galatians (and a bit in Ephesians and other places) that “Israel” has now been fulfilled in Jesus and those of us who believe in and follow Jesus are the inheritors of the promises made to Moses, Abraham and David. And that the “seed” of Abraham who is blessed – is Jesus. The promises of God have all been fulfilled in Him. He came to fulfill the law. In Him the promises of God are yes and amen. I could go on and on. It’s clear.

2. The prophecies about Israel be re-gathered into her homeland were all fulfilled at the time of Christ. Israel and Judah had been scattered into Babylon and Persia 100’s of years before Jesus came and were regathered to a certain extent by that time. The prophecies that some Christians quote as being fulfilled in the current construction of modern day Israel, were actually already all fulfilled long ago. Naming this current secular and political national homeland for the Jewish people “Israel” was a clever coup for the early European Zionist. I fully believe that Jewish people have the right to a homeland if they want one – like anyone else would (Kurds or Armenians for example). But let’s just not confuse this with biblical prophecy. They are not in any way connected.

3. It does seem like Israel is the underdog with Arabs all around. But that has never been the case. They’ve been brilliant at encouraging us to think this, but it’s simply not true. Notice how easily they have won each of their wars. If you disagree with my first two points, then of course, you’d say – “It’s because of God’s favor.” And that’s what you would say if you’re a “Christian Zionist.” Or…you could simply say that they had all the support of Britain and America. All the modern weapons and tactical and strategic advantages offered by a modern military that when applied through air superiority was no match against a Russian-equipped post WW2 Arab army. Israel is in no way threatened by any of it’s neighbors. Even if they all agreed to attack at once (and they can’t agree on much of anything), Israel would easily win that battle.

4. Unfortunately, this is the one with the most truth. And it colors all the other facts. When I’m with my Arab friends I say this – “One rock thrown at an Israeli tank or one suicide bombing of innocents, sets back your dreams for years.” As a strategy against Israel or the West, suicide bombings have decreased dramatically since 9/11. Some of that is increased security, no doubt, but I also believe that the actual bad guys (the terrorists) have realized it’s just not a very effective strategy to get what they want. I will say this – and it’s a dangerous argument to make, because it appears like I’m defending terrorists, but I’ll make it anyway. Take Gaza for an example. Why do the Hamas and the other radical groups fire rockets out of Gaza that hit civilian populations? I’ve asked them this question many times. The answer is always, “Because it’s all we have. We mostly throw rocks because we only have rocks against Israel’s tanks. We shoot rockets into populated areas because our rockets are crude and don’t have guidance systems. Let America give us the latest technology like they do with Israel and we will fly F-16s too.” A suicide bomber only has his body as a weapon. No one wants to grow up to be a suicide bomber. Desperate people do desperate things. Let’s solve the underlying issues and not simply deal with the symptoms.

5. This is true. America is Israel’s friend. I remember sitting with a US Senator (a prominent Conservative Christian Republican Senator) in his office when he said this: “Yes Israel is and always will be our friend. But Israel is drunk on its unbridled power and friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” Wow! They talk with our accent. They look like many of us (white). And they constantly feed us great lines like: We are the only democracy in the Middle East (which isn’t true in two ways – they aren’t the only democracy, and secondly, they aren’t even democratic – it isn’t ‘one man, one vote’ there at all. They also talk constantly about “their security needs” and if they only had a “real partner for peace” they could do something. Both are smokescreens as they continue to take Palestinian land in the West Bank by building more and more settlements (often after bulldozing existing Palestinian homes). By the way, the word “settlement” is simply a clever word for “Cities.”

6. Yes, we should feel guilty about the Holocaust. And yes, the Jewish people should have a free homeland that is secure and free. But our guilt in no way helps the modern Israeli Jew to be internally free in his new homeland. And since when do modern nation-states build themselves on a platform of religious identity? Does the nation of Israel really have to be a “Jewish state?” If that’s what they support – or we support – then we’re advocating for exactly the opposite of what America was founded on. Religious freedom. Plurality. Out of Many, One. (Imagine if we did the same in America as many in Israel are trying to do – insisting on only a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant country. Oh wait, that’s the KKK).

I want to see the nation of Israel thrive. I have a vision for that country. To live in peaceful coexistence with its neighbors. For the Jewish people to be healed of their hurtful and difficult past. To live in true freedom. And that Israel would be a nation open for all. Not just Jews. But anyone law-abiding citizen. And that the Palestinians would either be integrated into the nation of Israel or they would have their own land. Not what they call “Palestine” is completely controlled by Israel and has been so segregated by Israeli roads, checkpoints, fences and walls – that it’s a horrible joke.

And in the end, above all else – one thing matters most. That all the peoples of the Holy Land (Jews, Christians and Muslims) would have the freedom and ability to see the Holy One. The only One that brings true and ultimate freedom. Jesus Christ from Nazareth. The Palestinian Jew who knew and lived the suffering that so many are experiencing there today.

Let us pray for the Peace of Jerusalem.

Carl Medearis
December 1, 2012