What is it we are trying to accomplish?
What is the reason we follow Torah as Messiah taught us? Because we know it is the right thing to do. How do we do it? If we are honest, we will recognize that we ‘do Torah’ as a hobby. We may believe it is very important, we may love it but when we boil it down and we are honest, it is like a hobby. We go to our synagogues and bible studies and go on with the rest of our lives just like our non-observant neighbors. Our lives are not really different than that of the rest of the people in our dominant culture. We dress the same, we talk the same, our homes and lifestyle are much the same, many of our values and our worldview are the same. If we stopped doing Torah one day, would anyone notice? Would it make an impact on our lives other than freeing up time?
The fact is Torah is meant to be more than just a religious or scholarly pursuit. Torah encompasses every area of human endeavor; economic, religious, political, cultural, educational and social. We read it and study it knowing that the conditions that existed within the Torah are no longer accessible to us and our understanding of God and what He desires of us is, therefore, strictly limited. Because of this, Torah is treated in a variety of ways. Some treat it as a curiosity, an object of literary or historical significance and little more. Some do it when it is convenient, following the religious commands because they are interesting or beautiful, or because they add something to their own religious experience. Some take it more seriously and have made sacrifices in their lives to keep it as best they could. There is even the occasional group that has sought to go beyond just religion and education and attempted to implement some of the social aspects of Torah in a real community setting. While on a gradient scale the latter may be an improvement over the former, none of these approaches provides the holistic approach that Torah demands and was created for.
Wherever we live we are a small minority people on whom the dominant culture with its values and philosophy press in relentlessly. Very few real communities exist so we are left with a difficult situation in which we are constantly bucking the tide to do what we believe God desires from us. We are often isolated in our workplaces and from our extended families (and sometimes even our immediate families). The only time we get an occasional respite from this ceaseless pressure is when we gather together on Shabbat or in a bible study. If we are fortunate, we have spouses who agree with us and our homes can be sanctuaries for Torah as well but even then the dominant culture infiltrates our home and our minds, corrupting us and our children.
The purpose of the nation of Israel and the national covenant they established with God was for the purpose of creating a society where doing Torah and living righteously would be the rule rather than the exception. It was to be a nation in which the cultural and philosophical pressure would be toward righteous living. A place where the system of justice, the political system, the religious system, the social system and the economic system all worked in harmony to bring about righteousness and prosperity for all. It was not a pie-in-the-sky utopian society but a realistic system based on law and a common religious/cultural bond. It was a place in which children were brought up knowing nothing but righteousness and having no other role models or influences except those who were part of the righteous religious and cultural fabric of the nation.
Many of us have wished such a place existed today. Many desire the current state of Israel to be such a place. It is not and, as presently constituted, will not be anytime soon. Theodore Hertzl and those who followed had a vision for Israel that was not based on Torah or religion but on bloodline and western style socialist parliamentary democracy. Israel is not a ‘Jewish state’ but a state that is made up primarily of Jews. It will take a revolution in that country to replace the secular foundation with one more akin to the vision of Moshe.
Many of us live in a modern, prosperous western democracy. We think it is, or could be, such a place. They will not. Western democracies are based on Christian principles and those principles are hostile to the practice of Torah. We may have off work for Christmass and Easter but most of us know what sacrifices have been necessary to keep Shabbat or the festivals. We have also seen the decline of basic morality within western society and the impact that has had on the rest of the world. The tide of western democracies is toward immorality and socialism. Europe has already succumbed and the United States is heading there fast. As a people seeking holiness and righteousness through Torah and a biblically accurate Messiah, we are a flea on the dog. Occasionally we may get society’s attention but we only have the freedom to do so for as long as the majority grants it to us. As students of history and prophesy, we know such situations do not last forever.
When peoples were faced with such situations in the past, many left the prevailing culture and sought freedom somewhere else. The United States was originally founded by such people. The Israelites left Egypt for the same reason. Countless families and small groups throughout history have sought the freedom to worship God in a way proper to them by moving to a new, unspoiled location and starting anew. Some formed nations, some never grew that large. Unfortunately, that option no longer exists in our world. Every inch of livable land in this world is claimed and governed by some political entity. Therefore, what is required of a people seeking freedom is a little more involved. We cannot do as the Mormons did and move to the Utah territory. We cannot hop on a boat and sail to some tropical island. There is no ‘new world’. We have to deal with the extant geopolitical entities and the structure of the world as it exists.
