On January 19th Reverend Jerry Falwell was in Israel making a speech promoting Ariel Sharon for President, Sherry and Lanny were preparing for a Christ-centered weekend, and in a place called Gaza about 25 families huddled in the rain, watching helplessly as their homes and possessions were being destroyed by Israeli Defense Forces.
How are these three incidents related? What do Jerry Falwell and a sincere Christian woman named Sherry have in common, and how are they part of the root cause of the human tragedy that continues to unfold in Palestine? In this series on Sherry?s War we are examining some of the strange beliefs that are held and acted upon by an increasingly dominant subset of Christianity, and how those beliefs fuel the endless wars in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Based upon what the Bible tells her, Sherry believes that Israel–meaning the people who live there now and call themselves Jews–are Gods “chosen people.” Like Jerry Falwell and a host of other Christian celebrities, she believes Jesus Christ left a loophole in his plan for the Israelis and, by association, for all who claim to be Jews, everywhere. She also feels that God has provided an escape from impending, apocalyptic events for her and for those who believe as she does. To be protected from God?s awful judgment on a sinful world, Sherry believes she must recognize and honor the special deal God has made with Israel, regardless of how she may feel about some of the actions Israel takes against others, including Christians.
Sherry wants her friends to join in her discovery of God?s special grace for those who honor the State of Israel. She questions and perhaps even worries about this writer, who she feels, may not have blessed the nation of Israel as God commanded. Sherry is convinced that anyone who does not do so will be cursed by God. Whether or not she believes that such a curse precludes salvation and eternal life is not entirely clear. But she wants no part of finding out, for she fears those found on the wrong side of Israel at the time of the “rapture” may be “left behind,” in the vernacular of a best-selling author of our day.
No paid agent or professional propagandist for the State of Israeli could be more effective or persuasive than Sherry. She is a force to be reckoned with. Fired not by money or dreams of grandeur, but by zeal for God, Sherry is convinced that the prophecies of the Bible, as interpreted by others, tell her the inerrant truth.
Sherry?s war is as much a crusade as any fought in the Middle Ages. She will not be swayed from her passionate attachment for Israel by any arguments of man based on any set of facts. No reports of deaths or inhumane abuses committed by Israelis will weaken Sherry?s conviction that her first allegiance, next to God Himself, is to the State of Israel.
To understand Sherry?s War we must read her Book, and we must examine her cherished beliefs verse by verse. She is not an anomaly or an isolated fanatic, but a sincere and dedicated Christian who is a member of the newest and most influential subset of Christian belief. Because We Hold These Truths also holds God?s word sacred, we will consider Sherry?s beliefs in the light of the Book itself in this series, of which this is the second chapter. We will not utilize outside witnesses, linguists, commentaries, or biblical experts, but will rely upon the works and claims that Sherry gives us as the basis of her beliefs. We will examine each verse in the context of who says what to and about whom.
We begin by referring our readers to a letter from Sherry, which explains exactly what she believes. Sherry?s first interpretation of God?s word is perhaps the foundation of her belief in God?s “blessings and curses.” It is taken from the Old Testament book of Genesis 12:1-3, which Sherry quotes verbatim: “and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee…and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (KJV).
Sherry quotes these verses first, and others, including Falwell, quote them as God?s immutable law favoring the state of Israel. It is clear from the words themselves that God did promise to bless and protect the man named Abram (later renamed Abraham). The context surrounding the verses makes it clear that God was addressing Abram and no one else when he spoke these words. It requires, as we shall discover, a giant leap of logic to assume these simple words were ever intended to have anything to do with a political state of Israel or any other state in a different age.
This blessing appears on its face to be so personal that it could not include anyone except the person addressed. We will show that, by bringing a future political state into the blessing, Sherry is putting words in Gods mouth that he did not speak. And we will examine why she honestly believes this.
