Thursday, February 25, 2010

Presbyterian Middle East Study Team & "The Kairos Palestine Document" no longer a Jewish Nation?

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, sent out a press release on the 22 of February, entitled, “Wiesenthal Center: Presbyterian Recommendations Delegitimize Israel; Sure to Damage Interfaith Ties,” or in another place a bit emphatic, “Presbyterian Church USA Ready to Declare War Against Israel.” This was all about the Presbyterian Middle East Study Team which is set to release its recommendations probably within a week.

But a great deal of information concerning their report has already been written by the
Presbyterian News agency. I want to look at one of the documents that the study group is commending The Kairos Palestine Document.

The Kairos Palestine Document: The document is entitled “A Moment of truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestine suffering.” It is partly written as a confession, partly as a political declaration with practical recommendations. It also has its own missional viewpoint for the Church. Each of these particulars, confession, political declaration, recommendations, and missional outlook are flawed.

The political viewpoint is intertwined with Palestinian suffering. The suffering is very real; there can be no denying that point. When writing about this the authors of the document list such problems as the separation wall, the military checkpoints, military actions of Israel and settlements. It would be foolish to write that this is not real. But the real cause for all of this is not addressed truthfully.

As is the usual case the document insists that the Israelis ‘own statements are lies. The authors insist that the wall and the check points as well as the military actions are not intended for self defense. They write:

“Yes, there is Palestinian resistance to the occupation. However, if there were no occupation, there would be no fear and no insecurity. This is our understanding of the situation. Therefore, we call on the Israelis to end the occupation. Then they will see a new world in which there is no fear, no threat but rather security, justice and peace.” (2)

It must be said, Israel has never known security, justice and peace from her neighbors, not in 1948, 1967 or recently. As long as some radical Muslim States, groups and individuals insist that Israel does not have the right to exist the State of Israel will experience insecurity and lack of peace. And due to this lack, all in the area, both Israelis and Palestinians, will experience, no matter how hard anyone tries, injustice.

The main flaw in this area of the paper is that the whole truth is not being told and guilt is not shared. Nowhere in the document is Israel’s right to exist stated. Nowhere in the paper is there any sense of guilt on the part of Palestinian Christians for the death of innocent civilians from either suicide bombers, rockets or other forms of maiming by radical Muslim groups or individuals. Only confession for failing to resist is offered at the end of the document. This is in grave contrast to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s confession of both his and the German Church’s guilt offered in his book Ethics. There is also Daniel’s confession of guilt before God on behalf of himself and all Israel.

The Confessional section’s Christology is incomplete; its view of scripture faulty. The authors surprisingly use the idea of land in just the same manner as the harbingers of Nazi Germany; only hidden under a biblical cloak.

Under a “Word of Faith” the author’s give an orthodox view of Jesus Christ. “We also believe in God’s eternal Word, His only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, whom God sent as the Savior of the world.” (3) They also write, “Jesus Christ came in order to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, and in his light and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we read the Holy Scriptures.” But too much is left out and too much extra added.

There is no cross, no redemptive reference in the statement except to call Jesus Savior. No cross, minus no confession of guilt has deep implications for where this document ends. Rather than turning toward the redemptive actions of Jesus Christ the document heads toward an understanding of the kingdom of God as revolution. “He [Jesus] provoked a revolution of faith in the life and faith of all humanity.”

The revolution supposedly rests on a new teaching by Jesus. Using Mk 1:27 the authors see Jesus giving new light to reinterpret such themes as “the promises, the election, the people of God and the land.” I will list and explain each error of their continuing thoughts.

1. “The Word of God is a living Word, casting a particular light on each period of history, manifesting to Christian believers what God is saying to us here and now.” (3) “Casting a particular light on each period of history,” is the huge mistake here. God’s word gives light to all periods of history. But it is always the same light. He and his words do not change. What God speaks to one era through his word he speaks to another.

2. “For this reason, [see above] it is unacceptable to transform the Word of God into letters of stone that pervert the love of God and his providence in the life of both peoples and individuals.” While the authors go on to castigate what I would suppose is Christian Zionism referring to “fundamentalist Biblical interpretation” which deprives the Palestinians of the rights to their land, the authors misunderstand proper biblical exegesis. What is written is God’s word, this is not separate from Jesus who is the living word; he is both fully human and fully God. His word cannot be changed.

