Blog: The Politics of Hope



My visit to South Africa, part 2: A Moment of Truth for the U.S. Church

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Part 2:  A Moment of Truth for the U.S. Church

The first task of a prophetic theology for our times would be an attempt at social analysis or what Jesus would call “reading the signs of the times” (Mt 16:3) or “interpreting this Kairos” (Lk 12:56). Kairos is actually a moment of truth, of discernment, of discovery. It is a revelation of the reality we live in, of what is at stake and our responsibility in that moment.

Allan Boesak, “Kairos Consciousness,” 2011

A moment of truth

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent appearance before a joint session of the U.S. Congress and the shameful behavior of the members of Congress in rising to their feet 29 times to applaud his radical, intransigent positions should shatter any remaining illusions that peace will come through negotiations under current conditions. Politics has failed to bring about a just peace in Israel-Palestine. In fact, the political/diplomatic process, based on false assumptions (Israel will accept a contiguous, sovereign Palestinian state on its borders; the U.S. is an honest broker to the negotiation process) is itself actively advancing the building of Israeli Apartheid.  There is an urgent need to continue to build the international grassroots movement to delegitimize Israeli Apartheid and to exert economic, social and diplomatic pressure on Israel and on the countries supporting its policies, especially the U.S. Historically, the churches have played a significant role in creating political and social change through movements of nonviolent resistance. Examples of this in recent history are the U.S. Civil Rights movement, organized opposition to the Vietnam War, and the movement to end Apartheid in South Africa.

Our situation today is strikingly similar to that faced by a group of South African pastors and theologians confronting the intransigence of the South African government in ending Apartheid. In 1985, they sat down to compose a historic, prophetic document. It had been a long journey to reach that point — the result of a struggle of the churches in South Africa to come to terms with their silence and their sometimes active complicity with the system that had poisoned and brutalized their society. By 1985 the church had finally arrived at a place from which there was no escape, no compromise, and no way back.  The authors of the South Africa Kairos document articulate this in their preamble (passages from the document appear in italics):

We as a group of theologians have been trying to understand the theological significance of this moment in our history. It is serious, very serious. For very many Christians in South Africa this is the KAIROS, the moment of grace and opportunity, the favorable time in which God issues a challenge to decisive action… A crisis is a judgment that brings out the best in some people and the worst in others. A crisis is a moment of truth that shows us up for what we really are. There will be no place to hide and no way of pretending to be what we are not in fact. At this moment in South Africa the Church is about to be shown up for what it really is and no cover-up will be possible… It is the KAIROS or moment of truth not only for apartheid but also for the Church.

Like South Africa in the 1980s, suffering under four decades under the Apartheid regime, the situation in the Palestinian territories after over 40 years under military occupation is serious, very serious. For Israel and the entire civilized world, entering the seventh decade of refugee status for the now five million descendants of the Palestinians displaced by the establishment of the State of Israel, there is no longer any place to hide.

The American context

The situation in Palestine has created this moment of truth for the church on a global level, but churches in different geographical regions face differing contexts, necessitating different Kairos agendas. The context for the Palestine Kairos document is military occupation and the implementation of an apartheid system of dispossession, discrimination and control over all aspects of Palestinian civil society. The context for the Southern Africa Kairos is (1) solidarity with Palestinians living under this apartheid system and (2) the need to unify and energize the church in South Africa by taking on the Palestinian cause. The U.S. context is multifaceted and compelling.  It includes: (1) U.S. responsibility for financing the building of Israeli Apartheid and for shielding Israel from accountability in the international arena, (2) the American church’s acquiescence with our government’s support of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians, (3) theological support (along a spectrum of conservative, mainstream and progressive theologies) for a superior Jewish claim to the land and the right to expel and/or exert political dominance over non-Jewish inhabitants, and (4) the American church’s renewal movement — its quest to return to the fundamental principles of Christianity.

