Monday, June 29, 2009

Religion

Between Internet connection problems, a busy summer schedule, and my attempt to wrap my mind around everything I've been trying to learn, I haven't been able to post.

I've been trying to condense all I've been learning about the similarities and differences between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As always, whenever I attempt to tackle making sense of things for myself, I find my faith challenged. This always makes me uncomfortable but I believe that in order for my faith to be real it must be able to be questioned. That is not to say that I have answers for my questions. There are so many that I don't. It does mean that I come to a place where I can accept that I don't know the answers and yet still believe what I do. I really wish that I was one of those Christians that isn't plagued by doubt. I'm not. I am often frustrated and confused. I don't know if this comes from the fact that I was raised in an environment that was, for lack of a better word, neutral about spiritual matters. God was something that just wasn't talked about. What I believed was left up to me.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam begin pretty much the same. Abraham is a key figure in all three religions. Interesting considering that Abraham is referred to as the father of faith in Christianity. For a quick comparison of the three go here.

I had hoped to be able to do one post on Judaism, Christianity and Islam and present it from a position of my understanding it all. I don't. I can't wrap it up and be satisfied with what I know at this point. So, today I am just going to write a brief synopsis of what each religion believes about who God is. All three are monotheistic in that they believe in only one God.

Judaism: God is spirit. To Orthodox Jews, God is personal, eternal and compassionate. To other Jews, God is impersonal and unknowable and defined in many ways.

Christianity: God is triune, meaning one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It can be explained as multiplied wholeness (1x1x1=1). The title God refers to the first person, God the Father. He is a spiritual being. He is personal and involved with people. He is eternal, holy, and loving.

Islam: God (Allah) is one. He is the judge that is sometimes merciful. They do not believe in a personal relationship with Allah.

The problem with breaking things down this way is that it is overly simplistic. There are many variations of what people believe that fall under each of the religions.

Question:

1. Why do you believe/not believe in God and why?

Also, today in the news:

"Now, in an unexpected move, Obama has told White House aides that instead of joining a congregation in Washington, D.C., he will follow in George W. Bush's footsteps and make his primary place of worship Evergreen Chapel, the nondenominational church at Camp David. " continue reading here.

2. What are your thoughts on that?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Iran

Due to some Internet connection issues, out of town guests, our daughter coming home for Father's Day and our son's baseball games, I have not been able to focus on another post for this blog. I've got some housewife things to do too... you know, laundry, vacuuming and dishes. Our son also has a double header today. I just wanted to let y'all know I am planning on posting tomorrow.

In the mean time, Militant Ginger has an opinion post up about the election in Iran here. For those of you not familiar with Roland, he regularly posts here and has a unique perspective in that he is British, has lived in Paris and is now a resident of the United States. He and I have very different views on many things... but, we also share some common ground on others. I'm interested in seeing what some of your opinions are on how he sees the situation in Iran.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Reaction to Sunday's Netanyahu Speech and Iranian Election Results

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsed a Palestinian state alongside Israel for the first time today. However, the conditions he attached were that the Palestinians had to recognize the state of Israel, could not have an army, refugees would not be negotiated and settlements would remain. Palestinians rejected the proposal.

Netanyahu Corrects Obama in Speech

Netanyahu Endorses Palestinian Independence

The June 12, 2009, Iranian presidential election went to incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with 66% of the votes cast leaving Hossein Mousavi 33% of the vote. Violent protests have been raging amidst allegations of voter fraud. Initially U.S. officials said they would not accept Ahmadinejad's victory but are now saying that they will negotiate with the regime.

Madness

Landslide or Fraud?

Questions:

1. What do you think of Netanyahu's speech?

2. What impact will Ahmadinejad have on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, if any?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Palestine

Back in January I posted that I wanted to understand the ongoing conflict between the Jews and the Arabs in Palestine here. We had the usual debate going in the comment section. In April I received a couple more comments on that thread. We were discussing why Israel hasn’t just taken care of the problem and I made the following comment:

I don't know... I liken it to the way my husband kills bugs. He taps them and often they get away. I obliterate them... and not many escape me. Although, it has led to the need for spackle and paint on occasion. Fortunately, we rarely see bugs here in Colorado.
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I'm sure Israel is very advanced technologically, as is the U.S. The problem in Iraq was that we went in with too few troops and tied our own hands in an effort to "fight fair." Is war ever fair?I certainly do not want to see innocent people killed.
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It just seems to me that by not dealing with things effectively in the first place, when you have more than the capability to do so, costs more in the long run in terms of lives and dollars.

