By Walid & Theodore Shoebat
For we are indeed his offspring.
— From Aratus’s poem “Phainomena”, as quoted by St. Paul (Acts 17:28)
Currently, it appears that the default position of conservatives is nationalism, and any political party, organization or activist that poses as anti-immigration, or as combating illegal immigration, receives their praise. One of the most popular methods of deception to garner support for this position is to portray it as Christian. Numerous politicians who will support deportations, or activists advocating for racialism or some type of tribalism under the guise of being against illegal immigration, will not mind holding up the Bible to give off a Christian facade. Many Christians fall for this presentation, thinking themselves righteous while ignoring the warning of Christ, that various antichrists will deceive the very elect (Matthew 24:24). How could the very elect be deceived, unless these false prophets feign orthodoxy? This is why we argue that more dangerous than ‘the Left’ is the Right for the reason that they come with a face of Christianity and can bring people who have Christian principles to justify bloodshed of one’s fellow man, thus bringing to fruition what Christ forewarned: the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. (John 16:2)
When conservatives embrace a tribalist and despotic ideology, they do so under the guise of some Christian principle or under the labels of “law and order.” Hence why Fascism — with its focus on an ideal past or golden age, national pride and racial homogeneity — has a history of appealing to conservatives. Thus, Fascism or something like Fascism, could always revive as long as people continue looking for a savior in a political party. Christ will be trumpeted by conservatives, but as a symbol of some nationalistic idea. What must be done is to go beyond the claptrap and the clouds of political cultism, and to look at the mystical pursuit of the Christian spirit to transcend tribalism and enter the essence of universalism.
Looking at the life of Christ and the saints who knew Him, one can see their struggle with the Jewish establishment. But, this struggle is usually generalized merely as Christ versus a ‘judgmental’ priestly class. If we observe closely, we can see truly a cosmic war between Christ and His Church and a tribalist, fascistic and racist society. We can see this in the war between St. John the Baptist and the Jewish scribes. The Jews at the time prided themselves as “Sons of Abraham”, a reflection of their fixation on their race and tribe, and also an idealization of far antiquity. But St. John the Baptist tells them:
“And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9)
Here we see the Baptist make a declaration on the meaninglessness of race and tribe when it comes to salvation; that ultimately what truly matters is not blood, race or tribe, but the condition of the soul from which emanate our actions. In the midst of racial pride, there is always a looking back to the past to the point where the past becomes myth, and that myth becomes religion. The use of myth can be seen in a current day Right-wing political party in Germany, the AfD (Alternative for Deutschland). One of its main voices, Bjorn Hocke, said in 2017 that what is needed in Germany is myth, saying:
“An emperor is sleeping in the cave of Kyffhäuserberg. And when the need is greatest, he will awaken and restore glory to the reich.
To draw inner strength from myths has always been helpful in times of change. And we are undoubtedly living again in a turning point.”
The glorying of a mythological past is seeped within fascism, and was present in the ideology of the Jews in the time of Christ in which they were obsessed about their tribal lineage or from which of the tribes of Israel they descended. In the spirit of combating this tribalist fixation, St. Paul warns against devotion to myths and endless genealogies (1 Timothy 1:4).
When Christ was in Judea, the ideological atmosphere was one of elevation of the Jewish tribe. But Christ, in His actions of combating national hubris, struck this pride with the sword of universality. The Jews awaited for a messiah who would be a savior for the Jews, and they saw the gentile as insignificant. But Christ cut asunder this mentality, unsheathing the sword of the spirit and slaying the leviathan of egoism. When He stood in the synagogue, knowing that the Jews would reject Him and seek His life, since no prophet is acceptable in his hometown (Luke 4:24), Christ made it clear that the true Messiah, being despised by the Jews, came for the gentiles. He did not say this explicitly, but by referencing two stories from the Old Testament. Christ said to the Jews:
“But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4:25-27)
Christ here makes reference to two events in both of which a foreigner was favored over all Israel. In the first, Elijah, after declaring to King Ahab that there will be a draught because of his murder of God’s priests, fled to Lebanon (Sidon) where he met a Sidonian widow who was starving and saved her life by miraculously making what small amount of flour and olive oil she had into an endless amount for bread.
