Yom Kippur: What does atonement mean?

heart w bandaidToday is Yom Kippur, Judaism’s day of atonement. It’s a day for fasting, repentance, and healing. Atonement is a concept that Christianity inherited from Judaism. Jesus’ cross is our Yom Kippur for our sins. The Hebrew word kippur means most literally “to cover.” In English, atonement is a compound of three words: at-one-ment. So what is being made “at one” with atonement? And how does being “covered” by something make us “at one”? Continue reading

Israeli youth picks prison over occupation

I just came across this video from Nathan Blanc, a 19 year old Israeli who has refused the mandatory time of service in the Israeli military because of his objection to the occupation of Palestine. Israeli law does not allow for conscientious objectors so they are sent to prison if they refuse to serve. Hear what he has to say and judge for yourself, and then check out this link to an article about other Israeli youth who are picking prison over occupation.

Biblical Zion requires a one-state solution

The UN General Assembly today passed a resolution to grant Palestine “observer-state status,” which Palestinian Authority premier Mahmoud Abbas declared the “last chance to save the two-state solution.” I’m actually opposed to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. I don’t think it can be supported Biblically, because the Biblical prophecy about Zion in Isaiah 2:2-4 says that it’s the mountain of the Lord’s temple to which “all the nations will stream” in order to receive God’s judgment and teaching so that no one will “train for war anymore.” There is no mention of national borders, checkpoints, 40 foot high walls, or barbed wire fences in Isaiah or Micah or any of the other prophecies about Zion in the Hebrew Bible, because the Biblical Zion is not an apartheid state in which non-Jews are disenfranchised and under military occupation. Christians who support the Bible shouldn’t be advocating a two-state solution; we should be advocating a one-state solution in which Arabs from Gaza and the West Bank have full citizenship rights as well as Palestinian refugees around the world, who should all have birthright citizenship no differently than Jews around the world currently enjoy. Continue reading

What counts as terrorism?

I realize I’ll get in trouble for writing this. I hope you can love me even when God puts it on my heart to advocate for people whose existence has been delegitimized with the label of “terrorism.” And I hope you understand that my advocacy does not connote moral approval of very evil things that have been done and are being done. I used to be a youth pastor to kids who society had written off on account of their being “gang-bangers” and “illegal aliens,” and I discovered they were beautiful children of God who needed someone to tell them that. Jesus’ ministry was defined by associating with people whose existence had been delegitimized with a label, whether it was “sinner” or “tax collector” or “prostitute.” Thus it seems like not an inappropriate emulation of Christ to try to understand and even defend the human dignity of “terrorists” in Gaza whether they’re labeled that way because of their own sinful deeds or because they share the same ethnicity, neighborhood, or even household with people who have engaged in acts of violence that create terror.

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The disaster of not talking with your enemies

One of the most cogent things that Barack Obama said during his 2008 presidential campaigns was that he would sit down with America’s enemies since it’s bad strategy to “punish” them by not talking with them. He was widely ridiculed by people whose heroes Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon accomplished their greatest foreign policy achievements with the USSR and China precisely through their willingness to treat America’s enemies with dignity, which happened in a different time before American politics became an adolescent conversation. It has been painful to watch Obama walk back his stance so thoroughly that instead of continuing the somewhat successful (though expensive) counter-insurgency strategy of building relationships with enemies that worked in Iraq, now he sends in drones to speak with bombs and missiles instead. How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have gone if Kennedy had “refused to negotiate with terrorists”? Probably about as well as the Gaza disaster is going for Israel. The Communists were no less ideologically committed to the fall of America than Hamas is committed to the fall of Israel. And yet instead of negotiating with Ahmed al-Jabari, the Hamas military chief, Israel assassinated him, which was a huge strategic blunder if they have a genuine interest in peace.

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Six things I can say about Gaza

It’s hard to articulate a legitimate Christian response to the tragedy in Gaza right now. My inclination is to take the side of the underdog and go against all of my fellow evangelicals whose commitment to Israel’s absolute infallibility helps make Israel unaccountable for the $3 billion of our tax dollars that they get each year. But there’s no way to justify the rockets that the Gazans are firing at Israel from a moral or even a strategic perspective. And I can understand that if people are firing rockets at your citizens, your government has an obligation to act to prevent that from happening (though I guess Hamas would say the same thing). Of course, it isn’t that simple. I wanted to share some considerations for thinking about this issue as a Christian not to be an apologist for either side but to challenge some of the misconceptions that I hear Christians voicing around me. Continue reading

What would you have done in Libya?

One of the things that makes me hot in watching politics is when one politician criticizes another one’s decision-making without having to explain what he would have done differently. It’s amazing how omnipotent the American president is expected to be about events that are completely beyond his control. Wow, Libya sure did blow up in your face, President Obama; you should have known those Arabs couldn’t handle democracy (say the same people who 9 years ago justified invading an Arab country to “help teach them democracy”). Well, I don’t object to his decision-making per se (since I can’t offer a better alternative), but he should have run all his decisions by Congress (say the same people who were flabbergasted when the opposite side made the preposterous suggestion of “running a military by committee” 9 years ago). This has ceased to have anything to do with making good decisions; it is about coming up with one-liners that stick. And there’s such a desperate need to make Libya into Obama’s Iran hostage crisis that a congressman was willing to do a Wikileaks-style document dump which compromised Libyan allies for the sake of taking down the president. So let me pose the question to you: what would you have done in Libya? Continue reading