October 23, 2014

A Jesus-Shaped Response to Israel and Gaza

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I’m sure many of us as individuals and churches will be praying for the situation in Israel and Gaza this weekend.

It is one thing to express my opinions, “Christian” or otherwise, as I sit in my living room safely, thousands of miles away from a crisis situation in another part of the world. I don’t deny that people in my circumstances might have something worthwhile to say, but my ability to contribute to the conversation with the kind of insight that comes from being intimately involved in the situation will be limited.

On the other hand, the following statement from Bethlehem Bible College in Israel contains an clear sense of credibility. You may or may not agree with its precise wording, but it would be hard to argue that you or I have a better view of the circumstances upon which the statement comments.

First, a little information about Bethlehem Bible College. This is from their website:

Bethlehem Bible College is a Christian college located in Bethlehem, the very site where Jesus was born. Located within the territory of the West Bank, the local community is highly impacted by today’s political unrest and conflict.

It is from the very epicenter of Christianity, that the Christian community is slowly decreasing. Before 1948 the Christian community was roughly 8% of the community in the Holy Land.  Today, the Christian population is a less than 1.5% of the Palestinian community, as many Christians are emigrating from the difficult political situation to better opportunities for education, work, and their families abroad.

Bethlehem Bible College was founded in 1979 by local Arabs, to offer high-quality theological education and train Christian leaders for service in the local church and the local community.  It aims to strengthen and revive the Christian church and support the local Christians in the Holy land, in order to combat this growing Christian exodus.

And now here is their perspective on the current situation in Israel and Gaza, entitled, “A statement by Bethlehem Bible College regarding the current crisis in Gaza,” issued July 25, 2014.

gaza-articleLarge-v2Today God weeps over the situation in Palestine and Israel. Today God weeps over Gaza.  With God, our hearts are broken when we see the carnage in Gaza and in Israel.

We at Bethlehem Bible College consistently called for a just peace for both Israelis and Palestinians. We always sought a nonviolent resolution to the conflict. “All forms of violence must be refuted unequivocally”, stated the Christ at the Checkpoint manifesto. We also believe that as long as the occupation of Palestinian territory and the siege of Gaza remain, the conflict will continue to escalate. To quote the manifesto again, “for Palestinian Christians, the occupation is the core issue of the conflict”.

As Christians committed to nonviolence, we do not and cannot endorse Hamas’ ideology. However, we believe that the people of Gaza have the right to live in freedom and dignity. This means that the siege over Gaza should be lifted and the borders should be open. The people of Gaza need a chance to live.

We oppose Hamas launching rockets at Israeli town and cities. At the same time, we are shocked by the unproportional and inhuman response by the Israeli military and the disregard of civilian life and specially innocent women and children.

We are grieved by the mounting hate, bigotry and racism in our communities today, and the consequent violence. We are specially grieved when Christians are contributing to the culture of hatred and division, rather than allowing Christ to use them as instruments of peace and reconciliation.

In the face of this, we affirm – using the words of our own Dr. Yohanna Katanacho:

We are against killing children and innocent people. We support love not hatred, justice not oppression, equality not bigotry, peaceful solutions not military solutions. Violence will only beget wars, it will bring more pain and destruction for all the nations of the region. Peacemaking rooted in justice is the best path forward. Therefore, we commit ourselves to spread a culture of love, peace, and justice in the face of violence, hatred, and oppression.

We call on all the friends of Bethlehem Bible College to pray for an immediate ceasefire, followed by serious efforts to address the root of the problem not the symptoms. We pray comfort for the bereaved families. We specially pray for the Christians of Gaza, who although are currently under bombardment, yet they are offering shelter and support for the displaced and wounded. We finally call for you to pray for all those – Palestinians, Israelis and internationals – who are committed to spreading a culture of love, peace, and justice in the face of violence, hatred, and oppression.

• • •

Note: Pray for the Shepherd Society – a ministry of Bethlehem Bible College – as we contemplate practical ways to minister and walk along the destitute and displaced in Gaza. We will soon share with you how you can help us respond to the huge needs.

A statement by Bethlehem Bible College’s board of directors, president, deans, faculty, staff and students – and the local committee of Christ at the Checkpoint.