Susanne left me this comment:

Wow, it's disturbing to read of Palestinians likened to bugs that need obliterating all at once so the problem won't crop up again and cost more money and lives. Amazing!
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I guess these people don't have souls worth saving? Just so long the Zionists are saved here on earth, the others be damned to hell for eternity, right?
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Whatever happened to "overcome evil with GOOD"? I think that would be from Jesus. And you think your method trumps His? Yours is better than GOD's?!
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I don't see the world in better shape for all the conflicts of "fighting evil" that we have done in recent years. What gives? Whatever happened to "if your enemy is hunger, feed him" and all that stuff? Where does bomb the daylights out of 'em and hope they all die like bugs come from?
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Argh!
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Is there any wonder not many people want Christianity? THIS is being the light of the world?

And then this comment:

Please quickly scroll through the pictures at this link. Do you see these as precious people who need Jesus or bugs that need obliterated once and for all?

http://americanarab.wordpress.com/2009/01/

Thank you for your consideration.

I immediately e-mailed her and said that I would respond in another post on my blog. That was two months ago.

The truth is that I feel very convicted by Susanne’s words and ashamed of my choice of analogy. I was referring to the terrorists, not the Palestinian people. However, I can see where my comment could be taken the way that it was and for that I apologize.

I never did click on the link she left until recently. I sensed that whatever she linked to would upset me. I did start doing some research and quickly became overwhelmed by the scope of it all. I then entered into a cycle of trying to put it out of my mind, doing research, trying to walk away from it, and then back to researching again. The more research I do, the more questions I have. When I finally did click on that link I had come to the conclusion that I, as well as most Americans and Christians are misinformed. What I saw, did in fact, upset me.

In many ways I am very much a girly girl. However, at the same time I find emotions highly suspect and don’t trust them. I have the ability to step out of the emotional and look at things from other perspectives. It is a sort of zooming in and zooming out. There is always a bigger picture. At the same time, the fact is the bigger picture is comprised of all the small pictures. I sometimes try not to zoom in too closely because it is then that it is hardest for me to zoom back out.

In my mind, Israel became a nation in 1948 when the United Nations gave them land in Palestine after the atrocities inflicted on the Jews through WWII giving those displaced by the war a place to live and heal. I equated Zionists with those who led the Revolution here in our country. God entered into an elaborate and eternal blood covenant with Abraham. In this covenant, God gave the Jews a biblical mandate to possess the land forever (Genesis 15:8-21) and that is the reason why we Christians support Israel as a nation.

Through my research everything I have believed about the ongoing conflict in Palestine has been turned upside down.

First of all, Zionism got its start in the mid 1800’s. The Zionist movement was officially announced in 1897 and the goal was to create a nation for Jews in Palestine. Turkey was in control of Palestine at that time and refused to give any part of it to the Jews. Small numbers of Jews moved to Palestine and initially the Arabs were not concerned.

The Zionists turned to Britain in an effort to advance their cause. In 1903 Britain offered some land in Uganda but they were only interested in Palestine. During WWI the French and British governments gave Zionists documents that expressed support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The French document was vague and never went anywhere. The British document, known as the Balfour Declaration, stated that the British government would help the Zionists create a homeland for the Jews as long as it didn’t bother the Palestinians.

In 1918 British troops drove Turkey out of Palestine. Due to the length of time they were under Turkish rule the Palestinians did not have a government. Britain agreed to protect Palestine until they were ready to self govern. In 1922 the League of Nations agreed to a policy extending that protection to 1948. The Zionists put pressure on the British government to allow them into Palestine. Britain allowed them to emigrate in small numbers but fighting began to break out between the Jews and the Arabs. Britain then entered into a cycle whey they tried to placate both groups where they would allow Jews in and then would not.

After WWII the Zionists took the Balfour Declaration to the League of Nations. As Jews fled Europe the size of the Zionist movement increased. The Holocaust gained the sympathy of the world, understandably so, for the Jews. As the time drew near for Britain to withdraw from Palestine it was clear that they were not in a position to self govern. Britain was trying to recover from the war and was no longer interested in protecting Palestine. They warned the United Nations that there was about to be a problem on their hands.

Representatives of the U.N. tried to figure out how they could divide Palestine into Jewish and Arab states and a plan was drawn up in 1947. A vote was taken that was passed in favor of the plan with 10 countries abstaining, one of which was Britain. But… the resolution to implement that plan was never passed. I was stunned.

At midnight on May 14, 1948, Britain officially withdrew from Palestine. At the same time the Zionists announced the new Nation of Israel using the borders set forth in the 1947 U.N. plan. Initially, only the United States recognized Israel as a nation. Slowly, other nations followed suit. Britain did not recognize Israel as a nation for two years. Interestingly, Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948 cites the U.N. “resolution” among items recognizing the right of the Jewish people to establish a state as did the failed 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence.

Did you know that not all Jews are Zionists and that not all Zionists are Jews? I did not. In fact, I’ve been reading about Jews who see Judaism and Zionism as incompatible and irreconcilable… that Zionism is rebellion against God and treason to the Jewish people.