Is is possible to achieve an autonomous, sovereign state is today's world? The answer is yes. New nations have been created in recent history. The breakup of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan are just a few of the shifts in nationhood we have seen in recent years. Some entities. like Quebec, have not yet exercised that option. The creation of a new nation happens for a variety of reasons. Historical animosity toward the dominate power, a history of oppression, the desire to create a religious framework more in line with the scriptures, whatever scriptures they may be, the hope for utopia, a lust for power, a divergent cultural minority or a hundred other reasons; some right, some wrong. The fact is that as people created in the image of God we are free to determine our own destiny. That includes the right to govern ourselves as we see fit. As people of God, we seek to govern ourselves in a way that promotes righteousness, holiness and prosperity.
You may think that no minority group such as ours has the ability to pull something like this off. Over one hundred years ago, they said the same of Theodore Hertzl. He saw how the Jews as a minority with no political clout in the world continued to experience discrimination and persecution. He wrote and gathered people of divergent groups together for the goal of establishing a place were they could live free from the negative and hostile pressures of the dominant society. To Hertzl, it didn’t matter much where that was in the beginning. But once Hertzl and the Jewish Congress had settled on Israel, people began to go, leaving the relative comforts of western Europe or the squalor of the eastern European ghettos and worked hard to build a life in the land from nothing. Hertzl met with the powers of Europe and the Turkish Empire to secure things from that end. Fifty years later the State of Israel was born. It can happen. If men and women are dedicated and they work hard, anything can happen. I am not even going to question whether this is the will of God. That would be like questioning whether God wants us to keep the Sabbath or believe in the Messiah He sent. Does He want his people to work to create a place where they can follow His will without hindrance? Of course He does. We need to understand that the fulfillment of positive commands and ideals within His word are just as important as refraining from the negative.
So what happens next is up to us. We can continue to live next to the fleshpots of Egypt, secure in our slavery, living in suburban comfort and never see what God can do with a people who are truly united around His word and living it out. Or we can work toward something truly unique and meaningful. The creation of a place where we and our children can live the word of God like in no other. A place where neither our spirits or His are hampered by ideals and values that are inherently hostile to the truth. A place were we are free to live, raise our children, work and prosper without an oppressive socialist government looking over our shoulder. A place that will be a beacon of truth to all the world and a source of hope and pride for the righteous everywhere.
Do You have what it takes to be part of something this big?
What is proposed here is fraught with peril because we are dealing with fallible humanity. The establishment of an organization followed by a movement, the end of which is the establishment an autonomous state is not easy and a wrong turn at any point will result in setbacks or even a disintegration of the process. The people involved in Messianic/Nazarene/Hebrew roots/Sacred Name/Two House organizations tend to be isolationist. Each one has a vision for what a Biblically based Messianic faith is supposed to look like and that vision often leads to intolerance of other viewpoints. Leaders in such organizations often exhibit a mild (or not so mild) paranoia in the protection of ‘their flock’ and will theologically attack people of other groups. Although we all value Torah, we think the way we practice it is the only way and condemn those who don’t do it our way, forgetting that we did not always attain the perfection we now think we have. We value the God of the Bible but we allow arguments over His Name or titles to separate us. We love our Messiah but often let differences over our understanding of Him split us into innumerable factions. This happens at the highest levels of organizations and movement leaders down to individual members of congregations who hold grudges or think less of their fellow congregants because they are not so ‘enlightened’.
