Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ricky goes to camp

...or to Syria, as the case may be.

I recently attended a pastors' conference where one speaker I admire made a passing reference to Rick Warren as "a punk." If you understand the context of the dude who was speaking, this was totally within character and actually somewhat funny. However, there were some of my fellow pastors who got their undershorts all in a bunch and grumbled about the pugilant pastor and his off-the-cuff remark.

I later unpacked the pastor's session for myself as I worked through and found application for his points to myself, and realized that I actually wasn't too happy myself with the "punk" statement; Rick is a brother, and I believe that he is doing what he thinks is God's work. The statement was, in the final analysis, good comedy, but poor in charity. I'm pretty sure the pastor who made the comment rues it... he's had to repent before, and I love him for his sometimes messy, always gritty "real-ness."

That and he doesn't have any patience with girly-men. Gotta love that. [Tim the Tool Man Taylor grunting:] Ar-ar-ar...

All that said, it seems that the appelation of "punk," while unwise and uncharitable, also isn't 100% off the mark.

Consider this article from the Syrian Arab News Agency, "American Priest [sic] Says no Peace without Syria," which includes the following atomic bomb of a comment:

Pastor Warren expressed admiration of Syria and the coexistence he saw between Muslims and Christians, stressing that he will convey this image to his church and country.

Syria is a major state sponsor of terror. Read: Syria pays people to blow up or otherwise mutilate Jews. Not even combatant Jewish soldiers; that at least is marginally comprehendable. Syrian-sponsored homicide bombers routinely try to blow themselves up with shrapnel-laden jury-rigged ordnance in heavily patronized urban areas specifically for the purpose of killing or maiming Jewish women and children. Dead Jewish men are just a bonus. A nice "icing on the cake" is if some Americans also get hurt. Not as much candy is passed out by "oppressed" "Palestinians" if any other sort of Westerner dies, but these heroic shahids aren't picky.

I don't doubt the authenticity of Warren's remarks as reported by SANA; I've read similar moral-equivalency statements from "America's pastor." And no, there is no context which could adequately mitigate the horrific moral inversion of it all.

But really this isn't all that surprising. Beliefs have consequences - belief determines action. Abandon an expectant hope in the immanent return of Jesus for His Church (like Driscoll suggests we do), and other doctrines fall like dominoes. Next to go would be the Israel/Church distinction. Then you lose the eternal perspective of the Kingdom, and are left with a "now-only" view. Etc.

And since belief determines action... you begin to morally equivocate. The Kingdom cannot and will not "break in" to our current world system; it will utterly replace our world system. But if you're committed to try to force the Kingdom on a corrupt and fallen world, you are forced to compromise, and you begin to fail to distinguish between fact and fiction, and so on.

And, you inevitably fail to see Israel's unique, eternal right to the Land, and you begin to lobby for Israel's enemies... and on and on an on.

Israel as a political entity has no shining halo. The government of Israel is not spotlessly innocent. They are not always right.

They are, in fact, as corrupt as any other merely human government.

But the people of Israel themselves are still God's chosen people (though of course they still individually need to surrender to their own Messiah, as we Gentiles who believe have in order to be saved), and I'm sorry, but Genesis 12:3 still applies; and anybody, or any entity (governmental or otherwise) which seeks to thwart God's purpose in His physical people make themselves at least at that juncture His enemies.


And it's fascinating to note that those who refuse to see that begin to morally equate the suffering of the Jewish people with the entirely self-imposed "suffering" of Israel's enemies and blind themselves to the reality that:

  • Muslim shahids go out of their way to kill and bring unspeakable suffering to as many Jewish women and children as possible, while IDF soldiers generally go out of their way to avoid collateral civilian damage

  • Muslim shahids are driven by an implacable hatred of Jews, while Israel is driven by a desire just to exist

  • Israel has always bent waaaaay over backwards to try to placate the Islamic world and win a lasting peace, while their Muslim neighbors have invariably rejected any and all concessions, desiring only the simple destruction of all Jews and the sterilizing of all Jewish influence off the face of the map

  • The Islamic world, which outmasses Israel, outmatches her in size by orders of magnitude have callously and calculatingly used their own people to fan the flames of world opinion against Israel by keeping the "refugees" still in their hellish situations instead of absorbing them into their much larger economies... while itty-bitty Israel has successfully and continues to successfully integrate real refugees into their vastly smaller economy

  • Arabs and Muslims have full citizenship rights and full vestiture in Israeli society and government, while no Islamic state reciprocates with their resident Jewish populations; for instance, no Jews are allowed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Can you imagine the uproar in the Western press if Israel made a reciprocal law? Yet nobody demands concessions from S.A. There are no Jewish homicide bombers blowing up Muslim women and children in Riyadh. And the French aren't sanctimoniously demanding that the Muslims return to their pre-Hajj borders, or for a "right of return" for Jewish refugees from when Mohammad's original muhajadeen sacked their towns in pre-Islamic Arabia... or Iran... or Syria... or Lebanon... or Egypt... or Iraq... or...

