Trump and Jerusalem: What Jews, Christians, and Muslims Need to Know

President Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday. He set in place controversial plans to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a holy city for Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike.

According to the president, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital is a “long overdue step to advance the peace process.”

But people throughout the world are responding not with a peaceful sentiment, but with increased anxiety. Trump claims that this is part of a larger peace plan that he is gradually implementing. Other world leaders, including leaders in the Middle East, don’t share his sentiment. In fact, most world leaders are condemning the move. And I fear my more fundamentalist Christian siblings. I can only hope there’s a bigger picture in play here that doesn’t involve their crazy end times prophecies.

We don’t know what Trump has planned. That lack of knowledge produces even more anxiety. But we don’t have to be slaves to anxiety. In fact, the good news is that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam each have the tools to help us manage our anxiety.

Jews, Christians, and Muslims share a common ancestor in Abraham. There are two stories about Abraham that are particularly important for members of these three faiths to keep in mind during this time.

The Calling of Abraham

The first story is the call of Abraham in Genesis 12.* God called Abraham to “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Jews, Christians, and Muslims each claim to be descendants of Abraham. And so this is our divine mission. God has blessed us so that we will be a blessing to all the families of the earth. The mission to Abraham is unambiguous. His job is to bless. If there is any cursing to be done, it’s not by Abraham. It’s to be done by God.

This is such a radical departure from normal human relationships. Our relationships tend to be much more ambiguous. Yes, we will bless those who bless us, but we will also curse those who curse us, especially during times of anxiety. This is the mimetic, or imitative, nature of being human. We respond to love with love, but we also respond to violence with violence.

God’s call to Abraham is to stop the cycle of cursing one another. It’s to stop the cycle of violence by exchanging it with a cycle of blessing. Indeed, the promise does include land, but if the land becomes a justification to curse others, then we’ve lost the plot.** Because the plot is to be a blessing to everyone. But if we lose the plot, we will lose the land to a cycle of our own violent destruction.

Jews, Christians, and Muslims claim that this land is holy, but we are getting dangerously close to the point where it’s not about the land. Rather, it’s about defeating our rival. There comes a point in every conflict where the object of our desire fades from view and all that’s left is destroying our rival. Unfortunately, the object becomes a casualty of that destruction. In this case, the land may be holy, but if we lose the plot of our shared story to be a blessing to one another, we risk destroying one another and the land. So, let’s not let our anxiety distract us. Instead, let’s stick to the plot.

The Akedah

Jews, Christians, and Muslims share another story about Abraham. All three peoples believe that God called Abraham to sacrifice his son. The story is told in a few different ways. For Jews and Christians, Abraham’s son was Isaac; for Muslims it was Ishmael. People have debated the significance of this story for thousands of years, but there is one essential point. In the end, God stopped the violent sacrifice from happening.

Abraham is the father of our religions because God started something radically new through him and through his wife Sarah and through Hagar. This was the first move in history away from human sacrifice. It is the first move away from thinking that God demands any form of violence. The point of the story for Jews, Christians, and Muslims is that God stopped the sacrifice. Why? Because God wants us to be a blessing to one another, not a curse.

A New Way of Being Human

This is the anti-sacrificial, in other words, the anti-violent, strand that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share. Nearly 3,000 years ago, it ushered in a new way of being human. And we are just now catching up to the God-given fact that our shared mission in life is to be a blessing to one another, not a curse.

It’s during times of great anxiety when we are most prone to becoming distracted from our mission. But we don’t have time to be distracted. As children of Abraham, we need to stay focused on our mission. No matter what our world leaders do, we need to reclaim these stories about Abraham now more than ever.

*Many will know that in Genesis 12, Abraham hasn’t had his name changed yet, so he is called Abram. I’m calling him Abraham here because it would take too long to explain and distract from the overall purpose of this article.

** Did you like what I did there? Plot…Land…

Image: Screenshot from YouTube.

