Yearly Archives: 2012

Israel: A Gift to the World

A traveler from outer space visiting the newsrooms of The EU, UN and USA the past few years might conclude that Israel is the world’s greatest threat to human rights and world peace. Visits to most public college campuses would confirm that this little land is a center of fascism and racism, determined to exterminate impoverished Palestinians. As our extraterrestrial explorer tunes in to Al-Jezeera, images of innocents killed by Israeli missiles fill the screen, and jihadist cries of “Death to the Jews!” accost the ears. With no other images or narratives, our E.T. concludes that Israel needs containing and perhaps oversight by a more benevolent nation that will consider the plight of refugees in the “occupied territories” of the West Bank.

Alas, we do not need a visitor from another galaxy – all of the assertions above are the daily message of most news outlets around the world. Tragically, millions are being manipulated by a warped narrative that disregards ethics, history and peacemaking efforts.

The modern state of Israel is a gift to the world and a symbol of good that arises when liberty, the rule of law and sacrificial community converge.

Before I defend Israel’s right to exist alongside a two Palestinian states (Jordan and a new Palestine dedicated to peace), allow me some qualifiers for this essay:

  • I am not engaging in biblical or theological discussions concerning the place of Israel in  prophecy, Armageddon or other points of religious dispute among Jews and Christians. These debates are important, but they are not the focus of this work.
  • I reject replacement theology that sees no legitimacy or need for a Jewish homeland. I also oppose extremist Zionism that will not rest until all Arabs are removed from the equivalent of King Solomon’s ancient empire.
  • From the 1920s to the present, Arab and Jewish populations have been in conflict and both sides have committed deplorable acts. This said, there is not equivalence between the two sides. Very few Israelis call for policies of extermination. Multiple times Israel has made peace only to see it subverted by groups unwilling to treat the Jews as human beings.
  • In the midst of all the violence, Palestinian Christians suffer the most, distrusted by both Jewish and Muslim neighbors.

There are four reasons for celebrating and defending Israel in the 21st century:

  1. History: Israelis are living in the land of their ancestors and have the most significant continuous presence of any people group. Their claim of a small portion of land around Jerusalem is supported by history and their religious traditions. In contrast, Islamist extremists cannot cannot give significant Qur’anic support for Jerusalem as a holy city – at least until their conquest of the seventh century and rewriting of narratives. Many Muslim radicals deny the existence of an ancient Jewish Temple…along with the 20th century Holocaust.
  2. Humanitarianism: Israel emerged out the ashes of the Shoah and the devastation of World War II. Arab nations see the UN Mandate of 1947 as a Western imposition and invasion. What is forgotten is that the original grant for a Jewish homeland encompassed locations with a majority Jewish population. Most of the land was legally purchased during the previous eighty years. This U.N. action left the Golan with Syria, Gaza and the Sinai with Egypt, and most of Jerusalem and all the West Bank with Jordan. The truce of 1949 left these areas intact, with some security zones. Sadly, it also meant the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and the forced emigration of an even greater number of Jews from the Arab nations.
  3. A healthy democracy and economy: Israel is the only free society in the entire region. There is great political, religious and social diversity, including more than a million Arab citizens, squabbling political parties, vibrant entrepreneurs, a welfare state and a citizenry weary of war but determined to resist another Holocaust. The desert has blossomed like a rose as people from around the world reclaim barren and swampy land, invent new technologies and learn to live very close together. The nations that possess peace accords with Israel have fared better that groups that keep millions in forced squalor while they yell, “Jihad!”
  4. Hope: Israel is a dramatic story of courage and perseverance, with ultra orthodox and secular groups living side-by-side, forging a fragile nation and praying and working for peace with Arab neighbors suffering under oppressive Islamists refusing prosperity in favor of intolerance and violence. Under the radar, multiple peace groups are working for understanding and justice while armed forces eyes each other suspiciously through field glasses.  

The moment Palestinian leaders fully accept Israel’s legitimacy and safety, peace becomes possible. Such acknowledgment will be delayed indefinitely as long as the poison of anti-Semitism continues to infest Arab and European leaders. Abbas must stop denying history and delaying hope for millions. He and his leaders must show fortitude and risk fatwas for lasting stability. Israeli leaders must willingly renew prior accords once their national existence is legitimized with unequivocal spoken and written agreements.

Israel must provide assurances and incentives for any new Palestinian state and be flexible on Jerusalem, willing to tear down most of the ugly border barriers and create economic and social partnerships for prosperity. Such actions cannot be initiated unconditionally or Israel risks emboldening radicals that see any peace overtures as weakness.

Israel is a moral, political and social good for the world, providing opportunities for her neighbors that may usher in a season of peace. The EU, UN and USA must find fortitude and repudiate anti-Semitism and calls for elimination. We are perilously close to 1938 when the West lost her moral will and tried appeasement with evil. Czechoslovakia was dismembered, Poland placed in peril, the the USSR  was driven to a demonic pact with Hitler. The result was a war that claimed tens of millions of lives.

I pray we will learn from history and live in hope, refusing capitulation to fear and intolerance. An end to innocent suffering in this troubled region would be an apt Christmas gift indeed.

The Road Ahead

Our next Administration faces unprecedented challenges and opportunities. Reversing more than half a century of ballooning indebtedness and bloated bureaucracy will be daunting. Transforming health care and retirement plans so they are stable and sustainable will require courage and sacrifice heretofore unknown among politicians. Restoring our global influence and leading the resistance to intolerance and totalitarianism will demand humility, wisdom and moral and military strength. Advocating for life from conception to coronation and affirming compassion for the broken, poor and vulnerable will summon our best character and competencies. Standing with Israel while engaging in honest dialogue with Muslim leaders calls for Solomonic discernment.

