Although I was only 8 years old, I remember well the Camp David Accords, signed when President Jimmy Carter brought together Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Menachem Begin of Israel for discussion on mutual recognition and respect. I remember the feeling of physical illness and spiritual trauma I experienced when I thought that there would be an announcement of peace in the Middle East because I remembered the biblical saying that in the day when peace is declared then total destruction is imminent. "For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them." I thought I was doomed, that Jesus would return as soon as the treaty was signed and I, unsaved, would be hell bound. Although this all seems a little ridiculous to me now, I think of it because it was my first up close and personal experience of feeling there were geopolitical implications of the literalist scriptural interpretation to which I had been exposed.
Religious and political pundits have discussed the complicated relationship between evangelicals and Israel. Radical secularists mock the simultaneous concern for Israel's future as God's chosen people and the evangelical theological certainty that all attempts to secure Israel apart from Christ's return are futile. And although I do not support the disdainful treatment of my own theological community, I too see the contradiction in the fact that evangelicals pray for the peace of Jerusalem and while espousing a theological perspective that depends on war.
This week in Annapolis the Bush administration, undoubtedly the administration most beholden to evangelical orthodoxy, has initiated its own legacy-saving effort at bringing Israel and the Palestinians to the table. Secretary Rice and President Bush, having flatly ignored the opportunity 7 years ago to build on the outline for peace proposed by the Clinton administration in its waning days, now have concluded that simply backing Israel while ignoring the Palestinians will not ultimately lead to safety for Israel or to peace in the Middle East. It's only too bad that the US waited until the Fattah party's majority had vanished in favor of the more radical Hamas whom Palestinians democratically elected last year.
What I wish for this nation and especially for the African American church is that we would do the intellectual and historical work that would allow us to seek justice for the exiled and displaced Palestinians, not just security and recognition for Israel. I am aware that many Christians see a spiritual and theological mandate for supporting Israel. But just as I hope that I have matured beyond the far too literal biblical interpretation that left me praying against Carter, Sadat, and Begin's efforts, I hope that we will have the theological, spiritual,and political maturity to support a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli question. Let's pray for the peace of Jewish and Arab Jerusalem.