“The favorable time” is now. The Palestinian Spring has arrived in the form of the Nakba Day protests, the Fatah-Hamas unity deal in Cairo and the upcoming United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood. These events unfold against the backdrop of the 2005 Palestinian call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions, the Palestine Kairos document of 2009, the 2011 Kairos Southern Africa endorsement of Kairos Palestine, the recent popular uprisings throughout the Arab world, and the growing awareness throughout the U.S. churches of the need for education and direct action to bring about a peace based on justice. The Palestinian and South African Kairos documents provide examples for the American church of what it means to take a clear stance on the theological unacceptability of any ideology, theology, or legal system that that grants the members of one group dominance over another. The parallel to our situation is the sham of the U.S.-sponsored “peace process” and the myths that support it, such as the picture of an Israel that makes “generous” offers – offers that serve only to further its colonialist aims. The implications of this are as clear and inescapable for the U.S. church as they are for Palestinians living under occupation today and as they were for the South Africans three decades ago. Any theology and course of action (or inaction) that supports the oppression of an illegitimate regime has to be replaced with an alternative theology and course of action.

Activity within the American church in support of the Palestinian cause is not new. It has been going on for decades, at local and denominational levels, through educational programs, peace pilgrimages, connections with Palestinian and Israeli civil society organizations, and most recently through boycott and divestment initiatives. However, apart from the work of local taskforces and denominationally-based groups devoted to the cause of Middle East peace, a coordinated, ecumenical effort by the American church as a whole has been lacking. Churches for Middle East Peace is an ecumenical organization dedicated exclusively to this issue, but there is a growing awareness that CMEP’s cautious agenda, limited to legislative advocacy, falls short of the activism needed to meet this Kairos moment. It is time for the U.S. church to takes its place alongside the Palestinian, Southern African, and nascent European and Asian Kairos movements.

Lessons from 1985:  A primer in “Church theology”

Although both the Palestinian and South African documents need to be studied by American Christians, the 1985 South African document, with its focus on church complicity, provides a particularly useful set of guideposts for the U.S. church. To be sure, there are differences in the historical situation and in the particular configuration of the challenges – indeed, South African colleagues tell me that what we are facing now makes their past struggle look like child’s play. But the core issues of complicity and responsibility, and the perfect storm of theology, ideology and civil religion that support the continuation of an oppressive system are startlingly similar.

The heart of  the South African document is its analysis of what it calls “Church Theology:” that is, a theology and set of attitudes, opinions and assumptions that are employed by the church to maintain the status quo and to directly and indirectly support immoral government policies. Church theology tries to create the appearance of opposing injustice and oppression. In reality, however, it is devoted to shoring up the very system that perpetrates the evil:

‘Church Theology’ tends to make use of absolute principles like reconciliation and non-violence and applies them indiscriminately and uncritically to all situations. Very little attempt is made to analyze what is actually happening it our society and why it is happening…Closely linked to this is the lack of an adequate understanding of politics and political strategy.

The document identifies three such “church opinions” or assumptions: reconciliation, justice, and non-violence.

Reconciliation

‘Church Theology’ often describes the Christian stance in the following way: “We must be fair. We must listen to both sides of the story. If the two sides can only meet to talk and negotiate they will sort out their differences and misunderstandings, and the conflict will be resolved.

The fallacy here is that ‘Reconciliation’ has been made into an absolute principle. But there are conflicts where one side is a fully armed and violent oppressor while the other side is defenseless and oppressed. To speak of reconciling these two is not only a mistaken application of the Christian idea of reconciliation, it is a total betrayal of all that Christian faith has ever meant.

In our situation in South Africa today it would be totally unchristian to plead for reconciliation and peace before the present injustices have been removed…No reconciliation is possible in South Africa without justice …

