Friday, November 21, 2008

Ref. Church in America Gen. Sec. Weighs In

New friend Vern Hoffman pointed out Wes's article in the December Sojourner's Magazine, Discoving Palestine. Wes is the General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America, a small Reformed/Presbyterian Church body in the USA.

The whole article chronicles his journey into understanding. What follows is his insightful conclusion. JRK

Discovering Palestine. by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson. Sojourners Magazine, December 2008 (Vol. 37, No. 11, pp. 18).

MANY PEOPLE in the region believe that all U.S. Christians are right-wing Zionists. That widely held stereotype seems deeply rooted in popular and political opinions. And the damage that it does is awful. The policies of President Bush and the beliefs of Christians are seen as united, so Christian faith is perceived as antagonistic to the vast majorities of those in the Arab world. You can imagine the difficulty this creates for Arab Christians.

Evangelical Zionism is the enemy of Christian witness and mission in the Middle East. It's not just a theological aberration. Rather, it's a doctrine that actually endangers fellow Christians and cripples the effective proclamation of Christian faith throughout the region.

We recently observed the 40th anniversary of the illegal Israeli occupation. The brutal situation in the Holy Land dehumanizes Palestinians and Israelis alike and undermines the peace and security of the region and the world. The support of Christian Zionists and the United States government for expansionist policies and actions of Israel, and the turning of a blind eye to the persistent illegal activities of the Israeli government, undermines our ability to serve as peacemakers or honest brokers in that area of the world.

An American Christian in Jerusa­lem, Marlin Vis, wrote in his blog: A small Palestinian Muslim child, 4 or 5 years old, burrows his face deeply into the skinny chest of his 10-year-old brother. Their furniture and clothing, all they could carry, lie in a heap outside their stone-block home. Big brother has explained that in a matter of minutes, the soldiers will destroy the home. The little boy's eyes express the terror that his tongue can't describe. An 18-year-old Israeli soldier stands guard over the seven children of this family. His eyes too tell the story that he would never allow his tongue to repeat. ... These are the hidden wounds of occupation, and these wounds are as hurtful and damaging as any other. ... For the sake of that little boy, his brothers and sisters, and his 18-year-old cousin standing guard, this occupation must end.

The continuing task of Christians is to nurture an incarnational presence in the Holy Land that informs our perspectives, our witness, and our action. We must follow Jesus again, today, among those who feel the brunt of military oppression, among those who so readily exercise dominion over others, among those who seek to be peacemakers, and among those who thirst for justice and yearn for healing.
We must find ways to open our lives to the actual human experience of those who live in the midst of these realities, and be with them. And then we must witness to their struggles, their fears, and their hopes. From that place, we can learn how to pray and act for the peace of Jerusalem.

Wesley Granberg-Michaelson is general secretary of the Reformed Church in America. This article is adapted from an April 2007 address at North Park University's Center for Middle East Studies.