A Christian Pacifist’s Open Letter to a Christian Zionist

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An open letter to a spokesman for Friends of Zion, Phoenix, AZ, sent 11/10/2019:

Dear brother in our Lord Jesus Christ:

Thank you for your choosing me to represent residents of Richmond, Indiana in your survey, and for appealing to me to “help raise a shield of protection over God’s chosen people,” which I indeed wish to do. But your survey asks me for knowledge or opinions I dare not pretend to have (for example, “Do you think recent events in the Middle East are a sign of the End Times?” – see Mark 13:32). Rather than fill out your survey, therefore, I prefer to speak to you from my heart.

Jesus Christ, in washing me clean of my sins and granting me membership in Himself, has also disarmed me of carnal weapons forever, even to the point of forbidding me to use my tongue or pen to hurt others. I may and do, however, rebuke many, in hopes of helping souls return to the God who takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but, being Love Itself, wishes for the repentance and salvation of all. Please consider this seriously, and if you doubt it, ask the Lord to reveal the truth of the matter to you. In cases where sinners persist in behaving foolishly enough to repeatedly choose evil over good, it must be by their own will, and not God’s, that they flee from the Light into the outer darkness (John 3:19-20). I say this with confidence because Jesus has commanded me to forgive others their trespasses against myself, *all* others and *all* their trespasses, if I want my Heavenly Father to forgive my own trespasses (Matthew 6:14-15). Think: would our Heavenly Father expect us to hold ourselves to a higher standard of forgiveness than He Himself keeps to? It’s written that Jesus Himself forgave His own murderers (Luke 23:34). Would He exhibit a more all-forgiving character than the One whose will He came to do (John 6:38)? It is this very kindness of God toward sinners, Paul notes, that is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4).

I do not vote. Because Christ has disarmed me of carnal weapons, and forbidden me to urge others to use them on my behalf, I can’t use the ballot box to put Caesar’s sword into one would-be commander-in-chief’s hand rather than another’s. Neither can I, in good conscience, help American Christians empower fear-driven bullies in Israel’s government and military to engage in cruel injustices to the Palestinians with whom they are obliged by international agreements to share territory and resources. Neither would I encourage Palestinians, however hurt and angry, to be vengeful. I would say to the people of Israel, with Balaam, “Blessed is everyone who blesses you” (Numbers 24:9). But I would say the same, in the spirit of Jesus Christ, to all the nations round about Israel. If and when the people of Israel behave themselves like a righteous people of a merciful God, I have no doubt that the prophecy of Micah 4:1-2 will be fulfilled, with neighboring peoples streaming uphill to a Mount Zion established in divine truth and justice. But there can be no streaming through the checkpoints and razor wire currently in place.

I believe that Jesus Christ rebukes the State of Israel for its militaristic and oppressive stance toward its non-Jewish neighbors that makes enemies of them and keeps them enemies. I would advise fellow Christians to show love for God’s people, the Jews, by serving as peacemakers in the Middle East and not arms suppliers. But as for those Christians who see things otherwise, I don’t presume to judge them. I merely warn them that we have a Judge to face, they and I alike, and may our Judge be merciful to us all. As for you, M. E., a brother in Christ to whom I owe nothing but love (Romans 13:8, John 13:34), I hope you are a wise man who, if you feel rebuked by me, love me for it (Proverbs 9:8b).

In Christ’s love and truth,

John Jeremiah Edminster

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3 Responses to “A Christian Pacifist’s Open Letter to a Christian Zionist”

  1. Trevor Says:

    An amazing and amusing post John. Not intended to be amusing perhaps but I found it so. Following a few links from here brought me to a comment I made on a previous post back in 2011! (When I was pretty new to Quakers).
    Things move on and for a few years now I have been on the Quaker Universalist Group committee (https://qug.org.uk/contact/ ) and the Nontheist Friends Network Steering Group (https://nontheist-quakers.org.uk/about/organisation-of-nontheist-friends-network-2/ ). (Both of Britain Yearly Meeting).
    That possibly implies I’m a ‘non-Christian’ Quaker (depends what you mean by ‘Christian’ …) but interestingly, partly at my suggestion, the NFN annual conference at Friends’ House, Euston next year is on ‘Spirituality’. (https://nontheist-quakers.org.uk/events/nontheist-quakers-annual-conference-2020/ ).
    ‘Christian Zionism’ is an interesting concept (Noam Chomsky has written about it somewhat disparagingly) and I hope your respondent did not suffer too much on reading your letter.
    Although my biblical ignorance leaves me a long way from your scholarly Christian focus, I did appreciate your kindly approach to a ‘Friend of Zion’.

  2. John Jeremiah Edminster Says:

    Good to hear from you again, Trevor! I was dead serious as I was writing to the man, but I could see a potential for laughter in the enormity of the gap between our two world-views. The important thing is: once you address a man as “Dear brother in our Lord Jesus Christ,” you can’t be adversarial, you can’t be sarcastic, you can’t be anything but tender, loving, and respectful of his personhood. If you dislike him, you must put that aside. Then, even if you feel forbidden to use your tongue or pen to hurt others, you may rebuke him to the point of shocking or frightening him, if your aim is to stop him from pursuing an evil course, and to induce him to repent and return to the good. He may not be able to recognize the innocence of your motives, of course, but your goal is not to prove anything about your own motives but only to do the right thing by him, as if he, your neighbor, were your own self.

    So my experience in writing the letter was as if I were following a script: once I’d written “Dear brother in our Lord Jesus Christ,” the rest followed. Was there poetic significance in the fact that I wrote the letter during the five and a half hours that the planet Mercury was transiting the sun’s disk? I can’t help thinking that the reputed “divine messenger” was being held captive, as the message was taking shape, within a circle of overwhelming light.

    But in retrospect I wish I’d made this one point explicit: that the Gospel forbids “doing evil, that good may come,” as Paul exclaims in Romans 3:8. “To do evil that good may come of it is contrary to the doctrine of Christianity,” wrote John Woolman in _A Plea for the Poor_ (Chapter 14), as if it were beyond doubt. Why don’t all Christians “get” that? Because it is so contrary to the way of the world, where war and lying (to name just two evils) are routinely justified on the basis of the good effects expected to arise from them.

    Had Paul’s warning been taken more seriously by Christians of the first centuries, the world might never have seen the weaponized Christianity of Constantine’s Roman Empire, Augustine’s “Just War” theory, the Crusades, the Slave Trade, the Holocaust, or the Atomic Bomb. But to expect better of fear-driven human beings might justly be called unrealistic, so long as men and women resist surrendering self-will to the divine will. So long as each person thinks “I,” and not God, is the best judge of what should happen, the world must remain a stage for the playing out of heartless selfishness, Armageddon after Armageddon, planned and financed by those who “think they do God service” (John 16:2), while their grandchildren in the nursery maul and bite each other for control of toys.

    But my faith in the God who is All Love and All Wisdom keeps me an optimist, for my heart confirms that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 AV). Sooner or later, in this life or some next life, the madness of every Hitler, every Stalin, every Jack the Ripper must burn itself out; and with universal repentance must come the promised “reconciliation of all things” (Ephesians 1:10, Colossians 1:20). You may trust in it.

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