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Martin Luther once said, “If I knew that the world were to end tomorrow, I would plant a tree.” Luther’s attitude to end times prophecy sums up the proper response to the reality of God’s final plan for creation in both the Christian and Jewish traditions. In these traditions human responsibility toward others is not to be abrogated by falling in to the trap of fatalistic indifference. Unambiguous portents of the imminent judgement of God, if indeed they exist, are not meant to be greeted by the faithful with cries of self righteous, pitiless joy over the fate of those deemed to be on the “wrong” side. Scripture tells us that we must not rejoice in the destruction of our foes no matter how much we feel they deserve it.
I would rephrase Luther’s statement to become: “Even if I knew that the current Zionist state of Israel was an unambiguous portent of Christ’s return, I would still fight for the rights of Palestinians to live in Israel-Palestine with full equality and seek justice for the wrongs done to them by the Zionist state. I would still resist the apartheid policies of the Zionist state and pray for the end of Zionist rule in Israel.”
Christian responsibility is always about trying to make today’s world a better place than it was yesterday. We are to work to make the world better, not just try an save some out of the world while we sit and wait for the end to come. Christian Zionist doctrines that teach that the world must necessarily come to a hideous end before Christ’s final return have inspired many to fatalism, indifference and even outright war mongering. If the world must come to a divinely ordained cataclysm, why should we care about doing anything to help the environment or ending the arms race? The most we can expect from the advocates of such doomsday prophecies is endless threats of judgment intended to win us over to their fatalistic ideologies in order for us to be saved out of this world as it goes into oblivion.
Three thousand years of Jewish religious tradition reveal that Jewish identity is centered on ones acceptance of the ethical and religious traditions of the Torah. Traditions that demand equal treatment between Jew and gentile. Traditions that transcend the place of ones birth. Judaism’s essential nature is God centered, not nation centered. A Jew can be faithful to the revelation of Torah regardless of whether one was born or lives in Israel or not. The end game is about what is in one’s heart, not about what nation you live in.
The nature of prophecy in the Bible has always been far more about God’s desire to see justice prevail in today’s world rather than some type of soothsaying concerning future events. Jewish tradition is replete with stories of conflict between those who think that being Jewish is about nationalism and those who think Jewishness is about living with God’s law in your heart. The Jewish quest for nationhood outside of God’s commandments is a sure way to disaster for the Jewish people. Just as God resists salvation by works in the Christian tradition, so in the Jewish tradition does God resist the Jewish people in the land of Israel outside the ethical and religious traditions of the Torah.
God’s plan for the current Zionist state of Israel is His business. Our responsibility is to live up to the divinely ordained mandate for us to do justice for all peoples and walk humbly with our God. In this venture I have come across numerous secular activists that have been far more in line with God’s heart for the oppressed in Israel-Palestine than any number of devout Christian Zionists.