The statement is co-authored by members of a local committee in partnership with BBC, called Christ at the Checkpoint. This is a biennial conference held in the Holy Land that brings together Christians from around the world “to pray, worship, learn and discuss together the responsibility and role of the church in helping resolve the conflict and bringing peace, justice and equality to the Holy Land through following the teaching of Jesus on the Kingdom of God.” The most recent conference was held in March.

gaza-israel_2406235bHere is their ten-point Manifesto:

  1. The Kingdom of God has come. Evangelicals must reclaim the prophetic role in bringing peace, justice and reconciliation in Palestine and Israel.
  2. Reconciliation recognizes God’s image in one another.
  3. Racial ethnicity alone does not guarantee the benefits of the Abrahamic Covenant.
  4. The Church in the land of the Holy One, has born witness to Christ since the days of Pentecost. It must be empowered to continue to be light and salt in the region, if there is to be hope in the midst of conflict.
  5. Any exclusive claim to land of the Bible in the name of God is not in line with the teaching of Scripture.
  6. All forms of violence must be refuted unequivocally.
  7. Palestinian Christians must not lose the capacity to self-criticism if they wish to remain prophetic.
  8. There are real injustices taking place in the Palestinian territories and the suffering of the Palestinian people can no longer be ignored. Any solution must respect the equity and rights of Israel and Palestinian communities.
  9. For Palestinian Christians, the occupation is the core issue of the conflict.
  10. Any challenge of the injustices taking place in the Holy Land must be done in Christian love. Criticism of Israel and the occupation cannot be confused with anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of the State of Israel.
  11. Respectful dialogue between Palestinian and Messianic believers must continue. Though we may disagree on secondary matters of theology, the Gospel of Jesus and his ethical teaching take precedence.
  12. Christians must understand the global context for the rise of extremist Islam. We challenge stereotyping of all faith forms that betray God’s commandment to love our neighbors and enemies.

This is obviously a complex and controversial situation. In my own personal political views, I stand with Israel in this battle and think Hamas has acted provocatively and shamefully, as the terrorist organization it is. Both the people of Gaza and Israel have suffered greatly as a result. However, I detest violence and take my stand ultimately as a follower of Jesus in refuting violent means as a long term solution. I find the statement and manifesto above to be clear in stating a Jesus-shaped way. If they could be combined with sustained, creative, and imaginative leadership and action in working for peace and justice, perhaps we could find hope.

As I write this, I read that Israel agreed to extend the truce another 24 hours, but Hamas is not agreeing. Kyrie eleison.

Comments

  1. If Hamas laid down their weapons, there would be peace.

    If Israel laid down their weapons, they would be destroyed.

    What in the world is Israel supposed to do when hundreds of rockets are being fired at them from areas that house civilians?

    • This is the crux of the problem.

      Palestinians are an oppressed people. But their leadership consists of a terrorist organization, who uses the oppression of their own people as fodder for committing violence. Naturally, being a superior military nation, Israel will crush them as it is fired upon. And this way, Hamas can can play the role of the victim in the global media: “We have no choice but to fight, but it is a fight we cannot possibly win. Israel has bullied us with its occupation, and now it will bully us in the war.”

      Hamas is deligitimizing the suffering of its own people by firing at Israel, because now many people will give attention to Israel’s right to defend itself rather than the actual dire circumstances of the majority of the peaceful Palestinian population.

      At the same time, as the more powerful nation, I think it is up to Israel to initiate the end to violence. But I see the catch-22, because to end the violence is to let a terrorist group remain in power. It is a terrible bind.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Not just a terrorist organization, but a terrorist organization who KNOW God is on their side and God WILLS their Total Victory. With such Cosmic sponsorship, there is no upper limit.

      • Hamas knows that its random rockets are largely ineffectual at inflicting strategic damage upon Israel, so why fire them? The only possible reason is because they know Israel will eventually be compelled to respond*. I can only conclude that Hamas fires rockets from schools, hospitals and homes in hope that Israel will fire back at the launchers and their adjacent civilians, so that Hamas can publicize it as a disproportionate response; therefore Hamas is sacrificing the Palestinian population for the sake of rallying that same population around them (“the enemy of my enemy is my friend”) and so that Israel can be condemned in the court of world opinion.

        * Compelled to respond: If the government does not respond, then (among other things) more radical Israeli settlers will justify their own vigilantism.

      • Israel is a terrorist state. Can’t you judge the tree by its fruit? Are you wilfully blind to the suffering caused by weapons of mass destruction wilfully unleashed on innocent civilians? Can’t you distinguish between “the oppressed” and “the oppressors”?

        http://www.christatthecheckpoint.com/index.php/about-us/manifesto

        I agree that Hamas is a terrorist organisation. That does not absolve the IDF or the Israeli leadership of the inhumane terror they have unleashed on innocent civilians. Anyone who ruthlessly and indiscriminately kills fellow human beings for whatever reason, is not doing what the Lord Jesus commanded us to do.

    • Danielle says:

      You are more or less right in your comments, given the disposition of Hamas. But your statement should also include this gem: without Palestinian resistance, in fact DESPITE this resistance, Israel continues to expand its settlements and has little demonstrated interest in the rights of the Palestinians.

      You make it sound like the Israelis just sit there, looking cute as kittens, and that Hamas exists for sport.