Can we chart a fresh direction, revitalizing our founding principles for 21st century realities? Or is it too late and must we “adjust” to a “new world order” and “settle” for less? There is no way forward without pain. The only question is which type of surgery and recovery creates long-term health in the patient we call the United States of America.

There are two dispositions we must eschew and two we must embrace in order to construct a better, more inclusive and prosperous future. First, we must reject fatalism and fear, with their partners dependency and victimhood. Second, we must resist the extremes of hyper-individualism and collectivism. We must reaffirm that liberty is built on virtue and truth embraced by people with freewill. We are responsible for our choices. Yes, there are second chances and opportunities for redemption. There are, however, risks and rewards, positive and negative possibilities with daily decisions. Our future rests on accepting reality and affirming freedom – to fail or succeed. Hyper-individualism forgets that others do contribute to our progress – parents and pastors, coaches, friends and mentors, partners and even competitors are all part of the social reality that makes prosperity possible. The opposite extreme, the “you didn’t build that” collectivism of the last four years (and perhaps longer, truth be told), forgets that the infrastructure that sustains growth is funded by the innovation of the market that produces tax revenue! Remember, the politician’s are playing with our money.

On the positive side, we must embrace hope that is fulfilled by new habits. “Hope and change” only happen with habits and character. Hope is not wishful thinking and new habits begin with new hearts. Will we joyfully embrace the truth that “we are the change” as we diligently work, cheerfully volunteer and sacrificially serve the next generation? Secondly, we must live out the paradox of self-fulfillment through selfless service. Prosperity is adding value to others, not just extracting it. Our material wealth, emotional well-being and fruitful future rest on offering products, services and relationships that honor God and bring good to others. We buy certain products because of their (perceived or real) value. As we participate in the economy, we are stewards of God-given relationships and resources.

As we pray, vote and await the changes ahead, let’s dedicate ourselves to a future founded on character and competence rooted in faith, hope and love. Our salvation is from Christ. Our ultimate future is a gift from the Triune God. But our current life is a partnership with God and people of conscience to forge a loving and just community. “Yes we can” change course and one day look back on a new era of compassion, opportunity and flourishing.

The Morning After: November 7 and January 21

“There’s got to be a morning after; if we can hold on through the night. We have a chance to find the sunlight; let’s keep on looking for the light…”

These words from the theme song to the “Poseidon Adventure” speak to the hearts of millions of Americans as we prepare to vote and live with the consequences. (The song was the best part of an otherwise campy disaster movie!)

We will once again be part of a peaceful continuation and transfer of power, with some officials looking for work and others placed in offices that will require creativity, discipline and integrity if we are going to move forward.

I do hope we see a complete change of direction and focus in Washington, D.C. We need balanced budgets, intelligent projection of power against Islamic terrorism, sound social policies that care for the needy without bankrupting our nation and business and energy policies that recognize reward for risk and careful stewardship of the beautiful world God has bequeathed humankind. We can be energy independent and have a cleaner environment.

We also need a rebirth of civil debate that focuses on solving real problems and assessing fundamental issues without descending into the quagmire of name-calling, personal attack and hoary generalizations rooted in ideological myths instead of first principles and empirical realities.

We can affirm traditional marriage and offer legal status for other arrangements, without altering the universal understanding of marriage and family that has guided every civilization.

We can stop the holocaust of abortion and infanticide and help vulnerable parents raise their children, find adoptive homes and discover a better future.

We can balance a budget if we will stop trying to maintain a federal warfare and welfare state. We do have local and state governments that work…we can learn from these examples and re-empower local and state political and social progress.

We can create a just system of federal taxation. All it takes is courage, honesty and a willingness to be a one-term official.

We can support Israel and pave the wave for a new Palestinian state committed to non-violence and reciprocal prosperity. All it takes is moral courage, calling the bluffs of radicals and demonstrating that representative democracy is the best form of government. There is no place for Temple and Holocaust denial in a peaceful Middle East.

We can care for the medical needs of all our citizens with innovative private-public partnerships that are humane, local and subject to effective ethical oversight, not a bloated bureaucracy.

All of these ideas will only work with a nation of self-regulating, virtuous citizens. Failure to regulate our own moral, economic and social behavior brings anarchy and paves the way for totalitarian control.

We need to secure our borders and create hospitality centers that welcome hard-working people from around the world. There is a place for seasonal work and permanent residency. There is a way to create a pathway to citizenship for all that come legally. We do not need to atone any longer for real and false guilt from 1848 or any other moment. We need to empty our prisons of violent illegal convicts and deport them. At the same time, we can foster new channels to welcome and integrate new friends.

Thomas More’s famous work Utopia literally means “no-where.” (“U” = no; topos = “land” or “place”). I do not believe we can achieve perfection in this age. I do believe we can make progress.

What about race? In 2008 we proved to ourselves that skin color did not matter. We need to do the same in 2012. Character, competence, ideals and policies, along with leadership, relational ability and a love for our founders’ principles should guide our decisions. I would happily vote for J.C. Watts. Condi Rice is admirable. I wish Thomas Sowell was the chief economist – we would have greater prosperity! We need the voices of John Perkins and Shelby Steele. Race is more than a black/white issue. There are people from every culture that will contribute to an American future. Let’s celebrate our diversity-in-unity instead of balkanizing.

Please pray, get informed and vote. After the parties, the lamenting and rejoicing, the real work begins.