In the second story that Christ references, the prophet Elisha heals a Syrian military commander at a time when Israel and Syria were at war, and heals him of leprosy in the Jordan river. By mentioning how the Jews would reject Him, and by mentioning stories of how foreigners were blessed, especially by describing how there were many Hebrews who had leprosy but only the foreigner — a Syrian — was healed, Christ was declaring that the Messiah would be accepted by the gentiles and would be blessed because of this, thus striking at the ethno-centric ideology of the Jews. It is no wonder that after Christ said these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. (Luke 4:28).
But let us look deeper into the story of Naaman the Syrian, to see its connections with Christ and His actions against the tribalist establishment of Israel. In the time of Elisha the prophet, Syria and Israel were not allies, but enemies, given that the Syrians were making military incursions into Israel. The Syrians, on one of their raids had carried off a young maid and made her work as a maid for the wife of Naaman. One day Naaman’s wife told her new maid: “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” (1 Kings 5:3) The King of Syria sent Naaman to Israel after notifying the King of Israel that he desired that his military commander be healed by a holy man. The King of Israel was horrified, thinking that the Syrian king “is seeking a quarrel with me.” (2 Kings 5:7)
But did Elisha say that Naaman was an enemy? Did he bring up how the Syrians had done terrorist raids in Israel and kidnapped Hebrews? Did he bring up national pride and refuse to help a foreigner? Elisha told the King of Israel: “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” (2 Kings 5:8) Elisha had Naaman dip himself in the Jordan river seven times and he was healed. Upon this, the Syrian warrior exclaimed the God of Israel and offered money to Elisha as a reward: “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” But Elisha refused to take money from him: “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” (2 Kings 5:15-16) He gave the foreigner healing and an ultimate knowledge of the true God, but he refused to take money from the foreigner, because truly Elisha’s actions were that of charity. Here the Hebrew rescues the foreigner, here the foreigner praises the God of Heaven, for truly we are indeed all God’s offspring.
What is also remarkable is that when Naaman asks Elisha to intercede on his behalf and ask that that Lord forgive him for bowing down before an image of the Syrian god Rimmon while standing next to the King of Syria — saying “I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter” — Elisha simply tells him: “Go in peace.” (2 Kings 5:18-19)
What this signifies is truly a mercy for the one who is stuck in a very difficult predicament in which he is forced to bow before idols; it is a compassion and understanding of human weakness in the face of coerced ritual. It was an understanding that God was not limited to geography, but that God could be in the mind of even a Syrian in the midst of a pagan land, for we are indeed his offspring.
But this mercy and charity was absent in Elisha’s servant, Gehazi who, seeing that Elisha refused to take Naaman’s money, wanted the reward for himself. As the Scripture recounts:
“So Gehazi followed Naaman. And when Naaman saw someone running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him and said, “Is all well?” And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me to say, ‘There have just now come to me from the hill country of Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing.’” And Naaman said, “Be pleased to accept two talents.” And he urged him and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and laid them on two of his servants. And they carried them before Gehazi.” (2 Kings 5:21-23)
Gehazi, full of avarice and exploitative nature, returned to his master Elisha who asked him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” To this Gehazi replied with a lie, “Your servant went nowhere.” (2 Kings 5:25) Elisha knew that Gehazi was lying and a curse was put not just on him but all of his descendants: “the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” (2 Kings 5:27)
Now, let us look at this story in light of what Christ explained to the Jews in the synagogue. Christ told them that He would be rejected by the Jews, but that there were many lepers in Israel but only one, a foreigner named Naaman, was healed. Naaman was cleansed through the waters of the Jordan; and in this same story, Gehezi, a Jew, exploits the foreigner and for this he and all of his descendants are given the same ailment that Naaman was cleansed from. Christ told a tribalist people that they will reject Him, but that only the Syrian was healed, and rage had filled the synagogue. Naaman’s flesh was cleansed, but what soiled his body now soiled Gehazi. Likewise, Christ came to the gentile to cleanse their souls, but the Jews, rejecting Him, were given a leprosy of the soul.