Traditional Christianity holds that God preserved Abram for the purpose of starting the line and lineage of the tribe that would stepfather Jesus Christ 28 generations later. These “generations” are listed in the first chapter of Matthew. All Christians that we know of have always held that in Jesus “all the families of the earth” would be blessed,” as God promised and intended.
Sherry?s Book tells us that at the time of God?s blessing, Abram had no children, nor prospects of having any. We also find that there was no person named Israel. God promised Abram a big and famous family. Two generations later, one of his grandsons, Jacob, was renamed “Israel” in his manhood, and Israel is listed in St. Matthew as a link in the ancestors of Joseph of Nazareth, who became the adoptive father of Jesus. Thus, the traditional Christian belief that God blessed all mankind through Abraham, as He promised.
Sherry believes, too, that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was God?s blessing to mankind as promised to Abrams?s seed. But by combining this verse with many others, she also believes that the present-day State of Israel received title to the land that is now Palestine, Israel, Iraq, and more. Sherry and millions of other American Christians firmly hold that these verses grant title to the place that is now called Israel. Sherry believes it as firmly as she believes the deed to her house is granted by the paper recorded in the courthouse. It does not bother Sherry that those who call themselves “Zionists” did not pick the name “Israel” for their new county until almost 3000 years after the Abrahamic covenants were spoken.
A not at all far-fetched analogy might be that of one who went to the courthouse and changed his name to Thomas Jefferson Jr., and then demanded the keys to Monticello from the long-since closed estate. Israelis do “Jefferson” one better by making a 3000-year-old claim.
God did indeed clearly promise Abram a great family–a miracle for one who was 75 years old and had no sons–but this promise was an answer to Abram?s prayers, not to those of some future politicians. The plain and simple language of God?s promise clearly reveals that God was speaking to Abram only and no one else, not even to Sarai, and certainly not to her yet to be born children. The Bible says with its customary undeniable simplicity, “I will bless them that bless thee.”
God?s promise of blessings is grammatically correct. God addresses Abraham as “thee,” which means only him. According to Websters New International Dictionary, 2nd Edition, “thee or thou is singular form, objective case, the person addressed.” Webster tells us something Shakespeare put in practice; “thee” denotes “special implications of familiarity–as between intimates, or as used by a master to a servant.” That is that exactly what God was doing–addressing Abram intimately, as a beloved servant.
God addressed Abram as Sherry might address a son?as one might address one?s child as “my dear son” or “beloved child” instead of simply “you”. “Thee” is reserved for a specific, loved person, as when Jesus addresses his Disciples as “thee.” This is clearly the way that it is used everywhere in the Bible. But both Jerry Falwell and Sherry ignore the plain language of the words and assume the verse implies a blessing not only for Abram but also for the political state that adopted his grandson?s name 3000 years later.
It would seem that if God expected the entire world to bless countless unborn, unnamed generations, he would have said so. If God had wanted to say this, he might have said, “I will bless you and all your generations after you, including the good ones and the evil ones, and including also those who cannot even prove they were ever of your seed, and for a hundred generations or more to come, and I will expect all men to know who they are and bless them also, else they shall be cursed.”
But God, using clear direct language and correct understandable grammar, did not say this. Why, then, do Sherry and ministers like Jerry Falwell interpret God as being incapable of clear and direct expression, speaking in riddles and incomprehensible vagaries, like the graduates of some of our modern schools? It is because the celebrity Christian leader from whom she takes counsel tells her she must take scripture “literally,” but teaches Sherry there are hidden meanings in most scripture. If you were to ask her, Sherry would be the first to say God created all of us and our languages, and all are perfect. She would also say she believes every word of scripture is true, even if she cannot explain the contradictions in her mentor?s interpretations of prophesy.
The world could not function with the kind of metaphorical language Sherry has ascribed to God. If Sherry were to shout to a pack of dogs or unruly kids, “you stop that,” without naming which dog or which kid she?s addressing, nothing would happen. If Sherry said to her neighbor, “my friend, will you come to coffee tomorrow morning,” and the next day the neighbor arrived at her house with her five kids, her in-laws and her whole bridge club, Sherry would think her neighbor had a language problem, if not a mental problem. God?s plain and simple words named Abram alone for a personal blessing. Sherry forces Gods words to mean what she wants to hear, and she does this because her leaders, whom she respects, do it.