What it comes down to is this; all of us have fought hard for what we have. We have sacrificed, we have studied, we have learned, we have given things up. We have a lot invested in what we have accomplished and what we believe. When someone or some organization comes along and questions our conclusions, we feel threatened. We take pride in how far we’ve come and we are not about to admit we may have taken a wrong turn somewhere. In the beginning we all learned, we all absorbed new things and found out some of our most cherished beliefs and assumptions were wrong. While this process may have been painful, we accepted it. Somewhere along the line, however, we became hardened to new ideas. The things we leaned were chiseled into stone and we made them permanent. Our minds that used to be like sponges readily soaking up new living water and squeezing out that which no longer worked became, over time, hardened like ice, rigid, no longer allowing change. Some took their new rigidity and formed new congregations and organizations around their stagnant ideas, building a rigid cage around their ice cube, investing more and making the likelihood of change even more remote. The cage becomes a wall of separation. Behind that wall theological arrows are shot at the other little fiefdoms who are also hiding behind their walls and aimlessly shooting their arrows. Because all these organizations have developed a culture of intolerance based on theology, pride and personality, people with new ideas do not fit in and these little walled kingdoms divide like cells until we have what exists today. Protestant Christianity is one example of this. Among those who value Torah and Messiah, the situation is the same. As such, forming viable local communities that can survive over the long term is hard enough. Putting together a larger autonomous community while retaining such attitudes that will last more than a generation will be impossible.
We all have a choice to make. We can all continue as we have been. We can rule our little kingdoms and watch them divide and break down and reform into new kingdoms and never see anything change. We will never be taken seriously on the world stage, we will never have the impact we desire, we will never see the development of a community in which our children will be protected from all the negativity that exists and nurtured in the Torah environment we have tried so hard to create in our own minds and homes. We will hold onto our pride and our pet theologies and remain alone on our comfortable islands. If this is our choice, our ideas and theology, all our hard work will likely go to the grave with us. Our children will be torn between the work we have done for ourselves to find and implement the truth of Scripture and the dominant western culture most of us are part of that is the complete opposite in every way. We have all see the children of righteous parents choose other paths because our way seemed like too much work, was irrelevant to them, or a hundred other reasons. This also goes for ‘children’ who are new to the truth. I have seen too many people excited about the truth of Torah and Messiah fall back from where they came because small communities cannot give the support and, in some people’s minds, the credibility, to enable them to continue. That is where we are now and that is the path we will follow if we choose pride and pettiness.
There is now another path we could take. Most of us believe that truth, once found, is absolute. We may be in some ways mistaken as to what absolute truth is but we know we have some of it. And we know that truth needs to be presented to the world in a way that is credible and compelling. The basis of that truth is that the Torah given to Moshe contains the blueprint for a life that is pleasing to the Creator and that the man who walked the roads of Judea 2000 years ago, was crucified by the Romans and rose from the dead is the prophet prophesied by Moshe himself. Taking that message and making it credible and compelling has been a real problem. If you are the only person you know who believes these things, you are viewed as a crackpot by most. We’ve all been there. If you are part of a small group that meets in someone’s home, you are an insignificant group of crackpots or perhaps a cult. The Internet has enabled a lot of us crackpots to gain a larger audience but not to establish any credibility. The messianic movement as a whole has sought to make itself credible by attaching itself to a group that already has credibility in the world, the evangelical church. The Nazarenes are attempting the opposite, to attach themselves to mainstream Judaism and share it’s credibility. Neither has worked without compromising the essentials things that make the community of Messiah unique.
What is proposed is not bringing a bunch of disparate groups together as they are now constituted for a common goal. That is a recipe for failure. Perhaps appeals to the leaders of such groups will be counterproductive for this reason. What is proposed is to assemble a group, and eventually a community, of humble men and women who are willing not only to set aside their personal theologies but to hold them up to the light of real examination for the purpose of developing and supporting a community, a physical community, where people live and work together in covenant relationship, a community in which the unity that comes from Torah and Messiah are paramount. A large autonomous community with resources to match will gain credibility.
