Christian faith and the ‘theology of place’

For several weeks in spring 2022, and then again in the summer, the world witnessed a recurrence of tensions between Israelis and Palestinians over the Temple Mount/Aqsa Mosque area in Jerusalem.

It is not only religious Jews and religious Muslims who feel passionately about control of that specific spot. Even less religiously observant members of the two communities and beyond across both the Jewish and Muslim realms tend almost instinctively to become emotional on this issue with many tying it to political agendas and national priorities.

By contrast, Christians who understand their theological tenets well and are clear about the primacies of salvation taught by their faith cannot allow themselves to be swept up in any such frenzy, for religious reasons.

Nationalist Christian Palestinians specifically who take their faith seriously ought to guard against the temptation of embracing an unqualified theology of place. 

Of course, there were times when sincere professing Christians took up arms and launched military Crusades to “recover the Holy Land from the infidels.” Since the entanglement in the early fourth century of the battered but triumphant Church with a converted imperial order under the emperor Constantine, the advice in the Gospels to leave to each of God and Caesar what was respectively theirs appeared to have been relegated to the backburner while giving way to the rise of theocratic Christendom.  Many centuries later following much bloodshed, confusion, and ruin Christians of all stripes reawakened to the default position laid out by Jesus regarding the separation of the sacred from the profane. 

It is very natural for Christians to venerate space they view as sacred. The term “Holy Land” does carry profound meaning for the believing Christian. Indeed, of the three Abrahamic religious creeds it should be the believers in Jesus before the other two who view with unique awe the places where, according to their faith, God Himself was incarnated as a human person, lived, taught, performed miracles, forgave sins, suffered, died, and rose again on the third day. The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the River Jordan, Lake Tiberias in the Galilee, the Mount of Olives and the Temple in Jerusalem, the Via Dolorosa, Gethsemane, Golgotha, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City, and other places visited by Jesus as the Gospels relate — all these plus countless venues around the world where miracles were allegedly performed by saints through the power of the Holy Spirit have a very special significance for the believing Christian. 


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