One man's view of theology, sports, politics, and whatever else in life that happens to interest me. A little bit about me.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Who Is God's "Chosen Nation?"

This is adapted from an article I wrote about three years ago.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is all over the news these days, for obvious reasons. Any time you have a real shooting war, people are going to want to know what’s going on. And lots of people have strong opinions about it. Some people are going to say that Israel is wrong, others are going to say they are right. I generally fall into the latter camp, but not for the same reasons as others, like this post I saw on Facebook this morning:

It is not my intention to call anyone out (that’s why I got rid of any personal identifiers in the screen shot). But here’s my main problem with this statement: The modern state of Israel does not necessarily equal the Israel of prophecy. The state of Israel could be wiped off the face of the earth tomorrow and it would not change the certainty of God’s Word. Don’t take that to mean I am not a dispensationalist: I am. I believe that there are numerous Biblical prophecies about Israel and the Jewish people which have yet to be fulfilled. But we cannot know how those prophecies will be fulfilled, and it’s wrong for us to connect dots that God has not necessarily connected.

20th and 21st century conservative Christianity is enamored with Israel. I have seen people wearing Israeli flag pins in church, lots of “Support Israel” bumper stickers, and churches with Israeli flags permanently displayed in the sanctuary. Certainly this is a welcome change from the sad history of anti-semitism which has characterized the majority of church history, but we can't let our excitement for seeing prophecy fulfilled cause us to forget that we are still in the church age. God does not specially bless or protect political nations in this age; He works through the Church.

Most of the prophecies that refer to “Israel” could just as easily refer to all Jewish people living in the world rather than just Palestine. It was less than a decade ago that the Jewish population of Israel actually surpassed the Jewish population of the United States. When we include Jewish people living elsewhere in the world, the majority of Jews do not live in Israel. Of the references specifically to Jerusalem or other geographical locations in Palestine, these do not have to have the Star of David flying over them for the foretold events to happen there.

Maybe I am making mountains out of molehills, but I have heard too many Christians in casual conversation and in some cases from the pulpit blindly defend anything Israel does, even when they mistreat their Arab citizens or blatantly violate treaty agreements. I personally admire their courage to hold onto their land despite decades of attempts by nearly all their neighbors to get rid of them, and I applaud their noble attempts at democracy in a region dominated by dictators. But I don’t think we can say for certain that the modern state of Israel is necessarily the fulfillment of prophecy. We don't know God's time line. God could wait a thousand years or more before He carries out these prophecies.

I hope we understand as believers that in this time God still calls on all people, Gentile and Jew alike, to repent and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A Jew who rejects Jesus is just as much under God’s wrath as a Gentile who rejects Him. There is no “chosen nation” right now, other than the Church, the nation that Christ is building out of every nation, tribe and tongue.

We can debate the rightness or wrongness of Israel’s actions in the current flare-up and in the past. I happen to think they have a mostly positive record, notwithstanding accidents and, more troubling, their continued insistence on building new Jewish settlements in lands set aside for Palestinians. Their record is stellar compared to the record of the various Palestinian authorities and organizations. But let’s not let Christian religious views cloud our judgment of the situation, especially when those views may not actually be as scriptural as we think they may be.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Why I'm voting "NO" on Amendment 1

Tomorrow, July 15, is runoff election day in Alabama. This election figures to be a quiet one as there aren't a lot of big contests out there. There are some hot local races in various counties and state house districts, but that's about it. There is also a very odd constitutional question on the ballot.
Photo Credit

Amendment 1 asks voters if the cotton check-off should be mandatory. Currently $1 out of the price of every bale of cotton sold in Alabama goes to the Alabama Cotton Commission for the purposes of research and promotion of cotton. This tax is known as the cotton check-off. The funds raised go to scientific research and to pay pretty young country stars to sing on TV about cotton being the fabric of their lives.Currently cotton farmers have the option to receive a refund of their cotton check-off tax. According to current estimates, only about 7 percent of farmers actually request this, so apparently most farmers are fine with the tax.

What I would like to know is this: what does this have to do with the 99 percent of us here in Alabama who don't raise cotton? And if it has nothing to do with us, why are we voting on it? Couldn't this just as easily be done by a vote of cotton farmers, the people who will actually be affected by this legislation? It probably could, but then the minority of farmers who request a refund would be voted down without being given a chance to state their case.

Most of the blame for this lies with the endless web of nonsense that is the Alabama Constitution. I'm all for popular sovereignty at the state and local level. The people should have a voice in their government when practical. But Alabama's Constitution is so broad and nitpicky at the same time that we have stuff like tomorrow's vote or 2012's statewide vote on whether or not a local water district could be annexed into the Mobile city water service. In a sane world, such things would be voted on by the people directly involved, whether it be a statewide group of farmers or the people of Mobile County. But Alabama's constitution is not known for sanity.

So why am I voting no? I'm voting no for two reasons: One, the state government should not be involved in promoting products. I am aware that the only funds are those that come from the sale of cotton. I'm not saying my taxes go to promoting cotton. But the fact that the state is involved is a problem for me. This could be done much better by a private organization, one that is not tied to state government. State governments should spin off these agricultural organizations - the cotton commission, the beef commission, etc. - and let them raise their own money promote their products on their own without even a hint of state involvement.

The second reason I'm voting no is because the Alabama Constitution needs an overhaul. It is too complicated and outdated for the efficient governance of the state. The US Constitution, ratified in 1789, is a model of efficiency. It has 7 articles and 27 amendments. The Alabama Constitution, which was ratified in 1901, has 287 sections and 772 amendments. I understand state constitutions are generally more detailed than the federal constitution, but that's ridiculous. We need to take steps toward a simpler constitution that provides safety, justice and services for the people and does little else. But those steps won't be taken if the people in power keep getting what they want by throwing bewildering amendments on the ballot that most people will vote yes on because they don't care about that particular issue.