      • Palestinians could build settlements in their own territory but they DON’T. Because no one will finance them? Because they have no money of their own? WHY?

        • Patrice says:

          You might want to read Max Blumenthal for the current attitudes in Israeli populace, which have become increasingly bigoted since the assassination of Rabin. These attitudes have installed and deepened political actions that have kept the Palestinians from making progress (as a people, not talking here of Hamas):

          1. Materials and food “allowed in” are constantly blockaded or limited (which is also what those tunnels are for). 2. Israelis keep dividing properties. 3. Israelis continue to take over properties with their new settlements. 4. Israeli army keeps knocking down properties. 5. The Palestinians are crammed into very small areas and can’t build up because of materials limited materials, and can’t produce food for themselves for same reason. 6. The average Palestinian is 17 yrs old. 7. As to working outside, it is for a hostile populace, plus Israel has instituted long humiliating process for leaving/entering Palestine proper.

          These people have been methodically trapped. It’s horribly sad that the attitudes under which the Jews suffered for centuries are now being held, in milder form, by their grandchildren against others in their own land.

    • Arab Christians are no better to American Christians than black Christians were to white Christians in the South. We’ve long been conditioned to think of Arabs as Muslims, and since all Muslims are dangerous enemies, so are all Arabs. The fact that some Arabs are Christian matters not a whit to the typically dense American churchgoer.

      • It does matter to most American Christians. This thoughtful piece to which people are responding should demonstrate that. One of the problems is that many Americans are unaware of the Christian Community among Arabs in various countries.

        I find it hard to accept the notion that the tunnels are for other than military purposes.

        Kindly remember, Bass, that this was reposted by an American Christian College professor. It was reposted on an American website, Facebook. It is gaining the response of many American Christians.

        Given the chance, Israel would work to help Palestinians to live in peace and prosperity. Given the chance, most Palestinians would kill every Jew in Israel and in the rest of the world. Still, I believe love is stronger than hate, so the hatred of ISIS for Christianity demonstrates the heart of the Muslim world. Throughout the middle east, Christians are being martyred in a new genocide. I pray that it stops. I pray for peace. I pray for forgiveness.

    • #Steve …
      If Hamas laid down their weapons, there would be peace. NO the FATAH will taeover the Hamas government.

      If Israel laid down their weapons, they would be destroyed. OK. Let the Israel stop their aggressive nature..violating International law.

      What in the world is Israel supposed to do when hundreds of rockets are being fired at them from areas that house civilians? Do you mean Israel should kill the innocent too?

  2. Thanks for posting this Mike. I get updates from a friend who is on the ground among Palestinians in the West Bank. He says that many Palestinian Christians feel abandoned and ignored by the global church, and cannot understand the zionistic tendencies of so many believers, rather than supporting Christians no matter the location.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      1) Palestinian Christians are caught in the middle between two oncoming freight trains. To the Israelis, they are PALESTINISAN. ARAB. THE ENEMY. To Palestinian Muslims, they are NOT MUSLIM. THE ENEMY. And in the Middle East, feuds are ALWAYS to The Death.

      2) Thank John Nelson Darby and Hal Lindsay for the “zionistic tendencies of so many believers”:
      2.1) Israel is in the Land. This Fulfills End Time Prophecy to jump-start Armageddon.
      2.2) So Israel Can Do No Wrong. Since It’s God’s Will for the End Times and God is pulling all the strings, any lack of total support for Israel is the Sin of Rebellion Against God and His Perfect End Times Plan. It’s all in Revelation! You don’t want to be Left Behind, do you?
      2.3) Thus Israel and the Palestinians become nothing more than pieces to move around the End Time Prophecy gameboard and checklist items for the Book of Revelation checklist. While “so many believers” live in the opening chapter of Left Behind and Find It All Very Exciting. Any minute now… Any minute now… Any minute now…
      2.4) And They’re All Gonna Burn anyway. It’s All Gonna Burn, while WE the Raptured watch from our catered box seats in Heaven. Any minute now… Any minute now… Any minute now…

  3. Robert F says:

    I wonder what Israel should do about the rocket barrage, instead of what they are doing now; after all, presumably they don’t have an infinite number of anti-missile missiles, or whatever it is they’re using, to shoot down the incoming.

    Any suggestions?

    • Everyone wants Israel to stop what they’re doing. Even Israel wants to stop doing it. But what else can they do?

      Would drones be more pinpoint in their targeting? I loathe the concept of drone warfare but wonder if it would reduce the carnage.

      • Robert F says:

        Israel has in the past made much use of targeted assassination in its war against the PLO and other terrorist organizations, prior to the advent of drones; they were widely condemned for doing so by the international community. There’s no reason to think it would be any different this time.

