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Affirmations and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – God Can Use Imperfect People – Part One

 
I am abundantly aware that God can do remarkable things with less than perfect people. Noah supposedly had “blameless behavior,” but after the flood, he got drunk on the wine he produced and, although he may not have been aware due to his drunken stupor, may have had sexual relations with one of his sons. Later in Hebrew Scriptures, we meet other imperfect people who were used by God: Moses had a stuttering problem, Gideon was afraid, Samson was a womanizer, Rahab was a prostitute, David was an adulterer and murderer, Elijah was suicidal, and Abram.

Let’s look specifically at Abram, later renamed Abraham.

Nine generations after the Tower of Babel, a man named Abram was living in Haran, a city in upper Mesopotamia. God told him to go to a place that God would show him. If he obeyed, God promised to make his descendants into a great nation (I’m not sure God kept his promise; it is doubtful that Israel has ever been a great nation except in the minds of the Israelites).

God also promised to bless Abram, make his name great, to bless those who bless him and curse those who cursed him. Seriously? Was God really going to curse everyone who cursed Abram? That’s extremely narrow-minded.

It does not help the perception of Jews that they claim they are God’s chosen people. They seem to have a superiority complex. They claim that the covenant that God made with Abram applies to all Jews, since they are descendants of the ancient Israelites. The “We are special” idea, which implies that everyone else is not special, does not sit well with other nationalities.

Brian McLaren claims that God was “not damning and rejecting all nations and exempting one from damnation, not hating all nations and loving one, not privileging one superior nation to conquer and rule all others, but blessing all nations through one, choosing one to bring benefit to all.”

Abram and his wife, Sarai, along with Abram’s nephew, Lot, and their slaves, moved south to Canaan. According to Acts 7:2-4 and Genesis 11:26, 32, Abraham was 135 years old when he left Haran, but Genesis 12:4 says Abraham was 75 (another example of two accounts).

When a severe famine came to Canaan, they traveled to Egypt. Abram was afraid the Egyptians would kill him in order to take his beautiful wife, so he decided they would pose as brother and sister. Isn’t it admirable that Abram was willing to sacrifice his wife in order to save himself? In Genesis chapter 20, they do something similar to deceive another king, but in this patriarchal society women were property and their feelings were not considered. When Pharaoh took Sarai into his household, he paid Abram with livestock and slaves.

According to Genesis, YAWEH sent a plague to afflict Pharaoh’s household, so he somehow discerned that Sarai was Abram’s wife. To end the plague, Pharaoh returned Sarai and ordered them to leave his country.

Adultery is a sin, but Abram pawns off his wife as his sister twice to save himself, even though he knew that she would be sexually used by some king. What a man for the Jews to look up to as their founding father – the first Patriarch of the Jews! Remarkably, his son, Isaac does exactly the same thing many years later.

When Abram was ordered to leave Egypt, he and his entourage returned back to Canaan. By this time Abram was very rich (because of all the livestock and slaves that he had gotten for offering his wife to the Pharaoh) and Lot had flocks and herds of his own. Since the arid land couldn’t support them both, they separated. Lot settled on the plain of the Jordan near the city of Sodom, while Abram settled in Canaan. After Lot’s departure, God renewed the covenant with Abram and promised him and his offspring all the land he could see and so many offspring they will be uncountable.

This is the covenant that the Jews claim gave them the right to reestablish the state of Israel in 1948. The Middle East has been a hotbed of strife ever since.

A lot of countries around the globe empathized with the Jews after they suffered inhuman treatment from the Nazis during World War II. To Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, Jews were an inferior race and a threat to German racial purity. After the mass murder of approximately six million Jews, as well as members of other persecuted groups such as homosexuals, by the Nazi regime, the world felt guilt that such an atrocity had occurred.

It is commonly believed that the United Nations created Israel, that most of the world was in favor of its creation, and that the U.S. government supported it. All these assumptions are false.

Only two years after WWII, the General Assembly of the UN recommended the creation of a Jewish state from part of Palestine, but that recommendation was non-binding and was never implemented by the Security Council. The General Assembly passed the recommendation because some of Israel’s proponents either threatened or bribed enough countries to gain the necessary two-thirds vote.

The United States administration supported the recommendation over strenuous objections of the State Department, the CIA, and the Pentagon.

The immediate response to the recommendation’s passage was increased violence in the Middle East. The pro-Israel movement, which had been preparing for war, carried out a series of aggressions and ethnic cleansings of at least three-quarters of a million Palestinians that paved the way for the creation of the Jewish state that had been ninety-five percent non-Jewish. That sounds remarkably like the genocide that the Israelites inflicted on the residents of Canaan when they entered the “Holy Land.”

So is it any wonder that the non-Jewish Middle Eastern countries despise Israel? The Jewish state was created over the opposition of governments from around the world who opposed it on both pragmatic and moral grounds. Just because Hebrew Scriptures said that God promised Abram and his offspring all the land he could see does not mean that Muslims or other Eastern religions believe the Jews were entitled to the land that became Israel. There is very little likelihood of true peace in that region now or in the future.

An alliance of four kings conquered the area where Lot had settled. After an attempted revolt, Lot and his family were seized and taken away. Most conquerors transported leaders of the conquered area to their homeland so they could not ferment trouble. When Abram heard about their enslavement, he led an army to rescue them. The Lord praised Abram and promised that he would have an heir and his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Abram was skeptical because his wife, Sarai, had never conceived.

According to ancient custom, a wife could give her maid to her husband and claim the child as her own, so Sarai, believing that she is barren, offered her Egyptian slave-girl, Hagar, to Abram as a surrogate mother. After Hagar conceived, there was a great deal of jealousy between her and Sarai, so Hagar ran away. Hagar encountered an angel who comforted her and promised her a son who would be a “wild ass of a man” (that is reassuring?). Subsequently, Hagar returned to give birth to Abram’s first son, Ishmael.

Once again, God spoke to Abram, this time encouraging him to remain blameless in his behavior and adding a new requirement to his everlasting covenant. Abram and all his descendants must now be circumcised as a symbol of the covenant. Any who were not circumcised were to be banished.

If, as Genesis tells us, God was pleased with his creation, why change it? Circumcision is male genital mutilation and is similar to a fraternity initiation ritual; it was a sign of membership in Abram’s covenant community. Who sees this sign? It is covered up by clothing.

There are millions of non-Jewish men in the United States who were circumcised within a day or so after they were born. Therefore, its original purpose has vanished. Unless there is a proven health benefit, it is just an antiquated, worthless ritual.

Male circumcision has been the norm in the U. S. for many years, but it is not practiced, except for religious purposes, in other countries. According to the Circumcision Resource Center, circumcision.org, “Based on a review of medical and psychological literature and our own research and experience, we conclude that circumcision causes serious, generally unrecognized harm and is not advisable.” The majority of their Board of Directors is Jewish and one-third of their Professional Advisory Board members are Jewish.

Continued in Part Two.

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