What We Believe in the Heart

For many Western analysts, the problems of the world are rooted in the material conditions of the people. Then, some problems are rooted in a sense of the lack of dignity and self-determination. Applying this to the Israel-Arab-Palestinian situation, some look to solve the problem by creating good material prosperity and by giving the Arabs of Judea and Samaria their own state.  While I would not decry the significance of material provision and dignity (see my book Social Justice), this analysis leaves out the most important factor.  It is that war and peace are often determined by what people believe in their hearts.  As the famed psychologist-biologist Bruce Lipton argued, you always act on the basis of what you truly believe in the heart.  What you believe in the heart is often not what you profess with your mouth.   That profession is often just repeating what is socially expected. 


The factor of what is believed in the heart is really what is at the root of so much terrible destruction and pain.  It is also the root of great progress and redemption.  Let’s take a few examples.


What the colonial powers believed about the native American populations, that they were inferior, that they could be enslaved, and that they could be treated as inferiors at every level was behind 350 years of atrocities.  Even the idea of those who were professing Christians, first Spanish Catholics, and then Puritans, the fact the natives were pagan was a reason to mistreat them rather than to show love and care to win them.  The contrast with David Brainard, Jonathan Edward’s son-in-law in the 18th century, who gave his life for them, is great. However, this was due to what he believed in his heart both about the Native Americans and about the Gospel.  How few professing Christians really believed what the Bible taught about all humans being in the image of God!  This implies treating people with love, as ends and not means, as the great philosopher Immanuel Kant taught. 


Antisemitism is a great case in point. It is based on terribly bad beliefs/convictions, that the Jews are evil and worthy of persecution and death, either because of their racial inferiority or because of their religious perversity by which they deserve persecution. All sorts of conspiracy theories are rooted in the belief that Jews are evil.  The horrors that resulted from these beliefs are beyond calculation. 


Then let’s look at the issue of the African slave trade and slavery in America.  Those involved in this terrible practice and system convinced themselves that African peoples were not fully human and were therefore rightly subjected as slaves to white people.  When one reads the writings of southern slave owners and the slave traders, it is clear that there was no heart conviction of the wrong of their practices.  Some did not have real conviction of the inferiority of blacks.   Jefferson knew that his statement that “All men are created equal,” and endowed with inalienable rights by their creator conflicted with his owning slaves.  He submitted to the system despite his misgivings.  Washington also knew it was wrong and compromised like Jefferson.  He freed his slaves at his death.  They needed the slaves for their farms!  We see here that people can be conflicted and act contrary to what they know. This is what the Bible calls a divided heart.  The challenge is to see people have deep enough belief or conviction that is good that they live by what they believe.  However, it is possible to live without deep belief or conviction.  We call this being shallow.  The convictions of the Evangelical Abolitionists were so strong that they organized and sacrificed to eliminate slavery, first in the United Kingdom in the amazing movement of William Wilberforce and then in the United States.  We think of Charles Finney and Harriet Beecher Stowe, her famous clergy relatives and so many more.  Without the Evangelical Abolitionists, it is questionable whether slavery would have ended.  Lincoln told Stowe that her writings caused the Civil War.  Yet within two decades both North and South reneged on the 14th Amendment and allowed the most terrible discrimination and the elimination of equal rights until the Civil Rights Act of the 1960s. 


When we analyze the Israeli-Arab conflict in the Land we see how belief plays out. Most Israelis believe in their hearts that it is necessary to have a Jewish state, a place for self-determination, in the light of the history of antisemitism.   Right-wing religious nationalists believe that only the Jewish people should have a state in their ancient Land that stretches from Hermon to the Red Sea and from the Jordan to the Mediterranean.  They have such heart conviction that they will establish settlements in the areas of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) though they are not legal by Israeli law.  The mandate to settle the whole Land, for them, requires them to ignore human law.


The largest source of conflict in this Land is not that Israel is a colonial imposition on the indigenous population.  First of all, Israel came into existence against colonial opposition. Its first settlements were not under the colonial power of the United Kingdom, but Turkey and Britain only supported the Jewish settling in the Land for a few years after World War I when Turkey lost control of the Land.  Many Arab inhabitants of the Land today are descendants not of indigenous people, but immigrants.  Many have seen over many years that the Israeli-Arab conflict is at root not about material prosperity or dignity but is a matter of heart convictions, and deep religious beliefs.  The idea of Dar Al Islam is that the Land once controlled by Muslims is Islamic land and must never again be ruled by infidels.  This deep religious commitment means that the state of Israel must be forever resisted until it is destroyed.  While poverty might open some up to radical preachers, many of the radicals were quite wealthy.  Witness Ben Laden and the attack on America in 9/2001! 


As an observer of Israel and the Middle East for many years, and more intensively since I became a leader in the Messianic Jewish world (June, 1972) I am convinced that the deep convictions or beliefs held by the Arabs in this land are the primary barrier to peace.  When Mahmoud Abbas walked away from the peace offers in 2007 and 2008, he sealed the fate of the Arabs to not have another state, at least for the foreseeable future.  Why?  Did Abbas share the religious convictions about Dar Al Islam?  It is hard to know.  However, he could rightly fear for his life if he accepted a peace plan that embraced the acceptance of the Jewish state of Israel.  Since then, with Hamas in power in Gaza and a great influence in Judea and Samaria in the Arab villages, it is hard to see a peace plan that could be accepted. A massive change in education and then a change of heart conviction will be needed.  A recent article in the Jerusalem Post from Friday, March 16th, noted the great problem is the deep belief in Islamic Fascism and the commitment to martyrdom in the quest to eliminate Israel.  See the book Islamic Fascism by Hamed. That is what the mini-holocaust of Oct. 7, 2023, was about.  All atrocities are acceptable as methods to destroy Israel.  Until the West sees that the big problem is the belief system and the depth of conviction/belief that motivates Arab Muslims to lay down their lives and commit any atrocities for it, the West and the rest of the world will not grasp the true situation.  In addition, the antisemitic beliefs mean that Jews do not have to be treated as sacred beings in the image of God.  This belief in the Image of God is the greatest foundation of humane behavior.