This analysis goes to the heart of the problem when applied to the Israel/Palestine conflict. One of the most striking features of the discourse about Israel/Palestine in the United States is the preoccupation with the need for a “balanced” perspective. Here is how this typically plays out:  you may not talk about house demolitions, humiliation at checkpoints, restrictions on movement, the death of innocent civilians, targeted assassinations, or any other examples of Palestinian suffering, without presenting what is usually termed the “other side.” The “other side” is the recognition of the suffering of the Israelis, who have endured five wars, terrorist attacks, and the sense that they are surrounded by implacable enemies. (The fact of Israelis’ fear of annihilation is not in dispute. The question of the reality of the threat, however, is relevant.  Ira Chernus takes up this issue in his recent piece in The Nation, “The myth of Israeli vulnerability”). You may not talk about the dispossession of the Palestinians to make way for the Jewish state without noting historic Jewish suffering or the displacement of Jews from Arab countries. On its face, this seems fair. But in the current discourse, the demand for “balance” is not about being fair. Rather, it is used to blunt scrutiny of those actions of Israel that are the root cause of the conflict. As the South African document so effectively sets out, appeals here to principles of “reconciliation,” “dialogue” and “balance” serve not to advance but to obscure the issue of justice. The example of South Africa clearly demonstrates that it is only when the structures of inequality and discrimination have been removed that activities devoted to reconciliation between the parties can be undertaken.

Justice

The very serious theological question is: What kind of justice? An examination of Church statements and pronouncements gives the distinct impression that the justice that is envisaged is the justice of reform, that is to say, a justice that is determined by the oppressor, by the white minority and that is offered to the people as a kind of concession. It does not appear to be the more radical justice that comes from below and is determined by the people of South Africa.

There have been reforms and, no doubt, there will be further reforms in the near future. And it may well be that the Church’s appeal to the consciences of whites has contributed marginally to the introduction of some of these reforms. But can such reforms ever be regarded as real change, as the introduction of a true and lasting justice.

True justice, God’s justice, demands a radical change of structures.

Reform was a major issue for the anti-Apartheid struggle. The offers of reform by the Pretoria government, coming too little and too late, mirrored for the authors of Kairos South Africa the attempts of some of the churches to enact superficial changes that did not address the underlying racial inequalities built into church practice and by which the churches continued to support racist government policies. In similar fashion, “progressive” thinkers among Jews disturbed by Israel’s behavior attempt to find ways to remove or remediate the most egregious and blatant aspects of Israeli policy. These efforts, however, do not address the root cause of the abuses, which arise inevitably from the attempt of Israel to maintain a Jewish majority and to continue Jewish rule over a diverse population. In similar fashion, church bodies attempt to find ways to “balance” or soften the prophetic witness to Palestinian suffering in order to deflect or avoid opposition by Jewish groups and groups within the churches who brand any criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism.

Non-Violence

The problem for the Church here is the way the word violence is being used in the propaganda of the State. The State and the media have chosen to call violence what some people do in the townships as they struggle for their liberation i.e. throwing stones, burning cars and buildings and sometimes killing collaborators. But this excludes the structural, institutional and unrepentant violence of the State and especially the oppressive and naked violence of the police and the army. These things are not counted as violence… Thus the phrase ‘Violence in the townships’ comes to mean what the young people are doing and not what the police are doing or what apartheid in general is doing to people.

In practice what one calls ‘violence’ and what one calls ‘self-defense’ seems to depend upon which side one is on. To call all physical force ‘violence’ is to try to be neutral and to refuse to make a judgment about who is right and who is wrong. The attempt to remain neutral in this kind of conflict is futile. Neutrality enables the status quo of oppression (and therefore violence) to continue. It is a way of giving tacit support to the oppressor.

The parallels are obvious. Israeli state terrorism is contextualized as self-defense.  Palestinian resistance is framed as terrorism.  Again, Ira Chernus’ recent piece in The Nation is instructive.

The challenge to the American church

The South African document arose from a context of a church – black and white, theologians, pastors and lay leaders – acknowledging its complicity with a tyrannical regime. The document points out that the Bible is very clear about regimes that violate fundamental principles of justice and equality. “A tyrannical regime,” it states, “has no moral legitimacy. It may be the de facto government and it may even be recognized by other governments and therefore be the de jure or legal government. But if it is a tyrannical regime, it is, from a moral and theological point of view, illegitimate.” Thus the church saw no alternative but to oppose the regime itself as unreformable, and to challenge the “church theology” that supported the illegitimate system.