The Jewish content is always true. It is the story of the Jewish people, of God’s dealings and care for his people. But it also carries within it God’s plan of redemption that is before God’s creation. Neither can be changed. Because the redemptive cross is missing from their document and thoughts the authors have invented a different theme that is not biblical.

3. “We believe that our land has a universal mission. In this universality, the meaning of the promises, of the land, of the election, of the people of God open up to include all of humanity, starting from the peoples of this land. In light of the teachings of the Holy Bible, the promise of the land has never been a political programme, but rather the preclude to complete universal salvation. It was the initiation of the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God on earth.” (4)

The authors go on to write of how it is God that makes the land holy. And in that work they include three religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam. But notice the land has become a substitute for the cross. The land becomes the focus for a universal plan that wipes out even secular reasons for the Jewish people to have a land of their own. The authors write, “Our presence in this land, as Christian and Muslim Palestinians, is not accidental but rather deeply rooted in the history and geography of this land, resonant with the connectedness of any other-people to the land it lives in.” (4) Here the writers turn on the West accusing them for moving the Jewish people into the land that belongs to the Palestinians.

So the final outcome for this theological quest is their understanding that Israel as a Jewish state does not have a right to exist. And this is made clear later in the document when the authors write:

“Trying to make the state a religious state, Jewish or Islamic, suffocates the state, confines it within narrow limits, and transforms it into a state that practices discrimination and exclusion, preferring one citizen over another. We appeal to both religious Jews and Muslims: let the state be a state for all citizens, with a vision constructed on respect for religion but also equality, justice, liberty and respect for pluralism and not on domination by a religion or a numerical majority.” (Emphasis mine) (11)

A Jewish state is not by necessity a religious state, and notice the term “numerical majority” has been slipped into this equation. All of this is to say that the Kairos Palestine Document is asking that there no longer be a Jewish State in the Middle East and its authors are basing their thoughts on a poorly constructed theology of sacred land. They may be using universal terms and speaking of God but in their substitution of sacred land for a redemptive Lord they have turned toward a nineteenth century view of romantic theology which was badly used by later Nazi ideologists.

It is only the Lord Jesus Christ and his redemption bought on the cross that universalizes the Kingdom of God. And in reality this has nothing at all to do with the secular state of Israel or the religious states and movements of Islam. Good-will and kindness are a part of Christ’s coming Kingdom, but since he himself stated that his kingdom is not of this world (A verse the authors have noted) it does not include any sacred land. The facts are that God has not withheld his goodness from the Jews because he is faithful. The other fact is that Israel is a Jewish nation. She must remain so in order to insure that there will always be a place of safety in a world that has always been hostile to the Jewish people.

Practical Recommendations and the missional Church, in this document are tied together. The authors insist that the mission of the Church is to proclaim the Kingdom of God which entails standing with the oppressed against the oppressor. But in this case the documents view of the oppressor is tainted by ignoring the complexities of the situation. The authors see only one oppressor, Israel. And therein lies the fault of making the gospel or the good news of the kingdom about fighting oppression rather than the good news that Jesus Christ has lived, died on a cross and is alive for our salvation.

While love is called for as resistance is used, this is not a pacifist paper. While advocating for a logic of love the authors write “We respect and have a high esteem for all those who have given their life for our nation. And we affirm that every citizen must be ready to defend his or her life, freedom and land.” Since the acts of terrorism against Israel have, in this document, been blamed on Israel it must be concluded that with the above words the terrorist are condoned by the authors.

Following these words are sections which plead with the churches of the world to denounce any theology that would cause Palestinian oppression. Another plea is for the different Palestinian sides to come together. (This is the only near admission that something or someone besides Israel is in the wrong here.) And at the end there is also a call for “individuals, companies and states to engage in divestment and in an economic and commercial boycott of everything produced by the occupation.” This is of course a boycott against the whole nation of Israel. It is, in fact, a boycott against the Jewish people.

Conclusion: As I have stated in the first part of this paper, the Kairos Palestine Document fails in so many ways. The author’s many assertions and recommendations are anything but biblical. The document pretends to be a confession filled with love and a practical but hard solution to the problems of the Middle East. It is neither. Instead it is a declaration of war against a Jewish homeland.

16 comments:

Kerri Peterson-Davis said...

