Thursday, September 22, 2011

It is One Thing to Be Anti-Israel, But This is Going Too Far

I have just read the most unbelievably evil and twisted piece of theological reasoning I have ever read in my life. Reading this open letter to Evangelical Christian Zionists from David Gushee and Glen Stassen was like being hit in the face with a mailed fist from two self-professed "peacemakers."

Gushee and Stassen unleash a sustained hail of accusations against Israel that blames Israel alone for the lack of peace in the Middle East and paints Israel as an evil state in exactly the same terms as the most radical, Islamist, anti-Jewish haters. The theological premise of this letter is that Israel is the source of all the problems in the Middle East and is under the judgment of God.

Moreover, they invert morality by accusing anyone who supports Israel of supporting injustice and being under the judgment of God. Furthermore, they claim that by not surrendering to Palestinian demands for a Palestinian state, Israel is incurring God's wrath and that Mahmoud Ahmedinijad may be God's instrument for destroying Israel with nuclear weapons!

I am not making this stuff up; here are the quotes and the link so you can verify for yourself what they said.

Let us now assume that God indeed promised the offspring of Abraham and Sarah via Isaac and Jacob a portion of the land between the Nile and the Euphrates. Let us even assume that this promise was intended by God to extend even to our own day and beyond. And let us further assume that in the dark shadow of the Holocaust it was an act of divine grace for a substantial portion of the surviving remnant of the Jewish people to have a modern-day homeland in the contemporary state of Israel. These are substantial assumptions that could be challenged for many reasons, but we are prepared to accept them, along with you.

But we do so while keeping in front of us another strand of relevant biblical teaching. The prophets, writing much later in Israel’s history, long after Israel had established substantial political kingdoms, warned repeatedly that God’s covenant with Israel has a dimension of conditionality to it. Whether preaching in the northern kingdom of Israel prior to the Assyrian conquest, or the southern kingdom of Judah prior to the Babylonian conquest and exile, Israel’s prophets repeatedly warned that God’s covenant promise of the land was conditional on her moral performance. In particular, the prophets warned that, in keeping with the stipulations of the Law, Israel would be judged by her treatment of the aliens in the land, of the poor, the widows, and the orphans. At a theological level, we are claiming that even if one accepts a) a divine promise of land to the Jewish people as recorded in scripture, b) a belief that this promise extends even to this day, and c) the modern state of Israel as, in part, God’s gracious fulfillment of this promise, one must also say d) the Bible, in the prophetic writings, also teaches that persistent injustice on the part of Israel has evoked, and still can bring, God’s judgment, which can extend even to war and exile. Israel’s remaining in the land depends on Israel’s now doing justice to Palestinians and making peace with its Arab neighbors that surround Israel. Indeed, Jesus, as prophet and Savior, also prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed because they did not know the practices that make for peace (Lk 19:41-44). And Jerusalem was destroyed, 40 years later. Do you not fear that it could happen again? Does not your love of Israel make you want to do all you can to prevent that from happening? And yet your actions actually make it more likely to happen! . . .

We are not Old Testament prophets, nor do we pretend to see the future. But we have seen enough to claim that the occupation practices of the modern state of Israel are a direct violation of the most basic biblical moral principles. It is immoral to steal anything, including people’s land, homes, and vineyards. It is immoral to dehumanize people, as occurs daily at Israeli checkpoints. It is immoral to choke people’s freedom and deprive them of their dignity. And it is foolish, a violation of every lesson of history, to think that through sheer intimidation and superior military power a people can be subjugated indefinitely without rising up in resistance or attracting more powerful allies who will do so on their behalf. God gave humanity a recognition of justice and a nearly endless capacity to resist injustice. It is wired into our nature, and the Palestinian people and the neighboring countries have it just like everyone else does.

We genuinely fear that someday someone or some nation inflamed with resentment at the seemingly eternal Israeli subjugation of the Palestinian people will “make your land desolate so no one can live in it” (Jer 6:8). That sounds like a nuclear bomb. Have you heard of Mahmoud Ahmedinijad? While in the Middle East we heard from Palestinian leaders a current commitment to pursue their cause nonviolently. We applaud that commitment. We see it as an extraordinary one under the circumstances. We fear that it cannot last forever, for no people will allow itself to be ground into the dust indefinitely. What are you doing to end their suffering and bring justice to them?

