You missed out on my favorites from last week, so here’s a double helping of the good stuff to tide you over while I disappear back to the Old Country for the next couple of weeks.
Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza has been on my mind lately, and many good words have been written about it. But words are not enough to help the dead, and it seems they do precious little to help the living.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is basically a nostalgic film about nostalgia.
I realize it’s quite a gear-switch but the current Israeli invasion of Hamas-controlled Gaza is a reality check that ought to end any illusory nostalgia. But illusory nostalgia is precisely what drives so much of the conservative evangelical fervor and militant advocacy for Israel. As the civilian Palestinian death toll rises, we should all be seeing a barbaric slaugherhouse. Instead, many Christians are seeing something quite different: the fight to defend their eschatalogical Grand Budapest Hotel.
“We oppose the privileging of Jewish lives over other lives” – Eran Efrati, via Carmen Ibrahim and Our Way to Fight
My name is Eran Efrati, I am Jewish, a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces, and a 7th generation Jerusalemite.
What I’ve seen in Israel over the last few weeks is beyond anything I have witnessed in my life:
- Like you, I’ve seen the climbing death toll in Gaza, over 192 dead and some 1,485 injured–all by Israeli missiles, with no end in sight. At least 75% of those killed have been civilians and as many as 36 have been children.
- I’ve seen soldiers lined up at the Gaza border, ready at a moment’s notice to invade.
- I’ve seen terrified Palestinian children in Hebron and Halhul, sitting on the ruins of their homes.
- I’ve heard from friends in Tel Aviv who were violently attacked by right-wing Israeli Jews at a rally to protest the ongoing assault on Gaza.
The climate here in Jerusalem reveals a level of hatred and racism in Israeli society that goes beyond calls from isolated extremists for revenge and violence against Palestinians.
The Washington bureau chief of Al-Hayat, Joyce Karam, was one of the few people to notice the weekend death toll in Syria. She tweeted, in reference to anti-Israel protests in Pakistan, “Syria is essentially Gaza x320 death toll, x30 number of refugees, but no protest in Pakistan…”
I asked her why she thought this is so. Her answer: “Only reason I can think of is Muslim killing Muslim or Arab killing Arab seems more acceptable than Israel killing Arabs.”
I feel guilty in leaving [Gaza], and for the first time in my reporting life, scarred, deeply scarred by what I have seen, some of it too terrible to put on the screen.
Shifting gears to some interesting theological pieces:
This American-Christian halfbreed teaches that we can do anything if God is on our side–we can go it pseudo-solo (because we’re not really alone if God is with us, right?). It idolizes independence. And it culminates in the false gospel, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”
You would think that a clear, easily applied blueprint would lead all honest inquirers to the truth. It’s no surprise that followers of Jesus are fragmented and divided over how to read and interpret the Bible, but if we want understand why we are fragmented so much, we need to look at our starting assumptions about the Bible.
We all believe that the Bible is telling us how to do something, but we aren’t agreed on what that something is. If we view the Bible as more of a painting than a blueprint, then we have a place to begin:
The first and really only “how to” the Bible offers is this: “How to meet with God.” Scripture is a series of paintings that show how people have met with God and points us toward ways we can interact with God—through the mediation of the risen Christ and the Holy Spirit. However, we aren’t necessarily supposed to duplicate the details of these paintings precisely.
I mention that I’m in favor of marriage equality and people think I’m not a Christian.
I mention that I attend a Presbyterian church and everyone wonders how I can go to a church whose denomination allows (not supports) same-sex marriage.
Friends and family members who once respected me and had high hopes for my future are now praying for my eternal salvation.
I have space for my conservative brothers and sisters in Christ, but far too often for my happiness, they don’t have space for me.
I seriously can’t wait until the subject book of this next one gets published so I can get it for my boys!
I think one of the reasons we reduce the gospel to a handful precepts or sound bites is because we’re not sure our kids are up for something bigger. Or because we don’t think of the gospel as being primarily a story. Or maybe we worry our kids won’t have the attention span for something more than a few quick bullet points about sin and salvation.
I want to prove these assumptions wrong—because, frankly, this kind of gospel doesn’t work. It doesn’t stick. Stories stay with us for life. Bullet points, not so much. Our kids need a better story.
Last night, my daughter stayed with The Story of King Jesus all the way through, even though it’s longer than most of her bedtime books.
And let’s wrap this up with two powerful, personal stories.
“Remember the revivals?” my friend Dee asks me.
We are drinking iced coffee on a Sunday morning in the small town we met, the town of our fiery Pentecostal days. The last time I was at this coffee shop, I was a teenager, sipping a strawberry smoothie and listening to my youth pastor talk about how I need to Press In to God more consistently to see the release of miracles in my life.
Everything has changed since then. Today, I have come to this coffee shop to unpack the damage of those Pressing In days.
My freshman year in high school, I mentioned my dream to become a marine botanist to my best friend, our pastor’s daughter, and she laughed.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” she said. “You can’t be a scientist. You have to be a keeper at home.”
Keeper at home.
It’s a phrase from the King James translation of Titus 2, and we interpreted it to mean that it was against God’s laws for women to be employed. Our church, however, took it one step further: if all a woman was allowed to be was a “keeper at home,” then it was utterly pointless for her to try to be anything else. Pursuing an education, or longing for a career could do nothing but harm her with shattered dreams. For that reason, young women in our church were asked to be “stay-at-home daughters.”
If you like the mix of what you just read, follow me on Twitter to get more. Peace be with you until we meet again.