How do we add to that credibility and become compelling as well? Compelling will be to achieve what the first century followers of Yahushua did, or even the Israelites under Moshe and Joshua or David did. Today no one exercises the spiritual power as consistently and with as much impact as they did. Therefore, if we are honest, we will acknowledge that our pet theologies, no matter how dearly held, have not achieved that end and are, therefore, less than wholly accurate. There are a wide variety of reasons for this. First and foremost is the fact that most of our theology is developed using a worldview and philosophy that is Greek and western as opposed to eastern and Semitic. The way we look at the Bible and derive truth from it is not the way the followers of Y’shua did. This is the major reason for distortion and because we use a western, dualist mindset, such theology results in separation. Another related cause of our failure to replicate the first century community is our reliance on either Christian or rabbinic/pharisaic theology to develop our own. Both of those groups have theology based on a Greek/western worldview and our dependence on it results in the same distortions. Understanding this, we may have a theology and a philosophy that is consistent within itself based on our assumptions but if our assumptions turn out to be wrong, our ideas will not stand. It is time we examined our assumptions and once we have developed a foundation that is accurate and consistent with Torah, history and science we will be in a better position to develop accurate theology and practice that will take us much closer to our goal than our current position.
The key is unity, cooperation, tolerance and patience. The national experiment that was the United States was not the product of one man but a group of men who put aside their differences to create a nation that may not have been exactly what any of them wanted but what all of them could live with. We may come together for many of the same reasons. We are under governmental systems that are increasingly socialist and deny us the economic and religious freedom we desire. We are concerned about our nation’s subservience to the larger world community and what implications that may have in our technologically sophisticated age. We are worried about our children growing up in a culture that is the antithesis of Biblical values and ideals. We want to see our children and grandchildren grow up without the corrupting influences of a secular state educational system or fear from overzealous social service agencies. We have a desire to see what God will do with a people that have no constraints or split loyalties. We want to see what a people and a nation committed to God and biblical principles can do in a world where such things are scarce.
Accomplishing this will take organization and commitment from a wide variety of people. Israel originally did it backwards. They were totally dependant of the leadership of charismatic people like Moshe, Joshua and the judges, and later the kings. We do not want to repeat their mistakes by relying on charismatic leadership. We want to develop a cadre of righteous and committed people who will start the process and then create institutions so the next generation and all generations after that will at least maintain the level of commitment and righteousness exhibited by the founding members.
It will also require us to redefine our understanding of what it means to be a righteous person of faith and how such a person looks and acts. We have been conditioned for so long to act as a small minority within the dominant culture that even thinking about how to act as a majority group, a group with real political, economic and military power is hard to do. Many of us have been conditioned to withdrawal into our little religious worlds and not give any thought to politics. We have been conditioned by the dominant culture and by the influence of Christianity or Judaism to be pacifists. Martial action, either individually or corporately, is not something many of us have ever considered. As individuals and as a group we need to break down the distinctions between these areas of endeavor. They did not exist in ancient Israel. Men of God like Avraham, Moshe, Joshua and David were also trained warriors ready to defend their families, their nation and their way of life. Elders within the ‘religious’ communities were also the communities leaders, there was no distinction between religion and politics. There is no distinction between the two within Torah. Religion, economics, politics and the warrior culture are all intertwined within the fabric of Torah and within the righteous individual. We need to become more ‘holistic’ people. When we exercise our bodies or engage in political activity we are worshipping God just as much as when we are studying or praying. It is time we put away our mentality of powerlessness and exercise the power that comes with being a part of God’s kingdom. It is time we stopped settling for the bones thrown to us by the rest of the world and become the people that God can really use. It is time we learned to use the spiritual power that comes through unity and commitment. Y’shua taught us to pray ‘Your kingdom come’. That kingdom is not going to manifest itself without our work and commitment, it won’t appear among a people in disarray spiritually and physically, it won’t happen to anyone who holds onto his pride.
One of the keys to the success of this endeavor is to balance both the encouragement and requirements of Torah, including the basic religious principles with a society that will encourage freedom and opportunity; economic, artistic and spiritual. The questions of what is to be required of each individual will need to be answered. Will the requirements of citizens and residents be different? Will the punishments of religious violations be different? What type of latitude will be allowed for the various communities that exist in their interpretation and expression of Torah? There is no desire to create a police state where bands of religious fanatics search every home for kashrut violations or questionable reading material. If done improperly, a nation of people fearful of every action or word will result. However, if private Torah observance is not encouraged, the experiment will fail because it will be a nation of hypocrites and truth will not be passed on to the next generation.