We will leave it to God to sort out with the Jewish people of the modern state of Israel the very complex terms of his covenant with them. But we cannot remain silent about the vast array of American Christians who support the most repressive and unjust Israeli policies in the name of Holy Land and a Holy God. We charge that you bear grave responsibility for aiding and abetting obvious sin, and if Israel once again sees war, we suggest that you will bear part of the responsibility. Christians are called to be peacemakers (Mt 5:9), but by offering uncritical support of current Israeli policies you are actively inflaming the Middle East toward war—in the name of God. This is appalling; it is intolerable; it must stop!

We plead with you, our brothers and sisters, to find a better way, a more biblical way, to love Israel. Love Israel enough to oppose rather than support actions that violate God’s clearly revealed moral will. And while you are at it, it might be good to work on loving the Palestinians, some of whom are also our Christian sisters and brothers. When you visit Israel, we urge you to visit with Palestinian Christians and ask them what they want us, their fellow Christians, to support. For they surely need our love. And we are surely commanded to love them, too.

Nowhere do Stassen and Gushee criticize the Palestinians and other Muslims for refusing to accept the UN partition of Palestine in 1947 or for starting one war of conquest after another in 1948, 1967, 1973 and for terrorism up to the present day. Nowhere do they demand that the Palestinians do what Israel has done. Israel has recognized the legitimacy and necessity of a future Palestinian state and the need for a two state solution with secure borders. The Palestinians have never recognized the legitimacy of Israel (with any borders whatsoever) as a Jewish state.

The Palestinians have walked away from the peace process over an over again and with this latest gambit at the UN they have essentially torn up the Oslo Accords and thrown out the entire peace process up to this point.

The idea of "land for peace" is essentially dead. Israel keeps giving up land, but gets less and less peace every time. Israel withdrew from Lebanon. Did it bring peace? No. Israel withdrew from Sinai. Did it bring peace? For a while yes, but now the peace treaty with Egypt is falling apart. Israel withdrew from Gaza. Did it bring peace? No, Gaza has become a terrorist state and a base from which to attack Israel. Have the Palestinians ever said that withdrawing to the 1967 cease fire lines would lead to them making peace with Israel? No.

Did you see the logo for the Palestinian delegation at the UN here? Where is Israel in that map? Israel is, as Mahmoud Ahmedinijad said, "wiped off the map. This is the true Palestinian view. Gushee and Stassen give no indication that they think this attitude might have anything to do with the lack of peace in Palestine. It is all Israel's fault.

Gushee and Stassen apparently are fine with the Palestinian goal of the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state and a one-state solution in which Jews become a persecuted minority and they don't care whether it is accomplished by negotiation and diplomacy or by nuclear war. One can only draw this conclusion from what they have written. At the very least, it must be said that they give no indication support for a two-state solution in this letter. They even accuse Israel of renouncing the two-state solution even though they are the only ones supporting it in this dispute!

I hereby wish to disassociate myself from David Gushee, Glen Stassen, their Neo-Anabaptist theology and all those who support their anti-Israel position. I am ashamed of them and I am ashamed that Evangelical theologians ever would associate themselves with the far-left, secular, anti-Jewish campaign to demonize Israel and, at the same time, whitewash the genocidal intentions of Hitler-loving, Islamic radical nutcases like Ahmedinijad.

Gushee and Stassen threaten me and other Christians who stand for a negotiated, two-state solution in Palestine under which the Israelis can live in their own state securely with the wrath of God. I too believe in the wrath of God and fear it too much to take a one-sided, prejudiced, hate-filled position against the Chosen People.

Let God decide between us.


Sheri said...
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Sheri said...
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Arnold Neufeldt-Fast said...

Not convincing; we will continue to use Stassen and Gushee's Kingdom Ethics for our Christian Ethics course at Tyndale Seminary.

Gordonhackman said...


Perhaps you could explain to us why it is not convincing?