All Created Equal…but some more equal than others.
My understanding of what drives Christian Zionism has changed somewhat over the past few years. Initially I thought it could be traced back to errors in Biblical exegesis concerning the place of modern Zionist Israel in Biblical Eschatology as well as fear of other faiths, like Islam, which are seen by many Christians as competitors to Christianity in the market place of religious ideas.
But recently I have come to see that Christian Zionism is ultimately held together by the same threads as all western support for Zionist Israel. And those threads can be traced back to a basic concept of European supremacist racism, the type of which Edward Said described in his book, Orientalism.
Said has been vigorously attacked for this work, mostly by Europeans, but I think his work is extremely illuminating all the same. I very much remember how I, as a right wing Christian believer, convinced of the basic superiority of the west because of the greater impact experienced by it from the Christian faith, detested any attempt to paint western “Christian” colonialism in a negative light in an attempt to justify the struggle for the rights of indigenous peoples or peoples not grouped within the “Christianized” world. I saw all attempts to unveil the suffering of indigenous peoples at the hands of western colonialism as thinly veiled attempts by the Godless Left to attack the real enemy of those duped into the struggle of the so called “marginalised” :…that is, ”white, western Christian males and the faith they are custodians of.” I recognised the whole point of the movement to support the rights of minorities throughout the world was to make me feel “white guilt”! I wasn’t having a bar of it!
To justify western colonialism, I reminded myself that it was not only the “Christianized” west that was guilty of colonialism. And hey…if you have to suffer under colonialism, western colonialism was surely better than non-Christianized eastern colonialism! Even if you can show that the Christianized west was guilty of crimes against the rights of the vulnerable, the idea that at least we gave them the Bible and ultimately democracy, will always help you to feel superior to the east in the end when you go to bed at night. If western colonialism can be shown to have destroyed the lives of millions, fear not, eastern colonialism destroyed the lives of tens of millions if not more!
Better to be violated by a “Christianized” westerner than a Godless oriental! When I was finally confronted with the atrocities suffered by the indigenous of my country, Australia, I comforted myself with the thought that if Australia had been colonised by anyone but the British, or some other civilised western nation influenced by the Bible, there would be no indigenous people left anywhere in Australia.
I used this line of reasoning to defend the whole idea of the west forcing their ideas and interests on others whom I considered to be less Christianized, and therefore less civilised than us. Sure…in general it is best to let people be free and decide for themselves what they should do and think, but hey…we are westerners and they aren’t! If anyone has to have nuclear weapons, then just thank God it’s us who has them and not them (i.e. Iran)! We are more trustworthy than them. If only the non-western world would just see their basic inferiority and realise they have to become more like us, then the world would be better off. But hey, since they are inferior, they will never have the brains to work this out and so we will have to keep them in check anyway! Or perhaps if they aren’t inferior then if we could just stop them listening to the real enemy, the liberal supporters of freedom!
What broke me out of this delusion was that I came to understand my role as a Christian to be that of one who promotes peace, justice, equality and reconciliation. As a right wing believer, who strangely didn’t have the foggiest understanding of the love and grace of God in Jesus, I saw my ultimate role in the church as that of a sales rep for Jesus. I had to do all I could to present “brand Christianity” in the best light possible, shining over all its competitors, so as to convince everyone that buying into the Christian faith was the best deal available.
And since the west was so much more influenced by the Christian faith than the east, then being an apologist for the Christian faith became synonymous with being an apologist for western colonialism. Since the U.S. was supposedly founded as a “Christian nation”, then being an apologist for the U.S. was the next most obvious step followed by becoming an apologist for Capitalism and neo-liberalism. The process seemed obvious, inevitable and God ordained.
The price for this process was to become more and more indifferent to the suffering of those on the wrong end of the western world’s strategic and economic self interests, which the west felt they were entitled to since they had been proven to be the guardians of what was really worth preserving in the world: themselves and their ideas. And it was obvious to me that being indifferent to the plight of any of my fellow humans was not God’s will for me. I then started to notice that while conservatives continually criticised those who stood up for the poor, citing their reasons for doing so as “left wing economics and politics don’t work, they only make things worse for the poor”, their real motivation seemed to be much more like what I had been doing in standing up for western colonialism in order to protect the preferred place my own religious ideology enjoyed as I saw it. Just as I was not primarily concerned with the suffering of those who had been under the rule of colonialism, whether it be eastern or western, but rather just wanted to promote my own beliefs in order to make me feel superior to those who disagreed with me and fulfil what I thought was my God given ministry, so these conservative critics didn’t seem to care for the poor and marginalised whether they lived under a right or left wing system, they just wanted to show the world how superior they and their ideology were to “lefties”.
The atrocious, moral and ethical bankruptcy of this behaviour has since become apparent to me. The Gospel of reconciliation is not about trying to justify belief systems over one another at the expense of the rights of anyone, be they western, Palestinian or whatever other label we wish to place on them.
While it is obvious that the cause of the Palestinian people has been used as an excuse to murder and kill, I still believe in the basic justness of their cause since it is bound up with the cause of justice and equality for all. The cause I support is one that demands that any solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict must be one that promotes justice and equality for all in the best manner possible.
Equality and justice will never be the catch cry of those who support Israel as it exists today any more than it was the slogan of the apartheid regime of South Africa that all should live in equality and freedom in that country. Martin Luther King Jnr. (a figure secretly detested by the religious right as is Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela) had a dream inspired by the vision that those now living apart, divided by hatred and suspicion, could one day live together hand in hand in peace, equality and justice. Apartheid South Arica and today’s Israel have shared the same basic creed. They claim to be countries of superior peoples surrounded by barbarians that cannot be trusted with true democracy, equality and justice. Sure…all people are created equal…but some are more equal than others.
Our sense of western entitlement, whether it comes from misguided religious belief or otherwise, is an affront to the Gospel of Jesus. And a rejection of western entitlement does not secretly hide a sense of eastern entitlement either, but openly proclaims the truth of scripture that God’s has created all as equals.