Friday, August 8, 2014

ISIS, Palestine, Israel and Why We Should Care

The Middle East, the Near East, Southwest Asia - whatever you want to call it - has been ablaze in constant war fare from "civil war" in Syria to the ongoing conflict between Gaza and the modern State of Israel.

Why should we care about any of this?

Before I continue let me advise my readers that this post is going to be very political, please bear with me.

ISIS, or ISIL as it is also known, seeks to have a caliphate reinstated. They claim an area known as the Levant which includes Syria and Iraq. They have most recently gained notoriety by having a hand in the Syrian Civil War (which is not a civil war) and now by marching through and taking control of much of Iraq.

Perhaps many of my readers have heard of the recent exodus of Christians from Mosul? That was caused by these guys. Why is that significant? For two reasons, one and most importantly the Christian community in Mosul has been there almost from the start of Christianity and now they are gone. Two, I've been to Mosul, I've had friends deployed there and lose other friends there and now there is this group there destroying our hard work.

We left the Iraqi people with no protection - the army and police forces were laughably corrupt - and now ISIS has marched in. What is the US response? No seriously I have no clue; I've not seen a response.

I am so very angered by this because I know that my government funded the opposition in Syria, and ISIS was/is part of that opposition.

Let me touch on Syria for a moment.

It is not a civil war. The opposition is not made up of other Syrians fighting for independence or regime change. The opposition is made up of groups like ISIS trying to overthrow the current government for not following Islam close enough. The opposition is made up of outside - foreign - troops trying to overthrow the current Syrian government because the government gives too much equality to Christians and other minority groups. Why my government decided to fund the opposition is beyond me.

Syria is especially a sore spot for me. Although I came into Orthodoxy through the Greek jurisdiction I have since been attending Antiochian parishes. The seat of Antioch is based out of Syria, this is where the Patriarch of Antioch - the head bishop of Antioch - resides. Now you may be asking if Antioch isn't located in Turkey. Yes, it is, but the episcopal see was moved during Ottoman rule.

The government in Syria may not have been the best (but honestly which one ever is?) but the Christians and other minorities had it far better than under the rule of ISIS who is crucifing those who oppose them.

I am angered because my government has funded the destruction of Christians in areas they have lived since before the Protestant Reformation, since before the split of the Western Roman Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.

It is for this reason that I am also angered at what is going on in Israel/Palestine.

Before I continue here let me say that I do not support Hamas or any terrorist organization. I have no tolerance for those who would parade themselves as peacekeepers whilst they put the innocent in harms way/kill innocent people.

To understand the situation in Palestine requires an in depth history lesson, more than I have space or time to write in one blog post, so I will be as brief as possible.
The word Palestine in Arabic is something along the lines of Filistine. Change the "F" for a "Ph" and most of my readers should recognize the word Philistine from the Bible.

The Philistines - along with others - occupied part of Palestine before it was taken over by the Israelites. God had promised the land to Abraham and his descendents - more on this later.

After the Israelites had conquered the land making the Kingdom of Israel there was a split between the North and South. The northern kingdom still known as Israel and the southern kingdom known as Judah.

It was never peaceful for Israel or Judah, they had to deal with invasions from the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Macedonians. The northern kingdom containing the majority of the 10 tribes was lost and dispersed after being conquered, but the southern kingdom of Judah although made captives persevered and kept their national identity.

It is from the House of Judah that the Messiah was supposed to come.

After much turmoil the Greeks had control of the area, then the Romans. During Roman rule was the rise of Christianity. The Jews revolted in AD 70 and the Romans responded by destroying the temple. Christianity continued to spread through Palestine to Antioch - where they were first called Christians - to the very capital of the empire: Rome.

I should point out that there have always been Jews in Palestine, but after AD 70 and as Christianity spread their numbers dwindled.

Eventually the Roman Empire split between East and West. The Byzantine Empire was the direct continuation of the Roman Empire in the east and the one that now controlled the area known as Palestine and the area was predominantly Christian.

The rise of Islam challenged to overthrow the Byzantine Empire, which appealed to the West for help. What followed were a series of terrible campaigns known as the Crusades.

During the Crusades the area changed hands from Muslim rulers to Western/Latin ones a few times until the Muslims eventually won control and added the area to the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman Empire lasted until the end of World War I, and then Palestine fell under the control of the British.

Here I have to note that the majority of the people living in Palestine during this time - from Byzantine rule to British rule - were Arabs. By the time of British rule they were Muslim and Christian, with a minority of Jews.

After World War II many Jews returned to Palestine as refugees. It was after the horrors of the Holocaust that people started coming together to obtain a homeland for the Jews. What they did next was very, very wrong.

Up to this point, under Ottoman and British rule, the Arabs and Jews in Palestine had enjoyed a relative peace with each other.

But in 1948 and after that peace was shattered. England with the help of the UN created the state of Israel as a homeland for the Jews. This ended up displacing many of the Palestinians in the area.