Elisha healed the foreigner, but Gehazi exploited him. Christ healed the gentile, but the Jews exploited them. The Jewish elites broke divine law when they exploited worshippers in the Court of the Gentiles by making people who wanted to worship God in the Temple exchange their Roman coins with a Temple currency. Currency manipulation was the means by which to exploit people, and what did Christ do? He did not tolerate such evil, but rather He took a whip and drove the thieves from the Temple which was meant to be a house of prayer for all the peoples (Isaiah 56:7), for we are indeed God’s offspring, and in this are we a universal family with no obligation to despotic tribalist constraints. Christ saw the exploitation of the people in the Court of the Gentiles, and saw how they rejected the holy command of do not oppress the stranger (Jeremiah 7:6), He picked up a whip, and as a fighter against systematic exploitation, of racialist scorning of the foreigner as insignificant to the money changing and currency manipulation, He led a cosmic assault on the forces of evil, driving out the evildoers, those who made the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit (Amos 8:5) “Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 7:11) The Book of Jeremiah makes known the holy laws of compassion for foreigners in chapter 7, and makes known how the Jews would make the Temple into a den of thieves, and thus Christ, facing the exploiters, went against those who abused the stranger, who (like Gehazi) exploited the foreigner. Perhaps what is meant by leprosy for Gehazi and his descendants is a spiritual leprosy — a leprosy of the soul — for the Jews who would reject Christ.
This leprosy of the soul was made manifest when the Jews demanded that Barabbas, a Jewish fanatic who murdered a Roman soldier, be freed and Christ crucified. “Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas” (Luke 28:13). There stood Christ and Barabbas, both were revolutionaries; but one revolted against Rome, while the other against principalities of darkness that ruled the earth, against systems of exploitation and despotism. Which of the two revolutionaries did they prefer? The one who appealed to the tribe, to national sentiment and egoism. In the words of Fultan Sheen: “Barabbas appealed to national grievances; Christ to conscience.” (Life of Christ, ch. 47, p. 515).
The Jews chose a nationalist terrorist over the One Who cleanses the leprosy of the soul, and thus they incarnated the spirit of Gehazi, choosing to exploit rather than to purify, with Judas wanting the silver coins rather than the wooden cross, with pharisees and scribes elevating their own power over the Kingdom of Heaven. As Elisha proclaimed that leprosy will be on Gehazi and on his children, the mob that wanted Christ dead cried out, “His blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:25)
Today we see these same fanatics, wanting to divide the human family in the name of patriotism, nationalism or some strange cult of tribe. They will bring up immigration, legal or illegal, as a threat to the existence of the nation, and they lodge in their souls the spirit of those who hated the Roman. They may hate the foreigner, but Christ spoke of the foreign Centurion: “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” (Luke 7:9) They may hate the migrant and carry up a cross in the name of nationalism, but there were many lepers in Israel, and only the Syrian was healed. They may describe sojourners as blood suckers and leaches, but they will ignore the fact that the most valiant battle of the Hebrews, when Joshua commanded the sun and the moon to stand still, was done to defend a Canaanite tribe. They may say that ancient Israel was nationalist, and thus we should be too, but they will turn away from the story in which the only way to end a plague was for King David to make a sacrifice on the land of Ornan, a Canaanite. They may describe certain people has being ‘third world,’ but will such conservatives actually be impacted by the fact that Christ is not a priest of the order of His race, but of the Order of Melchizedek, a Canaanite king, not of the line of Shem, but of the line of Ham, the father of the African peoples?
The advocates of tribalism and nationalism — enemies of humanity — are enemies of the Cross. For rather than accepting that we are all sons of Noah — of the sons of Ham, Shem and Japheth — they take one tribe and elevate him above all, rejecting the universality of God’s Church. But remember the words of the poet: we are indeed his offspring.