This is where the U.S. church finds itself as it witnesses Israel’s ongoing dispossession and oppression of the Palestinians. It has become increasingly clear that Israel’s goal is not a sovereign and independent Palestine, but the continued colonization of Palestinian lands, the subjugation of its people, and the blocking of any prospect of return for refugees. Like the South Africans in 1985, we are looking today at an Israeli government that has shown itself to be illegitimate according to fundamental religious and humanitarian principles as well as standards of international law. It is the policies themselves, and the government that implements them, that must become the focus of church activity. In the South African case, an appeal to the governments of the world to employ sanctions against the South African government became an increasingly important component of the anti-Apartheid movement. In our U.S. case, it is particularly clear that besides holding Israel itself accountable, we must confront directly our own government’s key role as a supporter of Israel’s illegal, self-destructive and dangerous policies. As was true in the South Africa case, the stakes are very high. The moral imperative for Christians and for all people committed to peace and to social justice is powerful and increasingly urgent:

A tyrannical regime cannot continue to rule for very long without becoming more and more violent. As the majority of the people begin to demand their rights and to put pressure on the tyrant, so will the tyrant resort more and more to desperate, cruel, gross and ruthless forms of tyranny and repression. The reign of a tyrant always ends up as a reign of terror.

The South Africa Kairos document was the product of decades of a church struggle to claim its prophetic heart. The U.S. church is now engaged in a process to remain faithful to its core principles. The time has come to name the struggle and to take sides. It is the choice between conservative theologies that hew to exceptionalist doctrines that pervert the words of scripture into supporting oppression, land taking, and even genocide, and a movement of renewal and return to core values of universalism, social justice, and human dignity — the building of the Kingdom of God here on earth. It is the choice between following denominational hierarchies and cautious clergy more concerned with maintaining church structures, protecting funding sources and preserving relationships with the American Jewish establishment, and following the example of the early church in taking a prophetic stance against injustice. The challenge to the U.S. church is as clear as that faced by the South African church three decades ago. Contemporary theologians, historians and social critics have observed that the religious exceptionalism that is the legacy of our Puritan past is being enacted in our support of Israel. They point to how the current dominant American metanarrative driving the “war on terror” interlocks with the metanarrative of a democratic Israel defending itself (and us) from the implacable hatred of an enemy who embraces a false religion committed to hatred and destruction. They point out the parallels to the first century, when a visionary and iconoclastic Palestinian Jew challenged the oppressive political order of his time (represented by the Temple in Jerusalem), calling instead for a Kingdom based on compassion and social justice.

The argument is made that the situation is complex, the relationships multifaceted and fraught with history, and that the conflicts between equally justifiable “claims” or “rights” create ambiguities and conflicting courses of action. Kairos –a moment of truth, of discernment, of discovery” — cuts through these intellectual confusions and moral snares. Status confessionis, as American theologian Robert McAfee Brown has written — a confessional situation — is a time when “the issues are so clear, and the stakes are so high, that the privilege of amiable disagreement must be superseded by clear-cut decisions, and the choice must move from ‘both/and’ to ‘either or.’” The Palestinian document is a cry of pain and a call to action. The South African document holds up a mirror to our complicity and to our responsibility to core principles of faith and humanity.  The church is called – along with those from other faith traditions and the peace community who join it in this struggle.

Here we stand.

13 Comments »

  1. eileen fleming said,

    June 19, 2011 @ 7:41 am

    Israel’s statehood was contingent upon upholding the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and as a Member State, America is obligated to hold all other Member States to it.

    For we Christians “Acknowledging [our] complicity” is the best Confession we could make for Jesus taught that what ever we do- or do not do-unto the least, the outcast: we do it or not unto the Lord.

    If we truly love our friends we will tell them the truth as Archbishop Desmond Tutu said:

    “Israel will never get true security and safety through oppressing another people. A true peace can ultimately be built only on justice…the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about.”

    Referring to Americans, he added, “People are scared in this country to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful—very powerful. Well, so what? The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists.

    “If peace could come to South Africa, surely it can come to the Holy Land.”