Consider the public statement that Jerry Falwell made in Jerusalem on January 19,2001. He said, “As an evangelical Christian who takes the Bible seriously, I take a Judeo-Christian perspective on most moral and social issues.” Falwell goes on to explain his reasons for doing so, “?primarily and mainly because I believe that Abraham covenant literally. I believe God blesses those who bless Abraham, curses those who curse Abraham. I believe god has blessed America because in most cases we have been on the side of Israel, and not just the state of Israel but the Jewish people everywhere–and I could care less what some Gentiles and Jews might think about my position.”
In so doing, Falwell, like Sherry, is treating God as one incapable of saying what he means and is mouthing it for him. He claims to read scripture “literally,” meaning it means what it says, but then he manufactures an implied metaphorical covenant with a political entity. Nothing could be less “literal.” Sherry and Falwell both know the ten commandments by heart, but in attributing to God something that is not of him, they do not seem to consider God?s warning not to take his name in vain.
To Sherry, Falwell and a host of other celebrity leaders, the message of Genesis is that they are bound to love and aid the state of Israel, a sacred religious rite, or else they will be cursed and presumably denied admission to the Kingdom of Heaven. The age old, traditional Christian lesson of Genesis 12 is of Gods mercy to Abram, who called on God to keep his promise to rescue him from his enemies before the end of the chapter.
The story tells us Abraham got hungry and decided to throw himself on the mercy of the Egyptians. To save his life, he prostituted his wife Sarai to the Pharaoh. Nowhere in the chapter did God tell Abram to do this disgusting deed; Abram had God?s promise; he could have chosen to trust God to save him from the impossible. To make matters worse, he also lied to Pharaoh, breaking another of God?s commandments, by saying Sarai was not his wife but his sister. Abram became wealthy while the Pharaoh used his wife. Yet in spite of this, God kept his promise and put a curse (plague) on the Pharaoh until he finally released Abram and Sarai. Sherry and Falwell both believe that those who curse Israel (or fail to bless her) will be cursed, as was the Pharaoh.
Will God forgive Israel for years of cold-blooded, unrepentant killing of the little unarmed boys in Palestine who throw rocks at tanks? Sherry thinks so. Sherry believes she should not even see their sins, which is how she and Lanny have managed to travel to Israel and come back extolling the Israeli?s virtues. Millions of other Americans join in Sherry?s blessings and curses, believing they must do anything for Israel, even if it means ignoring its genocide of the innocent.
The sixty-four Palestinian men, women and small children who stood in the cold pre-dawn rain in Gaza would have trouble understanding Sherry?s logic. They had been roused from sleep and forced from their homes. Now they had to watch as Israeli Defense Forces bulldozed their homes to the ground and threw their furniture and possessions in the mud, while tanks stood by in case they protested. What crime had these families committed? The Defense Forces had decided their homes were too close to a recently constructed Israeli settlement.
Sadly, both Sherry and Jerry Falwell are responsible and must share blame for the 318 dead, many of them children, and the 8000 injured in the last year. Every professing Christian who supports Israel?s fanciful claims to these people?s homes based upon an apostate interpretation of the Bible shares in this guilt. They need to know.
Those who guide We Hold These Truths also share in the bloodguilt of the Israelis, for this brutality has endured for 50 years. Let us now call each other to task. In the next chapter of Sherry?s War we will examine the New Testament verses that Sherry and millions like her rely upon for their unconditional support of the camouflaged war for the assets of the Middle East.
A pdf file of the original Right To The Point journal published in Oct., 2001, featuring “Sherry’s War Is available at: http://whtt.podbean.com/mf/web/h6pe9v/0110RTTPJournal-SherrysWar.pdf