The American dream, born of the high ideals of democracy and separation of church and state, has struggled to live up to its own principles. Israel, a prophesied "Return to the Holy Land" and democracy in the Middle East, is another dream that is currently struggling to live up to its own ideals. Religion and economics continue to be major influences on democracy, so we must be willing to consider prophets and profit. The great dream of democracy, like religious belief, can not be forced on anyone with guns, bombs, and missiles. It must be chosen and cultivated from within the individual and a society comprising educated individuals. Yet there is much profit to be gained when using guns, bombs, and missiles to advance agendas born of religious ideals.
Is America bent over serving the interests of weapon makers through politicians who have cloaked colonialism, imperialism (see "U.S. Companies Get Slice of Iraq's Oil Pie"), and geopolitics with the lofty ideals of democracy? Or is there a true desire for peace and religious freedom in the Middle East?
Religion, economics, and politics set the stage for Israel to be well armed to the tune of $3.1 billion per year in American tax dollars, with which they purchase much of their weapons from American companies. For many, nationalism and national interests have become the religion of today for both America and Israel while being presented as the dream of democracy.
Ben Irwin, an Episcopalian scholar, has elucidated the contradiction that few evangelicals, Americans, or Israeli leaders are willing to accept:
If Israel today is entitled to the covenant blessings spoken by the Old Testament, what about their covenant obligations?
The Bible never spoke of Israel's covenant blessings apart from their obligations. It's no use trying to have one without the other. And at least one of these obligations poses a bit of a problem for the modern state of Israel, if it is indeed the same nation as the one in the Bible.
Ancient Israel was not supposed to have a standing army. They weren't supposed to stockpile weapons. There were no taxes to fund a permanent military. Israel's rulers were forbidden from amassing large numbers of horses (Deuteronomy 17:16-17) -- which was about as close as you could get to an arms race in the ancient Near East. Israel's king was not supposed to make foreign military alliances. God stipulated that Israel should remain militarily weak so they would learn to trust him for protection.
Israel wasn't allowed to conscript anyone into military service. If you didn't want to fight, you didn't have to fight. ...
If modern Israel is the same covenant nation written about in the Old Testament, then they are under the same covenant obligations. And that covenant forbids militarization. It declares militarization a form of idolatry.
Israel risks reducing its religiously backed moral standing by stooping to the level of the Hamas terrorists it fears. Killing innocent Palestinian children and civilians while wrapping the ongoing atrocity in a myriad of historic justifications cannot work. Nor is their behavior justified by religious scriptures.
To be a Jew, after all, means first of all, to acknowledge and follow in practice those fundamentals in humaneness laid down in the Bible -- fundamentals without which no sound and happy community of men can exist.
Meanwhile, many Americans still invoke religion, calling America a Christian nation while turning away starving refugee children at their border and supporting wars in the Middle East. This clearly contradicts Christian teachings, proving that, for these people, nationalism is valued above the words of their own prophet, Jesus, who said:
Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. (Matthew 7:15-17)
Is it fair to throw out the baby with the bath water? Can we assume that a dream of democracy, a hope for peace, and a holy land where people can be safe from religious persecution is unattainable? Not at all. The answer, as always, is education and restoring a right relation to the stories that define our worldview.
The wisdom of the prophets is being ignored while real profits are being made through weapon sales facilitated by the co-opting of religious and democratic ideals to advance geopolitical agendas. This will continue until the people remove the wool from their eyes and reclaim their own honorable place in history.
Peace, reconciliation, atonement, respect, and forgiveness are central themes to all major spiritual and religious traditions. As we look back at 100 years since the first world war, let's walk forward together and create a global culture of peace. Democracy is not spread with guns, bombs, and missiles but with goodwill, and it flourishes in a climate of peace, understanding, and diplomacy. Hatred and violence are the songs of ignorance; it's time to change the tune. Become your own self-fulfilling prophecy by going within and becoming the peace you would like to see in the world. Then speak your truth to those in power and act on your higher conscience.
Please join in a six-week campaign of events around the world leading to a globally synchronized celebration on the International Day of Peace coordinated by Unify.org on Sept. 21. Together we can banish ignorance.
This post originally appeared on Culture Collective.