I hope you will draw attention to the portion of the Kairos document that the Middle East Task Force is endorsing:

"endorsement of the emphases on hope, love, non-violence, and reconciliation found in an ecumenical statement by Palestinian Christians called the Kairos Palestine Document" (PNS, 10099, 02.02.10)

Kerri Peterson-Davis
Cleveland, OH

Viola Larson said...

Hi Kerri,

I felt I did address it when I wrote this:
"While love is called for as resistance is used, this is not a pacifist paper. While advocating for a logic of love the authors write “We respect and have a high esteem for all those who have given their life for our nation. And we affirm that every citizen must be ready to defend his or her life, freedom and land.” Since the acts of terrorism against Israel have, in this document, been blamed on Israel it must be concluded that with the above words the terrorist are condoned by the authors."

There is no remorse in this paper that terrorist have killed innocent people in Israel. Please don't misunderstand me I am not saying that Israel hasn't done wrong things, but I am saying she is trying to defend herself and this paper is so one-sided. The worst part is the wording that suggests that a Jewish Israel should not exist.

Kerri Peterson-Davis said...

Maybe I didn't express myself clearly. Your assessment of the Kairos document is quite clear (although I don't necessarily agree with it). What I am encouraging you to do is be very clear that the Middle East Task Force of the PCUSA did not (according to the PNS news report) support the Kairos document as a whole.

Kerri Peterson-Davis
Cleveland, OH

Anonymous said...

What an extraordinary document! I would hope that the readers of this blog will read the Kairos Palestine Document in its entirety. I find Viola’s objections petty and unconvincing.

The document' was signed by Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant leaders in Palestine which includes the confessional part. Astonishing! “No cross”? “Land has become a substitute for the cross”? Are we reading the same document?

Her comparisons of elements in this document with Nazi “ideologists are despicable, the bearing of false witness.

John McNeese
Ponca City, OK

Viola Larson said...

John,

I referred to a romantic theology of sacred land which Nazi ideologists used later.
And I will have to say that the author’s view of the land and the Palestinians connection to it amazed me since they were chastising some theology which connects the Jews to God’s promise of land. To explain a little more clearly, to move away from the biblical promise of land to the Jews and yet tie the Palestinians to the land with this statement, “Our presence in this land, as Christian and Muslim Palestinians, is not accidental but rather deeply rooted in the history and geography of this land, resonant with the connectedness of any other-people to the land it lives in,” is to move from a biblical view to a philosophical view. Not so much that one is wrong and the other right but it is simply a contradiction.

If being in a land is not accidental for the Palestinians, than it is also not accidental for the Jews whose roots in the history of that land go back even farther. But this paper does not at any point admit that.

Pastor Bob said...

Have you notice that people don't want to talk about theology of land or the cross but do want to talk about sex?

Viola Larson said...

I'm laughing with tears Bob.

Kerri Peterson-Davis said...

or maybe we know the effort isn't quite worth it?

Kerri Peterson-Davis
Cleveland OH

Viola Larson said...

Kerri,
Are you say that the issue is not worthy or the effort to defend an issue is not worth it? I'm not really sure what you are saying? If the effort is not worth it wouldn't that mean the issue is not worthy? Just wondering.

Kattie W. Coon said...

"If the effort is not worth it wouldn't that mean the issue is not worthy?"

No, I wouldn't think that would be the only possibility. The issue certainly could be worthy even if the effort in a particular time and place is not.

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Kerri Peterson-Davis said...

I would agree with Kattie. I'm not sure this is the best place to have this conversation. The issue is vital, the conversation is a must, but this is not the place (for me) to engage in it.

Kerri Peterson-Davis
Cleveland, OH

Viola Larson said...

Well Kerri,
Maybe I will see you at General Assembly where I am sure that many will be engaging in this and many other vital conversations. And I am glad you believe it is worth talking about.

Craig said...

Viola,

With all the PCUSA folks who sem to be at each others blogs, it might be interesting to try to get together during GA. Any thoughts.

Craig N
Twin Cities MN

Viola Larson said...

Craig,
If there is time- a great idea.

Craig said...

It would be nice to actually get face to face with some of the folks we just talk to like this.

Craig N
TC MN

I'll be in town, but not at GA. Once I figure out where GA is I may throw out a few suggestions.

Viola Larson said...

Well I can assure you my biggest problem will be busy-ness. But hopefully we can work something out.