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Israel and United Methodist Whoredom

I’ve always regarded myself as substantially pro-Israel, and often resolutions by the United Methodist Church on this issue trouble me a bit. (For those who don’t know, I am a member of a United Methodist congregation–quite a fine congregation too!) But apparently some people are troubled a great deal more than “a bit,” and can get quite enraged on the issue. The United Methodist Portal responds to this commentary on WorldNetDaily by Joseph Farah.

Now Joseph Farah gets to what I think is his major point–and if it’s not, it’s my major point about him–when he says:

This is no longer a church; it is an organization of misguided political activism. This is no longer a house of God; it is a mad house. This is no longer part of the bride of Christ; it is a whore to the world. [Emphasis mine]

I have to note here, of course, that I might say similar things about an organization like WorldNetDaily, which seems to have made overreaction a way of life. But I haven’t, and I’m not planning to. They can overreact all they like, and I’ll criticize them article by article as I see fit. I have not yet seen fit to read them out of the body of Christ, but perhaps the problem is that I have “lost [my] moral bearings” and am far too tolerant of arrogant windbags.

But let’s go beyond this egregious act of declaring the second largest protestant denomination in the United States outside of Christianity. Let’s also get past the specifics of this resolution. I believe I would oppose the resolution myself. I think divestment is a tool that needs to be used carefully and where it is likely to accomplish something of positive value. Even if one assumes that we should drive Israel to a particular method of maintaining security, and I don’t do that, it is unlikely that divestment from Caterpillar is going to accomplish that goal. Overusing a tool can diminish its value.

Also, while I am very favorable to Israel, I am not unfavorable to the Palestinians. Many Americans have a mental image of Palestinians as terrorists, because so many Palestinian terrorists have been in public view for so long. Before al Qaeda, the PLO was a great enemy. And yet the majority of these folks simply want to live their lives, do their jobs, and have some sort of sense of security. Creating a Middle East policy that ignores them is dangerous. Preaching support for Israel in a way that ignores the value of Palestinians as human beings is also dangerous. We turn a blind eye to actions against Palestinians that we would deplore were they done to anyone else.

But the most troubling thing here, and I’ve seen it places other than WorldNetDaily, is the notion that there is a subject that we can’t even discuss. We can’t even bring up a suggestion favorable to the Palestinian people in certain church circles because just bringing up the subject is taboo.

Note what Farah said:

To say that even considering such an action is hateful, unbiblical, anti-Christian and evil would be an understatement.

Considering a lynching is hateful, anti-Christian, and evil–unless, of course, you consider it and decide that it would be hateful, anti-Christian, and evil to do it. But in this case there are folks who believe that the Palestinians have rights to a home and to some means of making a living, and they think that divesting ourselves of Caterpillar stock would be a way to accomplish that. One might call this misguided. One might call this inappropriate. One might call this ineffective. One might even believe that it is unnecessary or even wrong. Nonetheless it is clearly motivated by some good will, and hardly qualifies as evil. That is, unless everyone who is mistaken is evil.

Having subjects that we can’t even consider is dangerous. We ought to minimize their number. I would agree that deliberating the possibility of assassinations in our church councils would be evil. We should be able to rule that out, at least in the church! There would be a few other things. But the pros and cons of the various positions on the Middle East definitely need to be open for dialogue without calling any of those positions evil or anti-Christian. How about nice adjectives like “right,” “wrong,” “best,” “not-so-good,” and so forth.

At some point things are going to have to change in the Middle East. They are changing; they have changed. We need to have the language of dialogue available in this country and in our church in order to deal with that.

Oh, one thing more. I get pretty angry at the United Methodist Church from time to time. But it’s still my church, I pay my tithes there, I attend there, and I get to criticize. But there’s nothing to make me feel all warm and fuzzy about the good ole UMC than to have some snooty commentator call us “whore to the world.” Mr. Farah–that comment was despicable, and it reflects very badly on you.

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  1. I’m a bit less pro-Israel but I totally agree that the problems in ‘the Holy Land’ (for want of a genuinely neutral term) cannot be turned into ‘Israel good / Palestinians bad’. Western Christians do seem to forget that the Christians who have lived there since the birth of Christ are Palestinian.

    But I see in the comment more of a theological problem than a political one. It’s the great American idea that ‘sin’ has to do only with an individual. The idea that we can preach against adultery or cheating our next door neighbour out of money but if we dare to say ‘God doesn’t want anyone prevented from making a living, and laws that isolate people in walled ghettos are sinful’ that suddenly we turn into ‘politicians’ rather than ‘theologians’.

    Christian theology demands, yes, that we say terrorism is wrong. I think that it also demands that we see that all conflicts have more than one villain and more than one victim. If our ethics are to be worth anything, Christians need to be consistent in pronouncing all wrong actions as wrong – no matter who engages in them.

    1. Pam, you expressed that wonderfully well! We need to see both sides as human beings, and care about what happens to them. As Christians, caring doesn’t stop with individual actions, but carries over into corporate actions as well. We can act as Christians in the political sphere as well as the theological.

  2. Remember, it is nicknamed “WorldNutDaily” for a reason and that article by Farah proves that it is a good fit.

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