The solution as I see it now will be to require as little as possible under the law, leave the Torah requirements that have no punishment or are part of the ‘private sphere’ (niddah for example) to the teachers in the shul, communities and individuals. The government will therefore establish and enforce the most important standards and leave the rest to the individual or local community. For example, the government may mandate that no business transactions happen on Shabbat. It will not, however, mandate the traditions people engage in in their homes or enforce any definition of work within the home. It will be up to the local congregational leader to encourage proper rest and worship practices. I will also expect that people will form local communities and towns of like minded individuals as has always been the case. Israel itself was divided up into tribes that had individual characteristics yet were plugged into the national consciousness through the tabernacle, the Levites and the corporate worship provided by the pilgrimage festivals. These communities should be allowed to establish their own standards of behavior and practice that have the force of law within the borders of their town. For example, if a group finds Hasidic practice valuable, they may establish a town and enforce such practices within their borders. Other groups may establish communities based on a theological idea or practice unique to them. We all should have the right to live in the community that most suits our needs and tastes. After all, the purpose of this project is to establish a place as free from corrupting influences as possible and our town or home should be such a place. As long as the national identity is not sacrificed under such an arrangement, we can all live in peace. Each group so constituted would have a representative to the higher national government where the larger issues that affect everyone will be debated and worked out. There will also be cities, such as the capital, that will be so constituted so as to be free from the specific and unique religious and social rules of the various towns, following only those Torah laws agreed upon and applied by the national consensus. The specifics of this idea will be detailed in another document. It will also be assumed that social pressure will exert a great influence on wayward behavior. There needs to be a balance between the individual conscience, the social pressure brought about by the specific religious communities and the force of law, local and national. By leaving as much human activity as possible under the first two categories we will keep ourselves from becoming oppressive like the Taliban. This is possible because we know that the people interested in such a place will exhibit a higher that average degree of self control and righteous behavior. The key will be to take that balance and make it work over the long term. It will take a lot of wisdom to create a righteous nation that will remain so without becoming either a police state like Iran, or a permissive state like the U.S.
The Morality of Establishing a New Sovereign Nation
For those that live in well established, long standing western democracies, any proposal for the creation of a new nation state is usually treated with skepticism at best. The world as a whole however, sees the establishment of a new states on average, about once a year. The breakup of Yugoslavia into several new political entities, the reestablishment of countries that were part of the soviet empire and the results of numerous civil wars have resulted is the most recent creation of new states. Is this ethical and moral, however? We must explore this question because if it is our desire to establish a new nation on physical territory, that territory must come from a previously established nation. The methods utilized for the creation of any state are treaty, secession, and peaceful or hostile takeover. Are any or all of these means appropriate for our purposes and when? Is is proper for a minority of discontented individuals, whose numbers are too few to effect change or control the administration of the majority (in a democratic society), to break all ties with their government and form a new one. These are the issues that need to be explored as we consider such a momentous endeavor.
We shall, for the purposes of our discussion, limit our question to that of secession by treaty or force of arms for the establishment of the new state, and not concern ourselves with peaceful or hostile takeovers of existing government apparatus. The definition of secession we will be operating under is the desire of a group of people who are bound by a common identity and constitute a majority in a specific geographic location to break ties with the authority that has claims of sovereignty over the land on which they live and form a new nation on that land.
