Taking David Swindle up on his invitation last week, I’m about to dive into the ongoing interfaith theological discussion happening at PJ Lifestyle in order to address a number of related topics being discussed at the site. My purpose is simple: To draw attention to the similarities interlacing these discussions in order to bring greater clarity to what I believe is the ongoing battle between God and Satan (Good and Evil, if you will) currently masquerading as the fight between Judeo-Christianity and the forces of Socialism and Islamofascism.
As a self-defined Biblical Jew (basic definition being: one who does not need a third party to read and interpret the Bible for them) I have no desire to get into deep-seated theological discussions. Rather, I prefer to understand theological points of view in order to comprehend how a person’s worldview is being influenced. Therefore, the comment that inspired me to voice my opinion in this discussion was political in nature:
“I think conservatives of the previous decades fighting the Cold War misdiagnosed the nature of the Soviet Union.”
If David is right, and the conservatives did, indeed, “misdiagnose” the nature of the Soviet Union (a theory with which I am inclined to agree, if only because they allowed Uncle Joe to be framed as an ally and, therefore, hero in our history) it is because they did not have a Biblical understanding of the role of the Jewish nation of Israel in the equation.
Stalin murdered more Jews than Hitler, yet generations of Americans operate under the twisted notion that Joe McCarthy was a raging lunatic instead of a one-man army fighting against the Soviet infestation of our government. I highly doubt this is due to the fact that God and Man at Yale wasn’t required reading among the Marxist university elite. American conservatives did not comprehend the true nature of the Soviet Union because they did not comprehend the true purpose of socialism’s number one enemy: the nation of Israel.
This is a two part statement that raises two important questions: Why is the nation of Israel the enemy of Socialism? Why wouldn’t American conservatives of the Cold War era clearly understand this fact?
To bluntly answer the former: The existence of Israel’s God is a threat to any ideology that preaches human perfection. Why do you think so many Kings and Emperors ordered Jews persecuted, murdered and banished? Why would such a minority as the Jews be seen as such a threat to Hitler, Stalin, or Ahmadinejad’s power? (As for the Marxist root of the subject, I would refer you to Richard Wurmbrand’s Marx & Satan as well as Paul Johnson’s chapter on Marx in t. I also look forward to reading Disinformation by the highest ranking Soviet defector, Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa his co-author Prof. Ronald Rychlak, per David’s suggestion and Instagram previews.)
Now, to the latter question, more imperative to this discussion: Why would American conservatives fully convinced of the Soviet socialist threat to the West not comprehend their Marxist-rooted hatred of Israel? Raised in post-Victorian churches, this generation of conservatives was largely exposed to the notion that God was done with the Jews. This latent anti-Semitism, now known and denounced as replacement theology, has plagued the church since Constantine. If second generation conservatives could not comprehend the fact that Israel continues to play a vital, Biblically prophesied role in the world today, they could not possibly understand the true nature of Israel’s enemies, let alone defeat them.
Spurred on by Shmuely Boteach’s statement, “Jews do not follow Judaism for the purpose of reward in the afterlife,” Rhonda Robinson remarked, “Isn’t it time we stopped trying so hard to simply make a point, and give our lives as Jesus did, to make a difference?” It is a fascinating theological outlook that promises to work beyond the religious rift driven between those with an otherwise similar worldview. Not being a Christian, I can nevertheless easily relate to David Swindle’s teenage concerns over hellish condemnation. For thousands of years, we Jews have been tortured – sometimes to the point of death – by those harboring the very notion that God is done with the Jews unless they convert. (It is an especially odd notion considering we’re being asked to “convert” to a Jewish-inspired faith in a Jewish guy, but who am I to nitpick?) If we, as a culture, were able to re-examine the Scripture that informed the creation of our civilization and embrace it as a resource for unity instead of a reason for division, what kind of a difference could we make together?
My colleague Walter Hudson disagreed with Rhonda’s conclusion. Arguing for a firm Christian stance, Walter replied to Rhonda’s purpose-dynamic: “We should never lose interest in heaven and hell. Heaven is our blessed hope, where we will dwell with God and fulfill our purpose.” In a later article he continued: “Why would Christians want to unite in spiritual congress with those who deny the foundational tenant of Christianity? Even if such ecumenical union could somehow restore America (whatever that means), why would we sideline the truth of salvation for a temporal end?” In the same article he also commented, “More than “an observant Jew,” Jesus was and is the fulfillment of Judaism.”
Walter’s conclusions raised an alarm in my head. While I would never question an individual’s right to practice their faith as they choose, Walter’s exclusionary theology, all too common in the Christian world, has potentially defeatist ramifications in practical, real world application – ramifications Walter dismisses with the conclusion that heaven is where the true purpose of Christians is to be fulfilled.