  4. Dan Crawford says:

    I’ve often wondered what might happen if the wealthy Islamist nations who support Hamas poured their money into the economic development of the Palestinian people instead of weapons. I guess their religion keeps them from doing that.

    • MelissatheRagamuffin says:

      Israel might lift the siege in time if Hamas would chill out. But, their actions allow Israel to keep it going in the name of security.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And Israel’s siege gives Hamas further justification for attacking the Zionists.

        Like the uranium fission and lithium deuteride fusion reactions going synergistic and supercharging each other in the secondary of a thermonuclear bomb.

    • Dan, they DO! But Hamas takes the money and pours it into the extensive tunneling systems and importing military equipment with the sole purpose of destroying Israel. Now, if other nations would STOP giving money and, instead, begin building projects and investing in infrastructure WITHOUT Hamas interference, THEN much suffering would be relieved. BUT…Hamas will not allow that!

      When Israel abandoned its settlement in Gaza a number of years ago Hamas destroyed the resorts on the coast because it was not “Islamic”, destroyed the greenhouses used by Israel to grow food, etc. The clear evil in this scenario is NOT Israels “occupation” of “Palestinian” lands (ALL of modern Israel, according to Hamas) But the belligerent hyper Islamic stance of Hamas.

      But as long as Hamas sticks the world’s collective noses into scenes of poor Palestinians sufferings we will NEVER see peace.

      Remember, Israel is NOT Christian, nor do they live by Christian principals. Islamic peoples are NOT Christian and they, likewise, do NOT live by Christian principals. Both sides share SOME commonalities with Jesus’ words, but in the end they are just as far from the Kingdom as any other non-Christian peoples. To expect them to do otherwise is to live in a fantasy land.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        When Israel abandoned its settlement in Gaza a number of years ago Hamas destroyed the resorts on the coast because it was not “Islamic”, destroyed the greenhouses used by Israel to grow food, etc.

        When I first heard about the Gaza greenhouses, my first thought was “Raid-and-Pillage Tribal Economy”.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Sorry, but they do exactly what you describe. But economic development is hard when a population [the Palestinians] exists in a constant state of blockade.

      • Adam, how well did economic development go BEFORE the blockade? When the ruling class makes military supply the priority then the populace suffers. Palestinians in Gaza have been subject to poverty because their leaders refuse to lift them out of their squalor.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          Or because they are effective quarantined by a state with vastly superior economic and military power. Quarantined by a state with a 24/7 seat at the international table. The dichotomy of power in this arraignment is ridiculous.

          Israel created this problem; the solution, blame, and consequences are 110% is/on Israel’s hands.

          But numbers will solve this problem, eventually. Israel is a small country with a stable and older population. Arab populations are younger and growing. At some point the Israeli regime and its racist policies will simply be unsustainable. Unfortunately it will probably all have to go down in flames before the next order can form.

  5. Unfortunately it is a very complicated situation, with a long history,and violence and bloodshed on both sides. I highly recommend Ari Shavit’s book ‘My Promised Land’ (2013). He is an Israeli, a self-proclaimed ‘liberal’ Israeli who writes for Ha-aritz. The book is a history of modern Israel (from the late 19th century) written through stories of people, and their experiences. It is moving and troubling, hard to put down. It provides insight that I have never seen, and underscores what a complex, and tragic, situation it really is, and how elusive real solutions are.

    Also unfortunate, is that both sides, in both this particular fight, and in the long history of Israel/Palestine, have legitimate concerns, needs, and claims, and these are, in most ways, in direct conflict. That makes negotiating a long-term peace almost impossible, thus the shaky status quo. The problem is, as George Friedman (head of STRATFOR, a company that provides strategic intelligence for companies – Friedman is brilliant, by the way), wrote last week: ‘The problem between these peoples is not that they don’t understand each other. The problem is that they do.’

    • As for history, lets just blame Russians for their persecution of Jews and the periodic pogroms that they inflicted on them. Lets also blame the Nazis and the “Final Solution” that slaughtered millions and further drove the “Zionism” movement. Without those goads would millions of Jews really emigrated to the Levant to carve out a land of their own?

      And while we are at it, why not blame the old Ottoman Empire which became corrupt and sold the land off to absentee landlords who, in turn, sold their holdings to Jews who were immigrating to the Levant. So those Jews improved the land and Arabs moved in for the work provided by the new landlords (as was the case when Ottomans owned the land) and made new lives for themselves, thus claiming that it was THEIR ancestral land.

      As you said, it is a complicated history, but the media, and world attention cannot deal with “complicated”. They only deal with simplicity, and that land defies simplistic explanations AND simplistic solutions.