3 replies
  1. Tom
    Tom says:

    You know what else would solve the problem in the middle east(and in fact worldwide)? If everybody would be atheist. Without people fighting over which ones imagenary friend is cooler, there would be no war. There would be peace. No holy places to fight over. No fighting over the teachings of a book. Do you know what athiests do when a book does not tell the truth about reality? They toss it in the trash and keep looking. They don’t defend it to the blood, when it is proven to be incorrect.

    What the most crazy part is, the stuff about the prophecy. Talk about self fulfilling. That’s some lunatic behavior. Trying to make the armageddon a reality. Another reason to get rid of religions. And when they have done everything to fulfill the prophecy, nothing happens. A very harmfull thing can come from that: they will try to bomb us all into oblivion to make shure the judgement day will be happening. Everything without proof that God exists or that religious scriptures are true. CRAZY.

    Ever noticed that in the word believe/belief, the word lie is hidden within. They go hand in hand, so to speak.

    • Keith
      Keith says:

      Your last comment is such a load of bulldust. Now we will have to start looking at every word and see what lies within merely by the way the letters are arranged? If you translated the word to another language do you think this “lie” will still exist? No, it won’t. Why not? Because it’s not spelt as in English.

      Then, what is with “atheists” that they feel this desperate need to discount religion? So you choose to be an atheist? Good for you. I choose to believe in a God. That is my choice. Do you see me rubbishing your claims of assumed atheism? Why do you want to rubbish mine? You don’t offer any minute measure of factuality to support your assertion other than to disparage another’s choice of believing in a God, regardless of who that god may be.

      Your further comment about atheists burning books is rather enlightening. When you don’t agree with something you rubbish it. Rather an infantile response, don’t you think? You speak of truth, may I ask, whose truth? What you deem to be truth and nothing else? What would you consider “proof”? Are you the sole arbiter of what constitutes proof? And how irrefutable must that “proof” be?

      Your comment is so tedious the best it elicits is a yawn. Have you “atheists” really found nothing else to sprout but this inane drivel? It’s been bandied about for so long that it’s become boring. If you don’t like religion, or God, that’s fine. Read the article again, and try to show some sensibility to grasp what the writer is stating. It’s about finding our humanness, our sameness, regardless of our faith persuasion, and through that we can commit to work for collective peace. What Trump is setting in motion through his blinded stupidity is an unnecessary conflict, setting back the move towards peace by who knows how long. Be blessed

      • Tom
        Tom says:

        Hi Keith.
        I‘m swiss. So, i know that `believe` in another language is written differently. It was a humorous attempt to make a larger point. Shame, you didn‘t get it. What i mean is that humans can be deceived. Especially about their beliefs. So how do you find out the truth? Science. Right? That is the way to find the truth.

        I didn‘t choose to be an athiest. I simply can‘t find any evidence/proof for any god or that the bible or any other `holy` text is true. Which makes me an athiest. You on the other hand, just believe that god exists, because the bible or your parents said so. Do you believe in Odin, Zeus, Osiris or unicorns? No? Why?
        I‘m perfectly okey that you believe in whatever makes you happy. Just don‘t oppose it on to others. If you do(like this website), you are open to criticism. You make a claim(god exists etc.), so you have to prove it. Since there is none, why should i just believe? How shure are you, that you believe in the right thing? Maybe Zeus is the true god? Aren‘t you an athiest towards these other gods? I‘m just consequent and i don‘t want to be fooled.

        It‘s funny you mention book burnings(something i didn‘t say), because Hitler was a christian(a crazy one of course), so where (possibly)all the other germans that burnt the books. I don‘t rubbish something i don‘t agree with. I rubbish it, if it is wrong, or has no proof that it is right. I don‘t declare whats the truth. Science does. Science works. If you can bring me a scientific proof, that god etc. is true. I will then know. Not believe.

        Inane drivel? We heard the inane drivel of religions for 4000+ years. Don‘t you think that has become boring?
        Finding humaness, sameness and collective peace is not possible thru religions. 4000+ years of constant fighting are the proof. Only athiesm can do that. Think about it.
        Trump is a christian, right? `Nuff said.
        Be blessed? By what or whom? Thor, Ra, Vishnu, Xenu or the flying spaghetti monster? Thanks anyway, i guess.

        Have a nice day


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