Unmasking False Religion

The Pharisees asked Jesus, "When will the kingdom of God come?" He said to them, "The kingdom of God is among you (and within you)" (Luke 17:21). When he said this, the land and people were not experiencing paradise on earth. Most were under occupation. Violence and terrorism were everywhere. Yet Jesus could announce the fact that God's kingdom is breaking in.

In the midst of domination structures, we must follow the example of Jesus when he was living in our country. He had a radical obedience to God's reign. We must continuously declare the ultimate sovereignty of God over every sphere of life.

I am aware that this is exactly what the Jewish religious settlers are saying. They are in those settlements because they believe they are obeying God. In fact, they are ready to disobey their own government if need be in order to remain faithful to God.

The litmus test that we must use in such cases is based on what it means to love our neighbor. The Hebrew scripture, our Old Testament, mentions the dictum "love your neighbor as yourself." To live under the reign of God is to have full loyalty and obedience to God, tested, judged, and defined by our love and concern for the well-being of the neighbors, even if they are our enemies.

Such loyalty to God alone forces us to unmask the powers that oppress us. One is the evil of racism. Arab-Palestinian Israeli citizens have been suffering as a result of this since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Closely connected with race is the mask of nationalism. There is a place for a healthy patriotism so long as it does not undermine or infringe on the rights and feelings of others. But extreme forms of nationalism threaten Palestinians as well as Israelis.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 2001
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