  2. John Kleinheksel Sr said,

    June 19, 2011 @ 1:07 pm

    Dear Mark,
    What is not clearly stated is a ringing call for BDS, boycotts, disinvestments and sanctions. I think that is what you are asking “the American churches” to undertake. It seems that only this action got the attention of the Dutch Reformed leaders of the Apartheid regime. They saw “the handwriting on the wall” (the prophecy of Daniel in the OT), and dismantled the policy.
    Unfortunately, these were blacks, coloreds and “whites” from the same “Christian” background. Jews, Christians and Muslims, though “children of Abraham” (with a common father), have long centuries of animosity, distrust and conflict. We need more studies on how Abraham acted among the “people of the land” (I have such a study of Genesis 23, for example).
    I’m not suggesting BDS is the wrong route to take, I just suggesting that attitudes must slowly evolve, making room for “the other”, if true progress is to be made. JRK

  3. Mark Braverman said,

    June 19, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

    John,

    Sanctions were indeed the action that ultimately made the difference in the South Africa case. And I believe that BDS is already and will increasingly become a key component in the political changes that will have to take place in order to bring about a peaceful resolution. There is no doubt — and I point out in the posting that my South African friends have said this to me — that the opposition to sanctions against Israel, in their varied forms, can be expected to be stronger than it was in the South African case. No one, outside of some Afrikaners themselves, believed that Afrikaners had a right, either biblical or historical, to subjugate non-whites in South Africa, and there was little sympathy for Apartheid to be found anywhere in the world. Clearly this is not the case with Israel. This will take time, as you suggest, and, as you also suggest, focussed work to unpack the theological issues.

  4. eileen fleming said,

    June 19, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

    Unpacking the theological issues is what “Beware Of: Bachmann, Palin and Religion in Politics” @ http://wearewideawake.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2097&Itemid=247 is about

  5. eileen fleming said,

    June 19, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

    Why is it that “attitudes must slowly evolve, making room for “the other”, if true progress is to be made.” ?

    After 63 years of injustice the “fierce urgency of now” [MLK, Jr.] should behoove all people of conscience to bombard the White House and their Congressional reps to END THE OCCUPATION of Palestine and hold Israel to it’s promises:

    “On the day of the termination of the British mandate and on the strength of the United Nations General Assembly declare The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion it will guarantee freedom of religion [and] conscience and will be faithful to the Charter of the United Nations.” – May 14, 1948. The Declaration of the Establishment of Israel

    Israel’s statehood was contingent upon upholding the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS.

    As a Member State the USA is obligated to hold all other Member States accountable, so WHY aren’t we focused on that?

  6. Elizabeth Bishop-Martin said,

    June 19, 2011 @ 6:12 pm

    You are so right about Netanyahu and his presentation before the US Congress. I found the behavior on both parts: Netanyahu’s and Congress, shameful. I have written one congressman concerning this and have a series of emails where he defends Netanyahu and Israel. He makes the claim that if Hamas will only accept and proclaim acceptance of Israel (as a Jewish State) they will have successful negotiations. He is either terribly misinformed or naive.
    In the process of our email conversation, he constantly refered me to the Quartet and assured me that it was Hamas that must conform. Not true. I Googled the Quartet and found that there are as many requirements for Israel as for the Palestinians. Unfortunately, the demands on Israel get lost and we all saw what happened when our President brought them forward.
    The Quartet clearly states that both parties are subject to The Fourth Geneva Convention, UN Res. 242 and 338 plus about 6 more that all refer back to 242 and 338. Both the Road Map and the “Arab Peace Initiative” do likewise. From the beginning of this round of futility in March of 2006, Israel was told to remove all the outposts, disband settlements and define borders. Both parties are rightfully told to cease the violence (unfortunately this wasn’t explicitely spelled out in the info I found) and the Palestinians were lauded for the economic progress they have made in the West Bank.
    I have also been torturing myself by reading Stephen Zunes 2003 book, “Tinderbox.” In it he spells out the convoluted way we hand out money. Three Billion a year is just the beginning. What we may have thought to be loans have been altered to be GRANTS.
    But I assume you all are aware of these things. Where Israel is concerned, our Congress and, unfortunately, much of the Executive Branch as well, prefer to drink the kool aid offered by Israel and AIPAC.
    I believe we must have a letter writing campaign to our Congress and President to let them know that we, the people, are fed up with this shell game.
    It is clear to me that the United States and Israel do not have the will to broker a fair and lasting peace.

