Monday, June 28, 2010

Trying not to be snarky: some thoughts about a James Wall posting

It is so full of insults I don’t really know where to begin. James Wall writing about some professors who have written good critiques of the Presbyterian Middle East Study Committee’s paper, dismisses them as scholars who are hiding “behind a smoke screen." Wall states that they are not "even remotely approaching the standard of pertinent scholarship one expects from four academics from such prestigious educational institutions.”

Wall’s article is entitled
Israeli “Agents” Infiltrate Presbyterian General Assembly . The four scholars, who according to Wall are supposedly Israeli agents, are:

Dr. Ted A. Smith and Dr. Amy-Jill Levine who wrote
Habits of anti-Judaism: Critiquing a PCUSA report on Israel/Palestine., and Dr. Katharine Henderson and Dr. Gustav Niebuhr who wrote, Peacemaking is more than pointing fingers.

The temptation is to critique Wall's posting, and that in a snarky manner. But how do you respond to such words as “Katharine Henderson and Gustav Niebuhr find the report to be ‘unbalanced, historically inaccurate, theologically flawed and politically damaging’. How many days or weeks did they study the Resolution to enable them to make that sweeping judgment?”

Or speaking of Smith and Levine:

“The two Vanderbilt professors attack the PCUSA Middle East Study Commission with a string of innuendoes that shout “anti-Semites in the room”. They do so, however, in the polite, and deliberately misleading, language of a dusty seminar room.”

I think perhaps the best way to counter this attack is to ask my readers to read the two articles by the four professors. The articles are balanced and reasonable. And they are not one sided as is the Presbyterian report.

Also I should mention that Dr. Katherine Henderson, who is President of Auburn Seminary, is speaking at the
Presbyterians for Middle East Peace’s breakfast at General Assembly, as is Rachel Lerner, Vice President of J Street, a Jewish Organization that the Study Committee claimed they spoke to but didn’t. Also the one dissenting member of the Middle East Study Committee, Dr. Byron Shafer, will be speaking.

On that same web site,
Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, is the means to sign the paper that Wall complains about in his post. Rather than being snarky I will ask you to also go to the site and sign up for the breakfast and sign the paper. See you there!

But I do have a few more words. I found Wall’s posting when looking at the Israel/Palestine Mission Network’s Facebook page. The whole combination gave me a sinking feeling in my stomach. Not only did I see Walls’s article linked to, but there was this:

Now just a bit more. The Germany of the 1930's, without a Hitler, is knocking at the door of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We are free and we have a choice. We can go on allowing a few in leadership, and some who volunteer, to form our souls into evolving monsters or we can be fair and even minded caring for all in the Middle East. We can be real peace makers not soldiers marching to the beat of Hamas' drums.

By the way, the video was made in Venezuela.


Anonymous said...

I hope it doesn't come across as a snark, but the fact is that James Wall is a classic example of a far left anti-Zionist whose opposition to Israel is so one-sided and so single-minded (forgetting that there are other, far worse violators of human rights among the Arab nations) that it shades over into anti-Semitism. He's also an inch-deep thinker who parrots whatever the current canards of the far left are (for example, the one that says that seeking balance in perspective is the same as saying that Israel can never be criticized). How he managed to stay at the helm of the Christian Century as long as he did is anybody's guess.

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

will spotts said...

David -
That refrain (seeking balance is saying Israel can never be criticized) has become so common in this PC(USA) discussion that - as manifestly false, as intellectually weak, as frankly pathetic as it is, someone must be buying it.

It is very similar to the dishonest use of "criticism of Israel gets a charge of antisemitism" meme. The thing is, for many of is, it is the antisemitism that is being criticized. The criticism of Israel is incidental in that argument.

There are, of course, people who would oppose all criticism of Israel. But this pseudo-argument is a way to try to evade fully deserved criticism for anti-Judaic and antisemitic themes.

will spotts said...

Viola -

The video made me laugh at loud. There is an inherent ridiculousness in it.

I'm wondering, though, if this is what the IPMN wants to make of the PC(USA).

And I'm curious if the contemptuous references to YHWH are being endorsed by the IPMN.

Viola Larson said...

Will did you notice that the song writer said he did not believe in any god. So he can freely bad-mouth any god. This band I am sure is a part of the socialism that is rising in South America and has latched on to the Middle East problems as the ultimate place to do battle.

will spotts said...

I think you're right.

Will Spotts
North East, MD

GMScan said...


I am new to your blog, but thank you from the bottom of my heart for standing up against this bizarre anti-Israel movement in the PCUSA. I am newly returning to the Presbyterian church after many lost years. I am stunned by what has happened to my church.

Greg Scandlen
Waynesboro, PA

Viola Larson said...

Thank you Greg for letting me know that. And welcome back. I hope you stay.

Pastor Bob said...

Great music. Terrible antisemitic lyrics.

Pastor Bob said...

Oh and I still don't get why there is a little guy with a shirt that looks like a Palestinian flag jumping up and down on the stage.

Viola Larson said...

Because this is a Socialist get together.