Sunday, April 12, 2015

How Not to Write a Messianic Nationalist Manifesto [SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS]

INTRODUCTION

What would happen if tomorrow all the nations of the world went to war against the People of G-d?

Most Believers in Yeshua (a.k.a. Jesus), upon hearing such a strange question, would be dismissive.

The typical thinking might go something like this:

it's very unlikely that anyone would try to systematically destroy all of the Believers in the world--indeed, there are many pluralistic nations who value and support religious freedom.  Not gonna happen.  And even if Satan did somehow manage to marshal all the nations of the world against the People of G-d, what could be done?  We're not called to defend a literal fatherland.  Our home is in heaven, not on earth.  If we are called to suffer persecution, we will suffer it gladly--even if it means surrendering our very lives.  We are a dispersed and scattered people.  That is our lot.  G-d never intended for His followers to unite and form their own country.  Yes, it's true that G-d intended for the Jews to unite and re-form Israel.  But that's because (1) the Jews inherited the Land of Israel from Abraham their father; (2) the Jews believe they have to keep the Law (but we Gentiles are not under the Law) and; (3) the Jews, having suffered tremendous persecution, must have a homeland in order to survive.  In short, G-d intends for the Jews to function as a nation descended from a common father (Abraham), comprised of a common family (the Jewish family), living in common fatherland (Israel).  But G-d does not intend for Gentiles to view Abraham as their father, or to view themselves as being welcome in the Abrahamic fatherland (what business does a Gentile have being anywhere near Israel?), and He certainly doesn't want Gentiles to think that they should be keeping the Law of the Jews.  

But what if these sentiments are wrong?  What if rejecting the instructions, family, and homeland of the father only leads down a path to destruction?  What if the opposite is true?  What if national survival depends on:

(1) recognition of a common "father's instructions";

(2) recognition of a common family descended from that father;

(3) recognition of a fatherland.

DISAMBIGUATING MESSIANIC NATIONALISM

Nationalism is simultaneously one of the most important aspects of existence and one of the trickiest concepts to define.  It has been described as an "imaginary community" in the sense that national identification requires you to imagine yourself belonging to a vast nation which consists largely of people you've never met--you must imagine these people as your community or family.  Yet there's so much more to nationalism than that.  It affects everything about you:  your worldview (including your beliefs about what forms of state government your nationalism should take), your way of life (e.g. the way an American should behave), and the group for which you are prepared to give your life.  So it's a pretty big deal.

Because nationalism is so powerful, it has been used for both tremendous good and terrible evil.  We're all aware of the evils of German national socialism.  The Germans took a nationalist idea that could've been used for good--for the self-protection of the German people for example--and they infused it with a sense of ethnic superiority and entitlement to territory belonging to other nations.  Because the infrastructure of their "imagined community" was wrong, built on a false foundation, the consequences were catastrophic.

The Germans are not the first to have committed atrocities due to a misguided sense of nationalism.

Yet nationalism can also be a force for good.  King David was faced with a divided kingdom.  But he encouraged the various tribes to view one another as members of a single nation.  He encouraged the tribes to unify their focus, to center upon Jerusalem, the Ark of the Covenant--and the Law it contained, so that they would see themselves not as two separate houses (nations) but rather as a single, unified Kingdom (and family).

This is the ideal of nationalism:  turning all of the peoples toward the G-d of Israel, to the Holy City, and to the Messianic King who will eventually establish His earthly rule there amongst His People--all of the People of G-d.  In short, Messianic Nationalism at its best is the belief that there is only one family of G-d, that we share a common father (Abraham), and, thus, a common worldview, way of life, and fatherland.

PROPER AND IMPROPER EXPRESSIONS OF MESSIANIC NATIONALISM

What should Messianic Nationalism look like?  We have folks like Dan Benzvi who say that Gentiles essentially have no business being anywhere near the Land of Israel (despite Ezekiel 47, Isaiah 2, Micah 4, Zechariah 2, 14, etc).  We have folks like James Pyles who say that Gentiles Believers are destined to belong to "vassal states" excluded from the nation (i.e. family) of Israel.  This fits well with his Bilateral Ecclesiology (Dual Family Theology).  Perhaps James sees the suzerain-vassal relationship between Davidic Israel and Moab and Edom as ideal?  But those states kept their own gods, their own way of life (i.e. their own laws), and rather than identifying as "Sons of Abraham", chose to identify as Sons of Moab and Sons of Edom (with all the separatism and antagonism that implied).  We have folks like certain segments of the Two House movement who would have Gentiles formally and publicly identify as being physically descended from the Lost Tribes of Israel and base their entire sense of nationalism on that supposed ancestry.  But that requires believing in something that may or may not be true.  And since nationalism, as explained before, affects everything in our existence, do we really want to base it on something that may or may not be true?  Also, are we really certain that we want to intentionally resurrect the Two House model as though it is some sort of ideal to be attained?  Did not the Two House model result in the destruction of the United Kingdom of Israel?

But here's an even trickier question:

Zionism offers one form of nationalism to Messianic Jews.  Is this the only viable nationalist option for ethnic Jews in the Body of Messiah?  And, if all of the ethnic Jews in the Body of Messiah suddenly decide to accept the Zionist form of nationalism and make aliyah to Israel, would this not result in a de facto Bilateral Ecclesiology?

So as we keep in mind that our nationalism will affect our sense of family (ecclesiology), the individual we identify as a common father, and the way of life and worldview inherited from said father, we must begin to eliminate nationalist options that would conflict with sound Theology or that might endanger the Modern State of Israel.  How not to write a Messianic Nationalist Manifesto? I think if we keep in mind the following principles then we will avoid a misguided sense of nationalism:

(In no particular order)


  • We must respect the Jewish claim to the Land--all of it, not just the ancestral tribal allotment given to the tribe of Judah.  Jews have the priority because they are the only identifiable, ethnic descendants of Abraham.  Furthermore, they may actually need to claim the entire Abraham Territory of Israel for the purposes of self-protection of global Jewry.
  • We, Gentile and Jewish Believers, must identify as being "Sons of Abraham" but in different ways, Gentiles being grafted in or "adopted" into the family.  Gentiles must recognize this adopted status so that they remain humble.  A Gentile must never usurp but rather approach with a servant's heart.  


Well, I suppose there's more to add but those are the basics.

Does anyone have any thoughts about what forms Messianic Nationalism should (or shouldn't) take?










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