Today’s Diagnosis of my Eeeeeeevil Soul and Prophetic Pronouncement

A reader writes:

Speaking of the sons of Abraham, God says, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.” Mark, it is quite safe to say you’re under a curse with your views of Israel.

In case anyone is wondering, my views on Israel are that it is a secular nation-state like any other, with as much right to exist as Australia or France.  It’s an ally and deserves to be treated as any other secular nation-state that is an ally, no more and no less.  However, I don’t believe it to be divinely founded, nor to be immaculately conceived and preserved from all sin original and actual.

About that whole “promise to Abraham” thing.  Here is Paul on that:

And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9* So then, those who are men of faith are blessed with Abraham who had faith. 10* For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be every one who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, and do them.” 11* Now it is evident that no man is justified before God by the law; for “He who through faith is righteous shall live”; * 12* but the law does not rest on faith, for “He who does them shall live by them.” 13* Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree”– 14 that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. 15 To give a human example, brethren: no one annuls even a man’s will, * or adds to it, once it has been ratified. 16* Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many; but, referring to one, “And to your offspring,” which is Christ. (Galatians 3:8-16)

In short, the attempt to make that passage mean that anybody who fails to confess the sinless perfection of the secular state of Israel is “cursed” is complete and utter crap. The seed referred to is Christ, not the state of Israel.  It is through him all nations are blessed.  Those who curse him shall have the curse redound to them.  This has nothing whatever to do with the secular nation-state of Israel.

That said, Scripture also says, “Bless those who curse you.”  So to the reader who wrote to curse me:

The LORD bless you and keep you: The LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

I forgive you for the sake of Christ, the seed of Abraham.

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  • JB

    The endemic American inclination to confuse the State of Israel with God’s People would seem to have something to do with its essentially Protestant inability to recognise the Visible Church. In other words the Church is the New Israel, but if you have a weak sense of what the Church is then you’ll be more inclined to search for it in secular institutions.

    • Relatedly, a fun fact:
      During the Victorian-era competition for imperial influence in what was then called the Levant, as outside powers swooped in like vultures to pick at the corpse of the decaying Ottoman Empire, each empire had its client group. Client groups were important because when they were mistreated, it was a perfect excuse for gunboat diplomacy–sort of like how we always get really worked up about “human rights” nowadays in countries with lots of oil.

      The Russian Empire was the patron of Orthodox Christians in the Levant. The French Empire was the patron of Maronite Catholics. But what was the Protestant British Empire to do? It needed clients, and there are no ancient Protestant communities in the area. Solution: take on Jewish folks as a client group. (I have no recollection whose idea this was, but Disraeli’s heritage, his penchant for “orientalism” as seen in things like the Delhi Durbar, and his overall brilliance make me suspect it was his. Then again, Gladstone might’ve appreciated the Evangelical aspect, even if he tended to be ambivalent about interventions in places like the Sudan and such, so who knows? Maybe it was both of them.)

      Anyway, Anglophone Evangelical Protestants have been at it ever since. When the U.S. inherited the British imperial mantle after WWII, it was only natural that we’d follow in their footsteps on this, post-Eisenhower anyway. So while the Protestant obsession with the Old Testament surely has something to do with all this foolishness around the State of Israel (for which I wish nothing but the best, but fear the worst, in case you’re wondering), I think the tradition of Anglophone jingoism in search of a “Protestant” client group has played a role in feeding the foolishness.

      • (Not, I should hasten to concede, that British-Jewish relations were exactly peachy during the British Mandate in Palestine. But I think the basic pattern of Anglophone influence-seekers treating Jewish people like pseudo-Protestants for client group purposes holds historically.)

  • yan

    Mark: as I read it, St Paul says that the Jews after the flesh, even those who are not called and who do not partake of the promise of salvation given to us in Christ, are still beloved by God for the sake of the patriarchs. [Romans 11:28-29] Question: assuming you agree with that interpretation [if not, what do you think?], what bearing if any does this situation have on our attitude towards Jewish people or the state of Israel? Also, does this have any bearing on the whole blessing-or-cursing thing?

    My thought is that it means that God has a particular concern for them to become saved [i.e. Catholic.] That’s all I can get out of it. If you or anyone has other ideas I would be interested to know them.

    Applying that to me for now, I would say if God has a particular concern for something, then I should probably do my best, if not also to make it my personal concern, then at least, not to stand in the way of His concern coming to fruition.

    Come to think of it I think that really is a helpful way for me to understand everything the Church has done in relation to the Jews in general since VII.

    In regard to the state of Israel in particular, I think it is noteworthy that Pope JPII made a special point of visiting there.

    This does not mean that Israel is beyond criticism. Israelis criticize Israel too–can’t anyone else? At the same time, I think we should be careful about our criticisms, knowing [according to my theory] that God has a special desire that they be saved. It is a secular state, true; but it is not just any secular state. We should keep in mind if and when criticizing its actions that we don’t want to be called to account for anything that might possibly be frustrating to God’s purpose in respect to those people.

    Not saying you have done or said anything wrong in that regard. Just trying to lay out a rule. Your opine?

  • Kirt Higdon

    Nobody is blest by having their bad behavior enabled by another. No people are blest by being militarized and armed to the teeth to aid their oppression of poor and weak neighbors. The US has cursed Israel by weighing it down with arms and cursed itself more in the process.

  • ivan_the_mad

    Yeah, I’ve had that bit of Genesis quoted to me before. My response runs something like: last time I checked, Christ fulfilled the old covenant and gave us the new. The key word there is fulfilled, not extended indefinitely.

  • “You’re under a curse” made me laugh. I can’t help imagining a humorless old evangelical zealot saying that to me and expecting my recognition of its gravity, as I stare bemusedly into his eyes before laughing myself into tears.