It seems that for some the stand taken by Sen Ted Cruz at a recent Middle East Christian conference has his raised his chances of becoming a presidential candidate. Following some dissent from the crowd he walked off the stage after making this comment:
“If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you.....Good night, and God bless.”
He had said earlier that 'Those who hate Israel hate America': it seemed that nuance had left the building earlier than Sen Cruz.
As a Brit watching US politics from across the pond I have been growing increasingly concerned with how few voices have been speaking against the deaths in Gaza and the treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank.
Now before you try to suggest that American politics are none of my business let me remind you that your fine country has regularly declared itself to be the 'policeman of the world' with even your current president stating that the USA is the best hope for world peace. If your world presence is so significant then I reserve my right to comment occasionally.
With regard to criticism of the modern state of Israel's current actions in Gaza it seems even some of the more progressive Christian voices are worryingly silent. Either they are concerned about a possible backlash from their usually more moderate readership or they are not receiving the same coverage that other parts of of the world are being given.
Both the sentiments offered by Sen Cruz and the recent silence of many progressive Christian voices has lead me to want to offer the following observations that I hope will help the conversation and introduce some much needed nuance:
1) The word 'Arab' is not interchangeable with the word 'Muslim'. Some commentators seem to confuse the two.
2) The word 'Muslim' does not mean 'terrorist'. There are many Muslim organisations that have condemned the actions of ISIS - just because your media doesn't report it that doesn't mean it isn't happening.
3) In a modern context the word 'Israel' is not the same as the word 'Jew'. When Sen Cruz conflates the two he is using conversation stopping tactics that do not help.
4) To criticise or even condemn the actions of a nation state is not the same as hatred.
5) The USA is not the same as Israel even if you give Israeli citizens more rights than others and allow your children to fight in its army.
6) Criticising our own government is being democratic not unpatriotic. It is interesting how selectively we use these two words.
7) Following Christ does not mean unswervingly supporting the state of Israel no matter what it does.
Lack of nuance is never helpful, not least on the anniversary of 9/11. Sen Cruz decided that he cannot stand with people who will not stand with Israel. I would suggest that Jesus was criticised for standing, eating, and mixing with the outcast and marginalised not the powerful: it would seem a shame to confuse the two.