Such action is not usually greeted with enthusiasm. Do modern western democracies have the moral right to suppress secession by whatever means possible? We know that most such nations will not hesitate to use their alliances and force of arms to prevent the establishment of new states, particularly within their borders. Most constitutional democracies are founded on the principles that the power of the government rests with the people and that those people have the right of self determination. That right, however, has it’s limits. America, for instance, is a country founded on secession. Yet the repression of states that sought their own self determination and the dissolution of their ties with the United States was suppressed. Why? Because there is a dilemma within democracy. In a democracy every person, or their representative, has the right to determine the course of the state. Everyone has the right to participate but they do not have the right to opt out. Government by popular consent does not encompass the right to opt out of the system, it only necessitates the opportunity to participate in the process. That participation does not encompass the right to secede. The reasons for this is simple. If every minority seceded every time a decision was made they did not like, the state would dissolve rather quickly. This is where democracy meets dictatorship. Just as a dictator has the desire to keep as much territory under his continuous authority as possible, so a democracy desires continuity of authority and therefore neither will allow any group or individual to opt out for any reason and both systems of government will use force to bring about compliance. A democracy relies on the same power and arguments to keep people under it’s authority as does the dictator, the minority has no more options under one than the other. In fact, if democracy were truly about maximizing autonomy and freedom for individuals, maximizing the possibility of change, it would not be hostile to the establishment of thousands of individual democracies to meet the needs of different groups. This is not the case, however, because democracy is a social structure designed to minimize innovation, particularly the degree of innovation that would lead to secession. Democratic government, while noble in the eyes of those who support it, and historically the form most free from abuses of power, is not a biblically mandated form of government. In the Bible we see a variety of forms from oligarchy to monarchy to democracy to dictatorship. Each one was valuable only in as much as it had the ability to promote righteousness, prosperity and the general welfare. Therefore, just because a government is constituted as a democracy, it’s legitimacy and ability to enforce it’s authority is based not on some divine right or incontrovertible philosophical high ground but on the force of arms, just as a dictatorship is. Therefore it does not have a greater moral right to exist and hold territory.
Every nation as it exists today rejects the right of secession and the creation of new states. But perhaps we should ask the opposite question, does any nation, regardless of it’s form of government, have the right to prevent secession and the creation of another state? Right now there are about 200 nations in the world. Is that enough? Is it too many? Is this the only way to divide up the land area on this planet? Does any nation have the moral high ground necessary to legitimately use force to prevent the creation of a new state on it’s soil or on that of one of it’s allies?
Another way to ask the question is to ask whether any group has the moral right to infringe on the territory of a legally constituted and internationally recognized state and whether such a legal state has any intrinsic moral right to their land. The reality is that throughout the history of the world, people groups have taken the territory of others. Israel did so with the kingdoms in Canaan. The Europeans did it to one another and to other places in the world through colonization and imperialism. The American people did it to the indigenous population and the Soviet Union did it in eastern Europe. The fact is, whether we like it or not, people groups have the right to territory only as long as they have the power to hold on to it. That is accomplished through force of arms, alliances or some combination of both. There are very few nations in the world today that did not displace some other people group to establish their nation. Therefore, the international community has no moral ground on which to prohibit the establishment of a new nation state through secession.
These ideas are all based on the prevailing paradigm that the current states exist under and encourage, a paradigm that says that there should be a limited number of states, that each state should have a universal political process that includes its government and legal system and that any attempt to alter either of the aforementioned points will bear the brunt of legitimate repression. If, however, freedom and righteousness are God’s intention for individuals and nations, the right to innovate and form new geopolitical entities to ensure it cannot be wrong.
What constitutes a state according to current international law?
For the purposes of such a discussion we will use the resolutions passed by the United Nations because of it’s accepted authority by the vast number of recognized nations in the world, without questioning it’s moral legitimacy as a world government.
General Assembly Resolution 1514
1. The subjugation of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, is contrary to the charter of the United Nations and is an impediment to the promotion of world peace and cooperation.
2. All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
In regards to the question of what constitutes a nation, the Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States says;
Article one-The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications;
1. A permanent population
2. A defined territory
4. Capacity to enter into relations with other states.
Number three will be assumed as a constitution is developed, accepted and implemented. The ability to exercise the final point is depended upon the nation(s) with which the state desires relation to accept the legitimacy of the other three. Numbers one and two we will look at in more detail. The size of the permanent population is of little consequence. China has over a billion people. The Pacific island country of Nauru has eight thousand people, Liechtenstein and Monaco have thirty thousand. Territory is equally varied. Russia spans two continents. The Vatican has half a square kilometer, Monaco has two. So we see that to constitute a legitimate state, one needs neither a large population or territory. It is just that both things need to be fixed.