The US embassy in Israel was moved to Jerusalem on Monday.
I have a range of emotions regarding this.
I’m saddened by the move. Those who know a thing or two about foreign policy and especially the Middle East warned that this would cause an unsettling in the region. It’s an act of provocation that was unnecessary and potentially dangerous.
In response we saw Iran shooting missiles into Israel from their positions in Syria and Israel shooting back.
In response there were protests. Initial reports showed that 41 people died in Gaza. New reports have the number climbing to over 55. That number will probably rise. And there will most likely be other incidents that will cause more deaths and killings.
The President sent Rev. Robert Jeffress to offer the opening prayer. He went and offered a prayer which highlighted how great Trump is. Jeffress has been on record as saying that Jews are going to hell. Jeffress was sent. To Jerusalem. Where there are a great many Jews.
I’m angry about this because we have blood on our hands for an unnecessary act that brings instability from the first moment. But our president loves instability — he’s talked about it as a strategy that he uses. He likes to keep everyone guessing as to what he will do or say next. That’s not a leadership strategy — that a strategy for a TV show to get more people to tune in to the next episode.
Do the 55+ people who died in protest matter? I think it’s time we start asking some serious questions — who counts as a person nowadays? Did they deserve to be killed because they were protesting? If your answer is yes, they deserved it, then I ask you — what/who counts as a person? And what rights do people, human beings, have? Who counts as a person that deserves to have their life preserved, even in the midst of protest? Do Palestinians count as people? How about Muslims? How about Arab Christians? How about those with dark skin? How about those that don’t speak English? How about those that disagree with those in authority? Do any of these people count as people?
I’m wondering when Christianity will finally acknowledge the reality that there are Christians who worship Jesus as the Savior and there are Christians who worship the Empire and Caesar as savior.
Let me be really clear here — Empire and Caesar go beyond any particular country and can be found in probably every country — Empire is the idea that the might of the nation is of prime importance. It is the belief that salvation comes through the conquering empire — through military might, cultural dominance, and force of will. Caesar is the idea that a human leader who is strong — almost god-like — is the savior we yearn for. We are to worship him and thank god that god sent him, a son of god, to save us from our enemies and establish an everlasting empire that will rule with force and crush anyone in opposition. And do it in the name of the gods. Empire and Caesar have existed as the predominate religion of humanity for many millennia, across the world. Even sometimes under the label of Christianity. And it is still alive and flourishing today in many places.
Here are the prayers offered by two “christian” pastors at the event.
“We thank you, O Lord, for President Donald Trump’s courage in acknowledging to the world a truth that was established 3,000 years ago — that Jerusalem is and always shall be the eternal capital of the Jewish people,” Hagee said.
“And because of that courage of our President, we gather here today to consecrate the ground upon which the United States Embassy will stand reminding the dictators of the world that America and Israel are forever united,” he added.
(parts of the Benediction prayer offered by Rev. John Hagee)
“We want to thank you for the tremendous leadership of our great president, Donald J. Trump. Without President Trump’s determination, resolve and courage we would not be here today,” he said.
“And I believe I speak for every one of us when I say I thank you every day that you have given us a President who boldly stands on the right side of history but more importantly stands on the right side of you, O God, when it comes to Israel,” Jeffress added.
(parts of a prayer offered by Rev. Robert Jeffress)
Is prayer about the actions of a president and his courage and action and resolve, or is prayer an acknowledgement of God’s action in the world and about what God is calling us to? Is prayer designed to worship the god of Empire and Caesar or the God of creation?
(If you think I’m far off base here, I encourage you to read George Will’s article in the Washington Post. Throughout the article he talks about the words used by those who serve Trump — words that sound rather religious — “humbled,” “thank you for this privilege of serving,” “the blessing of being allowed to serve.”)
I’m just grateful that these pastors didn’t attribute this move to God. Both of these pastors are huge proponents of Rapture theology — the belief that Jesus is coming back, will sweep away the faithful in a holy escape plan, then pull out his AR-15 and start kicking ass and taking names — bringing vengeance, destruction, and death over the world. Apparently Jesus is just an extension of the god of Empire and Caesar.
I don’t worship the same god as Hagee and Jeffress. I don’t believe in their god and what their god stands for. Their god is the god of Empire and Caesar. Their god is a god of vengeance, and military might, and might makes right, and the ends justify the means, and only the strong survive. Their god leads to death and demands bloody sacrifices along the way. 55+ people have already been sacrificed to quench the anger of their god. But their god will never be satisfied until there is total destruction. I reject their god. I reject the god of Empire and Caesar.
The God I worship is a God who calls on us to die — die to self, die to the idea of the Empire and that Caesar is the savior, die to our loyalties, die to our fears and anger, die to our desire to be in control and to know, die to might makes right and that the ends justify the means. Jesus calls us to pick up our cross and follow him — to die to these things. We die to these so that we can experience resurrection — new life, transformed life. I worship a God who is love. A God who weeps often because of the world and its sick adherence to Empire, Caesar, and Death. I worship a God who accompanies and calls on us to accompany the outcast, the poor, the weak, those out of power. I worship a God who does not delight in death and destruction, provocation, and war. I worship a God who tells us that the world will be conquered by faith and love. (1 John 5:4) I worship a God who sends his actual Son into the world to save us from the world not through an divine escape plan, but rather through transformation and renewal. Not by force and might. But through Faith and love. This is the God I worship and serve. Who do you serve and worship?
Originally published at laceduplutheran.com on May 16, 2018.