Enthusiastic and well-meaning Christians who naively hope to foster peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Robert Nicholson writes, tend to turn a blind eye to the facts:
Who has not encountered these zealous “ambassadors of reconciliation” who leap from issue to issue, injustice to injustice, driven by a Christ-like concern for the downtrodden but afflicted by a raging case of presentism? These peacemakers have little interest in how a given injustice came to be because the task of acquiring such knowledge would be so arduous as to impair their ability to parachute in and out of conflict zones with one-size-fits-all solutions. What matters is today: what I see, what I feel, what God is telling me. History is supplanted by sentiment, or—to hear them tell it—the urging of the Holy Spirit.
This approach was affirmed in a recent Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking seminar held at a popular U.S. megachurch in Chicago. Teaching a rapt audience how to facilitate reconciliation between Jews and Arabs, the speaker said, “Both sides have their own experiences of the same events. At some point it really doesn’t matter who started it if we want to play the role of the peacemaker.”
That Christians would approach the world this way is bizarre. Many writers over the centuries have pointed out that Christians, like their Jewish forebears, are perhaps the most historically-minded of all people. . . . For the Christian, transcendent meaning can only be found in an appreciation of history. “In contrast to ahistorical cultures,” Reinhold Niebuhr wrote in his book Faith and History, “biblical faith affirms the potential meaning of life in history. It is in history, and not in a flight from history, that the divine power which bears and completes history is revealed.” . . .
By way of example, Nicholson cites an article from the Economist on the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, which betrays the same sort of indifference to history:
To read [this article] is to encounter Jews resolving ex nihilo to bomb other people’s planes and take other people’s cities for no other reason than to pray in Jerusalem. That the Six-Day War was a response to an abiding and active Arab plan to destroy the young Jewish state goes entirely unstated. . .
“Fifty years after 1967,” [the essay concludes], “it has become too easy for Israel to forget that, just a short drive away, the grinding occupation of Palestinians has become all but permanent.” Here [the Economist’s author] touches on one of the most vexing issues of the conflict, subtly implying that Israel is to blame for the situation and therefore bears the burden for fixing it.
Following the logic of his article, that seems right. Following the logic of history, that seems wrong. Following the logic of the peacemaking seminar, it doesn’t really matter: whoever seems to be suffering the most right now deserves compensation from the other. Pursuing justice is noble, but this kind of indiscriminate pursuit may indeed lay the world to waste.
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