In these days of escalating attack on all things Christian, this isn’t a question you hear very much. Not even from Christians, who seem increasingly apologetic for daring to have any kind of faith – while what belief they do have is increasingly being couched in politically correct language designed to minimize offence. Because the cardinal sin of modern life, we are told, is to be intolerant of others. Therefore, we must not give voice to any kind of view, whether biblically based or otherwise, that might be interpreted as critical of the chosen life style or practice of another.
Presumably then, if I see someone about to put their hand into a fire or mainlining on heroin, I must keep silent lest I make them feel bad about behaviours the rest of us know are going to cause harm. Equally, though modern research unequivocally shows that homosexual sex is medically high risk, I must not just bite my tongue to avoid mentioning the dangers, but must actively promote the life-style to children from as young as five, who in the normal course of things would be in a state of ignorance about sex, full stop!
But, at risk of sounding like an antediluvian fossil, what is God’s take on life in the 21st century? What does He think, for example, about the attack on Israel and resulting conflict in Gaza? And when He sees our growing manipulation of genetic codes in order to achieve gender acceptable, disease free children, with elimination of the substandard, does He think … thank goodness, why couldn’t I have managed that?
The modern mantra of secularism – the new religion of the age – tells us we have to be tolerant. Devotees reinforce this by asserting that the old has-been God of Christianity said we had to be ‘nice’ to everyone and to forgive, at all costs avoiding any hint of judgment.
On this line of approach, morality is not just relative, but dependent on individual perception, subject only to a balance of competing self-interests, where ‘my truth’ may be at variance with yours and might therefore lead to conflict. In this brave new world there really are no moral absolutes and anything goes … which logically of course means that, without any kind of restraint or opposition, evil will not just grow, but will prevail. Game, set and match to the devil. If you believe in that sort of thing.
Returning, however, to the conflict in Gaza, which currently – if we are to believe the news reports – seems to be provoking universal condemnation of Israel. Never mind the fact Hamas have lobbed over 3,000 shells across the border in the last few weeks, and have built a mind boggling number of tunnels starting in schools, mosques and private homes, all leading into Israel and from which they apparently planned to launch a massive attack. And never mind the fact that Hamas deliberately use the civilian population as human shields, blocking them from leaving conflict areas. Israel, we are told, has reacted disproportionately.
Is this really true? In face of Hamas’ public pledge to wipe them off the map, it could be said that Israel has actually acted with remarkable restraint. Israeli leaders, both political and military, have always said their objective was to defend their own population and destroy the tunnels, and warnings were conspicuously given to civilians ahead of all military operations.
Contrast this with Hamas, which, knowing high numbers of civilian casualties (especially children) would win world support, didn’t just build tunnels and place their rocket launchers in densely populated civilian areas, including schools, but actively tried to prevent the civilian population, when warned of attack, from leaving! So why is the West not vociferously condemning Hamas and taking action to try and curb their activities? Come to think of it, why don’t the Palestinians themselves rise up in protest and throw Hamas out?
The high casualty rates among civilian Palestinians and the deaths of children are truly appalling. There can be no doubt about that. But do we really think we’re helping by our mealy-mouthed platitudes about proportionality? No, this can only add to Israel’s vulnerability and ultimately help Hamas.
Peace, we are told, at all costs. But what does the Prince of Peace make of all this?
In the Lord’s Prayer, Christians daily pray, ‘Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ Heaven is not subject to moral ambivalence and equivocation, but surely embodies the truth that lies at the heart of, and is, justice. Peace is not, and never can be, mere absence of conflict. Rather, its achievement requires an unflinching recognition of the facts. Of acknowledging and dealing with wrong, where it exists, and an honest commitment to face the problems head-on and work towards equitable resolution that will benefit all.
Peace is possible between Palestine and Israel, but both sides have first to acknowledge each other’s right to exist. And both need to commit to peaceful co-existence … who knows, maybe even integration. Support for Hamas’ expressed desire to annihilate Israel and see the imposition of a caliphate won’t bring peace to the Middle East. And it might even, in time, endanger the peace of the world.
So what’s God’s take on all of this? Surely … grief at the stupidity of man.
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