Friday, May 28, 2010

Not Understanding Zion

The big contentious issue for this least as it's being construed by the conservative and progressive wings in the Presbyterian Church (USA)...goes beyond our usual howling about human sexuality. This year, we're also fighting about the whole Israel/Palestine thing.

On the one hand, you have the leftists in the church, who seem so eager to show solidarity with the oppressed that they'll swallow anything that comes out of the mouths of Palestinians. This includes providing tacit endorsement to statements that equivocate about the morality of suicide bombing and that deny that the Jews who now reside in Israel are actually real Jews.

On the other side, you have the right-wingers who seem to think that Israel can do no wrong, being the Chosen People and all. Fences smack in the middle of communities? Keeps the rabble out. Draconian security? It's necessary. Destroying the houses of the families of those who cause trouble? That'll show 'em. Heck, this is the land that God gave 'em, so they've got a right to do whatever they darn well please. It's right there in the Bible!

Discernment is not really a well developed spiritual skill-set among partisans.

My own struggle with the issue is complex. I have no patience for folks who articulate hatred for Jews. Period. Meaning much of the rhetoric used by Palestinians just makes me angry. Israel as a secular state...meaning, a parlimentary democracy that is comprised primarily of folks who are of Jewish heritage and who speak Hebrew...doesn't trouble me at all.

But when I start thinking about modern day Israel as the theological Zion, as the place of God's promise for the Jewish people, things come apart a bit. Honestly, it doesn't connect with my understanding of the Kingdom in any way, shape, or form. It's a Christian bias, I know, even if it is squarely rooted in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. But the idea of Zion as a place, as a particular patch of land in a particular corner of our little world, that idea is completely alien to my theology.

The idea of Jerusalem as Zion hasn't, quite frankly, had any substantive foundation in the faith since the Babylonians trounced Judah. Jerusalem and the geophysical space we call Israel just aren't the same as Zion. When the prophets speak of Zion, they speak of a utopian reality, a state of being in which not only are the Jewish people living without fear of oppression, but everyone else who recognizes God's intended purpose for us is as well.

That state of being is not limited to a hunk of semi-arable land in the Near East. Way I see it, it manifests itself in any place where the Jewish people...and we Gentiles, too...can live free from fear, oppression, and want. From my own admittedly odd perspective , I see Zion more strongly expressing itself in New York City than I do in the Middle East.