  7. Patricia Pynchon said,

    June 19, 2011 @ 9:10 pm

    Each member of The congregations of every Christian church in the country must let their representatives know that they want justice for the Palestinians. It is obvious that the Israeli governmen does not, and that with over 200 nuclear bombs, they have no reason to fear not being secure. They rationalize constantly, and try to make people feel sorry for poor little Israel surrounded by hostile Arab States. Their oppression and unilateral sadism towards Palestinians is not to be excused, they no longer are a weak Israel, having been strengthened with 3 billion a year for 40 or 50 years including weapons, they have become the terror of the region, and are now capable of exerting their power.. I think every single church member should insist to their congress person that they deal with Israel to force it to make peace and perform justice towards the Palestinians. There are 5 million Jews in the U.S., how many Christians or others.?
    I write my congresspeople all the time for all the good it does, and I am really a humanist who thinks of Jesus as the first real humanist, but REAL Christians, who follow the teachings of Christ, how can they sit back and not take some action ? How can a real Christian tolerate this situation which is so immoral?

  8. Marilyn Sutton Loos said,

    June 19, 2011 @ 9:38 pm

    Reply to Mr. John Kleinheksel Sr,

    You refer to the Children of Abraham, Christians, Muslims and Jews, having centuries of animosity, distrust and conflict. It is time we learned the history of cooperation between Arabs and Jews for seven centuries in Andalusia (Spain). After the Christian monarchs took over and expelled the Jews, where did they go? Large numbers went to the Ottoman Empire, where they knew they would be protected, or a least tolerated, as People of the Book, as they had been during those seven centuries under the Umayyad rulers of Andalusia. I have not been proud of Christians’ role through the centuries in stirring up the animosity, distrust,and conflict, especially of the past century.

  9. Carolyn Harris said,

    June 19, 2011 @ 11:52 pm

    Hi Mark:

    Thanks for the input and background from Kairos South Africa. The main thing is to embrace justice first as Nain Ateek wrote in his first book. When there is justice there will be no need for violence. Reconciliation comes after justice is established as in South Africa with the Truth and Reconciation Commission which gave the oppressed and the oppressors a chance to tell the truth and be reconciled. Americans are so used to thinking that a “conflict” means the sides are equal and threfore we must always be “balanced.” I still remember Jeff DeYoe saying last fall that Christians are not called to be balanced. We are called to be faithful to the justice that Jesus called us to. There is no equality of power between Israel and the Palestinians and the 1967 borders are definitely defendable by Israel. Christians in the US need to be told the truth about what Israel is doing. They should be horrified.

    Carolyn

  10. Edwin Arrison said,

    June 20, 2011 @ 9:38 am

    I am very encouraged by the comments to this post. In South Africa, during the darkest days of apartheid, some “white” churches put up posters on their noticeboards with the words ALL PEOPLE ARE WELCOME HERE. Imagine churches in the USA did something similar eg. WE SUPPORT KAIROS PALESTINE or a board at Christmas that says JESUS WAS BORN IN BETHLEHEM IN PALESTINE. If this is an ecumenical initiative, all mainline churches can start doing this and this would definitely get people to start asking questions. Also all pilgrimages to the Holy Land must be done in conjunction with Palestinian Christians (contact rami@atg.ps for help with this). A simple prayer every Sunday (We pray for the peace of Jerusalem – with a pause afterwards) will also help. These and other actions (constantly writing letters to your congressmen and women) will begin to demonstrate a deep theological truth: the Holy Spirit is present and active amongst her people and no-one can stop that movement. Eventually it must lead to other actions (BDS) and people putting their bodies on the streets, perhaps an “American spring”?