Now instead of having a defined border of where Israel and the Jewish nation would be the borders were left undefined and are left as such to this day. Israel keeps taking more and more land for themselves and forcing the Palestinians out of their homes. Israel destroys whole Christian communities to make room for housing developmentsand nobody seems to bat an eye. Israel lets people who are Jewish only by religion (as in having no Jewish blood) into their country, but those Palestinian Christians who are descended from the original Jews from back in the BC are forced out because their religion is different. And many Christians in the Western world are perfectly fine with Israel's systematic genocide of the Palestinians because of a stupid belief in Zions and the mistaken belief that the Jews are still God's people.

I say mistaken belief because the Jews stopped being God's chosen people when the denied the Messiah. The promise God made to Abraham passed then from Old Israel to New Israel. Who is New Israel?


According to the typological [interpretation] method, God’s promises to Abraham and his descendents were fulfilled through
Christ and His Church. One Orthodox scholar has written: “In Christ, then, the
covenant with Israel was fulfilled, transformed, and transcended. After the
coming of the Messiah—the Incarnation of God the Son—only those who are‘built into Christ’ are counted among the people of God. In Christ, the old Israel is superseded by the Christian Church, the new Israel, the body of
Christ; the old covenant is completed in the new covenant in and through Jesus
Christ” (George Cronk, The Message of the Bible; St. Vladimir Seminary
Press; 1982, p. 80).

This interpretation
of the covenant with Abraham and his descendents as fulfilled through Christ and
His Church is firmly grounded in the witness of the New Testament. In the
parable of the Vineyard Owner, our Lord uses the unfaithful tenants of a
vineyard to illustrate this point. The owner, representing God, sent his
servants, representing the prophets, and finally his son and heir, representing
Christ, to collect his rent. The tenants, who represent the Jews, ignored the
request for the rent and killed both the servants and the son of the owner of
the vineyard. At the end of the parable our Lord said, “Therefore what will
the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vinedressers, and
give the vineyard to others” (Mark 12:1-9). In other words, those who
faithfully believe in Him will inherit the status that Israel had before it
rejected the Messiah.

Saint Paul wrote, “Therefore
know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham . . . if you are
Christ’s then you are of Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the
promise” (Galatians 3:7-9). Indeed, Saint Paul called the body of believers
“the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). Saint Peter illustrated this point by
applying terms used to describe Israel in the Old Testament when he wrote,
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own
special people” (I Peter 2:9).
Thus, according to the New
Testament, the standard against which all doctrine and Biblical interpretations
must be tested, God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendents has been
fulfilled through Christ and His followers, not through a secular state, for
Christ said, “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

It is true that there are some
Old Testament prophecies that speak of a restoration of Israel following the
destruction of Israel by Assyria and of Judah by Babylon. For example, Isaiah
wrote, “It shall come to pass that the Lord shall set His hand again the
second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left” (Isaiah 11:11).
Jeremiah prophesied, “For I will bring them back into their land which I gave
to their fathers” (Jeremiah 16:15). Micah said, “I will surely gather
the remnant of Israel” (Micah 12:12).

Indeed, God did restore Israel. The book of Ezra tells
how Cyrus, the King of Persia who had conquered Babylon, allowed the Jews to
return from exile and to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. Significantly the
beginning of Ezra states that the events recorded are in fulfillment of the
prophecy of Jeremiah (Ezra 1:1). Thus the Old Testament prophecies cited in
support of the modern state of Israel were fulfilled long ago when the Jews
returned from the Babylonian captivity.

The time has come for Christians
to carefully reevaluate an attitude towards modern Israel which is based
on faulty premises. Both Church history and the Holy Scriptures teach clearly
that Christ and His Church are the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.
Saint Paul tells us that those who follow Christ in faith are the true children
of Abraham and heirs to the promises made by God to the Old Testament patriarch.
The prophecies concerning the restoration of Israel have already been fulfilled
and should not be applied carte-blanche to the modern state of Israel."(

So as we see from the New Testament the New Israel, the one that inherits the promises that God made to Abraham, is the Church. Christians are now Israel.

Why do so many let this imposter state get away with so much? Why do we not hold them accountable for their crimes just as we do any other nation?

I do not support Hamas or _any_ terrorist organization. I do not support _any_ state murdering innocents no matter the cause.

I support the Palestinians who are being trampled down by a terrorist state. I support my fellow Christians who are being persecuted by those claiming to follow Christ but support their demise. I support all Arab Christians, whether in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, or next door and I refuse to be silent, especially when their persecution is caused by my government and fellow Christians!

I do not hate the Jews - or Israel for that matter, nor do I hate the Muslims. I am angered that both are persecuting Christians under the guise of being a protector of the people. I am angered because I helped, in some small way, to create this.

You know why I care, but why should we as as collective care? We should care because Arab Christian minorities in the Middle East are being exterminated - on one side by terrorist organizations, and on the other by our "ally" - and our government seems to be supporting their destruction at any cost. We should care because our media remains strangely silent on the plight of our Arab brothers and sisters. We should care because innocent people are losing their life.
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