I have uncovered writings by well known and respected evangelicals that have historical inaccuracies. What is the truth? There is propaganda thrown out by everyone. I have been reading some crazy stuff! The more I get into this the more I see that the big picture here goes back to the very beginning of recorded history. Whether you believe in God or not, religion is at the core.

I am going to step away from the politics as usual scene here in the United States and concentrate on history. Until I get that straight in my mind I think I am not going to be able to truly understand what is happening now. I also need to really understand what the bible says about war, the differences/similarities between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, the differences between Zionism and Judaism, why Christians support Israel, and the history of the relationship between Israel and the U.S. I need to reconcile what I know and believe as a Christian with all of this. This even includes my re-evaluating what being a Christian means to me.

I have visited Susanne’s blogs and briefly skimmed through them. I refrained from really reading them because I did not want her personal experience to color my research. It is that zooming in too close for me that brings in the emotional… I do plan on reading them in their entirety at some point. The images on her blog are graphic and deeply disturbing. I know that similar images could certainly be found of the carnage brought on by Palestinian suicide bombers that includes children. I leave you with this image and the heartbreaking knowledge that no matter what the race, religion or political background, a mother’s grief over the loss of her child is the same.

**Note: The post below this one was added later in the day after I posted this one. I decided to move it below this post in order to keep this post at the top.

I'm Confused...

In the post below (now above) I stated that the 1947 plan for the partition of Palestine into two states was passed but that the resolution to implement it was not. I probably did not word that correctly. I came to that conclusion through the following found at Wikipedia:

The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine or United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 (II) Future Government of Palestine was a plan adopted by a decision of the General Assembly on November 29, 1947.[1][2] The decision recommended the division of the western portion of the Mandate of Palestine into two provisional states, one Jewish and one Arab, and provided the framework for a regional economic union. The General Assembly also recommended that the City of Jerusalem not be included in either state, but, rather, be placed under a special international regime administered by the United Nations (a corpus separatum). A transitional period under UN auspices was to begin with the adoption of the resolution and last until establishment of the two states. The resolution contemplated a gradual withdrawal of British forces and termination of the British Mandate of Palestine by August 1, 1948, and full independence of the new states by 1 October 1948.

The plan was approved by a vote of 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions. On March 5, 1948, the United Nations Security Council reached an impasse when it refused to pass a resolution which would have accepted the partition plan as a basis for Security Council action.[3] The United States subsequently recommended a temporary UN trusteeship for Palestine "without prejudice to the character of the eventual political settlement", and the Security Council voted to send the matter back to the General Assembly for further deliberation.[4] The General Assembly decided to appoint a Mediator, and relieved the Palestine Commission from any further exercise of responsibility under resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947.[5]

While the plan was never implemented, Israel's Declaration of Independence of May 1948 cites the UN resolution among the items recognizing the right of the Jewish People to establish a state. The Palestinian Declaration of Independence of 1988 (one of the attempts to create a "Palestinian state") similarly recalls the partition plan as being among the sources entitling Palestinian Arabs to statehood.


The entire page can be found here.

Everything else I have been looking at states that Israel became a state through the U.N. resolution. I don't get it. The U.N. plan was never implemented and while the Zionists initially declared their state along the borders outlined in the plan, they definitely did not abide by those borders. Of course, this source is Wikipedia and it is my understanding that people can add to things. I'm going to look for other sources to confirm this. Wouldn't the resolution have protected the Palestinians? Or did the fact that the plan was not implemented and the Zionists declared their state mean that the Palestinians were just left twisting in the wind?

Monday, June 1, 2009

In Response to the Murder of Dr. George Tiller

As someone who is vehemently pro-life I am very disturbed by yesterday's murder of Dr. George Tiller.

The term "Christian" encompasses many denominations, sects, cults and groups of individuals that hold wildly varying ideas of what being a Christian means. The fact that Dr. Tiller was a church goer involved in ministry through ushering and yet performed late term abortions is evidence of that fact.

In the past I've engaged in debate with individuals using the Word of God as a weapon as we've fired verses and interpretations of those verses back and forth at one another. I came to a place where I decided that I would not use scripture that way and now rarely quote it. However, today I feel the need to explain where I, a Christian woman who lives an obscure life, is coming from and I will need to quote some scripture to do that.

"Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due; taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor." NKJV Romans 13:1-7

This piece of scripture was written during the time of Roman government rule and they had recently crucified Jesus Christ. The Roman government was known for the viciousness of it's soldiers, was not a democracy and was by no means pro-Christian. In spite of all this Paul, a servant of God, said what he did in the above verses in the book of Romans.

It is clear that there is no authority except from God, and that God establishes government for His purpose and that citizens are clearly commanded to be in subjection to governing authorities.

