Following is what came to mind when I read Bishop Forsyth’s statements on devout Christian’s fears if same sex marriages were to be made lawful. The article to which I am replying can be found here (http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/sydney-anglicans-fear-devout-christians-will-be-forced-to-celebrate-gay-marriage-20150929-gjwzby.html)
“Dear devout Christian bakers, florists and photographers,
According to one of your bishops you fear that if marriage legislation were to change you could be forced to “… engage in effectively celebrating same-sex marriage against their conscience”. He also fears for your religious freedom, strange as this may seem, considering that same sex couples wish to marry according to the law, rather than live “in sin” so to speak, and surely their act of commitment is far from a threat to your freedom to follow your Christian beliefs. Citing a possible attack on freedom of religion will instantly gain sympathy for you and gives you the opportunity to claim the status of the victim in a victimless crime. In reality you and your preachers are only concerned about increasing the power of your institutions and enforcing your particular views.
However, should marriage equality ever become a reality, you might want to consider displaying your stance in advance. The shopkeeper from Royston Vaysey, a true master in scaring off unwanted customers, comes to mind as a suitable example you could follow. You could amend his catchphrase ‘This is a shop for local people’ to “This is a shop for straight local people” and display your new slogan for all to see. If you wish to be more blunt “Same Sexers are not welcome here” could be an option to ensure that your premises would not become a den of complicity against your will. In doing so, you would not only do yourselves a favour but also keep away those members of the public, who support same sex marriage or who are favourably disposed towards anyone you despise.
At the same time you would be doing the community a service by openly advertising your opposition to marriage equality as it would enable tolerant and accepting citizens to avoid you and the wedding-services you offer. The benefit for you would be no longer having to make decisions affecting your religious conscience, or to give it its real name, bigoted dogma. You would no longer have to interact with customers who do not share your belief system. They in turn would not be forced to “… engage in condoning or supporting fanatical devoutness against their conscience” as they would no longer feel comfortable about receiving goods and services from you or your fellow self-proclaimed guardians of rather dubious ethics and morals.
You can then cry ‘persecution’ and ‘discrimination’ against you and your faith and will be able to blame the loss of income on those awful, godless non-believers out there and being even more convinced of the righteousness of your prejudice and fanaticism. You will blame same sex marriage, secular law makers, the anti-Christ, Satan, liberal Christians, Muslims, political parties and anyone else whom you consider and enemy of your faith, for your misfortune and liken yourself to a martyr bravely facing the lions in a Roman arena.
For decades you and your proselytising lot have imposed and spread irrational belief, rules and dogma, often resorting to vilification and destruction of those who object, dare to disagree or whom you deem evil, dangerous or inconvenient. You judge others by their belief not their behaviour. Your institutions, as those of other religions, have no qualms establishing a rule of religious law based on nothing more than personal convictions sanctioned by a deity .
You considers it a right to interfere in political decisions, purely because you are convinced your rules are to be followed. You have no scruples accepting government money for your chaplains to get easy access to vulnerable young minds, giving no consideration or thought at all to the damage your subjective and prejudiced advice can cause. But then, your conscience has no room for those whom you consider evil or wrong because you are in no doubt at all that you are right. You certainty and lack of self-doubt make you a ruthless in your divinely sanctioned mission to destroy whatever you think is a sin or to demonize whomever you consider an unrepentant sinner.
Considering that you feel the need to voice your opposition to marriage equality as if it were to lead to the destruction of Australian society you ought to put your money were your mouth is. Put up shop signs, carry placards, do what you think you have to. Why would you fear discrimination and persecution? History shows that you love proclaiming martyrdom and persecution, as this seems to give you instant justification of lashing out or vilifying those who dare to question your beliefs.
Of course usually anyone vilifying and denigrating a person due to their religion, sex or ethnicity, ought to face the consequences, but it is clear that you do not agree with such repercussions as far as you being discriminating is concerned. You are very aware that new laws mean could mean new vilification regulations and as you are not prepared to live by those rules or amend your beliefs you will do everything in your power to give you the right to openly discriminate with impunity.
Hopefully decent, caring, moral and ethical people will recognise your supposed conflict of conscience for what is, namely an attempt to exercise power and control by spreading fear, exploiting prejudices and creating doubt.
Those of you who, without a moment’s hesitation and with complete conviction, are prepared to use issues such as marriage equality in order to fabricate a campaign to convince people that their freedom of religion is at stake, are unlikely to ever consider themselves in the wrong or question their motives. You demand respect by all for your belief system, yet at the same time you only give respect to those of your choosing. The most disturbing and frightening aspect however is your utter lack of insight that that it is you who are discriminating against others, that it is your attitudes which are discriminatory. Anti-discrimination laws are in place for good reason and are intended to prevent the horrors of persecution. Your bishop says you fear being ‘caught out by these laws’, a statement which indicates that some churches consider themselves to be above the laws by which everyone else has to abide thereby absolving you of all responsibility.
