Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers.”
In November of 1995, one week after the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, I sat on a hill just outside the Seven Arches Hotel, overlooking the city of Jerusalem. It was and is a honeycomb of the Sacred. The molten golden color of its stones in the setting sun, the call of the minaret, church bells ringing, great stone walls with gates, intoxicated me. A city over 3,000 years old and the hub of sacred stories and events, this city is deeply loved by persons of many faith traditions. I am not surprised that some religious pilgrims come to the City of David and lose their identity, overcome by what is called “the Jerusalem syndrome.”
Unfortunately, it is not only individuals who can lose their minds but also nations. President Trump, in what many of his Evangelical followers applaud as a right thing to do, has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the modern state of Israel. He has been moved to this decision by who knows whom but the Evangelicals seem to think that such recognition is both a biblical right and a contribution toward the actualization of what they call the Second Coming of Christ. It is neither. It is the politicization of a complicated religious history and a beautiful, sacred city.
If we want to honor Jerusalem and work to safeguard the peace of that city then Jews, Christians and Muslims should be working toward a de-politicization of Jerusalem so its sacred streets and shrines are accessible to all. That history is polluted by efforts by all three of those religions to thwart the others from such access. When the President acts to place the American embassy inside Jerusalem, he not only complicates what is already complicated but he immediately acts to thwart a particular group of people, as so many have acted in the past two thousand years. Mr. Trump is anti-Muslim. He has spewed his distrust and stereotyped that religion since he began his campaign to become President. There is simply no way for his action to be perceived by Islam but as a hostile act. I can only assert that as a Christian, he does not speak for me, nor do the Evangelicals. Stop conflating biblical hopes for shalom with Machiavellian nation states that could care less about those hopes. The other problem with the President’s action is this: while on the surface he seems to be raising the stature of Jerusalem and Israel, he is undermining its security. He has made the world unsafe for Jewish and Christian residents of Jerusalem as well. This is a shame.
Jerusalem is such a bright light that we are drawn to it like a moth to flame. Those who carelessly fumble their way toward it risk being consumed by that flame. Not only religious individuals, but entire nations. I pray that the President retracts this action. For the peace of Jerusalem to be a reality, the city should be protected as the shrine it is and no religion and no government should deny its mysteries to others. I am a realist though. Mr. Trump will kick a canister of tear gas, a can of hot coals, into a crowd just because he can—the spectacle of that appeals to him. Alas, this raises other questions about American governance and his psychology that need to be addressed. For now, let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem and ask our nation to facilitate dialogue, not exacerbate tensions.