If the Roman government persecuted Christians, how was it "appointed by God"? In what sense were Roman authorities "God’s ministers"? And in what sense are Christians to be "subject" to these "authorities"?

Even Satan’s authority comes from God and the story of Job demonstrates that. God did not morally approve of this persecution, but allowed it to occur, because it was in line with his divine plan. In other words, God “appointed” Satan to persecute Job. Throughout the Old Testament, there are many examples of where this theme is extended to human governments. Although these governments persecuted God’s people, often in brutal ways, they are described as God’s servant showing that they were appointed by God. Examples of this include the Pharaoh of Egypt and King Nebuchadnezzar.

The LORD instructed Moses to tell Pharaoh, "But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth." NKJV Exodus 9:16 In God’s divine plan, he allowed the Pharaoh to persecute and enslave the Hebrews because it led to their ultimate good through their exodus from Egypt. The fact that the LORD instructed Moses to challenge Pharaoh shows that although Pharaoh was placed in that position by God, it does not justify his actions against the Hebrew people.

In the case of King Nebuchadnezzar, the prophet Jeremiah declared to the unrepentant people of Judah, "Therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Because you have not heard My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,' says the LORD, 'and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations." NKJV Jeremiah 25:8,9 And later in the passage, " 'Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity,' says the LORD; 'and I will make it a perpetual desolation.' " NKJV Jeremiah 25:12 Describing Nebuchadnezzar as God's servant does not mean that his actions were morally just. It only means that his sinful actions were used by God to the fulfillment of God’s plan.

Even as a believer, these types of passages are difficult for me. I understand God allowing things to happen for the ultimate good of the people as a whole but when I think about the individual suffering of people it can be hard for me to accept. We all know people who endure much suffering and, along with our own suffering, the knowledge that what happens in any of our lives is allowed by God can, and often does, incite anger toward God in many people. There's also the issue of the foreknowledge of God... our own free will... I often grapple with my own understanding of things and my efforts to reconcile everything in my mind. It's complicated.

It is interesting to me that Paul was the author of Romans in light of the fact that he constantly disobeyed governing authorities, was often on the run, was imprisoned for two years and eventually executed. Peter, John, the other apostles, as well as Jesus himself all disregarded and disobeyed governing authorities. Yet, they were still under the power and authority of the Roman government. Being called upon to love their enemies, violent resistance was not an option. This non-violent message was important to Roman Christians. Many of the Christians in Rome were of Jewish descent and Jews throughout the Roman Empire had suffered centuries of persecution and were continually on the threshold of violent rebellion. It was approximately at this time that the Roman Emperor Nero began his immense persecution of Christians. Taking this into consideration, it becomes perfectly clear why Paul would urge Roman Christians to be “subject” to the governing authorities. Rather than violently opposing the government, Paul instructed these Christians to subject themselves to the persecution they were suffering.

Throughout the New Testament are instances where the apostles, following Jesus' lead, set the example for later Christians regarding subjection to persecution, leading to their martyrdom. Jesus predicted this type of subjection to persecution many times throughout the Gospels:

"But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before ruleres and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them (v.9)... And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved." NKJV Mark 13:9,13

"If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of this world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember what I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also." NKJV John 15:18-20

What exactly does this mean for Christians today? What is our role when faced with issues such as abortion, the death penalty, and child abuse?

"Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good." NKJV 1 Peter 2:13,14

"Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vegeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord." NKJV Romans 12:17-19

For me, it is clear that human governments throughout the world are the avenue through which God chooses to bring evil doers to justice. Interestingly, there are Christians who believe that any involvement in government is wrong, whether that be through any kind federal or state employment, service in the military, holding of public office, or voting. Obviously, I am not of that opinion.

What about the commandment, Thou shalt not kill ? How does a Christian adhere to that in times of war? What about a police officer using deadly force? I believe that falls under the rule of law through our government. There are rules of conduct that have been issued in military and police action. If those rules are broken then the soldiers/officers who broke them must be submitted to the proper authorities.

I believe abortion is wrong. I find late term abortion particularly heinous. That being said, the man who took the life of Dr. Tiller yesterday was wrong and he should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

In this country we have been given certain rights, among them freedom of religion. People look to laws to define what is right and wrong. People of different faiths look beyond common law to the tenets of their faith on how to conduct themselves. As citizens of this country we do have a say, through our votes, as to the laws that are passed or abolished. We have a right to vote our conscience and as long as we have that right, we need to do so. The battlefront needs to be seen as the courtroom. It may seem that there is no point and that we are fighting a losing battle. That may be so. However, if through standing up and explaining why we believe as we do we can reach some people and turn them back toward God... shouldn't we? Jesus did not come to condemn the world... He came to save it.