      Lord, please help your ancestral people find peace. Amen.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        As for history, lets just blame Russians for their persecution of Jews and the periodic pogroms that they inflicted on them. Lets also blame the Nazis and the “Final Solution” that slaughtered millions and further drove the “Zionism” movement. Without those goads would millions of Jews really emigrated to the Levant to carve out a land of their own?

        And would they have emigrated with a Zero-Sum Survival mode?
        Remember the Pogroms.
        Remember The Holocaust, the bloodiest Pogrom to date.
        If THEY win, We Will Be Exterminated in a Second Holocaust.
        The rest of the world sides with THEM. We Stand Alone.
        It’s very easy to slip from “Never Again!” to “Because We’ll Do It To Them First”.

  6. And as for the few Christians left in Gaza, this is how their brethren are faring in another country where this Islamacist movement is taking hold”: Iraq. A quote from an article in the San Diego Union daily this morning:

    “Several San Diego Chaldeans told the same story, of how a woman’s finger was cut off, because in her old age she could no longer remove the wedding ring demanded by the terrorists.

    Ashraf Abdulahad, 32, said his parents fortunately came to see his new baby a few months before the situation worsened, but his sister is in Erbil, a city that is still considered safe. He lost contact with his sister last week. “We are very scared,” he said.

    He summarized the options for Christians as “convert or die.” Or, they can leave and give up their properties. “But we love Jesus more than our house,” Abdulahad said.”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      When the Middle East becomes Christian-free, at least Christians can turn the keys in our nuclear missile silos with an easier conscience.

      • HUG, you are so WICKED! ;)

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          During my time in-country during the heyday of Hal Lindsay and the first BIG flush of Christian Zionism (“Anti-Semitic Zionism” was my term for it), I encountered the “Christians For Nuclear War” attitude. (“It’s Prophesied! It’s Prophesied!”)

          Looking back on those years the End Time Prophecy locusts have eaten, I can see that Lindsay just put a Christianese spin on the near-universal “Inevitable Global Thermonuclear War” trope of the time. And offered an Escape Route where we didn’t have to lift a finger, only keep our noses squeeky-clean and pass the Left Behind Litmus Test. (Any minute now… any minute now… any minute now…)

  7. David Cornwell says:

    The church where I am a member maintains a relationship with Elias Michael Chacour who was Archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and All Galilee of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church from 2006 to 2014. He was a speaker at a lecture series for us a few years ago. Through other means we are in touch often with him and his people. These Christians can offer a perspective that is most often ignored.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      But to American Evangelicals (“Christian without any adjective”), Palestinian Christians are the WRONG type of Christian, and thus Not Really Christian. No Jack Chick tracts, no Altar Calls, no Moment of Salvation/Sinner’s Prayer, no Dispy End Time Prophecy…

      • David Cornwell says:

        Exactly. They are considered cultural Christians, thus not in the “born again” category.

        Barbara Rossing is a Lutheran theologian who teaches New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. In her book “The Rapture Exposed” she states:

        “The fact is that the Christian church in the Middle East is Arab. These Christians are ignored in the dispensationalist script because they do not fit neatly into Darby’s end-times prophetic scenario. ”

        • An excellent point. I have a sneaking suspicion that there is a strong link between dispensationalism and Christian Zionism. I think the former created the ground soil in which the latter would flourish.

          • Danielle says:

            Your sneaking suspicion is dead-on-target.

          • Mule's Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion says:

            I suspect there is a strong link between Zionist Zionism and the spread of dispensationalism. I don’t suspect any conspiracy. Simple confluence of interest is sufficient for an explanation.

          • Robert F says:

            Zionist Zionism? Oh, you mean Jewish Zionism.

            Mule’s Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion? Seriously?

          • Mule's Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion says:

            No. Not seriously,

            …but I do believe that Untermeyer’s support of the Scofield Bible and Bernard Baruch’s financial support of the Niagra Bible Conferences gave pre-millenarianism and dispensationalism a wider audience than it otherwise would have had.

          • Robert F says:

            C.S. Lewis said that there are two equally serious mistakes one can make regarding the subject of devils: To show no interest in it on the one hand, and to show too much interest on the other. I think that sometimes the same can rightly be said about the subject of history.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Mule’s Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion? Seriously?

            More like Israel is in survival mode and looking for allies. By making little hints about Being In The Land, rebuilding the Temple, Red Heifer, and other things that mesh with Dispy End Time Prophecy, they can gain 1000% support from the End Time Prophecy types. (Even though those Left Behind Fever cases care nothing for the Israelis other than as items on the End Times Checklist. They are Zionist because It Fulfills Prophecy and means The Rapture is coming any minute now.)

            Dispy has opened its True Believers up to manipulation by pulling their Prophetic strings. As well as promising that God will beam them up to safety before anything bad can personally happen to them.