Contrary to Walter’s theology, Jesus preached a Jewish sense of purpose that begins from day one and impacts the eternity in which we dwell. This is the Jewish perspective that Walter, and many Christians like him, are lacking because they have dismissed Judaism (that is, Tanak, a.k.a. Old Testament) as being “fulfilled” through Jesus and, therefore, irrelevant to the discussion. In believing that it is useless to form a spiritual bond “with those who deny the foundational tenet of Christianity” Walter exhibits the same dangerous ignorance that has spurred on anti-Semitism within the Christian church for centuries. We’ll throw out the Judaism and get rid of the Jews while we’re at it.
Understanding both Boteach and Jesus in a Biblical context, it becomes rather easy to see that Jews simply have a completely different understanding of eternity than do Christians. Our eternity, as my Hebrew schooled husband so eloquently put it, involves living with Messiah in Jerusalem, Israel. Moreover, fulfilling our purpose is a role that begins even before the moment we are conceived (see Jeremiah 1:5). Jesus prayed to the God who spoke creation into being, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and preached, “Yes! I tell you people that whatever you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” How, then, could an educated Christian like Walter be so quick to dismiss this earth and the denizens thereof in favor of heaven, when the purpose we fulfill here so clearly impacts the life we live there?
Uniting “in spiritual congress” to reach an earthly goal isn’t impossible, especially when you believe that the two core commandments of your faith require you to love God and one another. But, it is easy to wipe away any obligation you have to those among you when, like Walter, you only quote the first half of those two commandments (in Mark 12:29-31 Jesus details the importance of both) and see your purpose in a heaven that has no relation to this earth. Unfortunately, that theological perspective also allows you to be as blind as the second wave conservatives who couldn’t comprehend the true nature of the Soviet empire, because they believed the Jews and their Biblical perspective long-ago ceased to matter in life’s big equation.
Not all Christians hold this kind of theological stance towards Israel. During the last half of the 20th century, some Evangelicals began pulling scripture verses from the Old Testament to justify their love for Israel. Most notably, Genesis 12:3: “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.” The idea of being blessed by God in return for blessing the nation of Israel spurned on a huge wave of political support for the Jewish state culminating in the organization Christians United for Israel, among other pro-Israel Christian organizations.
My own Cantor, a Holocaust survivor and die-hard Jew who jokingly describes himself as politically “more to the right of Attila the Hun” proudly sings at CUFI events. He told me once that when he saw the words “God’s Soldier” on a Nazi’s belt buckle he knew instantly, “They may be fighting for a god, but that is not my God.” A Jewish teenager’s basic recognition of evil masquerading as good not only motivated him to survive Auschwitz, but to escape a death march, join the American Air Force in the last days of the war, and stand side-by-side with Christians who support Israel (and the West) in the face of evil today.
So, for folks like Michael Lumish who cannot fathom couching political discussions in terms of Good versus Evil:
“The political Left and the political Right can be reformed, but once we start discussing politics as a function of classic Judeo-Christian theology, is there any possibility for compromise?”
I would ask: If the goal of the conversation is “…to tell my friends and associates, and anyone who will listen, that the movement for political Islam throughout the Middle East oppresses women, murders Gay people outright, is chasing Christians out of the area entirely, and seeks if not the domination and dhimmitude of the Jews, their annihilation as the herald of ‘Evil,’” then why seek to reframe the debate for the purpose of compromise?
Of course, Michael does make a good point in the sense that Jews, Christians, and all those whose faith rests in the God of Israel should not allow their theologies to hamper their political unity. My editor, David, in his response today to Michael argues for values versus theology:
“Nutshell: “values” are how we use the Bible to value one concept as higher than another. It’s the system one uses to determine Right from Wrong. How can one apply a Judeo-Christian, 10 Commandments, Moses as the Western leader par excellence, Biblical values approach to the current political scene?”
Which is a great idea. But even to assuage the same value order from the Bible requires a Biblically accurate theology that puts the law of God before religious/theological (read: human) opinion. If God is not our objective source, we run the risk of succumbing to the same type of subjectivity David cites as having “gummed up” postmodern political debate. In doing so, we would continue to do well at addressing certain “symptoms of the disease” (or Crisis, as Whittaker Chambers called it) we would ultimately fail at the cure, because the rules guiding our rhetoric would prevent us from facing the real diagnosis.
Subjective theology can best be avoided when an individual takes the time to ask themselves how their theological outlook impacts their ability to love God and love one another, two Torah commands quoted by Jesus as the two most important in scripture. And it is a source of conflict that must be avoided if we are to truly comprehend the nature of the evil we face today, lest we make the same mistake as second wave conservatives and leave our children to take on the battle we, like our predecessors, failed to win.