I’ve been slow to wade into the conflict between Israel & Gaza (Hamas). Partly because it’s remarkably polarizing, partly because it’s remarkably complex, and partly because much has already been written about it by much more knowledgeable people than me.
There’s a lot that we could look at. We could simply focus on the death toll (as of August 5, nearly 1900 Palestinians vs. 67 Israeli’s). We could look at the ratio of militants vs. civilians who have died (as of August 5, 3 Israeli civilians vs. approximately 1400 Palestinian civilians (UN numbers)). We could look at the long, complicated history of the Middle East. We could look at the number of Palestinian children who have died from airstrikes and tank fire (Pause. Re-read that last sentence. Once you’re done throwing up in sheer revulsion, light a candle and pray, “Lord, have mercy.”). We could look at which governments are funding a certain side. We could look at the violence and injustices being perpetrated by both sides before and during the conflict. We could look at the all the wonderful people in both Israel and Gaza who are working towards peace and reconciliation and are condemning the violence around them.
All of those are worthy topics. And much has been written about them, although we could use more of the last one.
I think, though, that I will write about my embarrassment of being a Canadian Christian in this conflict (Please forgive me for making this terrible conflict remarkably small and selfish).
I’m embarrassed because at first glance, many Christians, including politicians, church leaders, and social media users, have unequivocally taken the “side” of Israel.
It’s like they have completely forgotten Jesus in all of this.
Jesus was born in the midst of massive oppression by the Romans. His birth was the cause of a massive genocide (think of all the dead children we don’t mention on Christmas eve that Herod killed). He grew up in a conflict zone.
As an adult, Jesus had a chance to join a side. He could have joined the ruling side, the ones with power and privilege, the ones who made the rules, but he didn’t. He had supper with sinners, outsiders, prostitutes, tax collectors, the down-and-out, the nobodies. He made the ruling elite quite mad, criticized their power, told them they were going to hell, and subverted their religious and economic systems. And they eventually killed him for it.
But he also had the chance to stick it to the powers. He could have joined the violent rebels, fought for the oppressed, claim political power and be named king, but he didn’t. He healed the servant of a Roman soldier, rode a donkey instead of a war horse, told his followers to put away their swords, and healed the physical damage done by his followers. In the face of his own death, he chose to not fight back, but rather to die.
And have we completely forgotten the teachings of Jesus? Love your enemies? Do good to those who hate you? Bless those who curse you? Blessed are the merciful? Turn the other cheek? Pray for those who persecute you? Blessed are the meek?
Even Paul instructs the church in Rome (the middle of the empire where Nero was using Christians as torches for his garden parties) to bless those who persecute you, do not repay anyone evil for evil, do not take revenge, and to feed your hungry enemy.
Even before Jesus, have we completely missed the fact that the Old Testament teaching of “An eye for an eye” was actually a groundbreaking, revolutionary teaching that was intended as a limitation on violence? It’s no longer “a life for an eye,” or “a family for my brother”, but simply a tooth for a tooth? (Note: Feel free to insert the numbers 1900 and 67 here. It’s applicable).
But when we unequivocally take one side of a conflict, I think we’ve missed Jesus.
Because I think Jesus would be on the side of peace and justice and shalom and right relationships, and against all violence, oppression, and dehumanization wherever they are.
I don’t think Jesus would be flinging rockets, capturing soldiers, dropping bombs, driving a tank, giving warnings about where what he was going to destroy next, or trying to kill people in general.
I think Jesus would be in the hospital, healing the victims of war.
I think Jesus would be in the refugee camps, feeding the thousands.
I think Jesus would be eating ice cream with children, regardless of where they were born.
I think Jesus would be in the bomb shelter or the designated “safe” zone, condemning the violence in our hearts and in our world, and reminding us all to not be afraid.
I’m embarrassed when Christians in Canada unequivocally support one side of a convoluted, violent conflict. Because then we’ve let our politics come first before Jesus.
Or, as Gandhi essentially said, “I sure love Jesus, but the Christians seem so unlike their Christ.”
Lord have mercy.
PS – If you want to read a great book, read “I Shall Not Hate” by Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian doctor whose daughters were killed by Israeli forces in 2009.
PPS – Dr. Abuelaish is trying to bring 100 of the most seriously wounded kids from Gaza to Canada for healing. Learn more and donate here: www.heal100kids.com
(Feel free to leave a comment. I’ll leave them open until if/when it gets out of hand).