Sunday, February 19, 2006

Building a theology of the Land #1: “The Need for Deconstruction and Reconstruction”
Given the recent Pat Robertson flap, the election of Hamas, and the fact that Theology of the Land is always a timely topic in any case, a series discussing the Land in the NT might be appropriate.

I now think that concern over Israel in North America is no longer usually tied to the Bible. Sure, in some circles it is—there are still some dispensationalists, although far fewer than there were 15-20 years ago. This is still argued by high-profile figures like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, the authors of Left Behind, and the like. (I heard someone say recently that the conservative political commentator Sean Hannity holds to this, but I don’t know if that’s true.) But these folks increasingly have less influence, and don’t speak for the majority of Americans.

Nonetheless, there is a fair amount of residual “theological” support for Israel. This mixes easily with a general culture of distrust for Arabs and Muslims and a general culture of support for Israel to produce a completely one-sided perspective on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Moreover, American political support for Israel is a given for both parties. No serious candidate would run for state-wide or national office on a platform calling for the end of US funding for Israel (3-4 billion dollars a year—money we are borrowing from China, of course); too many interest groups support Israel for this to happen—Jews (in New York, New Jersey, and Florida), white Christians (Republican) and black Christians (Democratic) all support Israel, and many vote accordingly.

Thus, even if the biblical side of the debate is less important now than it was 20 years ago, the issue is still very much a live and important question. And if there’s a way to read the Bible correctly so that prejudice, militarism, and bigotry (naïve or not) can be rooted out, and we can find some collective encouragement in what the Bible actually teaches, this investigation may have some value.

It’s especially important to take a look at the biblical roots for a theology of the Land from the perspective of the NT (which is almost always ignored in discussions of the question), in order to offset some lingering tendencies in Christian circles in North America. More importantly, I and others I know have found that pursuing the NT message on the Land can be incredibly encouraging and rewarding.

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