  11. Elizabeth Bishop-Martin said,

    June 20, 2011 @ 5:41 pm

    I need to make a correction to my post of 6/19/11 at 6:12. The initial date for withdrawal of outposts should be March 2001, not 2006 as stated.
    In addition, I too am tired of the excuses people have for defending Israeli brutality. There are basically two with several variations: 1) the Jews have had such a hard time…, 2) I have a lot of Jewish friends.
    No point in asking how this should allow them to abuse Palestinians who had little or nothing to do with either of those. All you get is a blank stare, even from people who know better.
    Then there are the people who are in agreement but will not act.

  12. Jim Ray said,

    June 21, 2011 @ 2:50 pm

    Mark,
    Thanks again for your insightful perspective which helps us Christians see very clearly the task that lies before us and our congregations and denominations. Our problem is that far too few clergy are willing to preach on this and thus congregations do not get involved in the struggle to confront the “powers that be”, both religious and political. But as someone once said, “not to decide is to decide”.

    As I note a new “peace flotilla” will soon be on its way to Gaza, and with it will be an American ship, including a number of American Jews, who are bravely sending [and bringing] a message to the Palestinians and to Israel. Most of us cannot undertake such a venture but we can speak up. We need a way to organize our efforts so that a more massive call for justice can be seen and heard. perhaps there is no better time than now as we enter the frantic days of a political campaign which when it is over will not have addressed this issue. What if all of we who care about a just peace for the Palestinians, knowing that includes safety for Israel, will go on record saying we will not participate as voters in the next federal election, unless there is assured movement on a just resolution of this grievious issue.

    We need to do more than just talk, though I am grateful for all the sharings on this blog. Without all of you who care so much about our sisters and brothers there in Palestine we would have no hope. But with us there is hope but some thing has to happen on the ground. Thanks to all of you and to our brother Mark.

    Jim

  13. Donna Barten said,

    July 23, 2011 @ 10:57 am

    Mark thank you for wonderful parallels you drew between South African Kairos and Palestinian Kairos and for reminding Christians that we can get confused with our desire to be fair and just and to focus on reconciliation. I know that I will be able to use some of this with other Christian friends I am dialogue with that have issues with some of this. Thank you to the others for their comments about writing to the President and our Congressmen on a regular basis. I agree that all of that is important because in the end it will be the politicians that will make the laws and political agreements that will allow a final and just peace settlement to happen. Unfortunately there are not enough people that would like this to happen, so part of what we need to do is to mobilize the strength and passion of the American Church for this purpose.

    After attending the CMEP conference this year (yes I agree that they are mild mannered and very small), I did a presentation at my church about the meeting as an entry way to get people involved. I listed the size of the email list, and number of Washington Meeting attendees for AIPAC (>500,000/ 7500+), Christians United for Israel (60,000/ 4500), J Street (170,000/ 2000+) and Churches for Middle East Peace (17,000/ 200) to give them a feeling for how lobbying efforts are playing out in Washington on this issue. You can look at that list and feel hopeless. Christians who want to work for peace are a tiny minority. Or you can look at that list as a challenge. You can say to yourself, there are more Christians in this country than of any other religion, and most Christians are not Apocolyptic Evangelicals. So, Christians who want peace or who would want peace if they knew about it or were moved past inaction are actually the majority. We should work to mobilize that group. When I then reminded our group of one of our Episcopal confessional prayers

    “We confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; and we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.”

    there was a gasp, a recognition of things left undone and a resolution to do them. They eagerly wrote down the links to contact their President and Congressmen, read more about it (Marks book was on the list), and get on the CMEP email list so they can stay informed.

    I think there is a role for CMEP in the struggle to educate the American public, but that they are not going to be the only ones or the source of a successful BDS campaign. I am now coming to believe that BDS will be likely be necessary as another means of pressuring the politicians, since they are more likely to listen to business people whose wallets are being affected.

    Thank you Mark for your strong voice to help American Christians wake up and make their voices heard for the injustices that are occurring in the Occupied Territories.

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