Portrait of A.J. Swoboda

A.J. Swoboda

  • Pastor
  • Professor
  • Speaker
  • Writer
  • Community Architect

Location: Portland, Oregon | USA

Feb 15, 2012

"Israel, Palestine, and Me" (Guest Post)

Israel, Palestine, and Me – We're All Guilty

by Tyler Braun


In Bird by Bird Anne Lamott says, "You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out God hates all the same people you do" (pg. 22). Many of the current issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be found in the human condition. I'd define the human condition as our incessant need to prop ourselves up over others at any cost. While I don’t pretend to be an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I am sure the conflict has more to do with the human condition than anything else. Their problem is my problem.

Katie Herzig, in her song Make a Noise says, “You can’t have the peace you’re looking for without a fight.” This is the irony of peace in the Middle East: It has to be worth fighting for without guns, bombs, and threats of war. Up to this point it seems all parties involved are far more concerned about getting what’s theirs instead of working to find a solution that works for everyone. Peace has never been important enough to fight for, only something they’ve fought against.

Bait and Switch

Recently the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, and Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, were in New York City for meetings with the United Nations. Palestine is seeking representation for their people who have been nation-less, with no rights, for quite some time. Netanyahu said over his Twitter account:

It was a statement clearly directed toward President Abbas. While the tweet did not receive a reply from Abbas, we do not know whether any conversation or interaction took place between the two. Most news reporters regarded the use of Twitter to extend peace and conversation as ground breaking, but I found it quite troubling. For far too long the world has allowed the more politically powerful country of Israel to have peace negotiations on their own terms.

While Christians have been known to bait-and-switch people, Netanyahu has taken a similar approach by saying he’ll only provide for Palestine’s wishes if he gets his agenda taken care of first. What all sides in the conflict truly need is an open dialogue with everyone and their views at the table. Until those hard conversations are taking place, no true progress is being made.

Jesus in the Middle East

David Austin worked extensively toward Middle East peace during his time in the State Department and had this to say from his experience: “If we truly love Israel and believe in the role destined for her, then we must help both sides arrive at an agreement which will end the occupation, and allow Israel to fulfill the biblical prophecies of justice, mercy, and righteousness" (Austin, pg. 22-23). Too often Christian theology gets mixed with other pieces of our culture in a way that dilutes and distorts the message of Christ. And this is the case as it relates to American Christians and the nation if Israel.

Israel has been known to build walls that do not reflect the agreed upon boundaries because they can be sheer force. Would we respond any differently if we knew that there were thousands of Christians in Palestine? While this will never be a black and white conflict in which we provide our loyal support to one side or the other, we can vouch for peace by no longer making our message one-sided. Jesus did not call on us to shamelessly throw our support on our preferred nation of choice, “Jesus called for a faithfulness that abandoned such things, that envisioned a different era, a different kingdom, where old territorial claims backed by religious privilege were no more" (Burge, pg. 131).

I'm No Different

As an American Christian who has never traveled to the Middle East to truly understand the ongoing conflict, I sense my struggle at presenting solutions from a distance. While I cannot offer those entrenched in the conflict lots of expertise, I can offer that I am no different than those who caused the conflict or keep it ongoing. I find in myself an incredible desire to first serve myself and give whatever leftovers (usually nothing) to those in need around me. I would certainly never consider loving my enemy, and yet we have this example in Jesus and are given a calling to do exactly that. I do a wonderful job of objectifying, classifying, and labeling people around me all the time, while often placing myself above them on the food chain of godliness and importance.

The issues facing Israel, Palestine, and other parts of the Middle East are no different than many of the struggles I wage internally. While those internal struggles often push me to repentance and reconciliation with my God and my brother, it seems that is not always the case for those involved in this Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Is peace over the promised land of God’s blessing worth fighting for so much that we’re willing to sacrifice our privilege and the identities bound up with that privilege?

Until the answer is yes we will continue to fight for our own human condition to keep what is "rightfully" ours.

--

[Editor’s Note: I’ve known Tyler Braun for years. In my formative years of Christian faith, I was a part of the church his father pastored in Keizer, OR. For a number of years, during this time, we rubbed shoulder-to-shoulder. Over the years, we’ve continued our contact with one another and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his thinking, passion and guts. I thought I’d include a guest post of his. I will similarly be posting an article on his page in the comings days // Tyler Braun is a 27-year-old INTJ living in Portland, Oregon with his wife Rose. He works full time as a worship leader, while also finding time to study at Multnomah Biblical Seminary in pursuit of a masters degree. Currently Tyler is living the Portlandia dream of commuting to work on a bike while paying off school loans. He has plans to release his first book in August of this year through Moody Publishers. You can find Tyler on TwitterFacebook, or his blog.]


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Living People I Read

Alan Hirsch

Allan Anderson

Amos Yong

Bernard Anderson

Dale Davis

Don Carson

Donald Bloesch

Donald Dayton

Donald Gelpi

Ed Dobson

Elizabeth Johnson

Eugene Peterson

Frederick Beuchner

Gary Babcock

Gordon Fee

Gregory Boyd

Harvey Cox

John Drane

John Goldingay

John Stott

John Zizioulas

Jim Belcher

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Karen Armstrong

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Kirsteen Kim

Larry Hurtado

Lauren Winner

Mark Cartledge

Margaret Feinberg

Mel Robeck

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N.T. Wright

Paul Hiebert

Phyllis Tickle

Ray Bakke

Richard Baukham

Rodney Clapp

Robert Banks

Robert Farrar Capon

Rowan Williams

Sallie McFague

Stanley Fish

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Thomas Schmidt

Timothy Keller

Walter Brueggemann

Zygmunt Bauman

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Basil the Great

Charles Spurgeon

Charles Wesley

Colin Gunton

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Dorothy Day

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G.K. Chesterton

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Joseph Fitzmyer

Karl Barth

Leslie Newbigin

Martin Luther

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Raymond Brown

Roland Allen

Simone Weil

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Theresa of Avila

Vincent Donovan

Walter Hollenweger

William McClendon