Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Monday, October 20, 2008

John Howard Yoder on God's People and Nationalism

I have been reading from Original Revolution by John Howard Yoder, a series of essays on Christian Pacifism. This excerpt struck me as so relevant for the Israel/Palestine conflict. Especially for those who make claims (often called Christian and Jewish Zionists) based on the Hebrew Scriptures, that Jews, and no other people groups, should live in the Holy Land. This piece by Yoder helps me to understand how "God's people" becomes a more inclusive term, even in the progression of the Hebrew Scriptures.

"From the ancient Hebrews through the later prophets up to Jesus there was real historical movement, real 'progress'; but the focus of this progress was not a changing of ethical codes but rather in an increasingly precise definition of the nature of peoplehood. The identification of the people of Israel with the state of Israel was progressively loosened by all the events and prophecies of the Old Testament. It was loosened in a positive way by the development of an increasing vision for the concern of Yahweh for all peoples and the promise of a time when all people would come to Jerusalem to learn the law; it was loosened as well in a negative direction by the development of a concept of the faithful remnant, no longer assuming that Israel as a geographical and ethnic body would be usable for Jahweh's purposes. These two changes in turn altered the relevance of the prohibition of killing. Once all people are seen as potential partakers of the covenant, then the outsider can no longer be perceived as less than human or as an object for sacrificing. Once one's own national existence is no longer seen as a guarantee of Jahweh's favor, then to save this national existence by a holy war is no longer a purpose for which miracles would be expected. Thus the dismantling of the applicability of the concept of the holy war takes place not by the promulgation of a new ethical demand but by a restructuring of the Israelite perception of community under God."