But again; they're just Jews, so they don't count.

...right, Rick?

You might not be a "punk," but you're no paragon, either.

Unless we're referring to a paragon of pragmatism and moral equivalency.

I suppose, at the end of the day, I don't completely disagree with my pastor friend from the conference...


Rick's responded to the uproar that his statements in Syria have made. He says he didn't say what he said, and took Joe Farah to task for not asking him first before reporting on what he says now he didn't really say... even though his church (and by extension, Rick himself) refused to return calls asking for clarification. Awfully convenient to now attempt the moral high ground and say "why didn't you ask?" after refusing to answer.

Add to that that up until yesterday you could pull up a vid on YouTube of Rick talking about many of the things he's now saying he didn't really talk about. I'm hearing echoes of a question... "what is the definition of 'is'...?"


In Rick's response to his congregation there, he makes some more really insightful comments:

"Next, my neighbor arranged for me to meet many of the key Christian leaders of Syria, including the Presbyterian pastor who leads the coalition of Evangelical Churches of Syria, the patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Catholic Church, the patriarch of the Catholic Church, and the pastor of the oldest church in the world," he continued. "You may be surprised to know that Christianity is legal in Syria, that the government provides free electricity and water to all churches, allows pastors to buy a car tax-free (a tax break not given to Imams), appoints pastors as Christian judges to handle Christian cases, and allowed Christians to create their own civil law instead of having to follow the laws for Muslims. One city we visited, Malula, is two-thirds Christian. Every Christian I met with expressed gratitude to the government for protecting their right to worship. Honestly, that shocked me."


I haven't been able yet to check on how much of this is actually true (and given Rick's Orwellian "I didn't really say what I said, I really said something different than what I actually said, why is everybody always pickin' on me?" protestations, I'm really quite skeptical about a lot of it, especially given Syria's Islamic culture), but even if so... it's likely sort of like the Communist Chinese government claiming that there is religious freedom in the PRC because of the "Three-Self Patriotic Movement."

Besides, the line that Syrian Christians live happy, sugar-cookies-and-dandelions lives with more privileges than even Muslims just ain't so. Doh. Stupid appeal to facts...



See also this article from Spook86 regarding the (apparently in the opinion of Ricky W.) moderate, peace-loving president of Syria and the implications of the assassination of Pierre Gemayel.


Joe said...

Israel has no right to the land - if you read the OT it is clear that if the people do not keep the law, the land will be taken away from them.

It is a mistake, IMO, to enforce boundaries from reading - or misreading - ancient texts to mean that implied God's final words on the subject.

I believe, along with Paul and the early apostles, that Christ's Way is for everyone, Jew or Gentile (hence removing any special claim to being 'chosen' in the christian vocabulary wrt the Jews) and that there is no nationality in Christ.

So all that is left is a question of human rights in Israel/Palestine. And I believe Jesus would be on the side of the sucide bombing victim, the child killed by 'mistake' in Gaza, and the Palestinian family wondering what their future will be.

mike macon said...

Yeah, ah... no.

Israel does clearly have an eternal right to the Land (which directly implies that there will still be a geographically identifiable Israel in the new earth of the Eternal State, but I digress). Temporary removal from the Land was part of God's covenant, but a temporary removal (no matter how long that temporary removal proved to be - seventy years, or two thousand) does not equate to God reneging on His covenant.

It is impossible to "misread" the ancient Text of Scripture by taking it at face value, applying the grammatico-historical hermeneutic.

Jesus is the Way, and there is neither Jew nor Greek in Him. regards to salvation and standing.

Be consistent; if you want to therefore say that therefore God "un-chose" His people on the basis of the verse you incompletely cite, keep reading; you are forced to also conclude that we are all hermaphroditic, since there is also "neither male nor female."

Being "chosen" doesn't mean "more saved" or "more special." It means that His special grace is on Israel - just as His special grace is on the church (though different in quality and effect). And being "chosen" doesn't mean being saved. A Jew, though one of the Chosen, is not saved until he accepts his own Messiah's substitutionary penal atonement on his behalf - just like I, a Gentile, did. A Jew needs to also be a Christian to be saved.

But whether he is saved or not, and therefore whether or not he gets to participate in and enjoy the eternal blessings of the New Covenant, is utterly immaterial to whether or not God is faithful to His national covenant with Israel.

Different issues, Joe.

Jesus is "on the side of" all who call out to Him - Jew, Gentile, Arab, "Palestinian", American... even the French.

Jesus is also faithful to His eternal covenant with Israel.

Which brings me great peace; because if He ever broke His covenant with Israel, what basis do I have in believing He won't break His covenant with me? ...but since He never has and never will break His covenant with Israel, I have a very empirical reason to assert His trustworthiness and believe He never will break His covenant with me, either.