Ishmael, or Political Preaching

I can’t say I really disagree with how my Sunday School lessons presented the question of Ishmael. I was taught that the strife between Ishmael and Isaac was a result of Abraham and Sarah getting impatient and taking matters into their own hands. Now, I do think that’s a little simplistic. I wish there were more exploration of the parallel between the beginning of the redemptive story and the realization of it, between Isaac’s miraculous birth post menopause and Christ’s miraculous birth from a virgin. I mean, Isaac was born out of death, and Christ was born without the curse of death from Adam. That’ll preach, right? But I do think the crux of the issue, Abraham’s impatience, was correctly identified.

My issue for today is this: why did we spend so much time talking about this being the source of conflict for Israel today?

Peace in the Middle East. One of the biggest ongoing political storms of the modern world. I get it. Cultural context influencing the church. Isaac was the father of Israel, and Ishmael is probably the father of several of the modern Arab tribes. Who do you support politically? Who do you believe are the ‘good guys?’

I could spend hours ranting about the criminality of using the pulpit to justify your political position. Israel was created as a sovereign nation by the UN as reparation for the Holocaust. Take a stance on that (and whether you believe it was done well or poorly.) You don’t need to bring the Bible into it for it to be a moral position.

I get it. God promised Abraham that land for his descendants forever. But this is a reach. And, here’s my point, even if it isn’t, is that really the lesson we need to focus on? It was never, “You’re mistakes today can affect people long after your gone.” There was never, “And here’s what you can learn from this conflict still continuing today.” It was always just, “And that’s why we support Israel.”

Politics and Justice should be moral and ethical. The support or opposition of a political position should be based on moral and ethical grounds. If you are a Christian, those morals will come from Biblical ethics. Your definition of justice will be Biblical. But address the contemporary issue. Does someone need protection? Has someone been injured? Is there a wrong that needs to be prevented or corrected?

Series Disclaimer: throughout this particular series, it is always possible that I simply missed something, or honestly forgot it. I am, however, operating on the assumption that my experience is actually fairly typical despite coming from a comparatively small denomination. I feel justified in this assumption because I have put effort into interacting with and listening to as wide a variety of people as I can, and I put effort into paying attention. My entire life I’ve put effort into paying attention, into understanding. So perhaps I’ve missed something, or forgotten a single lesson, but I am speaking of broad impressions of a large culture. Should your experience differ, I am glad. Should I be wrong, I would be relieved.

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