Asian American Christians and Israel?

I recently heard an outstanding sermon from a Messianic Jew on covenant. It was so refreshing to hear insight from a Jewish perspective on how it is by covenant that Jesus makes us righteous and it indeed is by nothing that we have done, but by a covenant that was made and fulfilled by God. The speaker makes the point that we as children who have been grafted on to the Jewish tree must still honor the children of covenant, because the Jews are God’s chosen. He says that when we make covenant with God, we are also bound in covenant to those whom God is in covenant with.

I have, to date, never heard a sermon in an Asian American church on exactly how we are bound to the Jewish people other than the fact that we claim a Gospel signed, sealed, and delivered by a Jewish Messiah. If it is truly the case that we are grafted to the people of Israel through the covenant that God made with Abraham and fulfilled in Jesus the Christ, then what should be the nature of our relationship and stance towards the nation-state/people of Israel?

This I believe is a important topic in light of recent world events and I tend to think that most Asian-Americans are not concerned about any spiritual technicalities regarding the state of modern Israel, and simply think of it as a political issue, is this part of the war on terror? who should press for cease-fire…that sort of thing. I cannot help but wonder however, if we, as believers, should address what this means and take a stance.

First of all, I dismiss any sort of replacement theology here that Koreans are a “Chosun” people, or that “like the people of Israel,… the Filipinos are also chosen by God to be a holy people“. I believe that there is a need to define what Israel means to Asian American Christians if we are truly to become global Christians. Do we side with Christians who call for cease-fire? What exactly do we do if South Korea has anti-American sentiments and/or anti-Israel sentiments? A recent bestseller, Jesus in Beijing by David Aikman, asserts that Chrisitianity in China may turn the tables in global politics because of a strong obligation felt by Chinese Christians towards Jerusalem (Feel free to check out this book review,JesusinBeijingBookReview, to get a better idea).

There are people who think that by being Asian American Christians, we have sold out to becoming more “white”, and have assimilated to the degree that we do so in a comfortable posture to distance ourselves both from Asian American non-Christians and any extreme stance our motherland takes (i.e. China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, etc.). In short, that our twilight minority status within our religious affliation separates us from any uncomfortable topic. I have a problem with that notion and I do believe that as “global Christians”, we should strive to stand up for people upon whose spiritual tree we are grafted upon. I’ve never heard of an Asian American Zionist, but I just may be well on the road to becoming one.

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Comments

  1. josh says:

    mmm… I don’t know about that

  2. David Park says:

    🙂 C’mon Josh, what do you mean? Hit me! Take a swing!

  3. josh says:

    Well… It seems to me that we do not lack for supporters of Israel among American evangelicals. Rather we suffer from a lack of critical analysis about that support at all. Is there a biblical mandate for uncritical acceptance of Israel? Not at all. All of the prophets pretty much rip on Israel for her idolatry, oppression of the poor, failure to keep the covenant, etc. They did not cease to be God’s people, but in the midst of that there was no blank check handed them to do as they please because of it. Also, it is a dangerous thing when politics and religion become too conflated.

    So the question becomes what does it mean to support Israel? Does that mean support of the modern Israeli’s state’s oppression of ethnic minorities? Was the biblical promise of land an irrevokable grant that justified the expropriation of land on which people lived so that the current state of Israel could be built?

    As for the anti-american / anti-israeli sentiments among Christians in some asian countries, surely that too must be thought of in light of the legacies of colonialism and oppression by Anglo-American hegemons in recent centuries. (Many of these people are anti-British as well but since America is the bigger fish, that who catched the flak.)

    If God takes the side of the oppressed (generally) then what does it mean when the “chosen people” are oppressors? And if the Jewish people retain some sort of “special” status, does that mean that there is a second class citizenship for others? It is not enough that they can say Abraham is my father, because God is able to make stones into sons of Abraham.

    besides all that, there is something creepily wrong and ungodly that evangelicals (or anyone for that matter) are not allowed to ever breathe any sense of disapproval at Israels’ actions lest they be accused of being anti-semitic. What’s up with that?