Claiming that you could possibly be asked not to discriminate against a same sex couple does not constitute persecution of your beliefs it constitutes a dangerous and wilful misrepresentation of facts. Should marriage equality ever become a reality in this country, and I sincerely wish that this happens soon, I hope that Australia will be a better, more inclusive place where your disgraceful self-righteousness and your self-serving utterances will attract neither approval nor support but be dismissed with the disdain and disapproval they deserves.”
Dylan at the Mt. of Olives, Jerusalem.
Bob Dylan has made a reappearance in the public eye this past year with the release of his album Shadows in the Night and the issuing of a set of outtakes from his classic mid-1960s LPs. The state of Israel—situated in the Middle East, allied with the U.S. government, idolized by millions of American Christians, and at odds with most of its neighbors—has been in the news virtually non-stop since 1967.
Given Dylan’s identity as a famous Jewish American with a reputation for lyrical sociopolitical commentary, is there confluence? Do Dylan and Israel intersect?
Christian Zionism is a mixture of theology and ideology in which evangelical Protestants support the modern nation-state of Israel. More specifically, Christian Zionists support the Israeli government in its hawkish foreign policy and domineering domestic policy. Christian Zionists in the United States have difficulty discerning a difference between the national interests of the U.S. and those of Israel. In practice, the two are merged and support for Israeli interests becomes a test not only of sound U.S. policy but also of loyalty to God. Identification of born-again Christians with Israeli politicians and the Israeli military is of relatively recent origin. It was intertwined with Cold War ideology in the 1960s and 1970s but has its roots further back in dispensational premillennial theology.
Part of the late 1970s evangelical revival in the U.S. was a growth of Zionism among American Christians. It dovetailed with the migration of millions of ex-passive and ex-Democratic voters into the hawkish Republican Party. It was also connected with the popularity of Hal Lindsey’s book The Late Great Planet Earth, which depicted Israel and the communist Soviet and Chinese governments as military opponents in the soon-to-occur Battle of Armageddon. Hence politics and religion, nationalism and exegesis, were combined into a potent movement. The Moral Majority of Jerry Falwell and the 700 Club of Pat Robertson were two institutional manifestations of this movement.
This was the national religious context at the time Bob Dylan was converted to Christ in 1978-79. It would have made some sense if he had become a new leader of the Christian Zionist movement. He is Jewish. Even before his conversion, he believed in God and was familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures. In Hibbing, Minnesota, his parents were leaders in the local Hadassah (a women’s Zionist organization) and B’nai B’rith. He spent some of his boyhood summers near Webster, Wisconsin, attending Herzl Camp, a Jewish summer camp with a Zionist focus. He visited Israel in the early 1970s. He was interested in End Times prophecy and embraced the premillennial dispensational interpretation of Lindsey. And yet Dylan did not become a leading Christian Zionist. Why not? There are three reasons.
Dylan’s newfound Christianity was in many ways less-culture-bound than the average American evangelical at the time (partly because it was new and he approached the Bible with the fresh eyes of a convert). The type of Christianity to which Dylan belonged during his early months as a believer was the latter-day Jesus Movement. The Jesus People had a Christ Against Culture theological ethic which meant that they strived to be less culturally-co-opted (worldly) than mainstream Christians in America. Of course, the Jesus People had their own cultural traits but support for the Israeli government and support for Cold War militarism and U.S. imperialism were not among these traits.
A second reason that Dylan did not go the route of Christian Zionism is that he had a more-spiritual, less-politicized understanding of Bible eschatology (study of the Last Things or End Times). The late nineteenth-century/early twentieth-century theological movement known as dispensational premillennialism is often credited or blamed for post-1967 Christian Zionism among American evangelicals. But this is not accurate. The Scofield Reference Bible has little to do with the devotion to the Israeli government—mostly to the Likud Party—that is so prevalent among evangelical Christians belonging to the Republican Party.
From the perspective of Bob Dylan and similar premillennialists, C.I. Scofield and the dispensationalists (including Lindsey) were correct in saying that God has not forgotten his promises to the Jewish people. The Old Testament promises cannot simply be spiritualized or applied to the Church. That is too self-serving and not faithful to the scriptural record. Israel as an ethnic and historical entity did not disappear with the first advent and promises given to Israel did not simply vanish. Traditionally, Christians believe that in the Last Days there will be a consummation of those promises in a way that includes not only the Church but also Israel. Dylan and other believers think that Jesus Christ will reign from Jerusalem but it will not be a specifically Jewish kingdom. It will be a universal Kingdom that includes the believing remnant of Israel. According to Revelation—one of Dylan’s favorite books—the New Jerusalem will bear the names of the twelve apostles of Christ and the twelve tribes of Israel.
