Joshua or Jesus?

CBS News recently reported on a movement among evangelical Christians in the United States to raise money for American Jewish families to re-settle the West Bank, the bitterly disputed Israeli-occupied territory in the war-torn Middle East. With emotional fervor, preachers were calling on their faithful flocks to fill up the collection plates so the Jews could go back to the Holy Land to fulfill the scriptures. CBS interviewed a happy family of eager emigres to the Holy Land and a Jewish organizer of the movement who spoke of its growing popularity among American evangelicals. The organizer said that President Bush shared the Christian evangelical belief that the Jews must go back to the Holy Land to fulfill prophecy.

A consensus of global leaders believes the West Bank should become part of a Palestinian State as a condition of a Middle East peace settlement. The never-ending, tit-for-tat atrocities between Palestinians and Israeli troops indicate that increasing the number of Jewish settlers can only result in accelerated violence and killing.

Many in the American evangelical movement believe the return of the Jews to the Holy Land must occur in the "last days" before the longed-for second coming of Christ. Some are ecstatic because the conflict over the Holy Land could be developing into the "last days" prior to the climactic battle of Armageddon.

Television evangelist Charles Stanley describes Armageddon as the final battle between good and evil. "The War...The big one. The last one." After describing the blood, gore and carnage, Stanley says that true Christians will not die in the final battle, but will be caught up in the rapture! Stanley quotes St. Paul in the 4th Chapter of 1st Thessalonians , "And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." The evangelical gospel of fear, death and salvation is nothing new in American.

When I was about 5 years old we went to the Church of the Nazarene in Mobile, Alabama. My maternal grandfather was a devout Nazarene and Mother took the family to the fundamentalist church comprised mainly of working class white folks who believed in salvation and sanctification and tended to wail, shout and moan when the "Holy Ghost" took hold of them.

Big revival meetings were held every night for a week with visiting evangelists in a huge tent with sawdust on the floor. It was a gospel of get saved or burn in hell. Either get right with Jesus or suffer everlasting damnation! When the evangelist did the altar call for salvation, everybody sang "Just As I Am Without One Plea, O' Lamb of God I Come To Thee". The preacher stood at the altar and waited for the sinners to come down, crying and moaning to be saved, but if you didn't come on down, he came out into the congregation after you.

The preacher, reeking with slick, cheap-smelling greasy stuff in his hair, came down to me sitting next to Mother, grabbed me by the shoulders, shook me and shouted, "Son, Are you saved, Are you saved?" I didn't really know, because I couldn't get "the feeling" it appeared the others had as they mournfully wailed, "Oh, Yes, Sweet Jesus." Then the evangelist said, "Son, if a drunken driver crashes into your Momma's car on the way home and you and your Momma get killed, she will go to Jesus in Heaven because she is saved but you will burn in Hell forever." By then I was afraid and crying, but still refused to feign the feeling of salvation.

I told Mother that I was afraid to go to church anymore, so shortly thereafter we started going to the Methodist Church, Daddy's family church where Jesus' salvation was still the only way to Heaven, but they didn't scare you quite so much with God and the Devil. I liked Jesus' teachings of peace and empathy because I did not want anyone to hurt me and it made sense to not hurt anyone else. But some Old Testament teachings were just the opposite!

In Sunday School we studied Joshua and the battle of Jericho. God told Joshua to totally destroy the enemy. Joshua 6: 21 says, "...they (the forces of God led by Joshua) utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox, sheep and donkey, with the edge of a sword." Then God's forces burned the city and took the silver, gold, bronze and iron and put it in the "treasury of the house of the Lord".

Right-wing religious zealots are suing the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill because its Freshman Summer reading program requires reading a book containing the core beliefs of Islam. The suit contends that "The Quran: The Early Years" left out verses in the Quran about "killing the infidels".

Christianity, Islam and Judaism recognize Abraham as a founding prophet and the endless wars over land and beliefs epitomized by the battle of Jericho in the Old Testament continue. Christians continue to reek death and destruction with crusades, inquisitions, and killing for "infinite freedom"; Islamic "believers" continue to kill the "infidels" with the September 11 attacks and the bombing of school cafeterias in Jerusalem; and Jewish leaders like Ariel Sharon follow the tradition of Joshua by destroying Arab innocents.

Bush and Cheney are haunted by Harken, Halliburton and Hussein. They must divert attention from the corporate/government corruption scandals that are causing economic problems for everyday people. Saddam Hussein still runs Iraq with its vast oil reserves. War talk is the diversion-war and rumors of war are the ultimate rating's booster and the best "seller" for the media.

If Bush does to Iraq what Joshua did to Jericho we will destroy, "both man and woman, young and old, ox, sheep and donkey" in Iraq and we will take their treasures - "black gold"- for our SUVs...

What would Jesus do?

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