  4. David Park says:

    Great points Josh. I agree with you that there is a lack of critical analysis on the situation of Israel.
    However, I scarcely see this as Israel being the oppressors. Especially in the face of terrorism and new postmodern modes of war, now fueled with religious fanaticism. From my viewpoint, at the heart of this struggle is a battle between the sons of Israel and the sons of Ishmael. And I believe that there is a ready case that God takes the side of Israel (why, I don’t know), but I think there is something to the fact that God promised a delivered a Messiah who was Jewish, and not Syrian, or some other Semitic people group.
    Also, I think it’s very dangerous NOT to be conscious of creeping anti-semiticism, as Christians have a habit of wreaking havoc on Jewish people whether actively or passively. I don’t know if there is an expiration date to the Paul’s clause, “first to the Jew, then the Gentile”, but I believe when we as gentiles disregard the Jews and the insights they bring to the significance of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus, and the person of Jesus, I think we run the risk of “cutting the very branch we sit on” as pledge our lives to a Jewish messiah.
    In terms of mixing politics and religion, I agree with you, the combination can be explosive, but my critique of Asian Americans is that by and large, we are very apolitical and somehow tend to remain on the fence because our identity as a -American almost gives us an excuse to NOT have a stance, when I believe that there are certain political issues upon which the church should inform and encourage, not dictate, but inform and give insight to in regards to spiritual ramifications – and I believe the Jewish people qualify.

  5. josh says:

    I agree with you in the main. Between us there are only shades of disagreement it seems.

    I did not mean to suggest that Israel was an oppressor vis a vis terrorist groups, but that the question of oppression of ethnic minorities needs to be taken seriously. The apartheid state in South Africa was virulently anti-communist and pro-Christian and very Reformed in their theology. They cast their policies in light of defending Christianity. They were indeed at odds with very violent and communistic groups, but that does not excuse their behavior.

    In the same way, the Israeli state is defending against violent extremists (on the one hand) but the policies she employs casts the net fairly wide and ends up oppressing large numbers of people unintentionally.

    As for the sons of Israel / sons of Ishmael — well I don’t know that God chooses sides really in any conflict. I am reminded of the passge in Joshua wherein the angel of the Lord greets Joshua, and Joshua asks, are you with us or with our enemies. The angel’s response is telling: I am the angel of the Lord of Hosts. Implicit in that is that God is one His own side and will fight against anyone who fights against him. There are plenty examples of God taking the side of Israels enemies in scripture and using them to chastise his people for their failure to live up to the covenant. I am not suggesting that is the case now, but it does complicate the analysis a bit.

    You are certainly in a better position to critique the AA church than I am. The failure of AA churches to take political stands is interesting particularly in light of the importance of Christianity in the korean resistance to japanese colonialism. I think since most AA are post-civil rights, they don’t have to contend with the overt types of race issues that made political commentary and engagment nonnegotiable for Black Americans. One problem (potentially) that flows from that is the failure of AA churches to prepare their members for the reality of living as ethnic minorities and providing a theological / spiritual engagement with that reality.

    To put it in a different way; what is the “We Shall Overcome” song for AA that connects the spiritual reality of Christians sojourning in a strange land with the sociopolitical and cultural realities of being both Asian & American?

  6. David Park says:

    Also, in regards to the expropriation of the land…I hear your point, but I feel that the Jewish people there have a right to be there and that they were the ones who were forcefully occupied and pushed out by the Turks before the turn of the first millenium. They have been without a land since. From what point, do we determine that is justice?

    http://www.aish.com/jewishissues/middleeast/Israels_Right_to_the_Land.asp

  7. David Park says:

    Ah, now I see where you’re coming from in regards to balancing our support of Israel while not condoning their oppression of others. It was a little different from the conflict that I was thinking of. And in that case, I have more research to do.

    Now in regards to the commentary that you provided about whether or not AA churches inform and engage us with a distinct cultural identity and politics, you are dead on. We do not have any sort of “We Shall Overcome” moment, and in my viewpoint, the lack of that and the reluctance of churches to equip believers to engage culture in that sense and reducing our faith to theological, intellectual, and private matters is problematic because we end up ultimately with a plastic defense of our culture, and then a faith that does not know how to address itself outside its own artificially designed context.

  8. David Park says:

    Wow, I need to re-visit this issue in light of this blog post:
    http://metropolitician.blogs.com/scribblings_of_the_metrop/2007/02/korean_antisemi.html

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