A.C. Gaebelein was a consulting editor for the original Scofield Reference Bible (1909), a contributor to The Fundamentals (1910-15), and a prominent Bible teacher at
premillennial conferences. He was an evangelist to Jews in New York City and was very pro-Jewish in the sense of having a love for Jewish people. He was knowledgeable in Hebrew, was an Old Testament scholar, and edited Our Hope, a Bible prophecy magazine that looked forward to God’s eventual restoration of the Jews to Palestine. However, unlike fellow dispensationalist William Blackstone, Gaebelein “consistently warned against alliance with the Zionists.” In 1905, he wrote, “Zionism is not the divinely promised restoration of Israel . . . [It] is not the fulfillment of the large number of predictions found in the Old Testament Scriptures, which relates to Israel’s return to the land. Indeed, Zionism has very little use of argument from the Word of God. It is rather a political and philanthropic undertaking. . . . The great movement is one of unbelief and confidence in themselves instead of God’s eternal purposes.”Gaebelein exemplified a type of premillennial eschatology that had apolitical or anarchistic implications. As George Marsden notes, “Premillennialism taught that no trust should be put in kings or governments and that no government would be specially blessed by God until the coming of the King who would personally lead in defeating the forces of Satan.” This perspective not only dampened Gaebelein’s enthusiasm for Zionism but it also led him to oppose U.S. involvement in World War I, in 1917, before he eventually succumbed to worldly pro-war jingoism.
Today, few Christian Zionists are taking their marching orders from the Scofield Bible. It is not a common item of study or interest. Dispensationalism is a small subsection of evangelicalism. Since the 1970s, far more evangelicals have been influenced by the teachings of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Paul Crouch, John Hagee, et al., than by C.I. Scofield, J.N. Darby, Lewis Sperry Chafer, John Walvoord, et al. It is true that the televangelists have embraced a watered-down version of dispensational eschatology, but even that was not handed down directly from Scofield. It is mostly just an emphasis on “Jesus is coming back soon. Israel’s re-founding in 1948 was a sign of the End. America must be Israel’s friend.” There is not much theology there.
For most evangelicals, glorification of the modern state of Israel comes much more out of a few verses in Genesis 12 than from the Day of the Lord chapters in Daniel, the rapture passage in I Thessalonians, or the tribulation/millennial chapters in Revelation. Even the Genesis passage is often a scriptural pretext for worldly geopolitics that centers on devotion to specific governments—namely, the United States and Israel. Whether in the context of the Cold War, the War on Terror, anti-Arab/Muslim sentiment, or Jewish ethnic (not religious) loyalty, this is more political than theological. God is being used in service to Country.
Modern Israel is not ancient Israel. Many Orthodox Jews opposed the pre-1948 Zionist movement because they believed that the re-creation of Israel must be effected by the Messiah himself. Israel is officially a Jewish state but this refers to ethnicity, not religion. Theodor Herzl (father of modern Zionism), Chaim Weizmann (founding president of Israel), and David Ben-Gurion (founding prime minister of Israel) were secularists if not atheists. They did not embrace the religion of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Yet, blank-check support for the Israeli government is the norm among Bible-believing white Protestants.
The national anthem of modern Israel—and before that, the anthem of the Zionist movement, adopted by the First Zionist Congress in 1897—is “Hatikvah” (The Hope). Its lyrics are secular, with no mention of God, Abraham, Moses, or the Torah. The song uses the biblical word Zion twice but, removed from its context and divorced from God, its meaning has lost its spiritual dimension. The Zionist/Jewish folk song “Hava Nagila” is also secular.
Even when the ancient Hebrew governments were officially linked to Judaism, unthinking support for political leaders was folly, with the prophets being a continual reminder of this fact. After the united kingdom of Saul, David, and Solomon split into southern and northern kingdoms, the majority of the subsequent rulers were bad, according to Scripture. In Judah, 10 of the 18 kings “did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.” The track record in Israel was even worse: 19 of the 19 kings were evil. It is unclear why Jews or Christians should assume that Begin or Netanyahu are any better than these ancient rulers.
When talking about his Jewish roots with Martin Keller in July 1983, Dylan said, “I ain’t looking for them in synagogues with six pointed Egyptian stars shining down from every window, I can tell you that much.” Dylan apparently views the Star of David as a pagan or occult symbol rather than a biblical symbol of the historical King David. The Star of David was the symbol of the Zionist Movement, beginning in the 1890s, and was placed on the flag of Israel when the modern state began in 1948.
Dylan’s views on peace and international relations are partly motivated by his understanding of eschatology. When it was released in 1983, “Neighborhood Bully” was widely seen as a pro-Israeli-government song and it fueled speculation that Dylan had returned to Judaism. This appears to be an incorrect interpretation. In a 1984 interview, Dylan said, “You can’t come around and stick some political-party slogan on it [the song]. If you listen closely, it really could be about other things.” He claimed ignorance regarding Israeli politics. Asked if he had resolved for himself the Palestinian question, Dylan said, “Not really, because I live here.”
Dylan suggested that the song was referring to Israel during the days of the future Battle of Armageddon rather than to the current Israeli government. Quoting the lyrics of “Neighborhood Bully,” Kurt Loder of Rolling Stone asked Dylan if he felt that the U.S. should send troops to help Israel in the Lebanon War (1982-85). Dylan responded, “No. The song doesn’t say that.” Loder asked if the American Jewish community should be more supportive of Israel. Dylan refused to identify with contemporary political Zionism, saying, “You’re making it specific to what’s going on today. But what’s going on today isn’t gonna last, you know? The battle of Armageddon is specifically spelled out: where it will be fought and, if you wanna get technical, when it will be fought. And t