          • Robert F says:

            Golda Meir did say something about being willing to deal with the Devil himself….

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          When God had Hal Lindsay on speed-dial, the Russians and those 200 million Chinese provided the Orc hordes for Armageddon.

          After the Second Russian Revolution, Arabs became the new Orcs and Islam the new Mordor.

        • David Cornwell says:

          Gershom Gorenberg in his book “The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount” says that there is danger of anti-Semitism in dispensationalism in that they don’t love real Jewish people. “They love us as characters in their story, in their play… If you listen to the drama that they are describing essentially it’s a five-act play in which the Jews disappear in the fourth act.”

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            DANGER? It’s there in so many words.

            When I first encountered Christian Zionism (back when the Bible had 3 1/2 books — Daniel, Revelation, the Nuclear War Chapter of Ezekiel, and Late Great Planet Earth), I didn’t know its proper name, so I called it “Anti-Semitic Zionism”. And Gorenberg says it as it is.

            And not only do the Jews disappear in the fourth act of said five-act play, so does EVERYTHING else except the RTCs and Jesus. Including you, me, and everything we hold dear.

      • Brother Andrew shares accounts of the life-changing effects the Gospel has on these cultural Christians:

        http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B005X4KYKE/

  8. People in Israel/Palestine who truly want long-lasting peace, who appear to not be represented by any governing faction at this point, are going to have to resort to non-violent civil disobedience if progress is to be made. It will be painful and it will involve further loss of life; but it will work. Indians were freed from Britain, civil rights gains were secured in the United States, and there are scores of other examples of great progress in history through this tactic. The Church is in the position to lead this effort — always.

    Among the tactics: Palestinians who work in Israel will need to not report for work. Traffic will need to be blocked by sit-ins, etc. Sympathetic Israelis will join the effort. It is the only way for peace-loving people to establish a moral high road amid the chaos of hate. It will be hard; but many in the world will be able to come along side if the high road is taken.

    • Tom,

      I wish that I could remember where I read it, but I believe that this has been tried, and it failed. It failed because the protests were broken up violently. IF memory serves me correctly, the time frame was in the very early part of Israel as a nation, about the time when the Arabs were first being moved out.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        It’s “NEVER AGAIN!” vs “AL’LAH’U AKBAR!”

        And there’s only one way Blood Feuds like that can end.

    • Tom, non violence tactics, ala Ghandi and King, only work when those in power are basically decent people. So, in Israel they have a chance at changing minds and hearts, but in Gaza they will only die. And if Israeli hearts and minds are changed, and those of Hamas are NOT, what good would THAT do? Missiles will continue to fly, tunnels will continue to be dug under Israeli borders, and if the blockade is indeed lifted armaments will continue to be imported from Iran. BOTH sides need to forsake violence, but there is no accommodation for non-violence in Hamas’ version of Islam, and Islam, in general, offers only a subservient role for any other belief system.

      Forget the “Golden Age” of Islam when they were in control and were tolerant of Jews and Christians ( a FALSE tolerance, as it were). Those days are gone forever with Wahhabi-ism now the norm in the middle east. Where are the Christian and Jewish enclaves in Saudi Arabia?

      • One other thing: What was the behavior of Hamas BEFORE the blockade? Suicide bombings and Intifada INSIDE Israel’s borders.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > Tom, non violence tactics, ala Ghandi and King, only work when those
        > in power are basically decent people

        Maybe, I am not sure I buy into this reading of the civil rights victories. There was violence in the civil rights movement, and lots of conflict. Neighborhoods burned.

        So you are a leader looking out on a massive peaceful protest – you know that if there is no response, no results, for a protracted period of time… slowly drop by drop frustrated people will move from the peaceful camp to the maybe not so peaceful camp then to the violent camp – if not actively at least sympathetically. The question facing Johnson and others was simple: How long until your cities are in flames? Your systems of commerce trashed? People who flipped positions to support civil rights legislation get no moral credit from me, they just responded to the political and social reality that they could not hold their posts with the current policies. And they tried to cover up cowing to that calculation with moral rhetoric.

        Without Malcolm-Xs would the Kings have been as effective? I ***seriously*** doubt it. Many movements with popular support up against established powers produce no movement. If nobody in a movement is will to use ANY kind of force [including non-violent force - such things do exist] then a movement will get no traction. The Occupy Wallstreet movement is a perfect example of this.

        Aside: the civil rights movement did use non-violent forms of force, such a boycotts, etc… One problem in the massive 21st century world is that many *fewer* forms of non-violent force exist. Corporations and other actors have many more solutions to side-step, divide, and confuse any organized action.

        • Danielle says:

          >Maybe, I am not sure I buy into this reading of the civil rights victories.

          As with all such statements, it is a bit true. But … it’s a might convenient conceit for the former colonialists.

