Rick Perry has said that as a Christian, he has “a clear directive to support Israel.” What in the world? I know that sort of thinking is out there, but I’ve never heard it so potently distilled, and certainly never from a person who has a (terrifying!) shot at the presidency.
What exactly does Perry believe constitutes “a clear directive”? I think that phrase actually frames the exegetical question very well. In a big old Bible spanning hundreds of years, with some major shifts—such as, say, when the Son of God lived, taught, died, rose, and redeemed humanity—you cannot just take everything as a directive. Grab a Bible, lift your right index finger in the air, start flipping through the Bible’s pages, and jab your finger down to pick a passage. You might get Jesus saying to love your enemies, do good to those who do evil, and turn the other cheek when struck. You might get John asking, “whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” or Jesus teaching his followers to store up treasures in heaven, not on earth. Or! You might get God commanding the Israelites to commit genocide, or Moses promising wealth and prosperity as the reward for obeying God.
Some people therefore dismiss the whole book as being riddled with contradictions – but this is premature. At this point, it would be rather like writing off all of Shakespeare because Hamlet contradicts Romeo; or writing off a U.S. History textbook because one page describes 13 states while another describes 50. At any rate, dismissing the Bible is certainly not the position that Christians adopt.
One sound principle that Christians can use to move forward is exactly that indicated by Perry’s phrasing of “a clear directive.” One can look at the Bible and ask what is a clear command or directive. Moreover, one can ask what is a clear command or directive from God to Christians, rather than, say, from God to Jonah, or from Pontius Pilate to his soldiers.
So where is the clear directive for Christians to support the modern state of Israel? There are Old Testament statements along the lines of God blessing nations that bless Israel – but this is nothing like a clear directive for Christians. Jesus never taught that gentiles could follow him by loving their neighbors, giving to the poor, and supporting Israel. Paul didn’t write that Christians are saved by faith in Christ and political loyalty to Israel. John didn’t write that those who know God will support the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. James didn’t write that faith without military support is dead.
Christians have no clear directives about Israel.
Christians have plenty of clear directives about things like peace, justice, and love. Those are the clear directives that would guide any truly Christian position on Israel.