Obama and My Dad on Israel.

June 8, 2009

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Photo by Flickr user E|NoStress|

Another good MeFi post for background reading: Obama and the Mideast Conflict. Though my own thoughts are less about Obama’s policy than they are about the effects of it… on my father. 

My father, as previously mentioned, is a Jew For Jesus. Even before he started seriously exploring Messianic Judaism a few years ago, he’s always had very strong feelings about Israel; specifically in the context of a Jewish homeland. In short, he’s a fervent Zionist. To say the least.  Part of his political beliefs include the idea that the United States will be blessed (or is blessed, if you can really say that) by G-d for supporting the state of Israel.  Any candidate that expresses sentiment challenging Israeli-US relations is one that my father would never vote for. 

His justification for this hinges on a passage from Genesis 12:

1 Now HaShem said unto Abram: ‘Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee.

2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing.

3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’

My father believes this passage to be literally true. In fact, he believes the entirety of the Bible to be literally the word of G-d as transmitted to his chosen “scribes.” In this, he believes that a reduction of aid from the United States would constitute a “curse” upon Israel, and he doesn’t want to live in a nation that will suffer a curse from G-d. His solution? He’s honestly contemplating moving to Israel if US foreign policy changes. 

Not only does this not make any rational sense from a pragmatic point of view (Where is he going to live? Where is he going to work? What about the threat of violence? What about his family, children, grandchildren, parents, back in the US?), but I have to wonder about the Biblical logic as well. 

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Photo by Flickr user knowhimonline

When did the practice of taking the Bible to be the literal word of G-d begin? Did this start with the Jews? I know that there is a consensus that the major prophets spoke with G-d, but does that go so far as to imply that the scriptures are the literal words of G-d? And since my father also ascribes to the New Testament as well, how does one reconcile the two? Can you believe that one half of the Bible is the literal word of G-d and the other half is a “new” interpretation when the messages become contradictory? Did G-d change his mind? 

Another question on my mind: If G-d spoke to man and commanded that his words be written down in the form of scripture, why did he stop? Christianity hasn’t stopped. “Prophecy” as such certainly hasn’t ended. Via my father, I’ve been informed of plenty of people who have claimed to have the gift of prophecy. If these words that are being received from G-d (if we can take the leap to say that this is true), and they were written down, would they have the weight of scripture? Probably not, but why? If the Bible is the word of G-d, why isn’t any transmission from G-d not worthy of being recorded and added to past scriptural knowledge?

I have trouble accepting the Bible as literal truth; as one might imagine given that I’m not an adherent to Abrahamic philosophy.  I have even more trouble with those who do believe that the Bible is literal truth and then proceed to pick and choose which passages to apply to their daily religious practice. Sure, my father believes that nations who abandon Israel will be cursed by G-d, but the man does not believe that those who eat pork will be equally cursed, despite clear scriptural prohibitions.

This, to me, smacks of a sort of arrogance that we as humans can decide what’s “relevant” from G-d’s words. Who are we to know if the Almighty really is going to curse those who eat pork? How do we as men and women know what is and is not important to G-d? And if we do receive messages that we truly believe are directed to us from G-d, then why aren’t they weighted equally to what’s already been written before? The obvious reason is that these messages often directly contradict scripture, which to me doesn’t lead to the conclusion that they’re false, but rather that scripture is just as accurate as anything that G-d may or may not have ever said to anyone. That is, it’s a good starting point to understand what G-d may be on about, but it can’t be the be all and end all of religious knowledge.

As a Buddhist, I truly believe that direct experience of the world and spirituality is the only way to really attain one-ness with whatever “higher being” you seek. No written words can describe what G-d or the universe or whoever may have to say to you personally. They can serve as a guidepost, but to apply words spoken to someone else 2,000 years ago to your life as literal truth makes no sense as you’re not living in their society, in their job, with their family, with their karma, essentially. We all have our paths and to believe that you can actually retrace someone else’s path step for step is to abandon the great mystery of life to walking around with blinders on.

It bothers me greatly when my father goes on one of these tears when he has an idea that has come to him from G-d. I never know what’s next, I can’t count on him to be grounded or stable. I feel like the rug is constantly being torn out from under me and sometimes, I really want G-d to talk to me and explain himself, but so far, he hasn’t bothered to call.

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