          “Oh, well, dear chap, we just lost India. It’s not because the empire was doomed to collapse, however. It’s because we’re such decent people!”

          • Robert F says:

            Ghandi’s advice to European Jews during the Nazi’s reign, that they should meet their persecutors in the street with non-violent resistance, and overcome them with the force of loving-kindness, certainly was ill-advised and foolish. What was needed, in fact, was a series of actions like the Warsaw ghetto uprising.

    • Thanks to all who have weighed in on this topic. You have provided very thoughtful remarks.

      I’m not convinced that time, technology, and economic structures now overrule the potential effectiveness of non-violent civil disobedience. The British were brutal in their resistance to Indian independence, as were the governing powers in South Africa. For seven years of Sundays the Mothers of the Disappeared, in Buenos Aires in the 70s and 80s, marched quietly for hours in the Plaza de Mayo in defiance of the brutal dictatorship in Argentina. These protests eventually brought down that government. It was people power (not military spending by the US) that brought down the brutal regimes in Poland and Romania and ultimately the Soviet Union, which at that time also had a sufficiently visionary leader in Gorbachev who could see the handwriting on the wall, choosing acquiescence over force to bring an end to the communist system.

      Is all perfect in the aftermath of these transitions? No. Self–governance is hard work and we know today, as we knew in biblical times, that most everyone wants a king instead of their own blood and sweat to make governing work.

      There are truths that come into play when cheeks are turned and vengeance set aside for non-violent protest. Progress and healing occurs. Take again examples of the truth commissions in South Africa and Argentina that set aside the vengeance of justice in order to advance peace.

      People die in actions of civil disobedience, and those losses are not to be minimized. But martyrdom and sacrifice will be necessary, there is no doubt. I believe this to be the only path ahead for Israel/Palestine to move forward positively.

  9. http://youtu.be/HEKwXsmDXOA

    5 min. on “The Middle East Problem”

    “The easiest problem to describe…and the hardest problem to solve.”

  10. Kyrie eleison indeed.

    It is sobering to see the decline in Christians in the area, few people in the US seem to care about this decline.

    I can certainly get behind the manifesto, especially #2, “reconciliation recognizes God’s image in one another.

    I wonder what would happen if reconciliation was tried while trying to acknowledge point number two in the manifesto.

    Kyrie eleison indeed.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > few people in the US seem to care about this decline

      I am puzzled why this specifically *should* be an issue to me? Levels of representation of various groups rise and fall in different regions.

      Many peoples are on the move from one region to another for many reasons. Who wouldn’t choose to move to an area with greater political stability and economic opportunity.

      Cultural compatibility/comfort migrations are occurring within the United States [birds of a feather flock]; obviously for likely less onerous reasons, I would expect to see them internationally at well.

      An interesting question is if Christians have greater migration *opportunity* than other groups? So they leave disproportionally, because they can?

  11. But what do they know? They aren’t right. They just don’t understand. They aren’t us so they can’t.

    – what most americans probably think

  12. Violence is a terrible thing. But unfortunately, sometimes violence is the answer. It should always be a last resort, but peaceful means can only be used with peaceful people. Those hell bent on war and destruction will only be stopped by it.

    • Surely the sermon on the mount was a call to use peaceful means with violent people? Jesus had an army of angels to call upon but instead chose to die at the hands of ‘those hell bent on war and destruction’

      • No, I don’t think so. Think about this: why did Jesus have to die in the first place?

        Aside from that, I really, really doubt Jesus would have objected to going to war against the Nazis. I think he would look at the helpless victims being trampled and approve that somebody steps up to their defense.

        • I have to agree with Miguel here; I can’t see anything in Scripture that condemns violence in defense of one’s neighbor. I see plenty that condemns violence as a means to advance the Kingdom of God. I’m on the fence about self-defense.

          A government has the responsibility to defend their people. This should be done with peaceful means if at all possible but sometimes violence is necessary as a last resort. I don’t have any answers for this particular situation, and I can agree with most of what the manifesto says, but, while I agree that we should mourn over war and its effects, I can’t see pacifism as being a very helpful position here.

    • Just to be clear, I think the Manifesto, the response of Bethlehem Bible College, and my point in using them is not to offer “solutions” to the problems in Israel and Gaza. It is to call the church to a prophetic stance of witnessing to the peace that Jesus came to bring.

      As someone noted earlier in the comments, neither Israel or Hamas come at this from a Christian point of view, and, as governments they will do what they see is best in their own national interests. (Though certainly religious Jews do have the prophets to which they can appeal.) Only the church has the ability to witness to the new creation Jesus came to bring, in which the Tree of Life will bring healing to the nations. The church’s job is not to enact policies, but to speak and act prophetically in Jesus’ name.

