I have been feeling rather weary by the whole Israeli-Gaza situation. Commenting on social media opens one up for all manner of responses. I am not looking for sympathy but I do need some help understanding why people find it easy to ignore the problem of children being killed.
The responses seem to follow some distinct patterns:
1) I have had people accusing me of not knowing all of the facts.
I find the nature of this response somewhat bizarre. Is it really being suggested that until someone knows 'all' of the facts they cannot make a judgement. Given that governments and organisations involved in war are both secretive and employ propaganda techniques how could we ever truly know all of the facts.
What surprises me most is that a good majority of those who have responded in this way seem reluctant to either read the material I have offered or respond to the actual questions I have raised.
2) I have had people suggesting that I am going against God's word in condemning the violence.
The only scriptures offered are ones that, on face value, seem to suggest that the land belongs to Israel and that this nation is the 'Apple of God's eye': perhaps the children are collateral damage in some big cosmic plan.
The striking thing here is that most people don't even try to grapple with the scriptures I have used that suggest violence has no place in the kingdom of God. The one occasion when someone tried to answer my use of the verses where Jesus says that we will be judged on how we treat the 'least of one of these' suggested that meaning was towards Israel because his audience would have been Jewish.
3) Some have accused me of not even being a Christian, although one of those later suggested it was a case of mistaken identity: phew!
The easiest way to ignore the questions asked by others is to exclude them from the group. Of course this doesn't remove either the horror of violence or the questions raised. It is a poor tactic and should be seen for what it is: tribalism.
4) One person commended me for my compassion but suggested I should become a politician.
I can only presume the unspoken narrative was 'you are not a very good church minister so why not become a politician instead'
5) I have had one particular person send a private message to express concern for me. It seems that I am in some kind of danger for standing against violence. The suggestion is not that I might be harmed but that I am 'hard hearted'.
We are all in danger of this but I cannot remember when I have cried as much in a long time. We sing ' break my heart for what breaks yours' but it seems that we have perhaps mistaken how God feels about the death of children.
6) Several people have accused me of being anti-Semitic in standing for peace. This is a difficult one because I do feel sensitive towards calls of racism - I don't want to presume that I am the finished article in this regard: as if I have nothing left to learn in this.
My issue with this charge is that it confuses a respect for Jewish people, and Judaism as a religion, with the actions of the modern state of Israel. The statement 'no one should be subjected to racism' is inextricably linked to the idea that 'no one should be free from criticism if their behaviour demands it'.
7) It has also been said that the church shouldn't be expressing political ideas: it should stick to preaching the gospel.
The mistake here is to think that the gospel is not political. In the context of the Roman Empire, Jesus was crucified for confronting Rome - the title fixed to his cross confirms this: 'King of the Jews'
If you add to this much of the political nature of the writings in Revelation we have to understand that if we are not causing a scandal when it comes to acts of violence we are not preaching the kingdom whose king is the Prince of Peace.
I had a Facebook comment from someone who was accusing the church of being silent on the Israeli-Gaza issue. When I tried to say that not 'all' churches were silent they said :
I haven't seen every church outside protesting on a Sunday! I live like four doors down from one - I would have noticed.'
Whilst I feebly tried to offer proof that some churches were trying to make a difference the challenge is a fair one. If we walked down any street, in any town, would we have any indication that the church is against such violence. Added to this is the almost palpable silence from evangelical leaders on twitter and in the media.
8) It has also been said by some that the images I have been posting are too distressing.
Well I have to say - guilty. They are indeed too distressing.
All of the above has made me weary but not as much as the photographs of children being killed by the world's 4th largest military power.
- I might not know all the facts but I know enough to condemn this and other acts of violence.
- I may be accused of ignoring bible verses that ease some people's consciences but I have found others verse that suggest remaining quiet is being complicit in the evil.
- I may not seem like a Christian to some but in the midst of this pain I care more about standing as a human being.
- I may not appear to be acting like a good church minister but I don't care to spend my energy preaching to the choir.
- I may seem hard-hearted to those whose hearts do not break for the children being killed: so be it.
- I may continue to be accused of being anti-Semitic but I follow the one who was crucified as the king of the Jews.
- I may be accused of being political but I will remind you that 'war is what happens when our politics fail'.
- I may be accused of showing distressing images but I refuse to let these little ones go unnoticed.
When it's all been said and done I may feel weary from these debates but our western weariness is nothing compared to the despair felt by the people of Gaza.