Are you a Jewish Christian or a Christian Jew or both?
Are you a Friend of Israel, a Conservative Friend of Israel, a Christian Friend of Israel or whatever?
Are you a Messianic Jew, a Hebrew Christian or Jewish Christian?
What is your primary identity?
The International Development Secretary Priti Patel was formally reprimanded by Prime Minister Theresa May for a series of meetings with Israeli officials while on holiday in Israel. These meetings were not sanctioned by the Foreign Office, but the BBC noted that she was accompanied by Lord Polak, honorary president of Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), described as “an influential lobbying organisation that has access to wealthy party donors” and on the BBC Today programme as “a powerful pro-Israel Conservative lobby group”.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks repeats a joke about an armed paramilitary man stopping a car in Northern Ireland: “In Ireland a gunman stops a car and says, Are you Catholic or Protestant? And the driver says, No, I am Jewish. And the gunman asks, are you a Jewish Catholic or a Jewish Protestant?” He applied this in debate with Richard Dawkins that there are Christian atheists and Jewish atheists, and he labelled Dawkins a Christian atheist, which he later explained to a Jewish audience is because Dawkins described the Hebrew God as the ‘God of the Old Testament’ – a Jewish atheist would not use this term, only a Christian atheist. It reminds me of the common couplet ‘bigotted Protestants and devout Catholics’. Have you ever heard of ‘bigotted Catholics and devout Protestants’, and Gerry Adams always used the adjective ‘the British Government’? These examples show the critical importance of the ‘humble’ adjective in exegesis.
So the battle for accurate language continues, and everyone has a tick list of their various identities.
Just as each person has and speaks many different languages, so each person has multiple identities and they must juggle their priorities.
Dr ‘Rabbi’ John Duncan, the 19th century Free Church of Scotland professor of Hebrew and Oriental Languages at New College, Edinburgh, illustrates this when he said: “I am first a Christian, next a catholic, then a Calvinist, fourth a paedobaptist, and fifth a Presbyterian. I cannot reverse the order.” Some of us could make this list longer, but the point is that each person has such a tick list.
Christians need to remind themselves that their primary identity is not national nor political but Christian. The godly are citizens of heaven. This is why I support the Christian Party in British politics.
17Aug 2021: GB News comment on UK Christianity. For the first time, less than 50% of Britain’s population call themselves Christian.