      • Robert F says:

        How will the Church do this without being manipulated and used, by one side or the other, to advance their own agenda? Is the Church wise enough to resist manipulation? Is the Church strong enough to resist being used? Is the Church really capable of speaking prophetically anymore (some might ask, was it ever)? There is plenty of reason to doubt the Church’s ability to speak and act prophetically, especially given the fact that the Church does not speak with one voice.

  13. Somebody help me out here with point #12:

    Christians must understand the global context for the rise of extremist Islam. We challenge stereotyping of all faith forms that betray God’s commandment to love our neighbors and enemies.

    Are they referring to something I unaware of? Extremist Islam is no recent phenomenon. It has always been a militant, violent religion, fostering religious hatred, employing violence, and justifying misogyny. What am I not understanding here? I challenge their challenging of stereotypes. Just because not all muslims are terrorists doesn’t mean that it is a religion of peace.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Islam’s always been aggressive with a militant and violent streak, cemented in by the Curse of Runaway Early Success. Just that now the most aggressive, most militant, and most hyperviolent factions seem to have risen to the top and are calling the shots in a lot of places.

      In the old Poul Anderson SF novel The Day of Their Return, the plot centers around a new religion or para-religion spreading in the Terran Empire. At the novel’s climax, the new religion is revealed to be deliberately-invented by a rival alien empire to destabilize and shatter the Terran Empire. The enemy agent in charge even admits the new religion was partially patterned after Islam — specifically being coherent enough in its holy books and core dogmas that its followers will band together in Jihad against all Infidels but incoherent/inconsistent enough that when there are no more Infidels to oppose they will tear themselves apart in infighting against all the Heretics. “Me against my Brother; Me and my Brother, united against our Cousin; Me, my Brother, and my Cousin, united against the Other.”

    • I hired two Arab Muslim professors, both intelligent, diligent, devout, and peaceful. And I would think that the vast majority of Muslims are similar in character to these two men.

      The problem with the Qumran is that it tends to speak both peace and violence towards non-Muslims, and so interpretation often depends on one’s inclination and the environment one is in. For Muslims like the two men I mentioned, who want to work, live and raise their families away from all the conflict of their native Arab lands, they are non-violent and productive people. But for those who live in places where they hear a constant barrage of hatred towards Jews, Christians and Americans the tendency is to focus on the more violent and intolerant words in the Qumran.

      • Right. The vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists, it’s just that the vast majority of terrorists are Muslim. A difficult quandary for the peaceful, to be sure, but the problem is too built into the religion. It has always been a militant faith, from the very beginning, with plenty of fodder in its tomes for hatred and violence. It takes some fairly liberal interpretations to get a truly peaceful message, and even the peaceful ones are not very vocal in condemning violence and hatred in the name of Islam. I think that Muslims in this country tend to lean on these liberal interpretations because, as you said, of the favorability of their environment towards those readings. But I just don’t think that people longing for a truly peaceful religion are going to stick with that one for very long. Like most other aspects of immigrant culture, the third generation wants little to do with it.

        • And because of the Qumran’s inconsistency towards non-Muslims, coupled with a passive response to violence and oppression towards non-Muslims from peace-loving Muslims, there is a cause for concern whenever the Muslim population rises to a particular level of significance, as it has in some Western European countries (e.g., France, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands) where the population of Muslims is currently near 10% and rising.

          The problem as I understand it is a failure by many Muslims to assimilate or even to accept basic western values and norms, and in some instances to insist on the implementation of some aspects of Sharia law.

  14. Robert F says:

    This has nothing to do with the subject at hand, but it provided me with a counterpoint of hope that has helped buoy my spirit this day in the face so much bad news: Today I attended the Baptisms of a young woman, and her seven year old son, into the Church catholic; tears came to my eyes as water from the font was thrice poured onto their heads, and the threefold Name was invoked over them. “You have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.”

  15. RonaldF says:

    It is rare to see a message board that doesn’t denounce Israel out of hand. I too was in favor of Israel giving up land for peace (Gaza). I also knew that only more violence would follow.
    Is there any program available for Palestinian children to come to this country for a while? Our neighbors had two Irish brothers that came to escape the violence of the NRA. One was later shot down, but the younger brother went on to speak the message of peace. As an Irishman, I am so happy that the hatred is slowly going down. It is a hard thing to give up, especially when you have nothing; however, it is a trap that seems to only fade away with age.

  16. Al Streett says:

    Chaplain Mike says it best. this should be the church’s prophetic response. no one expects governments to act Christianly. I deal with this in my book HEAVEN ON EARTH: EXPERIENCING THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN THE HERE AND NOW (specifically the chapter “The Church as a Colony and Embassy”). You can read excerpts on Amazon.