A word of caution when praying for the peace of Jerusalem.
Further to my remarks in this column last week, I thought I’d risk giving even greater offence. All religions are a bit ‘wacky’ and stretch the credulity of their adherents. That is certainly my own experience as a Christian. Perhaps Mormonism has got to be the wackiest of all beliefs. I can say that because Mormons are gentle people who do not easily take offence, unlike other religions where ‘blasphemy’ is perceived almost everywhere, and is punishable by death, with – or without – the necessity of any proper judicial process.
Yesterday’s ghastly assassination of Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem by Daesh marks a further unwelcome and worrying ‘religious’ aspect to the conflict in Palestine. The West Bank of the Jordan has hitherto remained a predominantly secular place where women can go about their business freely, unaccompanied and uncovered. Much less so in Gaza where the Hamas and other sinister Islamist thugs hold sway.
The growing religious sensitivities on the other side of the conflict are all too apparent as a muscular Israeli settler movement increasingly treats Palestine as its biblical theme park. The Israeli interior minister (equivalent to Amber Rudd as Home Secretary) has stated that with the election of Donald Trump we are witnessing “the birth pangs of the Messiah when everything has been flipped to the good of the Jewish people”.
Alas, if you really believe that God promised you the land, there isn’t much scope for negotiation.
What I always find odd however, is the support for this position to be found amongst evangelical Christians. Later this month Parliament will be visited by ‘Christian Friends of Israel’ and I will be lobbied by a number of constituents, some of whom are convinced that the ancient borders of Israel have to be fully re-established according to God’s promise to the patriarchs, before Christ’s second coming and the messianic age can begin.
This wacky eschatology is, at least, not mainstream Christianity: Christ’s first coming was God’s final and complete revelation to mankind. All the promises of the Old Testament and the New are already fulfilled in him. There is nothing left outstanding and still to be delivered; Through Christ all humanity become the ‘children of Israel’, including the Palestinians.
So, when I ask for people to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, I ask them to do so, at least in one respect, with the intention of keeping God out of it.